He Came From Germany

The Not So Complete Life Story of Philip Slicker

The following story is being related in narrated form to make it more interesting to the reader who otherwise may fall asleep upon reading lists of facts. The reader should take note of the numerous words that convey possibility and uncertainty. I don’t know the mode of transportation Philip used to move from seaport to Western Pennsylvania; but naming the possible modes of transportation –  automobiles and planes weren’t options – helps the reader to place Philip in the context of his time. Likewise, the description for the working life of nineteenth century coalminers has the purpose of placing Philip in the appropriate historical context as well as making the narrative more interesting to the reader.  For those who want to read all the known facts of Philip’s life and view the citations of documents supporting those facts, the next post will make that possible.  

Born in Germany about 1815, Philip Slicker crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the United States in a ship powered by wind or steam. He most likely landed at one of the eastern seaports – Boston, New York, or Philadelphia. From the seaport, Philip made his journey in-land.

Depending on the year and from which port he started his land trip, Philip may have traveled in a wagon, stagecoach, or train. He may have even made the trip via the Pennsylvania Canal, a complex system of canals, dams, locks, towpaths, aqueducts and viaducts.

Between the years of 1851 and 1856, Philip met Magdlena. To this union, she brought three children from a previous marriage – Conrad born in 1847, Eva born in 1849 and Mary born in 1851. All three were born in Germany. Their father may have been Joseph John Steinogle.

The three Steinogle children arrived to the United States in 1854. They most likely traveled with their mother, Magdlena. It is unknown whether Philip met Magdlena in Germany or in the United States.

March 17th, 1857, Philip’s and Magdlena’s son, John, was born in Allegheny County bringing the family total to six members.

In 1860, Philip Slicker and his step-son, Conrad Steinogle, age 15, were earning a living as coalminers in Allegheny County. The hours were long and the pay, based on production, was low. Six days a week, they were up and started before daylight. They worked until physically exhausted which was usually sometime after sunset. The work took place in small confined areas; much of the work had to be done lying on their side.

Working in small, poorly ventilated areas, Philip and Conrad were exposed to the coal dust stirred up while they worked. That constant exposure placed them at risk for developing pneumoconiosis, more commonly known as black lung disease. Other risks they faced included death and injury from collapsing walls and ceilings, haulage accidents, flooding and explosions.

They had only simple tools – a pick, a shovel, a hammer, a sledge, wedges, a hand machine for drilling, a drill, a crowbar, explosives, an oil can and lamp – with which to work. With their meager pay, they were required to buy their own tools and supplies.

Philip’s home, most likely leased from the owner of the coalmine, was in Baldwin Township near Library. This was in the days before the company town – in some areas known as patch towns.

It appears Philip departed from life between 1860 and 1870. In 1870, Philip’s wife, Magdlena, his step-son, Conrad, and his son, John were living in Forward Township near Elizabeth. Conrad was still entering the mines to support the family. Philip’s step-daughter, Eva, was married to John Vogle. They were living in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County. The whereabouts of his step-daughter, Mary, in 1870, is unknown.

To learn more about Philip Slicker and his family, be sure to read the next post.

© 2016, Robin Slicker. All Rights Reserved.





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