January 23, 2005
Coal Mining Days-They Never Felt Poor

The following was submitted by grandchildren Elizabeth Manci Robinson and Orlanda Manci Bazin.

Sylvester Pater was born in December 1869 in Galicia, Romania. He worked in the coal mines of Hungary before coming to southeast Kansas January 2, 1904. He found work in #18 mine, [the exact location of that mine was not indicated].

He married Mary Greck and they had four children before coming to the United States. They are John, Julia (Sarley), Alex, and Sophia (LaSota). The boys later changed their last name to Potter. Two more children Stefena (Manci) and Mary (Lohmar) were born after they came to this country. His wife, Mary, died when their youngest child was only two years old. They lived in Curranville, Kansas at the time, just east of Franklin.

His oldest daughter, Julia, was in charge after her mother died. She taught herself to cook and sew. She was thirteen years old when she had to be a mother to five children. The girls would prepare their dad's lunch bucket, and of course, they would run to meet him when they would see him walking home from the mine. He always left something in his lunch bucket that they would like.

My mom, Stefena, said that when the mine whistle blew to notify the community of an accident in the mine, they were so afraid that something had happened to their dad.

They moved to a company house of three rooms in Franklin, Kansas. Most families had only two rooms so they felt fortunate. By today's standards they would be considered very poor, but they never felt that way. Everyone else was just like they were.

He didn't remarry until the last child left home. He was a very kind man and didn't want his children mistreated by a stepmother. At one point, he did meet a woman who came to the house and cooked and who had hoped to marry him. He asked her, "Who would come first to her, him or his children?" She gave him the wrong answer. She said that he would come first.

He died in Franklin, on April 7, 1937 at the age of sixty-seven. He has eighteen grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

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