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New memorial planned to honor 1,300 fallen Carbon County miners

By Geoff Liesik | Posted - Feb 17th, 2014 @ 10:12pm


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PRICE — Get a group of people together in any coal community and the tales of tragedy, many of them personal, are not far from their lips.

"I have a grandfather who was killed in the Royal Coal Mine in 1957 in a cave in," said David Palacios, whose father and uncles survived their time working underground.

Rhonda Peterson's husband worked in the mines as well.

"He has a grandfather who was killed up at the Wattis Mine back in the '30s," Peterson said, "and he had a brother who was 29 years old who was killed in the Plateau Mine in 1983.

"I still remember the day that we got the phone call," she added.

Since coal mining began in Carbon County, roughly 1,300 men have died in the mines. Separate memorials are scattered around the county, but none recognizes all the fallen miners.

"Everybody in Carbon County is affected in one way or another, so we're a community that doesn't want to forget our miners," said Peterson, director of the Carbon County Event Center and Fairgrounds. She is also part of a committee made up of community members, some of them former miners, who are working to build a new miners memorial in the Price Peace Gardens.

That means enlisting the public's help to check the accuracy of every name on a list that committee members like Kathy Hamaker have gone over again and again.

"I'm checking every death certificate, every headstone," Hamaker said.

The list the group has compiled takes up 10 pages, single-spaced, with the names and dates of death on some pages organized three columns wide.

"There's still a lot of names that we don't have answers about," Hamaker said, noting that the list of men killed in one Carbon County mine disaster includes two men named John Johnson.


Anyone with information about miners who have died in Carbon County coal mines can contact Kathy Hamaker at khamaker@emerytelecom.net. Donations for the Miners Memorial can be sent to Utah Power Credit Union, ATTN: Barbara Metelko, P.O. Box 120, Helper, UT 84526.

Is this the same person listed twice? A father and son? Or maybe two unrelated men who shared the same name? Hamaker and others are working to find out.

They're also raising funds for the project, which will be built by Carbonville-based artists Gary Prazen and Danny Blanton.

"I knew I had to be part of it," said Prazen, whose shop is filled with bronze sculptures of brawny miners.

"This (new memorial) represents Carbon County," Prazen said. "It's a time capsule of what we are here. If it hadn't been for mining here, we'd probably be just a gas station on the highway some place."

Palacios, who serves as president of the Southeastern Utah Energy Producers Association, said he has no doubt the committee will be able to fund and build the project. After all, it's just the kind of challenge this hardscrabble community has thrived on for generations.

"Of those 1,300 names, somebody is related to them or knows them quite well in this community," Palacios said. "So I'm sure we'll get it done. It's how we deal with (the loss of life). We'll get this done and it will all come together as a memorial to our lost ones."

Anyone with information about miners who have died in Carbon County coal mines can contact Kathy Hamaker at khamaker@emerytelecom.net. Donations for the Miners Memorial can be sent to Utah Power Credit Union, ATTN: Barbara Metelko, P.O. Box 120, Helper, UT 84526.

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