First Shipment of Anthracite





(One Mile above Mauch Chunk,)


August 9th, 1814.











The following account of the discovery of anthracite coal was given by Dr. Thomas C. James, of Philadelphia, who in the year 1804, in company with Anthony Morris, Esq., during an excursion to some lands on the Lehigh, their joint property, visited this section.


"In the course of our pilgrimage, We reached the summit of the Mauch Chunk mountain, the present site of the mine, or rather quarry, of anthracite coal. At that time there were only to be seen three or four small pits, which had much the appearance of the commencement of crude wells, into one of which, our guide (Philip Ginter) descended with great ease, and threw up some pieces of coal for our examination. After which, whilst we lingered on the spot, contemplating the wildness of the scene, honest Philip amused us with the following narrative of the original discovery of this most valuable of minerals, now promising from its general diffusion, so much of wealth and comfort to a great portion of Pennsylvania.


He said, when he first took up his residence in that district of country, he built for himself a rough cabin in the forest, and supported his family by the proceeds of his rifle, being literally a hunter of the back woods. The game he shot, including bear and deer, he carried to the nearest store and exchanged for other necessaries of life. But at the particular time to which he then alluded, he was without a supply of food for his family and after being out all day with his gun in quest of it, he was returning towards evening over the Mauch Chunk mountain, entirely unsuccessful and dispirited; a drizzling rain beginning to fall, and night approaching he bent his course homeward, considering himself one of the most forsaken of human beings. As he trod slowly over the ground, his foot stumbled against something which, by the stroke, was driven before him; observing it to be black, to distinguish which there was just light enough remaining, he took it up, and as he had often listened to the traditions of the country of the existence of coal in the vicinity, it occurred to him, that this might be a portion of that "stone coal" of which he had heard.


He accordingly took it with him to his cabin, and the next day carried it to Col. Jacob Weiss, residing at Am was then known by the name of Fort Allen (Weissport). The Colonel who was alive to the subject, brought the specimen with him to Philadelphia and-submitted it to the inspection of John Nicholson and Michael Hillegas, Esqrs., and of Charles Cist an intelligent printer, who ascertained its nature and qualities and authorized the Colonel to satisfy Ginter for his discovery, upon his pointing out the precise spot where he found the coal. This was done by acceding to Ginter's proposal, of getting through the forms of the patent office, the title of a small tract of land, which he supposed had never been taken up, comprising the mill site on which he afterwards built the mill which afforded us the lodging of the preceding night and which he afterwards was unhappily deprived of by the claim of a prior survey.


Hillegas, Cist, Weiss and others immediately after (about the beginning of the year 1792) formed the "Lehigh Coal Mine Company," but without a charter of incorporation, and took up 8 or 10,000 acres of unlocated land including the Mauch Chunk mountain. 'The mine now wrought was opened by this Company but the difficulties of transporting coal to market were then insurmountable and their enterprise was abandoned. The mine remained in a neglected state, used only by the smiths and others of the immediate vicinity until the year 1806, when Wm. Turnbill, Esq., caused an ark to be constructed at Lausanne, which brought to the city (Philadelphia), two or three hundred bushels. A portion was sold to the manager of the Water Works for the use of the Centre Square steam engine. Upon trial here it was deemed rather an extinguisher than an aliment of fire, was rejected as worthless and was broken up and spread on the walks of the surrounding garden, in the place of gravel.


Excerpted from the pamphlet in Lehigh University's collection.  Call number SC TRX 1982E


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Rev. December 2009