Windstorm Publishing* and author Clemson Page have come together to bring us a riveting account of life in a mining town at the turn of the 20th century. The title indicates there is more to the story than is found in this book; but this story of Owen David Gwynn’s youth is a window into the hardships suffered by families in this harsh environment. We meet him as he is fighting off the demons of war, only to be drawn back to equally traumatic memories of his youth and life after his father was killed in a mining accident.
Known as Davey in his youth, he was a mere fourth grader when his father was killed. Because the family lived in a house owned by the mining company, his mother was faced with a decision between losing their home and having Davey join the other breaker boys at the mine. With nowhere else to go, Mary Gwynn was forced to send Davey to the mines. This story takes us through Davey’s transition from innocent school boy to teenage mine worker. His concerns about how he thinks things should be run for the breaker boys cause him to clash with the company authorities. He’s then moved down the shaft, into the darkness of the mines. The author’s skill in telling the story of Davey’s training after this change makes you feel as though you are by his side in the tunnels.
As I continued to read, the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song “Sixteen Tons” often popped into my mind. The company store in this town was run by a man who took pleasure in tormenting Davey. He is merciless as his teasing touches on Davey’s lack of a father, his troubles at the mine and more. You won’t want to miss a word of this intriguing story. Sharing these six years of Davey’s life will leave you wanting more, so be sure to watch the for the release of Clem Page’s next book, Up Home, Mauch Chunk, 1910-1914.
*Windstorm Publishing has changed its name to Orchard House Press.
Review by Nancy Orlando