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William H. Minerd

Percy Cemetery
William H. Minerd
was born in 1850 at Dunbar, Fayette County, PA, the son of Isaac and Catherine (Smiley) Minerd.  He is the first of many known family members to have been killed in an accident in the coal, coke and steel industries.

On Oct. 22, 1876, at age 26, William married 16-year-old Olive "Ollie" Stull (1860-1939), the daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Stull, and a native of Independence, Fayette County. The Uniontown Morning Herald once reported that "The Stull family was one of the pioneer groups in the county."

They lived in and around coal mines of Uniontown, Mt. Braddock, Percy and Dunbar, Fayette County.  

The couple's trio of children were George Howard Minard, Charles Henry Minard and Elizabeth (Minerd) Minor.

A coal miner, William suffered from "sore eyes" probably due to his labors in unhealthy working conditions. 

In 1884, tragedy rocked the family when William was killed when caught in a "fire damp" explosion that ripped through the Youngstown (PA) Works of the Youngstown Coke Co.  He was among 14 miners trapped in the mine who lost their lives. The tragedy was front page news for weeks in the newspapers in Connellsville and Uniontown.

News coverage of the tragedy
The headline story, "The Moloch of the Mine," was printed in the Oct. 31, 1884 Connellsville Keystone Courier and it reported:

     The following is a correct list of the killed: ...William Minerd, hauler, aged 26; smothered; leaves a wife and four children...
     ...Cunningham and Minerd had joined their fortunes and died clasped in each other's embrace...  The theory of the experts is that the hauler, Minerd, failed to keep the door closed that shut off the sixth flat, where the gas was known to exist, and that it got on the seventh flat, and was there ignited by his naked light...

William's battered remains were buried at the Percy Church Cemetery near Uniontown. His widow and three children were left without any substantial means of support. 

The story of the great tragedy was in the newspapers for days as the public was riveted with the horror. Detailed accounts appeared in out-of-state newspapers, such as the Fort Wayne (IN) Daily Gazette. 

Percy Church cemetery, where William's remains sleep for the ages

In 1885, to try to obtain some funds as compensation, Ollie took the rare step of suing Youngstown Coke Co. Ltd. on behalf of her children. She prevailed and received $537.50 in damages.  It is the first known personal injury lawsuit filed by a woman in the family.

During the week of Dec. 18, 1897, when she was 37, Ollie married 40-year-old coal miner John Wesley Zebley ( ? - ? ), the son of Daniel Stewart and Mary Dorcas (Johnson) Zebley. 

They became the parents of one child of their own, Alice Fagan.

Heartache struck the family again in 1912, when grandson Wiley Minerd was accidentally shot and killed while celebrating Halloween with friends. She suffered further in in 1938 at the time of death of her son Charles.

Miners in the famed Connellsville coal seam

Obituary, 1939
Ollie died at age 78 on May 31, 1939, at the home of her married daughter Elizabeth, "after a lingering illness." The Uniontown Morning Herald reported that she had been a member of the Percy Methodist Protestant Church for more than 50 years, and that she was survived by six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She was laid to rest in the Percy Cemetery, with the service performed by Rev. William Hamilton. Today Ollie's grave is not marked, and may never have been.

Ollie's daughter Alice Zebley ( ? - ? ) was married twice. Her first husband was named Fagan ( ? - ? ). They resided in Bulger, Washington County, PA, circa 1939. In 1950, at the death of her half sister Elizabeth (Minard) Miner, the Connellsville Courier named Alice's married name as "McPeak" and that she was living in Pittsburgh.

Ollie and John are mentioned in "The Johnsons of Fayette County," by Marian E. Rice, published in the magazine LaFayette. John's fate is not yet known.

In later years, sons George and Charles spelled their last name "Minard," one of the very few branches known to have done so in Western Pennsylvania. Granddaughters Olive Crawford, Nettie Rossomme and Evelyn Augustine represented this branch of the extended family at the 1930 Minerd Reunion, held at Shady Grove Park in Uniontown.

Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008-2009, 2012, 2022 Mark A. Miner