Interview with Simon Swiney, May 13, 1988
Project: Appalachia: Social History and Cultural Change in the Elkhorn Coal Fields Oral History Project
Interview SummarySimon Swiney was born in 1913 on Little Branch near Elkhorn City, Kentucky. His parents, Anderson and Aggie Swiney, were mountain farmers who cultivated fifty acres of cleared ground. He describes the huge smokehouse they had and the way they used hickory bark to smoke their meat. They also preserved their own vegetables, canning beans, corn, and sauerkraut in 60-lb barrels.
To supplement the family income, Simon Swiney began working at the Henry Clay mine on Marrowbone Creek at the age of sixteen. To make the six-mile trip in time for the night shift, he would leave home at three o'clock in the afternoon and return at nine o'clock the following morning. He walked part of the way, then paid forty cents to ride in Floyd Bartley's car. He recalls that on one trip he learned that he and two other miners were paying for rent on a house in the coal camp that none of them lived in. The company rule was that rent was automatically deducted for rent from each miner's pay regardless of whether he lived in the coal camp or not. Despite conditions such as these, Swiney states that miners came from as far away as Pikeville to work at the Henry Clay mine.
Swiney also describes the partisan nature of politics and the union in the eastern Kentucky mountains. Most Republicans fought the union (a notable exception was G-Tom Hawkins) and most Democrats supported the union. Once the union was organized, however, everyone was willing to share the benefits.
Swiney recounts the time he and his brothers walked 25 miles over Cumberland Mountain carrying their heavy mining tools to get a job at Splash Dam, Virginia. The company would not tell them how much money they had earned. After three weeks, they decided to quit. When they went to collect their wages, the boss told them, "You don't owe the company anything, and the company don't owe you anything." When they asked for twenty cents each to ride the train back to Elkhorn, they were told the company never "loaned" money.
Interview LC SubjectAppalachian Region Coal miners Coal miners--Kentucky--Elkhorn City Coal miners--Kentucky--Pike County Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Elkhorn City Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--History Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Pike County Pike County (Ky.) Pike County (Ky.)--Social life and customs Swiney, Simon, 1913- Swiney, Simon, 1913- --Interviews
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Interview UsageInterviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Swiney, Simon Interview by Nyoka Hawkins. 13 May. 1988. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Swiney, S. (1988, May 13). Interview by N. Hawkins. Appalachia: Social History and Cultural Change in the Elkhorn Coal Fields Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Swiney, Simon, interview by Nyoka Hawkins. May 13, 1988, Appalachia: Social History and Cultural Change in the Elkhorn Coal Fields Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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