Monson Historical Society raising funds for miners’ grave markers

By Estella Kronholm Bennett
Special to the Piscataquis Observer

    MONSON — The discovery of slate in Monson in 1870 changed the landscape and demographics of the farming community on the shores of Lake Hebron significantly. The population swelled to over 1,100 as men from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and other nations arrived to work in the quarries.

NE-MonsonQuarry-DCX-PO-41Monson Historical Society photo

    QUARRY MINERS — In the late 1800s, men from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and other nations arrived to work in the Monson slate quarries. The work was dangerous and accidents claimed many lives during that era.

    However, the life of opportunity for these newly-arrived immigrants was often marred with tragic accidents.
    Located in the Monson Hillside Cemetery, resting in Range 1, Lot 37, are the remains of six slate quarry miners in a company-owned lot.
    All of the men, mostly without family in the United States, died in work-site accidents. Their only memorial is a stone erected in 1884 by private citizens of Monson.
    Engraved on the stone is the name of Peter Hanson, age 23, who was the first to be buried in this lot on April 25, 1882 after being struck by the platform being used to lower the workers into the pit when a wheel failed.
    The Piscataquis Observer reported him to be an industrious young man who had emigrated to Monson from Sweden less than a year prior to his death, and it was known he sent his earnings home to his widowed mother in Lapland.
    Within two weeks on May 7, 1882, Gustavus Lingren, 38, was buried after being killed instantly by a break-away load of slate.
    Then on Aug. 3, 1882, Andrew Matson, 54 was killed when a load of cordwood being swung over the pit gave way, killing Matson and Evan Jones, a Welshman. Evan Jones had a family in Monson and his remains were placed in the family lot.
    Andrew Isakson, listed on the monument as “Bror,” was 22 when he was struck in the back and killed instantly by a falling piece of slate.
    Lars Degerman, 27, was interred April 4, 1884 without mention of the accident in the local papers.
    The last miner to be listed on the monument is Nils Olson, 23, who was killed in what the Piscataquis Observer described as a “fearful manner” when a piece of slate weighing two to three tons fell while being hoisted, crushing the newly-arrived Swedish immigrant, who didn’t understand as his fellow workers yelled for him to watch out.
    Upon doing research, the Monson Historical Society discovered there are four more men buried in the lot and along with members of the Monson Swedish Descendants and the Monson Historical Society, are in the process of raising funds to have the additional names added to the monument.
    Charles Burgaman died June 30, 1891 when killed in a rock cave in. Frans Gustafson, 21, and Andrew Hanson, age unknown, were both drowned when a rock slide forced them underwater. Oscar Donaldson was buried Aug. 21, 1892, but no other information was found.
    The cost of adding the four names to the existing memorial is estimated at $1,000.
    In addition, while researching the first company lot, the society also found there was a Portland-Monson Company lot that was also used for men who had no family to claim their remains.
    This lot has no marking whatsoever, so the additional three miners buried there are only known through the cemetery records located at the Monson town office. Hjalmar Sunden, 23, from Ranea, Sweden, was killed Oct. 11, 1913 as he was struck in the head by a falling rock.
    Gust Maulquist was 55 and had emigrated from Sweden 20 years earlier and was killed instantly during a rock slide. Ironically, Maulquist died the day he began work at Portland-Monson, after moving from another quarry, where he had had a premonition of an accident.
    Emil Attonen, a native of Finland was killed May 4, 1922 while working at the bottom of a 200-foot deep pit while giving signals to the hoister man. The hook on the hoist cable caught in Attonen’s slicker and he was lifted up about 100 feet before the hook released from the jacket causing him to fall to his death. He was 30 years old and his wife was on her way to America.
    The Monson Historical Society would like to add a new stone with these men’s names and dates of death to this lot, which is also located at the Hillside Cemetery. A cost of $1,250 has been quoted which includes engraving, delivery and placing the granite stone on the lot.
    The society’s goal is to have the additional names added to the existing stone and have the second stone set on the empty lot during the summer of 2015.
    For more information or to donate, contact Estella Bennett at 876-3073 or send a check to the Monson Historical Society, P.O. Box 173, Guilford, Maine 04443.
    Please designate on the check that the funds are to be used for the Monson Slate Miners Fund. The Monson Historical Society is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.

NE-MonsonMiners-DC-PO-41Observer photo/Mike Lange

    MINERS’ GRAVES — Estella Bennett is pictured near a headstone of a deceased slate miner’s grave. The Monson Historical Society recently discovered that the remains of three other miners are interred nearby.

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