Likely born with a defect of a leg, James William Minerd (right) grew into a teen making many friends in the coal mine town of Helen, near what today is Smock, Fayette County, PA. This image hints that he wore a brace on his left leg. Tragically, his lifelong disability led to his drowning death while at play at the age of 13.
On Aug. 9, 1911, while rafting in the reservoir at the Helen coal mine works, James fell into the water and struggled to rescue himself. The Uniontown Morning Herald reported that:
In plain view of Mrs. Harry Hassen and her two
sons, who made a frantic effort to save him, James Minerd, aged 15, was drowned
in the reservoir at the Atlas coke works, Helen, yesterday afternoon at 4
woman, attracted by the screams of the boys who were bathing with Minerd, ran to
the reservoir. It took but a glance to see the plight of Minerd. She quickly secured a rope, fastened one end around her waist and the
other on the bank and jumped into the reservoir. Before she could reach the spot where she had last seen the boy he had
disappeared for the third time....
To mark his awful passing, his parents Thomas Watt and Sara "Theresa" (Dowling) Minerd had this photograph produced. He is seated beside his older brother Thomas, possibly the only image of the younger boy. The brother grew to adulthood, spent decades as a coal miner and married Anna DZiak, but never got over the heartache of the loss. The town of Helen, consisting of inexpensive worker-housing built by coal companies, eventually collapsed due to subsidence and no longer exists. Our long-time Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Reunion-goers may recall the Minerds' daughter, the late Theresa Charnovich and her family, who attended a number of our annual gatherings and graciously shared memories and photographs for this website.