“Coal Country Connections”

Coal Country Connections: How finding an 1800s autograph album led to a quest to find its signers in coal patch towns of northeastern Pennsylvania

After finding an old autograph/friendship album in family records, the author set about learning about the over 70 signers of Mary Boyd’s autograph album.

Mary Boyd’s autograph album cover

Mary Boyd (1858-1920) lived in the small town of Buck Mountain, a coal town 10 miles east of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Her friends and relatives were from not only Buck Mountain, but Eckley, Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe), Freeland, Pottsville, Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia and beyond.

Below is one of the album pages. It reads: “Friend Mary, Think of hours we have spent together, Think of moments spent in glee, Think of time that’s fled forever and then turn a thought to me, hold this token as a treasure, all these lines addressed to thee, Have a meaning without measure, Keep them to remember me. Your Friend, Maggie T. Burns, Buck Mountain, Penna. Aug. 9th, 1888.”

Maggie Burns’s page in Mary Boyd’s autograph album

In Coal Country Connections, there is an image and transcription of each album page, followed by what was found about the album signer. The following is a brief version of what was found about Maggie Burns (1860-1934): she grew up in Lausanne Township, where Buck Mountain is located, and went to Philadelphia as a young woman where she married James McBride an “ice man.”

Kennebec Ice horse-drawn wagon, 1899 (Library of Congress)

Maggie and James had no children, and after James died at age 55 in 1908, Maggie lived with various family members until her death in 1934 at age 75. James and Maggie McBride are buried at New Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia.

The owner of the autograph album, Mary Boyd lived in Buck Mountain and later nearby Freeland until her death at the age of 62. She never married or had children, so her autograph album is, in a way, her legacy.

Mary Boyd

Coal Country Connections” is 8 1/2 x 11, 415 pages. Color images. Besides Amazon, it’s also available at the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, the Luzerne County Historical Society in Wilkes-Barre, the gift shop at Eckley Miners’ Village, the Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center in Jim Thorpe, and Sellers Books + Art in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.