John Morgan was born in Frostburg, Maryland on June 27, 1897, the son of David A. Morgan and Mary E. (Foutz) Morgan. Mary, in the 1910 census report, was listed as a 38 year-old widow caring for three of her four children. John, age 13, was working in the grocery business to help provide for his mother and his younger siblings, Clayton, age 11, and Annie, age 8.
On September 30, 1917, John Morgan enlisted in the Army and was mustered into the 5th U.S. Cavalry. The 5th Cavalry, known as the “Black Knights,” is a historic unit of the U.S. Army, the legacy of which dates back to before the Civil War. Originally designated as the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, the unit was formed in 1855 to provide security for wagon trains during the westward migration. Robert E. Lee (before resigning his commission in the U.S. Army to join the Confederate Army) was the commanding officer of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. In the summer of 1861, after the First Battle of Bull Run, all regular mounted units were designated as cavalry. Being the last in seniority, the old 2nd Cavalry was thereafter designated as the 5th U.S. Cavalry.
The arrival of airplanes and tanks during World War 1 made the implements and tactics of the Civil War obsolete. Since there was a limited need of horses, except to pull ambulance wagons and for reconnaissance, some members of the cavalry were transferred to artillery units.
After being honorably discharged from the Army on March 19, 1919, John found employment in the underground coal mines of Allegany County. With the exception of a stint with the WPA (on the Savage River Dam project in the early 1940s) John made mining his permanent vocation.
On November 10, 1943, John was working as a driver in the Big Savage Refractories’ Hard Clay Mine. This Frostburg mine, located near the top of Big Savage Mountain, provided clay for the brick works in Zihlman. John was bringing a trip of mine cars up the incline inside the mine, with a 20-foot length of pipe wired to the car. As he was negotiating a curve at the bottom of the incline, the trip jumped the track and in some manner ran over him, causing injuries that proved to be fatal the following day. There were no witnesses to the accident, but the pipe apparently had something to do with the derailment of the mine trip.
John Morgan left behind his mother, Mary, and two grown sons, James and Russell Morgan. John’s wife had passed away four years earlier. John was laid to rest in Frostburg Memorial Park.
All of our miners deserve respect for the contributions that they made to our communities and our mining legacy. John Morgan deserves an additional salute: this United States Army veteran, who served as a distinguished member of the 5th Cavalry “Black Knights,” died on Veteran’s Day.
Authored By: Polla Horn
How can you help?
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of the state Route 36 and the national Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor our Georges Creek Valley miners and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donantions can be mailed to the Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF, P.O. Box 765, Frostburg, MD 21532.Please email: Polla Horn or Bucky Schriver to share your thoughts and stories.