January 24, 2009

Ten Mile Trivia # 1

There are two wonderfully droll insults in this. It was placed in an early Washington County newspaper on December 1, 1795 : Whereas a certain RALPH SMITH, of Morgan Township in this County (Greene Co. after 1796), some years ago called me a convict in a public company, and later spoke the same language in ambiguous terms, (such as his good breeding afforded). I do hereby request the favor of Mr. Smith, to wash and shave and go and inquire of Mr. James GILASPY, on the headwaters of Buffalo Creek, and Robert CARREL on the head waters of the Wheeling Creek, two gentlemen which sailed with me from the port of Londonderry, the 14th day of August in the year 1768, and landed at Newcastle, DE. the 3rd day of October following and acknowledge himself a malicious calumniator.
signed Myles Hay of Ten Mile Creek, Washington County.
He requests that he first " wash and shave " !

At Brownsville, for many years the head of steamboat navigation on the Monongahela river, passengers were transferred from the stage lines to the steamboats running between this point and Pittsburgh. West bound passengers were ticketed through from Cumberland, Baltimore and other points east, to Pittsburgh and other points west, via the National Road, and Monongahela river boats. It is shown by official figures that from 1844 to 1852 when the railroads came along, that more than three hundred thousand passengers left the stage lines at Brownsville and took passage on the Monongahela steamers down the river to Pittsburgh and Wheeling. Most of the emigrants and a large number of stage passengers, probably the majority, crossed the river at West Brownsville, and went over land across Washington County to Wheeling. The same was true of the journey from West to East. The National Road through Washington County was the short cut that saved much time over the longer river route past Pittsburgh. In 1852, Brownsville lost any advantages it had based on turnpike and river modes of transportation. In that year, the Pennsylvania Railroad was completed from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was extended from Cumberland to Wheeling through Maryland and Virginia, effectively eliminating Brownsville as a major point of transit. The prominence of the National Road and of Brownsville came to an end as travel by stage, wagon and steamboat gave way to the railroad.

The first white settlers within the territory of Washington County were Everhart Hupp, George Bumgarner, and Abraham Teagarden and these first located their homes in the vicinity of the mouth of Ten-Mile Creek, all within the triangle made by Rice's Landing, Sandy Plains and Millsboro.

Charles L. Rowan was born in 1899, son of George E. and Althea (Prinkey) Rowan. In about May of 1936, he began employment as a laborer at the No. 5 mine of the Vesta Coal Company at Vestaburg, a job to which he commuted from his home. He was killed at the mine on Aug. 18, 1936, after only having worked there for three months. Said the Daily Courier : Rowan ... was decapitated and two other workers miraculously escaped a similar fate when a large slab of slate let go as they were leaving the Vestaburg workings after completing their day's work. The trio comprised a group of workmen who had left the man trip several minutes before the tragedy. Rowan was struck by the full force of the slate which landed on his head and severed it from his body, according to Deputy Edward Hagerty of Millsboro. The fatality was the first of the year at the Vesta Company mine.

Three young men held up the W.J. Rainey Coal Co. paymaster on a trolley car between Brownsville and Allison in Fayette County on the morning of March 11, 1922. They escaped with a satchel with about $30,000 in payroll cash. A guard with the paymaster was shot and seriously wounded as bandits and guards exchanged gunfire on the car, which had about 40 passengers.
That's a tremendous amount of money for 1922. Imagine 5 or more men exchanging gunfire on a trolley with 40 people on board.

Fairmont W. Va Newspaper dated Thursday, 9 February 1882:"Steamboating at Fairmont. The steamboat HARRY arrived here, this afternoon, at half-past four o'clock, having made the trip from Morgantown, about thirty miles, in less than seven hours.
They could have walked as quickly and I believe a horse walks faster than 4 miles an hour.

The Uniontown Morning Herald of June 7, 1926 reported that John A. Logan Strauch ... fell between two railroad cars while working on the Monongahela Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Clarksville. He had worked for the railroad for a number of years, at one time working out of the Rainey yards here, and was employed in the Brownsville section at the time of his death. The crew was shifting cars when the accident occurred.

Nick Massini discusses a ghost at Clyde Mine in Fredericktown, Pennsylvania. "The old Clyde mine was haunted by a fire boss that was killed years before. He was seen regularly seen making his run at the Ross Shaft area."
Richard Marcavitch recounted a ghost he saw at Vesta Five owned by the J and L Steel Company. He saw this ghost sitting in his dinner hole every day about the same time.

From 1906-1939 over 35,00 men died in coal mine accidents. In 1907 Pennsylvania lost 1614 with 5 disasters alone claiming more than 800 men.
Just one of the many reasons for the frightful accident rate is illustrated in this old photo showing a miner pouring black powder into a cardboard tube for inserting in a drilled hole to blast coal loose. On his cap is an open flame oil wick lamp. A sight like this would give a modern mine inspector an instant and fatal heart attack.

In the 30's Clyde miners developed a reputation as the first to go on strike. Then they got up early next morning to see that no one else worked.

Vesta 1 Allenport 1891 - 1924
Vesta 2 American Mine Lucy Station Elco 1892 - 1915
Vesta 3 Globe Mine Coal Center 1892 - 1918
Vesta 4 California, Daisytown, Richeyville 1903 - 1984
Vesta 5 Vestaburg 1907 -
Vesta 6 Denbo 1903 - 1947
Vesta 7 West Brownsville 1918 - 1923
Vesta 4 was the largest mine in the country. It eventually ran from the rail and river tipple at California Pa. to Pancake, just east of Washington Pa.

This old boatman did it all : Unknown newspaper dated Monday, 3 March 1884:
Interview With a Veteran River Man. Our reporter met Capt. I. N. Hook, the oldest river man on the Ohio, at the Swann House this morning. The Captain commenced steamboating in 1827. He was in this neighborhood at the time of the flood of 1832. He was the first who placed his barges in front of his steamboat when towing. Formerly it was customary to hitch them on behind, or tie them to the sides. His manner of towing was considered very amusing at its origin, but no one thinks of towing in any other way at the present time.
The Captain introduced the whistle now universally used at the present time. It was by accident that he discovered it. He was going into Wheeling and his whistle was broken. The upper hemisphere was blown off. He placed in its stead a keg. His whistle also caused much amusement but it has taken the place of the old 'bowl' screecher, which would almost lift a man off his feet when it blew.
The Captain also invented the 'spool windlass' by means of which the gates of the locks on all our rivers are now opened. They were formerly swung back by huge windlasses making hard work for eight men. Curious to say he took out no patents on the invention but gave the Company for which he worked all the advantages gratuitously.
He has been up the Little Kanawha repairing the locks damaged by the late flood. The Captain says he took the first steamboat to Burning Springs that ever passed up the Little Kanawha. He is now on his way to the Muskingum to repair the canal washed out in the flood.

I'll bet he invented the telegraph too, and the internal combustion engine , sliced bread , electricity, pop tarts and cheese in an aerosol can. I'll bet when the water got low he just put the boat on his back and waded upstream.

January 20, 2009

Monongahela Railway / Pennsylvania Railroad Map Of Coal Mines 1943

A click will open this partial map of the Monongahela Division of the PRR to a more readable size.

collection of the author

January 4, 2009

The Monongahela River Packet Co. And A Race On The River

This is the steam packet boat ELIZABETH at Fredericktown in 1902. She was 188 feet x 35 x 5.5 and was built at Brownsville ( the hull was built at Belle Vernon ) in 1888 for the Pittsburgh - Elizabeth Pa. trade. This trade died out by 1900, no doubt because the railroad by that time went as far upriver as Brownsville. It would be 7 more years till the rails reached any farther south on the west bank. This made the Ten Mile Creek Country trade above Brownsville worth pursuing. In 1902 an independent line was formed called the Monongahela River Packet Company and ran the ELIZABETH under that flag as far upriver as Morgantown. This put her in competition with boats of the Pittsburgh Brownsville and Geneva Packet Company , the oldest and biggest company on the upper river.
In August of 1902 she and the rival company's Str. I. C. WOODWARD met below old lock # 9 and raced each other to the chamber to be the first to lock through. They must have been pretty evenly matched because they arrived at the same time , both becoming wedged in the mouth of the lock and neither could or would move for the other. Here they sat for a while until the Masters of the vessels were called and the issue resolved .

The race resulted in a tie

Which won the race is unknown but in the end the smaller company lost out to the bigger in the trade. 1902 saw the end of the Monongahela River Packet company. She was laid up later that year and in 1903 was sold and moored in the Allegheny river above Pittsburgh's 6th street bridge. In 1904 the boat next to her , the OLIVETTE , caught fire setting the ELIZABETH ablaze. She was turned loose, drifted under the Union bridge , a covered wooden structure and set it on fire . She was then pushed to the bank "where she burned at leisure".

Fire was a big enemy of these large wooden structures, dried wood, countless coats of flammable paint ( anyone who has ever worked on any riverboat, of wood or steel, can tell you that the paint is applied at every opportunity ) , kerosene lamps ( until the 1890's ) , coal or coal oil stoves, strong winds often present on the river, all made it a real possibility. Most cities had large wharf front fires at different times that would destroy many boats at once. Other very real dangers were snags ( sunken trees poking into the hull, causing some boats to sink in less than a minute ) and other sunken obstructions, boiler explosions, groundings and Pilot errors. Most all were heavily insured so when for instance, the Str. NEW ERA was sunk then usually out came the NEW ERA # 2 in a few months. Even if a boat was lost due to fire, boiler explosion or sinking, the steam engine would always be salvaged. They seem to have been virtually indestructible and were often used in several different boats over many years. Some boats lasted 20 years and many just a few years. Packet boats ran year round and tended to wear out quicker than the bigger line haul towboats which ran somewhat seasonally.

Here's the ELIZABETH at Brownsville rounding to with her stacks knocked back to clear the wooden covered bridge there. On the left descending bank is the Str. EDGAR CHERRY, a packet that ran for several years between Pittsburgh and Morgantown until she hit the gates at old lock # 4 and sunk in 1904. One can see the front end of a packet boat on the Brownsville (left) side, this is the OLIVETTE, the boat that would two years later cause the fiery destruction of the Elizabeth in Pittsburgh ( see above ) .

Here she is in the 1890's, possibly at McKeesport, Pa. It must have been some kind of holiday.

Another boat running in this trade for the Mon River Packet Company was the Str. GERTRUDE. She was fancier than most Mon River packets, with a huge pilot house not often seen up here. She was built at Hawesville Ky. in 1895 and ran on the lower Ohio before she came to the Monongahela River in 1902. Before going into the trade she was given new floors and staterooms were added. She was also given a Texas ( small deck of cabins under the Pilot house ) so likely the pilot house was altered then. The big stage seen here was likely left off as they were not much used on the Monongahela. With our steep banks a plank seems to have been sufficient for most landings, and many of the towns had stone or brick wharfs or small floating wharfboats for packets to land on. In 1903 GERTRUDE too, was sold and later ran on the Chattahoochie River in Georgia.

Str. GERTRUDE on lower Ohio 1900.

Information for this was taken mostly from Ways Packet Directory, 1848 - 1994 by Fred Way Jr. Some images are from a great site about the Elizabeth Marine Ways that includes much detail about many Mon river and Mon river built boats, Steamboat Building in Elizabeth, PA . This wonderful site is maintained by Jay W. Mohney and his efforts are a priceless addition to river knowledge.

January 2, 2009

Mather - The Town And The Coal Mine


The property of the Mather Collieries, consisting of about 4400 acres, is located at Mather, north of the village of Jefferson, Greene County, Pa. The operation is owned jointly by Pickands, Mather & Company; the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company; and the Steel Company of Canada, Ltd., Hamilton, Out., and operated by Pickands, Mather & Company, of Cleveland. The town of Mather is named in honor of Samuel Mather, senior member of the firm of Pickands, Mather & Company, and William G. Mather, of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company.

Topographical conditions were favorable for a splendid town site and the management decided that it was imperative to provide the best living conditions possible in order to attract the better class of mine labor. The tract of land available is of sufficient area to provide for 500 or more houses and yet provide sufficient space for each house. The streets are laid out to suit the topography and provide good drainage. Lots are 80 feet in width and from 105 to 120 feet deep.

Street Map of Mather.

The houses are built 20 feet back from the street line. Each house has water and sewerage. "Sanisep" closets are installed and have proven entirely satisfactory. Most of the streets have been macadamized with crushed slag with a coating of limestone screenings. Sidewalks of Cleveland sawed stone are laid. Ample fire protection is furnished from two 50,000 gallon tanks, located on a hill nearby, giving a pressure of from 60 to 80 pounds throughout the town. Shade trees have been planted along the streets, so that in a few years there will be no evidence that it is a coal mining town. Houses contain from three to six rooms each, but the five-room houses are most in demand.

Five Room house plan.

A three room house rents for 8.00, a four room for 9.50 and a five room house for 11.00 a month. Water is provided by a dam across the mouth of Browns Run formed by the embankment for railroad sidings. The drainage area is about four square miles and the water is impounded in a reservoir holding about 2,000,000 gallons. Water is pumped from the reservoir by a centrifugal pump to a raw- water tank from which it flows by gravity through a filtration plant of 100,000 gallons capacity per eight hours into a wet well, from which it is pumped direct to the tanks on the hill. Four-inch pipe is used for distribution, with 2 inch house connections.The water is analyzed weekly by representatives of the State Board of Health and has proven entirely satisfactory.

Theater with confectionery on left and library on right

In order to have a contented people, it is necessary that some sort of recreation be provided. A moving picture theater is in operation, in which all the latest and best pictures are shown several nights a week, at prices merely sufficient to pay for management and upkeep.

Recreation Building

On the opposite corner of the square is a recreation building containing bowling-alleys, pool-tables, and barber shop on the first floor, with a large dance-hall on the upper floor. The need for such a building in a community of this sort is evidenced when parties will come miles from surrounding country to attend functions and dances held in it. The town supports a baseball club which rendered a good account of itself last season and promises to do the same this year. A modern school takes care of the educational needs of the young members of the community. Religious services are held in the various buildings and sites have been reserved for those congregations who wish to erect their own church edifices. The company has a welfare worker and nurse, whose duty it is to visit the families and instruct them in American ways of living.

Club House

For the young single men and bachelors among the operating force, a club-house with all modern conveniences affords a quiet home. Taking all things into consideration, the town of Mather is located in one of the most charming spots in Western Pennsylvania and no effort or money has been spared to keep the town in harmony with its surroundings.
Map of town, railroad and mine

It is served by the Chartiers Southern Railway, owned jointly by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the New York Central Railroad, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, connection being made with the Monongahela Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Millsboro on the Monongahela River. The coal is used entirely by the owners in by-product plants located at Toledo, Canton, and Cleveland, Ohio, and Hamilton, Out., being transported in 70-ton capacity railroad cars owned by the Mather Collieries.The coal dips to the southeast at about an average grade of 1.5 per cent, and the cover over the coal varies from 300 feet at Ten Mile Creek to 650 feet under the highest hills. The seam of coal as indicated by present development and numerous drill holes at various locations on the property will average six feet, nine inches thick and produce a tonnage of 10,000 tons per acre.
The topography of the property is typical of southwestern Pennsylvania, being a rolling agricultural country. The south branch of Ten Mile Creek flows along the southeast side of the property at an elevation slightly below 900 feet above sea level, and to the northwest elevations of 1100 to 1200 feet are reached on the property. The general direction of Ten Mile Creek is parallel to the Bellevernon anticlinal and forms the lowest elevation so far as the coal seam on the property is concerned. The creek valley is the only feasible route for a railroad outlet and necessitated that the surface plant and point of development of the property be located contiguous thereto, and a plant location was chosen near the southeast central portion of the tract, so that the haulage would be in favor of the loads.
The Chartiers-Southern Railway was located and built on the opposite side of Ten Mile Creek from the plant site. Owing to topographical conditions it was necessary to construct the sidings with one connection with the railroad. This involved the construction of a two-span, deck, plate-girder bridge across the creek and a passing track from the lower end of the yards to a point above the location of the No. 2 shaft. The yard is arranged for the ultimate storage capacity of 100 loads and empties, with ample facilities for switching between the two shafts, so as to avoid interference when it becomes feature determined the distance between shafts of 850 feet. It will be noticed that three loading tracks are provided for No. 1 shaft and two for No. 2 shaft. The product shipped is run-of- mine, but provision was made for separating and loading slack in case it should prove advisable. The sidings are laid with 90-pound rails on standard ties. All turnouts are No. 8. The track is ballasted with granulated slag.

Owing to the outline and location of the property it was decided that for the most economical operation it would be wise to consider the tract as two separate operations, but operated with the same surface plant; consequently, both shafts were designed as hoisting shafts — No. 1 to be used exclusively for hoisting coal and slate, and therefore for the larger output, and also to serve as an intake for air. No. 2 to be used for hoisting coal and slate, men, and supplies, and one compartment to serve as an air exhaust. The shafts are the same inside dimensions, the difference in arrangement of bun-tons being that they are so placed as to give a slightly larger area for exhaust airway in No. 2 and to provide room for stairway in No. 1, if deemed necessary. This stairway has not been constructed at the present writing. The shafts are concrete lined, with steel bunions and reinforced concrete partition between hoistways and air compartment.
From top of coping to bottom of coal, No. 1 is 341 feet in depth and No. 2 is 349 feet.
Ground was' broken August 20, 1917 on No. 1 and August 7, 1917 on No. 2. Coal was reached May 8, 1918 on No. 1 and May 20, 1918 on No. 2. The time required to sink and line both shafts was approximately nine months — an average rate of 39 feet per month. In normal times this would be considered slow, but, owing to war conditions, shortage of labor, and the work being located some five miles from a railroad.

Shop And Supply House

The building containing the shop and supply house is 39 by 138 feet, divided into four compartments — blacksmith, carpenter, and machine-shops and supply house. The blacksmith shop is equipped with two forges, a fan, and a hammer.
The carpenter and machine-shop contains a lathe, a hack-saw, a radial drill-press, a shaper and an emery-wheel. All machinery is operated by belt from a line-shaft driven by a 15-horse-power, alternating-current, 220-volt motor. In the design of this building, special regard was given1 to light and ventilation. A track extends the full length through the middle, so as to facilitate the handling of material, mine cars and locomotives.

The Hoist House is located near No. 1 shaft and houses the hoisting equipment, which consists of a "Vulcan" hoist with cylindro-conical drums 7.5 to 10 feet in diameter. An output of three cars per minute can be maintained, which insures a tonnage of over 3000 tons a day from the No. 1 shaft when the mine is sufficiently developed — at the same time hoisting the slate. Ventilation is afforded by a Jeffrey fan 14 feet in diameter and 6 feet wide, having an ultimate capacity of 350,000 cubic feet per minute. The head-frame and tipple are constructed of steel, concrete floors being installed in the tipple. The coal is dumped from self-dumping cages into either of two bins located side by side, from which it is fed by reciprocating feeders over stationary screens five feet in length, separating the coal into three sizes and delivering it onto the picking tables. The coal is hand picked, the refuse being handled by a refuse conveyor to the slate bin immediately under the dump chute. The coal after passing over the picking tables is dumped into a receiving bin, from which it is loaded into cars on either of two tracks. The refuse from the mine is dumped direct into a bin of 50 tons capacity, from which it is loaded directly into a 10-ton electric larry and hauled across the railroad sidings on an overhead bridge to a refuse dump. This dump is of such a height that with the land available for dumping purposes it will. no doubt, serve the life of the mine. In case it should prove insufficient at its present height, the larrys able to operate on a six per cent, grade, so that an extra height of 20 or 25 feet can be utilized.
The Lamp House and First Aid building is located near the power-house at No. 2 shaft. It is a two-story structure, the second floor being devoted to instruction in rescue work, etc., meetings being held once a week. The lower floor contains the lamp house, mine foreman's office and first-aid room.
In order to facilitate transportation, loaded and empty track haulage roads have been provided. Sixty-pound steel rail is used on main haulage roads and 25-pound on butts and rooms. At present the underground equipment consists of two 15-ton trolley locomotives, eight 7-ton storage locomotives for gathering, 13 short-wall mining machines, 400 mine cars of 2.75-ton capacity, equipped with roller bearings.

The production has reached 2000 tons a day this month and is constantly and uniformly being increased. Mining conditions are very good, the only drawback being exceptionally heavy draw slate in some sections of the mine but this is thought to be a merely local condition.

In conclusion, our firm wishes to express its acknowledgment to the various persons connected with the enterprise, for their hearty co-operation in bringing about the final consummation of the project, it being carried on under war-time conditions. Among those deserving of special mention are : Frank Armstrong, of Pickands, Mather and Company Cleveland, General Manager; the late W. L. McDonald, Superintendent during the greater part of the construction; J. W. H. Crofts, architect,of Cleveland, who designed the various civic buildings.

Safety award carbide lamp given To Pickands Mather miners
Water Tank and Pump House At Stoney Point, 1930. This supplied trains working Mather Mine. State Rt.188 overpass in background. Photo from Monongahela Railway.

Miner's check Tag

This story is taken from Proceedings of the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania‎ by the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania and is a report on the mine and town as it was in 1922.
Mather Collieries began operation in 1918 and ceased in 1964. During it's 46 year history, the mine produced an estimated 33.4 million tons of coal.
A very partial list of the men who worked at Mather is here. My story about the Mather train station is here.

Wes Knisley has created an interesting site on Mather and the mine here. There are some rare old pictures of the mine, town and nearby area, well worth a look at. Also reproduced there are the contents of the Mather Mining Disaster book by Tony Bupka, printed by the Brownsville Telegraph newspaper. This book is quite rare, in my years of collecting I have only ever found two copies of it for sale. It is the best reference on the subject.