January 3, 2011

Larry J. Durdines - Musician, historian was self-employed antique dealer

Larry J. Durdines, 58, of Jefferson, died Firday, July 23, 2010 in UPMC-Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.
He was born January 3, 1952, in Clarksville, a son of Elizabeth Krencik Durdines Sevec of Washington and the late John L. Durdines.
He was a graduate of Bethlehem-Center High School and attended Penn State University in State College.
A self-employed antique dealer, Mr. Durdines formerly worked for Ohio Barge Line as a first mate.
A musician, was co-founder of the Grinders Blues Band.
Mr. Durdines was a student of local history and collector of United Mine Workers of America memorabilia and artifacts from his hometown of Clarksville and the surrounding areas.
He authored a blog, Ten Mile Creek Country at http://tenmilecreekcountry.blogspot.com/, which featured images and stories of the towns and people along and near the Ten Mile Creek in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
He was a member of the Clarksville Centennial Committee and contributed to the history book published for last year's celebration.
Surviving, in addition to his mother, are a son, Casey Durdines of California, PA; a brother John Tebalt of Dayton, OH; stepfather John Sevec, a niece; a nephew; and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Deceased are his grandparents, John and Anna Durdines and Thomas and Frances Krencik.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Greene County Historical Society Museum 918 Rolling Meadows Road, Waynesburg, PA 15370.

July 19, 2010

Ghosts In The Hollow

Ghosts in the Hollow from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.

This short video by Jim Lo Scalzo was not shot locally but it's very familiar territory just the same. The decaying buildings and rusting mine cars are things that can be seen from Pennsylvania to Alabama. The images (mostly all are still photographs) pull you into the story that the song makes. This and one other of this artists' multimedia pieces were recently recognized with awards from the White House News Photographers Association. His other videos, though unrelated to coal mining, are well worth a look.

The song is called Sprinkle Coal Dust On My Grave and was written in 1933 by Orville J Jenks of  Welch, W. Va.

I'm just an old coal miner
And I labored for my bread;
This story in my memory I hear told;
For the sake of wife and baby
How a miner risks his life
For the price of just a little lump of coal.

Mother Jones is not forgotten
By the miners of this field,
She's gone to rest above, God bless her soul;
Tried to lead the boys to victory.
But was punished here in jail,
For the price of just a little lump of coal.

When a man has toiled and labored
'Til his life it's almost gone,
Then the operator thinks he's just a fool:
They sneak around and fire him
Just because he's growing old,
And swear they caught him breaking company rules.

Don't forget me, little darling,
When they lay me down to rest,
Tell my brothers all these loving words I say;
Let the flowers be forgotten,
Sprinkle coal dust on my grave
In remembrance of the UMWA.

July 5, 2010

Greetings From Gray's Landing - Generic Postcards

Many people lived in small-town America, and many people visited or passed through those locations. Unfortunately, the economics of postcard publishing meant that very few (if any) viewcards of those towns would be available. Publishers, cleverly availing themselves of this opportunity, published generic cards with scenes that could not be placed at any location. The names of various towns could be imprinted along one edge, most often top or bottom, with a phrase such as "Greetings from Gray's Landing ".
The generic postcards were most often only sold in general stores within the named communities. And, if postally used, they most often bear the cancellations of the towns in question. So they were, in a very real sense, souvenirs of those towns. To get one, you either had to go there, or have someone send you one from there. Below are some cards from Ten Mile Creek Country.

Clarksville had a generic card with a poem

Deemston had a card

A peaceful scene nowhere near East Millsboro 

Here are three different cards from Fredericktown

I lived in New Freeport for a dozen years and was surprised to find this card from there

two Rice's Landing cards

More information on generic postcards can be found here in a story by Bill Judnick.

June 9, 2010

A Look At Greene County Coal Mines

Coal mining began in Greene County in the late 1700's with Thomas Hughes of Jefferson. He used his slaves to strip mine coal on his property above Ten Mile Creek . It is believed that much of this was dug in the ravine between the present Jefferson Morgan High School and the football field. Coal mining was limited to small " farmer mines" scattered over the area and it was sold by the bagful. Near the river and larger streams coal was loaded onto flatboats as seen in this old drawing courtesy of Carnegie Museum.

As land transportation was improved from narrow mud paths to rough mud roads so grew too, the business of mining and selling domestic heating coal. By 1868, Mr. R.A. Sayers of Waynesburg was offering " Coal coarse, measure warranted and no disappointment " at 4.00 for a hundred pounds at his Ten Mile Works.
Courtesy of Greene county Historical Society

Local investors ( Dilworth Mining Company 1880-1930) opened Dilworth above Rices Landing in 1902, it was the first large commercial coal mine in Greene County.  Other coal patches and company towns built in the early twentieth-century were Crucible in 1912, Rosemary, Penn Pitt and Sandy Run in Monongahela Township. In Dunkard Township were Poland Mines, Maple Sterling and Rose Mine. The Walnut Hill mine was started in West Point Marion in 1916. The William Pitt mine started around 1916 near Clarksville. Below Pollocks Mill was the Patton Mine (1921-1930) , owned by the Waynesburg Coal Company. Built in 1918-19 were Mather, by the Pickands-Mather Company of Ohio and Nemacolin, built by the Buckeye Coal Co. of Ohio. One of the largest company towns was Bobtown, started in 1920 by Jones and Laughlin.

By the WW2 era, the largely untapped coal deposits in Greene County became very important. Increased mechanization had made it possible to mine some more remote portions of the coal vein through extensive underground systems connected to large portals along the Monongahela River. Several large river front complexes were built including Emerald, Warwick, Cumberland and US Steel's huge Robena Mine.

There were basically 12 major coal mines in Greene County, the last of southwestern Pennsylvania's counties to become a major producer. They are:

• Crucible, opened in Cumberland Township in 1913 by Crucible Steel for its mill coal supply. At its peak in 1953, the mine employed 903 miners and produced 1.3 million tons of coal. Crucible Mine closed in 1961 and throughout its 49-year life the mine extracted 36.5 million tons of Pittsburgh seam coal. It was operated later by other firms.

Mather started operations in 1918 in Morgan Township by Pickands-Mather Co. of Cleveland. It was the site of a 1928 underground explosion that killed 194. The mine was abandoned in 1965.
Mather Mine by Howard Fogg

Nemacolin  Mine by Howard Fogg
• Nemacolin, in Cumberland Township, began shipping its coal in 1919. Nemacolin was said to be the largest coal mine in the U.S. at that time and it was Greene County's second most productive mine in the 1940s. After nearly 70 years of production the mine was idled in 1986 and sealed in 1988.

• Shannopin was a Jones & Laughlin subsidiary operation that began coal production in 1926 in Dunkard Township. It was closed in 1992 and sold.

• Warwick, a Duquesne Light operation opened by Warwick Coal Co. in 1921, closed, then was acquired by the utility firm in 1940. It underlies several townships.

• Robena, in Monongahela Township, began mining in 1944 by H.C. Frick Coke Co. Disaster came to the early, fully mechanized mine in 1962, when a methane gas and coal dust explosion killed 37 miners.
Production ceased in 1983.

• Gateway, formerly Edward and Emerald, first opened in 1921. It was renamed Gateway in 1963 by a subsidiary of the companies that used its output. The Morgan Township mine closed in 1989.

Dilworth Tipple
• Dilworth, originally opened in 1902, At Rice's Landing, it was the county's first commercial mine. It was a deep shaft mine and had 190 coke ovens and was located along the river on the northern border of Rice's Landing. Coal and coke were loaded directly into barges from the riverside mine.In 1914, the Rice's Landing Coal and Coke Company acquired the Dilworth Mine. Within the next few years, the H.C. Frick Coke Company acquired the mine. It was reopened in 1974 by U.S. Steel, and purchased by Consolidation Coal Co. in 1984.

• Cumberland, in Whitely Township, began production for U.S. Steel in 1977. In 1993, the mine was acquired by Cyprus Arnax and operated by Cyprus Cumberland Resources Corp.
Cumberland's River Tipple at Grays Landing, Eric M. Johnson Photo

• Emerald, opened in 1977 in Franklin Township, was first operated by Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. It has had several owners since.

• Bailey, in Richhill Township, began operations for Consolidation Coal in 1984. For a short time in 1992, it was the largest underground coal mine in the United States and was known for its efficiency and low cost..

Bailey Mine, Consol photo

• Enlow Fork, also in Richhill, was opened by Consolidation Coal in 1990 and was for a long time the most productive underground mine in the United States.

December 1, 2009

Some People Of Ten Mile Creek Country

The East Bethlehem High School football team in 1927

Engineer Harry Wood on Waynesburg & Washington Railroad's # 9684 in 1929. The W & W was a narrow guage railroad, just 3 feet wide, so the engines and cars were all smaller than normal. That accounts for the oversized look of Mr. Wood.

Pat Fagan, UMWA Local 5 President, speaking near Brownsville. He was famed as a highly effective organizer and as a speaker. His father was a leader in the steel strike of 1892.
From Sarah Minerd Potter :
" John Phillip Wunder was born on September 30,1887,and died January 11,1948. He was a miner in Greene, Washington and Somerset counties. He married Sophie Margaret Wunder on January 29,1917. Sophie and her second child died shortly after she was born. My mom was 18 months old. John lost an eye, in the mines or not I don't know.He later became totally blind and I have his Federation of the blind cards dating back to 1938. When he couldn't see to write any more, my mom became his eyes and wrote as he dictated his poems. On the Minerd side we have had 31 deaths over the years in coal mining accidents."
John Philip Wunder in Clarksville


The miners' lot is hard indeed.
His family often are in need
The lack of work and sickness too,
are small to what he must go through.

Few of the public ever know
a miners' risk when he must go,
down in the mines to earn his bread,
with tons of loose rock overhead.

With dim lightof his safety lamp
he works in powder,smoke,and damp,
and wades around in mud and slime'
most breathe foul air till' quitting time

And then a roar a rumbling sound
That shakes the earth for miles around
and from the shaft the flames leap high
and men are left in there to die

The agony of these poor men
can not be described by pen
as maimed and dying they await
the help they know will come to late.

No loving voice to cheer them now
no soft cool hand upon their brow
no arms to hold them as they die
no one to say a last goodbye.

They think of men who lay in pain
a week or more but all in vain
they remember how the men were found
all cold and still way underground.

They think is this to be our fate
why must our suffering be so great
they fold their arms upon their breasts
and let starvation do the rest

Think of the mother of the wife
praying for this miners' life
as hour by hour they stand above
and wait for hope from one they love.

And children cry on mothers knees
bring back my papa will you please?
and strong men turn away in grief
for they can offer no relief.

I think a miners' work is such
that he can not be paid to much,
for work he must do underground
where light of day is never found.

John Phillip Wunder
May 25,1922
photo and statement courtesy of Sarah Minerd Potter. The Minerd family has a most extensive website here

This is the first, second and third grade classes at Millsboro in 1923.

Curley Kensic had a bowling alley in Clarksville's Williamstown section. These early 1950's lady bowlers are from left to right :
Elizabeth Durdines, Dot Redman, Bonnie Conners, Clara Lamo, Dot Makel, Barbara Kolick, Ann Burke Kolick.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Durdines Sevec

Reader Judith Watters Adamson writes me to kindly correct the newspaper caption:
"I'm the baby shown in the photo entitled "TINY TORNADO VICTIMS", my name is Judith Watters Adamson. I was 8 months old in that picture. I have an original newspaper with this photo. The newspaper is the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph and the date is June 25, 1944. The caption is incorrect and should read:
Mildred Watters (not Helen) of Chartiers Hill holds baby Judith in her arms and watches over her other daughter Helen and little Diane Santucci, all victims of a tornado that struck Chartiers Pa. The Waynesburg hospital was so crowded that children had to double up in hospital beds."
Image courtesy of Ida Mary Workman Haftman
Sharpneck Motors in Rices Landing, Anson Sharpneck is third from the left. Photo courtesy of Brad Kline

Earl King remembers :
My name is Earl J. King, born Crucible, Pa 1929. I was graduated from Jefferson/Morgan High School in 1946. I lived in Rices Landing 1933 to 1959, worked in the Rices Landing National Bank, 1955 to 1959 then came to California. Now retired after 42 years of banking in Cerritos, Ca. (suburb of Los angeles).
I delivered the Pittsburgh Press daily to the Y. A. Young machine shop. Carl Young was a Mail Pouch chewer. At about age 13 or 14 I asked him for a chew of tobacco. He gave it to me and I became deathly ill. I thank him now, because I have never touched tobacco after that lesson. My father purchased a 1929 Essex Coupe from the Sharpneck Motor Company in Rices Landing. The dealership was owned by Anson Sharpneck who walked on a artificial leg. He charged us kids 1 cent to pump up our bicycle tires. He operated the Hudson/Terraplane dealership until early 1943, at which time he sold the business to his chief mechanic, Joseph Clarchick. It then became Clarchick Motor Co. I remember financing Hudson cars at the Rices Landing Bank for Joe Clarchick. The Hudson name disappeared and at my last memory it he sold American Motors Cars under the brand of Nash/Rambler. My last time in Rices Landing was May 2005. At that time the building was still standing and used as a warehouse.
Growing up in Rices Landing I remember the steam boats, W. P. Snyder, Homestead, J. B. Fairless, Vulcan and many more. I now regret that I did not take photos of the old lock #5 and all of the steam boats that traveled the Mon. I was working just across the street in Rices Landing at the bank when the Monongahela Hotel was torn down.
On the Crucible Pa Miners Memorial, the Earl King and Earl J. King listed are my dad and I. My dad was very active in Crucible Local #4721 United Mine Workers of America. As a child I remember Jock Yablonski and William (Billy) Hynes at our house on union business many times.
My grandfather, James Kelley, was killed in a slate fall in Crucible Mine 1927. My mothers brother Charles Kelley worked his entire lifetime at Clyde # 1 mine. He was a pumper at retirement.

This photo of Arthur White was taken at Clyde #1 in Fredericktown just minutes before his fatal accident

Arthur Earskin White was born in 1884 in or near Pittsburgh, the son of George H. and Helen "Ella" (Daugherty) White. He is one of a tragic many people to lose their lives in the coal, coke and steel workplace. As a young man Arthur labored on the railroad and as an electrician. Arthur married Roberta "Berdie" Estlick and by 1920, they lived at the Revere Coke Works near Uniontown, where he was a machinist in the coke plant. In 1930 the family was in Luzerne Township, Fayette County, with Arthur continuing his skill as a coal mine machinist. He played on and managed a baseball team in Hopwood.
Arthur was then employed as a machinist and master mechanic at the W.J. Rainey's Clyde # 1 in Fredericktown, due to his experience and knowledge. He was elected president of the United Mine Workers of America local union No. 688, the second person to hold that office.
In the 1930's W.J.Rainy company was strongly opposed to the fledgling Union. As punishment for his Union activities, specifically insisting the men be paid extra for working underground in water, the company moved Arthur out of the shop to a job at the river tipple. On Thanksgiving Day 1935, he was found badly injured, with a fractured skull, after being knocked into a coal barge. Some believed that coal was dumped on him on purpose by a company stooge. He died a day later at Brownsville General Hospital, at the age of 57. A newspaper article claimed that just prior to his death, Earskin had drawn his first pay in more than a year due to debts he owed to the company store.
His grandson, Lee White, remembers " The explanation given to my Grandmother and her eleven children was that he slipped. My dad believes he was killed on purpose. An interesting side note is that the company paid my grandmother $3,500 to waive her rights to future litigation. That was a lot of money at the time and uncharacteristically generous for a coal company. " His remains were laid to rest in the Hopwood Cemetery, near the final resting place of his grandparents and great grandparents. He had managed the baseball team at Clyde and was a member of the Eagles and the Moose clubs.
Arthur White was also a member of the Minerd family referred to above. A more extensive bio of Arthur is here on the Minerd site.
Clinton V. Lewis was one of seven surviving veterans of the Civil War until his death at age 92 on Nov. 28, 1939. Lewis was born at Ruff Creek but spent most of his life in Lone Pine. He enlisted as a teenager in the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry in March 1865, near war's end. This photo, from the Harbaugh collection, was taken in 1938 at the G.A.R. encampment in Washington Pa.
Image courtesy of The Picture Box

Dorthea Boyd Johnson and her ( now deceased ) brother Sheldon Boyd at the log Stull house at Clarksville in the early 1950's. Her mothers family lived in this house in the 1920's. The Stull family had property on both sides of the north fork of Ten Mile.

Photo courtesy of Dorthea Boyd Johnson