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

October 20, 2009

Clarksville Hill School And The Beth Center Schools In 1961-62

Here is the Clarksville Hill School fourth grade class of 1961-62, graduating class of 1969.

Top Row : Steve Markovich, Sandy Strastanko, Larry Durdines
2nd Row : Patty Mark, Pat "Pucky" Danko, Rita Mikolay, Bobby Lockett, Kathy Lewis, Billy Murphy, Janet Miles,
Third Row : Ann Wishart, Bert Kiefer, Minnie Thomas, Kathy Lancaster, Bill Jenaway, Carla Lambert
Fourth Row: Marie Boswell, Ron Stuvek, Hollis Smith, John Venick, Yvonne "Bunny" Willis, Louis Monroe, Claudia Lewis
Fifth Row : Darla Booze, Frank Carrico, Tom Kowalczyk, Marlene Evans

Thanks to reader and classmate Bill Jenaway for providing some names that I could not remember.

The Clarksville Hill school likely early 1960's. Thank you Stanley Fowler for preserving this wonderful photo of my childhood school !

This is a list of all Beth Center officials and teachers by school and town. The schools listed are : Beallsville, Clarksville Hill, B-C High School ( Deemston ) , B-C Junior High ( Centerville ) Deemston, Denbo, Low Hill, Marianna, Richeyville, Union School ( Fredericktown ), Vestaburg and West Bethlehem ( Marianna ).

October 19, 2009

Ten Mile Trivia # 4

Shriver covered bridge and Greene County ABATE riders. photo courtesy of Greene County Tourism

Have you ever wondered why were there were so many wooden covered bridges ? And why especially in Pennsylvania and the U.S. Northeast ? In the 1800's, the northeastern United States was a country in need of bridges. It is a fairly narrow coastal plain cut by many short rivers and creeks. Inland farmers needed overland transport, and that meant fords for crossing these streams. But the water-powered mills sought out the very places where streams could not be forded, the falls and rapids. So bridges were needed. The American northeast was forest country, wood was a plentiful building material, especially in the remote areas where the smaller bridges were needed. The climate favored wooden construction. The climate here is harsh by European standards, hot in the summer and icy in the winter, with a freeze-thaw cycle that would overturn stone pavings. Oddly, this sort of climate is less destructive of wood than the mild, moist climate of Britain (or Oregon). Still, wooden bridges tended to deteriorate rapidly from exposure to the elements, having a useful lifespan of only about nine years. Covering them protected their structural members, thus extending their life to 80 years or more. So wooden covered bridges were the answer.The first covered bridge in the nation was built in Pennsylvania in about 1800 over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, shortly after a patent for the type of structure was granted in 1797.

.During the first half of the 19th century, Washington and Greene counties were in the heart of an area considered to be the nation's wool growing capital. In 1836, when 50 cents a pound was paid for wool, there were about 200,000 sheep yielding about 500,000 pounds of wool annually there. However, the price declined to about 25 cents a pound by 1842, and the farmers here began to abandon the raising of sheep for more remunerative pursuits.

In 1820, Washington was the most populous community after Pittsburgh in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with 1,687 inhabitants. Uniontown was next with 1,058, followed by Brownsville 976, Greensburg 771, and Connellsville 600.

Opera House Theater in Waynesburg
The Odd Fellows and Masonic Building Association" built in the three-story brick building in 1871, was known as the Town Hall, but later changed to the Waynesburg Opera House in 1889 after its first major renovation. The Opera House hosted a variety of traveling theatrical troupes, as well as lectures from famed orator William Jennings Bryan, known for his involvement in the 1925 Scopes trial, and former President Howard Taft.

In addition to the Opera House, motion pictures could also be seen in Waynesburg at the Eclipse Theater. In Mt. Morris was the Star Theater, the  Ross Theatre was in Carmichaels, Luvland Theater in Rices Landing, the Grand in Clarksville and at the Grand and Milfred theaters in Fredericktown. The coal companys operated their own movie houses in the patch towns of Crucible, Nemacolin, Mather, Vestaburg, Richeyville and Poland Mines.

In 1917, those interested could play pool or billiards at facilities owned by G. W. Hewitt & Sons and Geoge Ritchie in Carmichaels; by C. A. Bernnett in Clarksville; by H. E. Davis in Jefferson; and by J. E. Morris in Mt. Morris. There were five Waynesburg establishments; the Park Billiard Room, the Downey Hotel, and pool rooms operated by Filby & Becler, William Lockard and P. A. Wilbert.

The first golf course in Ten Mile Creek country was laid out by the Greene County Country Club, organized in the fall of 1921. By the end of the year, the County purchased (at a cost of $17,565) almost eighty-eight acres of the Charles C. Harry farm which lay beside Ruff Creek in Morgan Township, about five miles east of Waynesburg along the newly completed concrete road to Jefferson. There it began to lay out a nine-hole golf course that was designed by John McGlynn, "an expert golf course builder," from Pittsburgh. Acquired with the farm was the Harry residence, remodeled as a clubhouse, and a large barn used for equipment storage.

Remains of a Chartiers patch home after the tornado. That is a Model T automobile on it's side to the left. Photo from Stanley Fowler collection.

On the evening of June 23, 1944, three almost-simultaneous tornadoes struck portions of southwestern Pennsylvania, taking 43 lives. Perhaps the most serious of the three came across Washington County from the West Virginia panhandle, moving southeast across northeastern Greene County and the western edge of Fayette. A second touched down in the McKeesport area and moved southeastward past Mt. Pleasant. The third hit Rural Valley in Armstrong County and moved into Indiana.
The towns of Chartiers and Dry Tavern in northwestern Greene County were particularly hard hit. Washington, Brownsville and Greene County hospitals were not only overcrowded by dying and injured but often had to perform operations by light from kerosene lanterns.
Blood plasma was flown from Columbus, Ohio, to Waynesburg by a small plane that landed in a field illuminated by automobile headlights. As word reached points throughout the nation and world, the Red Cross was besieged by inquiries from World War II servicemen concerned about their families back here.

Wind Ridge in Greene County got its name as the result of a coin toss. It originally was known as Jacksonville.
When Greene Co. was still part of Washington Co., Pennsylvania passed an act for the gradual abolition of slavery. At this time there were 155 slave owners in Washington Co. who registered approx. 443 slaves. Of the 443 registered slaves, Greene Countians registered a total of 33 slaves. When the first national censuses were taken in 1790, there were 44 slaves in Greene Co. & 1 free "person of color". In 1800, there were 16 slaves, 23 persons of color living with white, either as servants or family members. In the introduction to Carter G. Woodson's Free Negro Head of Families In The 1830 Census for Greene County, he makes the following notation: "...that year a petition from Greene County said that many Negroes had settled in Pennsylvania and had been able to seduce into marriage "the minor children of White inhabitants." This county, therefore, asked these marriages be made an offence against the laws of the State."

From 1852 through the mid-1930's, the Greene County Agricultural Society held a fair each year in Carmichaels, PA. The original site was on the east side of town where Cumberland Village is located today. Around 1900, the fair was moved to the location on Ceylon Road where Wana B Park is now. According to a book published by Carmichaels Bi-Centennial, Inc. (1967), the main exhibits at the fair in those days were farm products, livestock and manufactured goods. Activities and contests consisted mostly of horse and bicycle races. Entertainment included live bands as a major attraction, and sometimes circus like performers such as tightrope walkers and acrobats. Admission to the fair started out at 15 cents for children and 35 cents for adults. By the 1920's those rates had raised to 50 and 75 cents, respectively. The grandstand seated nearly 2,000 people. The fair closed in 1935 due to a decrease in attendance and "other contributing factors which caused a decline and complete collapse of the Greene County Agricultural Society."
There was also a fair in Jefferson until 1907. The location of the Jefferson Fair is still referred to as "The Fairgrounds". Today the area consists of residential lots.

Jollytown, in Greene County, did not get its name from the jovial atmosphere there, but from pioneer landowner Titus Jolly.

From The Charleroi Mail of June 29, 1911 :
The first work done by the Crucible Coal Company towards the opening of the mine on its property above Rices Landing was begun this week. Several Italian laborers arrived and were put to work constructing a road from the river to the Fordyce, Crago and the Norman Riggle farms. It is on these two farms where the houses of the company will be built. The coal company will build the tipple on the Thomas Crago tract and it will be constructed so that barges in the river can be loaded and also freight cars be shipped by rail. The company will install a ferry across the river as the material, much of it at least, will be shipped by rail and will arrive on the opposite side of the river.
The new works are to be located about one and one-half miles above the lock at Rices Landing.

From The Argus of May 8, 1884:
A. H. Swan, of Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, is a native of Greene County, Pa., which place he left for the West in 1853, when twenty-two years of age, with $1,000 in his pocket. He now controls more cattle than any other individual on the continent. His present possessions are valued at between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000, while the amount of stock of which he has the exclusive control and management is over 200,000 head, and valued at over $6,000,000. He was the organizer, and is President and General Manager of no less than five different stock organizations in Wyoming.

From unknown newspaper May 29, 1908 :In the marriage of Miss Flora E. Gruber of Greensboro and John Sharpnack last week, an unusual courtship was brought to a fitting climax. John is an employee of the United States government on the new lock at North Charleroi. On February 15, 1906, he picked up a floating bottle, which contained a note signed in a delicate hand. "Miss Flora E. Gruber, Greensboro, Pa., February 14 - St. Valentine's Day - 1906. Finder please write." The river at that time was at high stage, and the missive was not long in finding its way down to lock No. 4, where it was found by Sharpnack. The same evening he wrote a letter, and in due time received a reply. Letters and photographs were exchanged later. The sequel was the marriage last week. The young pair will live at Charleroi.

Albert Bushnell Hart, one of the most famous of American historians, was born in Clarksville Pa.on July 1, 1854. He was a graduate of Harvard, and received numerous honorary degrees. He was a professor of various subjects at Harvard and was later professor emeritus. He was a member and historian of the U. S. Commission for Celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington. He served as joint editor of the Harvard Graduates' Magazine, and also a member of many political and historical associations. Some of Professor Hart's publications are Guide to the Study of American History, Slavery and Abolition, Southern South, Handbook of the War, Causes of the War.

Fredericktown ferry FREDERICK glides back to the east shore of the Monongahela River on March 7, 2006. The ferry rides on cables that are attached to each bank of the river and moves between Fredericktown and LaBelle, Pa. Mile 64.1. Photo by Eric M. Johnson.

As late as the end of World War II, nine ferries on the Monongahela River connected Washington and Greene county points with Fayette County. The communities were Fayette City, Coal Center / Newell, Fredericktown / East Fredericktown ( LaBelle ) , Millsboro / East Millsboro, Crucible / Arensburg, Adah, Nemacolin / Huron, Martin and Greensboro / New Geneva. Since the early 1900's, as the railroad advanced up the river, many people used the ferry to cross to the to the Fayette county side to take the railroad to Brownsville or Morgantown. The Monongahela Railway obligingly built stations or shelters at each ferry landing. In 1950, railroad passenger service along that side of the river between Brownsville and Fairmont, W.Va., came to an end.
The ferry at Fredericktown is the last on the river. I plan to do a story on it but it will be a sad one because it does not seem to have much time left due to the new bridge being built at Denbo. There's been a ferry at Fredericktown since 1790. Thats a long time.

From an unknown local paper, June 1,1891 :
Beckie Brown, the ferryman of Brown's Ferry, near Carmichaels, who died recently, had worked that ferry forty years single handed and alone. She was the widow of James Brown, who died before the Civil war, and Beckie continued to placidly work at the ferry. In her early days she attended all the fairs, horse races and old time musters, peddling gingerbread and spruce beer that she made herself. She had a secret preparation for her gingerbread that made it famous, and no doubt did a great deal toward making it familiar at all the local fairs. She never told her secret to anyone, and with Beckie died the gingerbread reciepe.

From The Charleroi Mail, April 27, 1909 :
Judge James Ingram yesterday refused licenses to all of the Greene county distilleries, the applicants being U. E. Lippincott of Lippincotts, R. W. Higginbotham of Grays Landing, and Gilpin South of Bald Hill. The Waynesburg Brewing Company, which constructed the only brewery in the county, was refused license last week. No retail liquor license has been granted in the county for 31 years. A century ago Greene county had nearly one hundred registered distilleries. The map is now pure white.

The above was taken from various sources including The Greensaver, G.Wayne Smith's History and others.

October 13, 2009

1939 Aerial Survey Photos - Mouth Of Ten Mile To Waynesburg

A reader sent me a link to a most interesting site called Penn Pilot - Historical Aerial Photographs Of Pennsylvania. It seems that on several occasions the entire state was photographed from the air for geological survey research purposes. Different groups of images were made from the 1930's through the 1970's. They are reproduced on a Penn State University website. Shown here are a group featuring Ten Mile Creek from the mouth at Millsboro to Waynesburg in 1939. If you want even closer views, go to the site itself, download the largest versions of the ones you want, if you use Windows , view them then in Windows Media. They open to very large photos : bridges, farms , coal mines , towns, steamboats on the river, to me it's fascinating stuff. In the future, I plan to take a closer look at some of these images and describe what I notice of their content.

The mouth of Ten Mile showing Fredericktown, Millsboro, Besco and Pitt Gas

Clarksville To Chartiers

Pollocks Mill, Jefferson and Mather

Waynesburg and east

October 4, 2009

New Website About The Area - SWPA Rural Exploration

Crucible Ferry area

Levine Building Fire In Rices Landing and that site today
It's nice to welcome a new blog about our neck of the woods. Greene County native Chip Guesman has created a site he calls SWPA Rural Exploration and describes it this way " Exploring and photographing southwestern PA's abandoned mines, industry,homes....and whatever else we may find. A little history, a little legend..... from the most massive structures to the minute details we walk past every day."
He's only had the site going for a short time but there is already a lot of great photographs of things like the coke ovens at Poland Mines, and even a video of the area at Rices Landing where one can find the Stovepipe Ghost. Watch that video to actually see things come running out of the woods ! I felt like I was watching the Blair Witch Project :). Not for the faint hearted !
I am always fascinated with urban and rural archaeological websites and I'm very happy to see one dedicated to this area. I mean heck, we've got at least as much decaying infrastructure right here as one could hope to find anywhere else !

Rices Landing Low water 1980's, All images from SWPA Rural Exploration

September 22, 2009

On Coke Ovens and The Fayette County Exodus

Coke ovens at Poland Mines 2009 courtesy Of SWPA Rural Exploration

In the Ten Mile Creek area, Marianna, the Champion Mine at Besco, Dilworth at Rices Landing and Poland Mines # 2 all had coke ovens operating at one time or another. At most mines, a coking operation was set up as an adjunct to the mine, most mines producing more coal than they could process to coke. At Besco, with 257 ovens, the entire output was made to coke and shipped out that way. All coke ovens on this side of the river were of the beehive type as were the majority in western Pennsylvania. The later rectangular ovens were invented by W.J. Rainey engineers starting around 1905 and were adopted at a dozen larger works in the Connellsville and Klondike regions. This type was more mechanized and required higher labor skills. The final answer was using by-product ovens that captured all the gasses for use and brought the coking process to it's ultimate efficiency. This kind of operation was done best, not on site, but in large, dedicated works like the Clairton Coke Works, opened in 1918 and still the largest in the world. In the 1970's and 80's, the company I worked for, Ohio Barge Line, had at least 5 big boats moving coal from Kentucky to feed the ovens at Clairton, each boat bringing over 22,000 tons a week. There were dozens of other boats, all towing coal to there from out of the Mon, Allegheny and Ohio river mines.
By-product ovens outpaced beehive ovens by 1919 and eventually replaced the beehive ovens in the region by 1925, although some continued to operate as late as 1960.

Many older folks remember the way the nighttime sky would be lit up from the rows of ovens. I remember, as a child, seeing the glowing ovens of Alicia reflected on the river above Brownsville as we drove up the river road.

In the early decades of the last century as the new mines opened in Washington and Greene counties there was what I choose to call an exodus of sorts from the Fayette county mines. Many folks in the Ten Mile area can trace family roots back to Fayette county patch towns. Modern patch towns with indoor plumbing, electric lights, porches, general improvements to roads and grounds must have been part of the attraction as well as the idea of starting out a new life in a new place. Mather , Crucible, Richeyville and Marianna with their movie houses, ice cream parlors, ball fields and playgrounds, all built by the company, looked pretty good to these, many of them first generation Americans, coming from the old worn out patch towns to the east. Marianna's and Clarksville's ( Williamstown ) brick homes even had basements, unheard of in most older patches. Also, some of the older mines were being played out after many years of mining. Modern technology was already beginning to displace workers, more mechanized mining and coking meant the loss of many jobs. A lot of young men, miners already themselves, took the opportunity to strike out from the old family home to start a new life on their own in a new patch.

Map Courtesy Of

My Grandfather worked in Fayette for several years at East Millsboro for Hustead-Semens and moved to Clarksville in 1924 to finish his mining career in Clyde. All three of his sons became miners, two of them for their entire lives, my father in Clarksville and my Uncle George in Richeyville. My maternal grandfather worked in a lot of different mines. Arriving from the Tatra Mountains region of Poland in 1913, he, Thomas Krencik, went to work in a Fayette county mine and the next year sent money for boat passage for his wife and daughter. He and his wife Anna had 15 more children, four of which died in infancy. Of these, seven were born in Fayette county towns like Republic, Edenburg, Lambert and Helen. Around 1924 he moved his large family to Marianna, first to a farm and later to the patch. He wasn't finished roaming, by 1937 they were living in Ontario, near Cokeburg, from which mine he retired. By that time , several of his sons who took up mining had moved to Clarksville, Ellsworth, Marianna, Cokeburg and other area towns. Many of the older people that I have interviewed have direct ties to Fayette. Years of reading obituaries have shown me that if you come from this area and your roots go back to a couple generations of miners, odds are good that at least one side of your family came from the county to the east. In this way the already decades old commercial coal and coke industry in Fayette county significantly impacted on the later growth of the Ten Mile Creek area.

The 1850 US Census of Manufactures, the earliest Census reference to coke, listed Allegheny County as the only coke producer in the United States. By the 1860 Census, four counties in the United States that produced coke were listed. It should be noted that the Clinton furnace on Pittsburgh's Southside began using coke as its only fuel in 1859. By 1870 there were estimated to be 1,300 coke ovens in the United States. All of them were beehive ovens and all were in Western Pennsylvania, 1,063 in the Connellsville region alone. Of the 2,752,475 tons of coke produced in the US in 1880, Fayette Co. produced more than 45%. Westmoreland followed with 27%, and Allegheny contributed 3.5%. Combined, the three counties yielded almost 77% of the nation's total. In 1880 seventy-two percent of the nation's beehive ovens were within the same three counties. Connellsville coke was the unequaled fuel of preference for the iron and steel industry by 1890. The peak of Connellsville coke production was in 1916, when there were more than 40,000 active ovens.
Connellsville Coke Region Maps from National Park Service

September 14, 2009

The 1944 Emerald Mine Fire At Chartiers

It was a spark from a grounded trolley wire that started the Emerald Mine fire soon after seven pm on the evening of June 7, 1944. It fell into a load of hay, fodder for the horses that pulled the pitwagons. There was an attempt to push the burning car into a worked out section but the fire got out of hand and started burning the haulageway. The volunteer fire departments of East Bethlehem and Jefferson arrived as men women and children swarmed down the hill from the patch to see about husbands and fathers. East Beth Fire Chief Albie Tinelli sent four volunteers down the 400 foot shaft with hose but they had to return, the bottom was a raging inferno. Of the 157 men on the night shift all but 6 came out within a few hours, most of them by way of the Lippencott air shaft three miles away. Rescue crews from Tower Hill and Clyde went repeatedly into the mine but the flames drove them back. At the main shaft the women of Chartiers organized a canteen and were passing out coffee to the men as they worked.Mine rescue team of the 1940's
All the local mine officials were on hand, Thomas Lamb, superintendent of the Chartiers pit of Emerald, William G. Stevenson, general manager of the Hillman Coke Company, T.P. Latta, superintendent of Crucibile Steel's Monongahela River Mine, George O'Brian, superintendent of the mines at Allison and Tower Hill, Richard Maize, state secretary of mines, district inspectors from Waynesburg, Uniontown and Monongahela City, the Federal Inspector, U.S.Bureau of Mines engineers , William ( Billy ) Hynes, president of District 4 of the United Mine Workers, UMWA International board member Jock Yablonski and other union officials.

Emerald Mine Tipple at Chartiers 1930, looking north, MRy photo

Emerald is a gassy mine and as the flames spread the work became increasingly dangerous. After eighteen hours the state inspectors ordered the sealing of the mine to avoid further loss. If the fire remained unchecked it could start to burn into adjoining mines. Earlier when the Pike Run mine fire got out of control it burned for ten years. The old Coal Hill Mine on the southside of Pittsburgh caught fire in 1765, before they learned about sealing mines, and was still burning in 1820, looking "like the mouth of a volcano".
There was no hope to get the six men and thirty two horses who remained in the pit. Of the missing miners, three were unmarried, one was the father of five children. Another victim, Steve Barnish, a fifty-five year old machine operator, left nine children. Barnish had a home in Chartiers Village on the hill above the mine. Sixteen days after the mine fire a tornado came through, destroying many of the neat white colonial cottages of the patch. Among the dead were Steve Barnish's wife and one of his daughters.
It took twelve hours to seal the slopes and headings. They put in concrete blocks, covered them with a brattice and then plastered over the top. The mine remained sealed all summer and fall. When the mine was sealed, the adjacent Clyde Mines workings were shut down. For a while over 1900 men were idled in the Ten Mile Creek Valley, 640 from Emerald and the rest from the Clydes. By late December it seemed that the fire was out. It was risky to open a sealed mine because even if the fire is out the heat will have cooked a high concentration of firedamp out of the strata and nearly all oxygen would have been consumed. Of four Pa. explosions caused by mine fires, three were from sealed fires opened too soon.
When the inspectors got inside the mine, they found bodies identifiable only by lamp and check tag numbers. They were 2000 feet from the shaft and would have had time to escape through side routes but for some reason did not.
The clean up took several months and after almost a year after the fire, the Emerald mine was back in operation.

Blasting cap token, Emerald Coal and Coke Co., my collection

Tin sign courtesy unknown donor

Emerald's river tipple above the mouth of Ten Mile, on the present river bike trail. MRy photo

Emerald was originally called the Edward Mine and first opened in 1921. It was accessed by three mine shafts, two slope entries, and a bore hole 36 inches in diameter. The Chartiers Slope, Chartiers Fan Shaft, Chartiers Hoisting Shaft, The River Slope, and air vent, and the Lippincott Shaft. Coal was moved to the river tipple and also loaded onto railroad cars at Chartiers. When the 1944 tornado destroyed much of the original patch housing on Chartiers Hill Emerald Coal and Coke built the Burson patch. The Braden patch was another section of company-built housing for employees of the Emerald Mine, and is probably the last coal patch to be constructed in Pennsylvania. It was at that time a Hillman owned mine.
Renamed Gateway in 1963 by a subsidiary of the companies that used its output, this Morgan Township mine closed in 1989.

This Emerald Mine is not to be confused with the currently active Emerald Mine originally operated by RAG-Emerald and opened in 1977 in Franklin Township, Waynesburg Pa. It was first owned by Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. and has had several owners since.

Much of this is taken from the book Cloud By Day by Muriel Earley Sheppard.

August 26, 2009

A Look At the Upper Monongahela by Richard Bissell

Brownsville Pa. Looking south

A description of the towns and sights along the Monongahela River from Brownsville to Fairmont in the late 1940s, written by the pilot of the towboat COAL QUEEN:

You would never think, to walk the streets of Brownsville today, that the town is old and filled with history and legend. Monongahela Valley towns just do not look the part as do Lexington and Concord and Portsmouth and Gloucester and Boston and Philadelphia. For famous Redstone Old Fort, now Brownsville, is another "industrial town," and aside from the Greek Revival, postColonial Playford House on Second and Market Streets, little romance is visible.
Colonel James Burd selected the site of Redstone Old Fort in 1758 because of the presence there of an early Indian fortification, and built his stockade. In 1785 Thomas and Basil Brown founded the town, which in the years to follow played an important part in the westward movement. It was at Brownsville that the weary emigrants saw the end of their toilsome struggle over the mountains and took to the calm waters of the Monongahela for the next lap of their journey. As the steamboat rose to fame and fortune on the western waters and industrial activity in the valley grew, the Brownsville-Pittsburgh trade developed. Even before the slack-water system had been completed to Brownsville in 1844, there were about two hundred steamboat arrivals annually at Pittsburgh from upriver points. After the locks and dams went into service, there was a daily packet line between Pittsburgh and Brownsville.
There is an old iron bridge in Brownsville that I inspected one time when we were laid up in drydock out at the Hillman shipyard. This bridge is on Market Street near Bank, and it has a tablet on it which says it is the first iron bridge west of the Alleghenies. It was apparently built in the period 1836-1839 of iron forged in Iocal furnaces. Before this bridge was built, Henry Clay's carriage overturned near this spot, dumping the great man into Dunlap's Creek. They say that Clay "gathered himself up with the remark that Clay and mud should not be mixed in that place again." Clay then returned to Washington to his senator's post and shortly afterwards an order was issued for the construction in Brownsville of an "iron span, carrying the road high above the stream."

Maxwell Lock looking south

After we go under the Brownsville Highway Bridge, height 50.2 feet above low water, span 386 feet, we come to Dam 5, and after locking through, we pass the Alicia Marine Ways of the Hillman Company and then are pretty much out in the country, except for coal mines and tipples at regular intervals. There's Vesta tipple and Frick Mine Light, Fox Mine Light and the H. C. F. Coke Company tipple, Vestaburg and Fredericktown and the bend around to Tenmile Creek, and Emerald Tipple, Pumpkin Run, Klein's Sawmill Light, Crucible Fuel Company tipple, and Light, Weirton Steel Company tipple, National Steel Corporation Pier, Buckeye Coal Company tipple, Browns Run, Little Whiteley Creek, Robena Mine Light and tipple, Pittsburgh Steel tipple, Duquesne Light Company tipple, Jacobs Creek, and then around the bend to Dam 7.

Vesta 5 Tipple looking south

Below Dam 7 are Greensboro on the starboard side, and New Geneva on port. New Geneva boasts a population of 410 souls, more or less, and was named for the native city of its famous early settler, Albert Gallatin. Gallatin came to this country without friends or influence, and by the sheer power of his personality and ability (and despite the handicap of a monumental French accent) achieved appointment as a member of the President's Cabinet within ten years of his arrival. A man of many talents, Gallatin served in the Revolutionary War, then became a French instructor at Harvard. Later he journeyed to Richmond on business and there became an intimate of Governor Patrick Henry, who advised him to go west to the wild lands of opportunity out by the Monongahela. Gallatin settled in Fayette County, a few miles from New Geneva and in a short time established the first glassworks west of the Alleghenies. In 1789 he built Friendship Hill, a 2 1/2-story, ivy-covered residence, still standing and open to the public.He began to enter local politics, filling several state and federal posts, and in 1801 was appointed secretary of the treasury by President Jefferson. He served in this post during both of Jefferson's presidential terms, the.whole of President Madison's first term, and until February, 1814, in the second, something of a record in Cabinet tenure. After retirement from the Cabinet this energetic adopted son of the new Republic held several diplomatic posts and finally, between 1831 and 1839 was president of the National Bank of New York.
Patrick Henry said Albert Gallatin was one of the most extraordinary men he had ever seen. He was surely of keen intellectual powers and magnificent ability in political and diplomatic affairs--the model statesman. At Friendship Hill the dignified retirement of Gallatin was embellished in 1825 by a visit from "his long tried, his bosom friend," the Marquis de Lafayeffe. Of this sumptuous affair an old Monongahelite, James Veech (writing in 1858), said: "Who that was there can ever forget the 'feast of reason'--and other good things, and the 'flow of soul'-and champagne? The like of which old Springhill [Township] had never seen--may never see again."

In the five miles upriver from New Geneva to Point Marion, where the Cheat River enters the Monongahela, no less than five coal tipples are busy dumping Pennsylvania coal into waiting barges. Point Marion has a large glassworks and a sand and gravel company which owns a baby Diesel towboat with a steam boiler for operating the steering rig and blowing the whistle, a quaint arrangement unique in my experience.

Morgantown looking east around 1928

Around a few bends and beyond more tipples, Morgantown rises on the hills to port. Ah, Morgantown, with your glass factories and coal mines and spaghtetti at Capellanti's and houses all peeling from chemical fumes in the air! On Saturday nights in spring the boys and girls from the University of West Virginia, perched up on the hill at the end of Main Street, mingle on the sidewalks down by the courthouse with coal miners and fanners and glassworkers. To us on the Coal Queen, Morgantown was everything, our metropolis--the hot bath, the glass of Tube City beer, the lump-in-throat in the movies, the Girl, paradise, purgatory--we knew them all in Morgantown. But Morgantown knew little of us. Steamboaters, with their excitable and noisy ways, are not invited to tea parties. I can call every bartender and short-order waitress in town by name but the mayor and I have yet to shake hands. Above Morgantown the Monongahela is a beautiful narrow stream running between high hills--"mountains," we always called them. The locks are small, the traffic is light, and there is a friendly intimacy benveen boat crews and lock tenders. The locks are so close that in a six-hour watch you might make seven or eight locks. After a few months of this, running those locks seemed automatic. That's pretty country up in there from Morgantown to National Mine, and pretty again above Jordan, especially in the spring, when the trees and flowers are all in bloom. And then, half blinded sometimes by the smoke from the railroad yard, we come to Fairmont, and beyond it the "Dark Bridge" (no lights on it), which we all hated, and then there was the point, where the Monongahela ended, a point with a big tree on it, a good mark and easy to pick up with the searchlight on a bad night.

The Monongahela is formed by the West Fork River and the Tygart River, which join here at Fairmont, 128.73 miles south of Pittsburgh. The tipple where we loaded coal was at Kingmont, up the Tygart, two miles above head of navigation on the Monongahela, and we would snake our loads out of there in a river so narrow you could nearly jump across.

Now just imagine, in the old days you could take a good big steamboat from Fairmont, West Virginia, at the headwaters of the Monongahela, down to Cairo, up the Mississippi and Missouri to Fort Benton, Mont.--3,623 miles, or about as far as from the North River in New York to the East India Docks on the Thames at London. In fact the stern-wheeler E. H. Durfee made regular trips between Pittsburgh and Fort Benton in the years 1872 to 1876. Wouldn't that be something, to raise steam amidst the roar of industry on the Monongahela and keep that paddle wheel splashing until you began to run into buffalo and Sioux and the Rocky Mountains ?

This is taken from the book The Monongahela by Richard Bissell, part of the Rivers of America series, Rinehart & Co., Inc., New York, 1952, pp. 70-83. He wrote several outstanding books on towboating and the river life. The accounts are gritty and very realistic. He also wrote several successful Broadway plays including The Pajama Game.

August 24, 2009

About The Dog Labor Photo And A Little More

Here's a little about the image at the top of each page. It is an old undated real photo post card and shows the tipple of a fairly early primitive coal mine. This is the type of mine that was common before the big commercial coal companies came into the area around 1890-1900. Mining coal as a business started as early as 1818 in Fredericktown. This picture likely dates from 1900 or so but the scene would have looked the same at any time from 1820 to the 1920's. The coal wagons are being pulled by large dogs of different breeds. They look to me like a hound of some kind, a Heinz dog and a Labrador . Though worked, these dogs were likely well taken care of, they certainly look healthy. Using dogs instead of mules or horses indicates that the mine is quite a low ( 3-4 feet high ) vein of coal. This type of operation was known as a "dog mine." Those fortunate enough to have a much taller seam of coal on their property would have used mules or horses. A gentleman who seems to be quite well fed stands at attention in the foreground, likely the owner / operator. It's a wonderful image of early labor, showing the miners posing with their cap lamps and tools and the teamsters waiting to load their wagons.
This card was purchased locally some years ago, considering that and looking at the hills in the background I believe this was taken somewhere in Ten Mile Creek Country.

This was a sidebar on the page for several months and when I began to tweak / add to it today I thought it might deserve a post of it's own. It really is a unique image. I searched Google and Bing in vain for another picture of dogs pulling coal wagons. I searched for dog labor, dog coal, dog pulling, dog mine and nothing shows. Even this image does not show, but now that I used all those keywords in the last sentence, it will !

I have recently updated several posts: the Rices Landing one, and the Clarksville Bridges and the Iron Furnace. As I get more photos and information, I will likely add to or modify most every post or even break up some to expand on a subject. For instance, the above Clarksville Bridges and Iron Furnace will become a two separate posts somewhere down the road as the furnace deserves a post of it's own. All the more reason to check back with your favorite ones from time to time.
If you know a little or a lot about some aspect of the area that we all may like to know, please consider sharing it with me. I'd be glad to help you edit or elaborate on it. If any of your old family photos show mines or trains, train stations, boats or old storefronts, bars or hotels, people working or playing, in any Ten Mile towns I would love to see them and share them here. Even if Mamaw or Aunt Eunice is in the foreground it would be of interest. Sometimes the best pictures of a train station are taken on the day Mamaw went to Pittsburgh to get her hip surgery or the day sweet Aunt Eunice and her alcoholic husband finally went back home from their visit.

August 6, 2009

Major Mine Disasters In The Area

Mather Miners Memorial

Robena Monument at Hatfield Ferry


03-06-02 Catsburg Monongahela, Pa. 5 Explosion
11-21-03 Ferguson Connellsville, PA 17 Explosion
07-06-05 Fuller Searight, PA 6 Explosion
10-10-05 Hazelkirk No. 2 Monongahela, PA 2 Explosion
10-13-05 Clyde Fredericktown, PA 6 Fire
10-29-05 Hazel Kirk No. 2 Monongahela, PA 5 Explosion
11-15-05 Braznell Bentleyville, PA 7 Explosion
12-19-07 Darr Jacobs Creek, PA 239 Explosion
11-28-08 Rachel and Agnes Marianna, PA 154 Explosion
03-22-11 Hazel Canonsburg, PA 9 Haulage
07-30-15 Patterson No. 2 Elizabeth, PA 9 Haulage
03-13-17 Henderson No. 1 Henderson, PA 14 Explosion
06-02-20 Ontario Cokeburg, PA 6 Explosion
02-02-22 Gates No. 2 Gates, PA 25 Explosion
07-25-24 Gates No. 1 Brownsville, PA 10 Explosion
04-02-27 No. 53 Cokeburg, PA 6 Explosion
05-19-28 Mather No. 1 Mather, PA 195 Explosion
06-07-44 Emerald Clarksville, PA 6 Fire
03-12-45 Crucible Crucible, PA 5 Roof/Bump
09-23-57 Marianna No. 58 Marianna, PA 6 Explosion
12-06-62 Robena No. 3 Carmichaels, PA 37 Explosion

11-20-68 No. 9 Farmington W.Va. 78 Explosion
07-22-72 Blacksville No. 1 Blacksville, W. Va. 9 Fire

Consider that these listed are only the major accidents in the area. Many others died daily in the mines. In 1907 Pennsylvania lost 1614 with 5 disasters alone claiming more than 800 men, the other 800 lives were lost in normal day to day operations.
The high death rate among miners was due, not to spectacular gas explosions but to the steady picking off of workers in slate falls. In the entire US, in the thirty three years ending Jan.1,1939, 27,064 men died from slate falls, only 8,045 from explosions - 77 percent as opposed to 23%. The sudden smothering death of one or two miners at a time was so common it rated a couple lines on page two of the newspaper.
"On..........a slate fall cost the life of ........., an employee at the .........'s .......... mine. There will be a High Requiem Mass at St. .......'s Church on the morning of ......... The deceased leaves a wife and ....... children, etc."

Not too far up the Monongahela at Monongah West Virginia was the largest loss of life in any mine in US history , 362 men died after an explosion tore through Monongah # 6 and 8 on December 6, 1907. Not one man that was in the mine came out and lived.

Greene County Monument on Interstate 79.

The text reads :
On December 6, 1962, 460 Feet Directly Beneath This Site, 37 Miners Lost Their Lives In The U.S. Steel Robena Mine's Frosty Run Explosion. One Of The Worst Mine Disasters In Green County History.
The memorial features a likeness of famous mine labor leader John L. Lewis; on the reverse side is a roll of Greene County Miners. President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) from 1920 until 1960 and founding president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), John Llewellyn Lewis was the dominant voice shaping the labor movement in the 1930s. The CIO owed its existence in large measure to Lewis, who was a tireless and effective advocate of industrial unionism and of government assistance in organizing basic industry.
The date of dedication was May 26, 1995.

The Coal Miners Memorial at Bethlehem Center High School, Fredericktown, Pa. Not a disaster memorial but a beautiful statue.