December 12, 2008

Clarksville - Bridges and the Iron Furnace

Above is Center Street in Clarksville, looking north, soon after the turn of the century. The photographer has his back to the old covered bridge that spanned the south fork of the creek. The road to the left is Sugar Alley, now the Marianna road. The large lush maple trees line both sides of the dirt street. In the distance can be seen the iron bridge that crosses the north fork. This is my most favorite image of all I have collected. It looks exactly like what one would picture of small town America. Long time residents often described the effect of the trees in summer as " like walking through a tunnel." This is an old undated real photo post card that I purchased about 25 years ago and is a very rare view . This picture is on the cover of Randi Ross Marodi's book The History Of Clarksville Pennsylvania.

This 1930's view shows, in the middle ground, the covered bridge over the south fork. This wooden bridge lasted until it was replaced by the present bridge in 1943. While the covered bridge was being dismantled, it caught fire and burned causing much consternation in town.
According to newspaper clippings saved by longtime resident Stanley Fowler the earlier covered bridge at the same location was destroyed by high water and ice in the severe winter of 1918. The good Mr. Fowler's efforts at preserving photos and information have added much to our knowledge of Clarksville's past and his gift to us deserves notice, not to mention his many years of service to the community. Below is one of Mr.Fowler's pictures, an early image of the older south fork covered bridge, looking south from the square. This image likely dates to soon after the turn of the century and is certainly the bridge that was carried away in the 1918 flood .

Postcard Author's collection

Here is the iron bridge over the north fork and to Washington county, looking northeast. It was built by T. J. Barnard who was a Clarksville resident. The image above was probably made soon after the turn of the century. This iron bridge was dismantled and replaced with the present bridge in 1962. The hill in the background is now occupied by St. Thomas Catholic Church. The buildings that are visible in the distance are unidentified however they may be barns / outbuildings related to the coal mine. Older residents I have spoken to cannot recall anything but hay fields on the east side of the road all the way through Williamstown. Once the coal company came there seem to have never been any other buildings on that side of the road except for the church and the newer Washington Supply company store building. The land to build ( in 1935 ) St. Thomas was donated by the Hillman Coal and Coke Company. An exception also was the relatively modern Paletta discount house whose concrete block foundation still exists near the forks of the creek below St. Thomas Church.

This is from Caldwell's Atlas of 1876. This map implies a ford across the north fork ( at the north end of Center street ) near the forks of the creek. In the map's left hand edge, at the end of Main street is a small bridge that spanned Ten Mile and crossed to what was long known ( even into the late 1940's ) as the Corbett's Mill section which included the old stone ( these days called the Yablonski ) house.
This bridge was an iron truss type with a plank floor and it lasted until sometime after 1939. My opinion is that this was the site of the original, and likely for a time the only bridged crossing of the creek. I say that because of the extensive industries worked at Corbetts Mill, including a grain mill, a sawmill, a distillery and even for a time an iron furnace, all dating far back to the turn of the 19th century and owned at different times by several of Clarksville's leading businessmen. The Corbetts Mill area was therefore, for decades, the important "industrial suburb" of Clarksville. Both of the north fork bridges are visible below in this pre 1919 photo of the northern end of town.
In 1918-1919 the railroad ( PRR, then the Chartiers Southern Railway ) built two bridges, one across each fork of Ten Mile for trains. Two piers beside the north fork span remain, obviously built to carry but a single track.. Later, at a time not yet determined , the railroad built the present larger bridges, capable of holding multiple tracks. Also built at this time was the bridge over the tracks for the Dry Tavern road.

Ida Mary Wortman Haftmann Collection

Clarksville was the site of the only iron furnace in Greene county. It was across the south fork of the creek and several sources state all traces were covered by the railroad embankment. The earliest reference to it is 1794 as a " forge and furnace." The Henry Heaton family originally owned the land and operated the furnace and it was next known as Greene Iron Works, Henry Heaton owning one sixth along with with Jesse Bowell, Ephraim Coleman and forgemen Lock West, James Young and Henry Gillock. It was sold to James Robinson in 1805. A small town was actually laid out on these two acres with 6 house lots laid out to the southwest of " main street ." The establishment was abandoned before 1820, but the stack was visible for some time after 1840. Another source says it was out of blast in 1810. It was also known, as time went on, as Mary Ann Furnace, Clarksville Furnace, Greene Forge and Robinson's Furnace. A newspaper from Uniontown, the Genius of Liberty & Fayette Advertiser, ran the following ad on Aug. 4, 1810:
VALUABLE PROPERTY FOR SALE... THE IRON WORKS... on Ten Mile Creek, late the property of Capt. James Robinson, adjoining the town of Clarksville... and not distant three miles from the Monongahela River... One Hundred Acres of land, Ore Bank... signed Samuel Harper, Agent, dated Greene County, July 23, 1810.......This from the Geological Survey of Pennsylvania 1876-8:
Data on the ores used at Clarksville Furnace, Clarksville, Greene Co.... under the Waynesburg Coal bed in Greene county, the shales contain very moderate quantities of ball ore. Some of it was once dug, at various points in Morgan township, for the old Clarksville furnace.......

Map of Greene Iron Works courtesy of Greene County Historical Library


This 2009 image shows the area of the Iron Furnace and town of Greene Iron Works, looking more or less southeast, the tracks and trestle are behind the trees in the background. The old 1800's original road to Dry Tavern wound up the hill from this point. The oldest residents recall that this area above was known as Furnace Hill. Now locally known as South Clarksville, it's main street is Robinson Avenue, named after the Robinson furnace family.

December 5, 2008

W.J. Rainey And The Clyde Mines

This is the river tipple at Fredericktown in the late 1920's, looking south. This was the original Clyde mine, opened in 1900.

image from Bower's Fredericktown 1790-1990

Coal came out of this slope portal and went directly to the river tipple as seen in this 1929 photo. Shown are 8-ton gathering locomotives, these gathered the coal cars from various working places in the mine and made up the long trains for the haulage locomotives to pull out of the mine.

The Clyde mines have had several owners over many years. The original ( 1900 ) Clyde Coal Company of Pittsburgh sold their Fredericktown mine to W. J. Rainey of Cleveland, Ohio in 1925. From that point it was a captive mine to Republic Steel. In Pitt Gas, the William Pitt mine had been operating since at least 1916. Owned by the Pitt Gas Coal Company, it was worked by the Trumbull Coal Co. from around 1920. The Rainey company bought it in 1929. They called it Clyde # 2 and enlarged the town of Pitt Gas with the construction of 84 brick and tile houses. The Clarksville Gas Coal Co. operated a mine at Clarksville starting around 1920. At some point in 1925 or later, Rainey bought it and this is what must have become Clyde # 3.
W.J. Rainey, active in the business since the 1880's, owned many large mines. By 1904 he owned 3,200 coke ovens employing 18,00 men. Some of these, with partner T. J. Wood, were operated as the Rainey - Wood Coke Company. Known as the Cleveland Coke King, he was Frick’s main competitor in the Connellsville district. His thousands of acres of coal rights were scattered over the tri-state area . When he died in 1919 he left a fortune worth about 40 million dollars ( equal to half a billion and more in todays dollars ). The company operated under that name for years afterward.

. This porcelain sign likely dates from the Rainey takeover. It's very plain but is one of my most favorite pieces in my modest collection. This is because my father and his father worked together as buddys at # 3 in Clarksville.

So under The Rainey's control, Clyde #1 was at Fredericktown, Clyde #2 was at Pitt Gas, Clyde #3 was at Clarksville. Emerald ( originally Edward Mine, 1921) at Chartiers was called by some Clyde #4 but was since the middle 1920's ( if not always ) owned by the Emerald Coal and Coke Co. ( Hillman ). It seems that Clyde #2 was connected underground with Emerald at least for a time. In 1944 when there was a fire at Emerald ( which took six lives ) causing that mine to be sealed , much of Clyde had to be closed temporarily. In this same year there were about 1260 men employed at the three Clyde mines.
Rainey later ( around 1948 ) sold all these to Hillman Coal and Coke Company. Later they were operated under the name of Republic Steel.
Through this period of time, most commercial coal mines in our area were owned by the same few big dogs, Carnegie, Hillman, Rainey , H.C. Frick, the Jones brothers and a very few others. The Mellons were involved in the Pittsburgh Coal Company and had been working with H.C.Frick since the late 1870's. The names , on paper, moved back and forth over the years. The coal at a certain place was Rainey's , but Emerald mined it, at some point Hillman bought the coal from Rainey, or from Emerald , or whoever, and then Hillman mined it.

Blasting Cap Token From Clyde # 2 in Pitt Gas, my collection

1925 Map from Monongahela Railway 1903-1993, Gratz and Arbogast

Aerial view of Pitt Gas and Clyde # 2. The coal wagons came out of the slope three at a time and crossed the creek on a bridge to where the railcars were loaded. It looks as though the loading of cars here had stopped by the time of this 1939 photo. Gone too, are the railroad yard tracks. The tall concrete pier from the tipple still remains today beside the modern road.

This is Clyde #3 at Clarksville, looking south. The cars are marked for the Rainey-Wood Coke Company in this 1937 photo from the Mononghela Railway.

Aerial view of Clyde # 3 in 1939, tipple and cars underneath, the swinging bridge and the mine shop buildings. The slate dumps are behind the row of miners houses we called Shantytown. A mine track comes out of the tipple and curves around as it crosses over the Besco road and runs to the slate dumps south of the mine. Aerial images courtesy of Penn Pilot.

Clyde # 3 looking west, likely in the 1930's, photo courtesy Of Hoyle Family

2009 image by author

The Clyde # 3 site today, looking west. The swinging bridge is behind the photographer. The above tipple was in the center of this photo. The stables were to the left, near the underpass, against the track embankment. The piece of paved road in the foreground is part of the original road. To the left on this side of the old road were several frame houses that the company built for bachelor miners.

A very partial list of miners who worked in Clyde can be found here.

December 4, 2008

Memorial Service to Honor Robena Miners

A memorial service will be held Dec. 6 to honor the miners who died 46 years ago in an explosion at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Robena Mine. Local Union 1980 and UMWA District 2 are sponsoring the service to honor the 37 miners who died in one of Greene County's worst mining disasters. A buildup of methane gas exploded, killing 37 members of a continuous miner crew while they worked. "On that fateful day, their government failed them," said Edward D.Yankovich, international vice president of UMWA District 2 at the service in 2007. "It failed them because it did not adequately protect them. It failed because throughout all these tragedies there were no regulatory agencies." Many union officials cite the Robena disaster as one of the reasons behind the enactment of the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. Unfortunately, it took seven years and another major mine explosion, one that killed 78 miners in Farmington, W.Va., in 1968, before the law was signed. "The Farmington mine explosion was covered on television and the whole nation saw that," Yankovich said. "People in California and Oregon, where there is no coal mining, saw what happens to coal miners and understood the pain and suffering we in Appalachia have known for centuries," he said. Yankovich said the federal government decided to act, finally, by creating the Mine Safety and Health Administration. "But then in 1976, the Scotia Mine in Kentucky blew up and the government said maybe regulations need to be stronger," he said. "But disasters continued to happen, and coal miners still die every day, from black lung and direct injury," he said. He pointed to the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia and one at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. "It is up to us to change the future. It is up to us to bring this to light. It is up to us to elect an administration that sees our plight in a favorable way," he said.
On Saturday, December 6, the United Mine Workers of America will hold the memorial service at 11 a.m. at the Robena Monument on Route 21 in Monongahela Township, just west of Hatfield's Ferry Power Station. An account of this and other mine disasters in Greene County can be found here. Most of this was taken from a story by Jon Stevens of the Washington Pa. Observer-Reporter.