Excerpts from Matthews & Hungerford – pp. 658 – 664
Discovery of Coal—Early Operations of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company
The human history of Mauch Chunk properly begins with the operations of the Lehigh coal and Navigation Company in 1818, but to convey an adequate understanding of that commencement of a vast industry it is necessary to give some account of a number of preceding events, particularly the discovery of anthracite coal in this immediate vicinity. On a map published by William Scull in 1770, and dedicated to the Honorable Thomas and Richard Penn, the proprietaries of Pennsylvania, the word “coal” appears at a point near the site of Pottsville, and also on the Mahanoy Creek. But the actual knowledge of anthracite coal which led to its being mined and put in the market had as its forerunner the discovery of the mineral on Sharp Mountain, near the site of Summit Hill, nine miles northwest of Mauch Chunk, in the year 1791, by Philip Ginter, a hunter, who had built himself a cabin in that region. An interesting narrative of this discovery, and of a visit to the place in 1804, occurs in a memoir by Dr. T.C. James, published by the Pennsylvania Historical Society, (Republished in Hazard’s Register, May 9, (et sequiter), 1829) from which we shall make extracts. After describing his starting from Philadelphia, the difficulties of the journey, and his meeting with Ginter, who was then running a mill, Dr. James narrates the incidents of the following day, when his companion and himself, led by Ginter, made their way to the scene of the discovery. “In the course of our pilgrimage we reached the summit of Mauch Chunk Mountain (Sharp 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 rude wells, into one of which our guide descended with great ease, and threw up some pieces of coal for our examination. After which, while 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.
“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 backwoods. The game he shot, including bear and deer, he carried to the nearest store, and exchanged for the 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 (Pisgah) Mountain, entirely unsuccessful and dispirited, having shot nothing. A drizzling rain beginning to fall, and the dusky night approaching, he bent his course homeward, considering himself one of the most forsaken of mortals. 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 as to the existence of coal in the vicinity, it occurred to him that this might perhaps be a portion of that stone coal of which he had heard. He accordingly carefully took it with him to his cabin, and the next day carried it to Col. Jacob Weiss, residing at what was then known by the name of Fort Allen. (Now Weissport, three miles below Mauch Chunk.) 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, Esqs., and 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 for a small tract of land, which he supposed had never been taken up, comprising a mill-site, on which he afterwards built a mill, and which he was unhappily deprived of by the claim of a prior survey.
“Hillegas, Cist, Weiss, and some others immediately after (about the beginning of 1792) formed themselves into what was called the Lehigh Coal-Mine Company, but without a charter of incorporation, and took up eight to ten thousand acres of land till then unlocated, and including the Mauch Chunk Mountain (Pisgah), but probably never worked the mine.
“It remained in this neglected state, being only used by blacksmiths and people in the immediate vicinity until somewhere about 1806, when William Turnbull, Esq., had an ark constructed at Lausanne, which brought down (to Philadelphia) two or three hundred bushels. This was sold to the manager of the water-works for the use of the Centre Square steam-engine. It was there tried as an experiment, but ultimately rejected as unmanageable, and its character for the time being blasted, the further attempts at introducing it to public notice in this way seemed suspended.”
Erskine Hazard, in a communication to the Pennsylvania Historical Society, agrees practically with the statements of Dr. James, and adds that the company made a very rough road from the river to the mine, upon which, we are told by another authority, they expended the sum of ten pounds Pennsylvania currency. Hazard says further of the use of the coal under the water-works engine, that “it only served to put the fire out, and the remainder of the quantity on hand was spread on the walks in place of gravel.”
The company, anxious to have their property brought into notice, gave leases of their mines to different individuals in succession for periods of twenty-four, fourteen, and ten years, adding to the last the privilege of taking timber from their lands for the purpose of floating the coal to the market. During the war of 1812 Virginia (bituminous) coal became very scarce and dear, and Messrs. J. Cist (son of the printer heretofore mentioned), Charles Miner and John Robinson, being the holders of the land leased, attempted to put coal upon the market, but they succeeded in only a limited degree, as on the return of peace the price of the article was reduced so low that they could not compete with it.
The following history of the operations of this company in the vicinity of Mauch Chunk is compiled from a journal which was kept by Isaac A. Chapman (copied for that purpose from the original by his son, Charles I.A. Chapman, now of Pittston, Pa).
Isaac A. Chapman was a surveyor and civil engineer, and came from Connecticut early in life to Pennsylvania, then the “Far West.” He was a man of excellent education, much mechanical genius, a close observer, and of great energy, devoting every hour of the day and many of the night to physical and mental labor. Of the latter was the compilation of the first history of Wyoming that was written, and which, although incomplete was published after his decease, under the title “A Sketch of the History of Wyoming.” To his researches in this direction later authors owe much that in their day could not have been obtained from any other source.
From Mr. Chapman’s journal we find that on the 10th day of July, 1814, he left Wilkes-Barre for “Lausanne Landing, on the Lehigh.” And rode to “Mr. Conyngham’s, in Sugarloaf,” where he remained until the next morning. On the 11th he reached Lausanne, where he found Mr. Cist and Mr. C. Miner; took dinner with them, and then went with them to the “Coal Bed,” returning at night to Mr. Klotz’s. Mr. Klotz kept the hotel at the Landing.
On the 12th he rode with Mr. Cist down the river as far as “Head’s Creek, below Weiss’s (now Parryville), returned, and “made an agreement concerning coal.”
The journal is silent as to the terms of the agreement, and also as to operations during the summer of 1814; but from other sources we learn that Miner, Cist, and Robinson had leased from Hillegas, Cist and Weiss, who were the owners of the land, and as the name “Robinson” does not appear in connection with the coal operations, the probability is that Mr. Chapman took his place. As to the operations during that summer, we learn also from other sources that on the 9th day of August, 1814, an ark-load of coal was started down the river for Philadelphia, which, after various mishaps, reached the city six days after.
Mr. Erskine Hazard, in a communication to the Historical Society, says that during the Miner, Cist and Robinson lease only three arks reached the city, and that they “abandoned the business at the close of the war, 1815.” From Mr. Chapman’s journal we learn that on the 27th of May, 1816, he succeeded in getting two “flats” loaded with coal as far as New Hope, and that as late as March 28, 1817, Mr. Chapman was at Lausanne, and had boats loaded, but was “unable to get a Pilot.”
On the 8th of October, 1814, Mr. Chapman went to “Chenango Point” (Binghamton), probably for the purpose of enlisting friends living there in the enterprise. He met there a Mr. Shipman, a Mr. Whitney, a Mr. Waterman, a Mr. Evans, a Mr. Collier, a Mr. Shaw, and others, and spent a day or two, and on Tuesday, October 10, 1814, having “made his concluding arrangements with Mr. Waterman and Mr. Whitney relative to the coal,” left for Springville, Susquehanna Co., where, and at Hop Bottom and Montrose, he had relatives and friends. At the latter place the militia were inspected, and on the 17th he met the officers of the regiment at “Capt. Spencer’s, and commenced the business of discipline.” (Mr. Chapman was an officer of the regiment of “Drafted Militia” then being trained for duty in the war of 1812.)
His journal continues as follows:
“Thursday, Oct. 20, 1814—Mr. Waterman and Mr. Shaw, from Chenango Point, called to go with me to Lausanne—went as far as Mr. Scovell’s, at Lackawanna.”
“Saturday, 22d—Rode with Mr. Cist (who had joined them at Wilkesbarre) to Drumheller’s—spent the night there.
“Sunday, 23d—Rode to Lausanne to breakfast. Rode to the coal-mine and returned.”
The journal continues:
“Monday, 24th—Went with the gentlemen to Weiss’s, and there built a skiff, and descended the Lehigh with Mr. Shaw. Spent the night at Lehigh Gap.
“Tuesday, 25th—Descended the river to Allentown.
“Wednesday, 26th—Returned to Lausanne (probably walked), the distance being thirty-two miles.
“Thursday, 27th—Set out for Wilkesbarre; came as far as Conyngham.
“Thursday, Nov. 3—Arrived at home.
“Friday, Nov. 4--…at 4 p.m. received notice from Capt. Tuttle to march toward Baltimore and Washington day after to-morrow.”
The regiment started for the front, but it seems they did not get far before they were ordered back, as the journal continues:
“November 22d—Got our discharges and set out for Berwick, on our return home.
“November 24th—Came to Lausanne.
“November 25th—Examined Mr. Covell’s new flat-bottomed boats for floating coal down the river.
“November 26th—Examined some timber on the mountain and marked it.”
Mr. Chapman then returned to Wilkesbarre, and during the winter visited Chenango Point, and found that “Mr. Whitney had given up the coal business.”
Early in February, 1815, in company with a Mr. Weston of Susquehanna County, who at Mr. Chapman’s request had agreed to take part in the project, or at least in superintending the cutting of timber and making plank and boards for arks, Mr. Chapman returned to Lausanne.
The journal continues:
“Thursday, 9th—Cut some timber for boat plank. This day thirty-five loads of coal were taken from the bed, and during the last eight days twenty-two teams from the country below have been up for coal.
“Wednesday, 15th—Assisted Mr. Peck in his preparations for getting off his ark, which is lodged on the rocks opposite an intended village of ‘Coalville.’
“Thursday, 16th—Spent the day assisting Mr. Peck. This morning the Freeman’s Journal brought us the first and certain news of peace.
“Saturday, 18th—Messrs. Cist and Miner set out for Wilkesbarre. Spent the day making runners for sled.
“Tuesday, 21st—Mr. Weston arrived with two loads of goods, with Capt. Case in company. Took possession of the ‘White House.’
“Thursday, 23d—Mr. Weston went to the Water Gap for hay. I worked on the log sled.
“Friday, 24th—Mr. Horton came with Mr. Weston.
“Wednesday, March 8—Spent the day getting a white-oak log to the mill, and in finishing a log-way for boats. (This ‘mill’ was a short distance above the mouth of Nesquehoning Creek.)
“Thursday, 9th—Spent the day preparing a place for building boats for coal …
“Saturday, 25th—Spent the forenoon in carrying plank, etc., to the river, and in the afternoon went down with some hands and floated my ark bottom down to Weiss’ landing, Mr. Weston with me.”
This landing was probably near the mouth of Mauch Chunk Creek, as we read elsewhere that Hillegas, Cist, and Weiss had some years before formed the “Lehigh Coal-Mine Company,” and taken up eight or ten thousand acres of unlocated land, and that about 1806 William Trumbull had an ark constructed at Lausanne, which brought down two or three hundred bushels. In a communication to the Historical Society, Mr. Erskine Hazard says that they, the “Lehigh Coal-Mine Company,” “opened the mine where it is at present worked,” which would be at Summit Hill, and “made a very rough road from the mine to the river” at Mauch Chunk.
After detailing the work of himself and others at cutting timber, sawing plank, shoeing oxen, etc., the journal continues:
“Wednesday, April 12, 1815—Employed two men, Ely and Miner, to finish the ark. Spent the day with them at Weiss’s.
“Friday, 14th—Had a number of men to assist me in turning the ark bottom at Weiss’s. Did not succeed in turning it.
“Saturday, 15th—Rallied more men from the surrounding country, and succeeded in turning the ark bottom.”
From this date to the 26th the journal details the occupation of Mr. Chapman and Mr. Cist, among other things, “examining the new coal-mine; ascertained that there is undoubtedly a large quantity of coal.” The Nesquehoning was for many years called “The New Mine.” By the 26th it would seem that the ark was loaded, as on that day Mr. Chapman “went up Mahoning Valley to engage hands for running the ark,” and on “Money, May 1, 1815, walked to Lehighton to engage men for running boats at the ‘Training’ there to-day.”
When he succeeded in getting men, or whether he sent the ark down the river, the journal does not state, but during the month of May he details the work of cutting timber, making plank, building and loading boats; and in June the journal continues:
“June 10, 1815—Proceeded to Mauch Chunk to take care of my boats. Loaded one.
“Monday, 12th—At work loading my boats at Mauch Chunk.
“Wednesday, 14th—Finished lower boat.
“Thursday, 15th—Attended to loading upper boat.
“July 23, 1815—Rode to Lausanne. Visited my boats.
“August 5th—Walked to Lehighton and took the required oath as postmaster of Lausanne before Justice Pryor. Appointed Samuel Weston my assistant.
“Monday, 7th—Raining in the morning. Ran my boats to Mauch Chunk.
“Saturday, 26th—Procured a box of coal from the ‘Ground Hog Vein’ for trial below. Explored the hill for more coal.
“Friday, Sept. 29, 1815—Arrived about sunset at Lausanne from Wilkesbarre, where I had been to engage workmen to build Flats.
“Friday, October 13th—Engaged Ely, Sinton, and Elick to build boats; Sinton and self getting logs down the river from Turnhole, Eick and Ely building boats.
“Thursday, November 2d—Spent the day recaulking my boats at Mauch Chunk.
“Tuesday, 7th—Spent the day with Mr. Weston, opening the Ground Hog Vein, up Rhume Run.”
The work during November and December appears to be that of opening the mines, making roads, getting out timber, etc. On the 13th of January, 1816, Mr. Chapman arrives by “stage-sleigh” at Philadelphia, where he saw “Mr. Wallace, Dr. Jones, Dr. Parke, Mr. Shober, Mr. Miffin, and Dr. James,” the two latter by appointment, and “made arrangements relative to Lausanne lands.”
“Friday, 19th—Rode to Allentown to breakfast, thence to Lausanne. Found the Lehigh had been very high. Ice suddenly gone out, and carried away all of my flats and arks except one at Mr. Weiss’s. Thus has gone the fruits of almost a year’s labor and expense.”
Notwithstanding this misfortune, Mr. Chapman commenced at once the building of other boats, working all of that winter and spring, and the journal continues as follows:
“Monday, 27th May, 1816—Set out down the river with two flats loaded with coal; went to Easton.
“Tuesday, 28th—Arrived at New Hope. Contracted with Jacob B. Smith for all the coal, more or less, at $18.50. For the first ten tons, cash down; remainder at same price, ninety days’ credit.
“Wednesday, 29th—Weighed the coal, and found the whole amount twelve tons, three quarters (fifteen hundredweight).
“July 3, 1816—Set out for the Lehigh to make arrangements relative to my boats and arks …
“Jan. 4, 1817—Set out for the Lehigh at Lausanne to attend to the business of my boats and coal at that place. Returned on the 11th, having been absent one week.
“March 1st—After examining the situation of my flats, proceeded down the river to Mr. Balliet’s. Stayed with Gen. Craig.
“March 28th—There having been rain, returned to Lausanne, but could not get a pilot, as all were engaged. Attended to my boats; got them free.
“Sunday, April 27, 1818—Proceeded in the morning (after breakfast at Mr. Harman’s) toward the landing at the Lehigh. Stopped a short time at the Beaver Meadow, at Quakake Valley, and arrived at Klotz’s at Lausanne about 3 ½ p.m. Here being informed that the gentlemen who have undertaken the improvement of the Lehigh navigation were at Lehighton, I proceeded to that place and found them at Hagenbuch’s. Spent the evening in conversation with Messrs. White, Hazard, and Hauto, on the subject of the Lehigh navigation.”
Here ends that part of the diary, which pertains to the operations of Miner, Cist, and Chapman. It will be noticed that in the last entry, which we have quoted Mr. Chapman speaks of meeting and consulting with the men who afterwards successfully mined coal where he and his partners through adverse circumstances had failed. We shall presently show how the attention of those men was drawn to the field through the operations of their predecessors. Mr. Chapman was destined to again labor in the field he had first visited in 1814. He entered the employ of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company as their engineer, and died in Mauch Chunk in 1827. The immediate cause of his sickness was a cold taken while engaged professionally in Hackelbernie tunnel.
Josiah White and Erskine Hazard, who were engaged in making wire at the Falls of Schuylkill, bought most of the coal shipped by Miner, Cist, and Chapman, which reached Philadelphia safely (three out of the five arks they had intrusted to the turbulent Lehigh being wrecked), and it cost them twenty-one dollars per ton. White and Hazard had been induced to try anthracite by learning that Joshua Malin had successfully used it in his rolling-mill. Their first experiment was a failure. Another was tried, “and,” says Hazard in his communication, from which we have already quoted, “a whole night was spent in endeavoring to make a fire in the furnace, when the hands shut the door and left the mill in despair. Fortunately, one of them left his jacket in the mill and returning for it in about half an hour, noticed that the door was red-hot, and upon opening it was surprised at finding the furnace at a glowing white heat. The other hands were summoned, and four separate parcels of iron were heated and rolled by the same fire before it required renewing. The furnace was then replenished, and as letting it alone had succeeded so well, it was concluded to try it again, and the experiment was repeated with the same result.”
Successful Opening of the Mines and Improvement of the River
Josiah White, having gained a practical knowledge of the value of the Lehigh coal, made inquiry into their ownership and condition, and determined to visit them to see if anything could be done there. He started out with William Briggs, a stone-mason, who had been working for him, and George F.A. Hauto, who had been an occasional visitor at the Falls of Schuylkill, and the little party reached Bethlehem on Christmas-eve, 1817. They stayed at Lausanne and Lehighton, as the places nearest the mines, where they could board while visiting them. After a week spent in examination, White returned home favorably impressed with the practicability of mining coal and of improving the river so that it could be carried to Philadelphia. “It was concluded,” he says, “that Erskine Hazard, George F.A. Hauto, and myself should join in the enterprise. I was to mature the plan; Hauto was to procure the money from his rich friends; Hazard was to be the scribe, he also being a good machinist and an excellent counselor.” We will remark here that Hauto never fulfilled his part in this plan, and that, being a less desirable character than the other projectors had supposed him, his interest was bought by them at a heavy sacrifice in 1820.
Josiah White, in his communication to the Historical Society, says, “We three at once set about getting a lease of the Lehigh Coal-Mine Company’s lands—ten thousand acres for twenty years, for one ear of corn a year, if demanded; and from and after three years to send to Philadelphia at least forty thousand bushels of coal per annum on our own account, so as to be sure of introducing it into the market, by which means we hoped to make valuable what had hitherto proved to be valueless to the Coal-Mine Company; our intention being to procure the property of the mine and river, which by our plan (of navigation) was to support itself. We soon obtained the grant of a lease, as mentioned, which required two or three weeks to perfect, and during this time Erskine Hazard wrote out the law on the principles mentioned, and then we all posted to Harrisburg to procure its passage through the Legislature, in which we succeeded on the 20th of March, 1818, entitled an act to improve the navigation of the river Lehigh.”
Seven laws had before been procured for this purpose (in 1771, 1791, 1794, 1798, 1810, 1814, and 1816), and a company had been formed under one of them which spent nearly thirty thousand dollars in clearing out channels, but the work was relinquished because of the formidable character of the slate ledges about seven miles above Allentown.
White, Hazard, and Hauto now proposed, after two failures in working the mines and at several in improving the river, to undertake those two enterprises and push them to a successful completion. Their project was considered chimerical, the improvement of the Lehigh particularly being deemed impracticable because of the failure of the various companies who had undertaken it under previous laws, one of which raised money by lottery. Messrs. White and Hazard came to Mauch Chunk in April, 1818, and having made a survey of the river for the purpose of carrying out their plan of navigation, they also bought the tract of land on Mauch Chunk Creek to enable them to make, as they supposed they could, an unbroken plane for a road from the great coal-mine to the river of two feet in descent in the one hundred. But in laying it out it was found that the fall in the creek for two and a half miles at the lower end was too great, and they were therefore obliged to make a variation in the plan from one foot to about four and a half to the hundred. White and Hazard made the location of this road themselves, and it is said to have been the first “laid out by an instrument, on the principle of dividing the whole descent into the whole distance as regularly as the ground would admit of, and have no undulation.” Upon this road the coal was, at the commencement of the work, hauled from Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk.
During the year 1818 the plan for the organization of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was arranged on the basis of a capital of two hundred thousand dollars in two hundred shares of one thousand dollars each, of which White, Hazard, and Hauto were each to have fifty, leaving fifty to be subscribed for by others, who were to have all that was made up to eighteen percent, and the principal proprietors the residue. But there was a diversity of opinion about the relative profits of the two interests, --mining and navigation—some having faith in the success of one and some in that of the other. Therefore it was considered expedient to form two companies.
The Lehigh Navigation Company was organized Aug 10, and the Lehigh Coal Company on Oct. 10, 1818. White, Hazard, and Hauto were the leading men in both companies. In the spring of 1820 they were consolidated, and on Feb. 13, 1822, incorporated under the title of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. The first election of officers of which there is any record preserved occurred on the 23rd of May, 1821, when John Cox was chosen president; Jonathan Zell, treasurer; Jacob Shoemaker, secretary; and Messrs. White and Hazard acting managers. Prior to the consolidation work had been carried on by the separate companies with many difficulties and under the disadvantage of scanty funds.
The Navigation Company, as soon as it was organized, began the work of making the river a safe waterway with thirteen hands, under Josiah White, at the mouth of Nesquehoning Creek. The number of employees was soon increased to seventy, and afterwards to a much larger number. They rigged two scows, about thirty-five feet long by fourteen feet wide, for lodging-and eating-rooms for the men; also one scow for the managers’ counting-house, store-house, and dwelling, and one for kitchen and bake-house. In these four boats, as the work at one point was finished, they floated down to another at which operations were to be commenced. White says, “The improvement being in a wilderness country, the workmen came from many nations, and were strangers to us. We kept but little cash about us, paying the men in checks, which were not to be paid by the banks, unless signed by two of us. Thus we offered no inducements for them to commit any violence on us in the wilderness, for we were known to have no money on our persons. We were each (himself and Hazard clad in a complete suit of buckskin clothes, and were sometimes ourselves looked upon as suspicious persons in the country around.”
The improvement consisted at first of wing dams, as the company could not then raise sufficient means to make a slack-water navigation, and they did not know that the market would take from them a sufficient quantity of coal to justify the expense of a more perfect system of improvement. In their report to the stockholders, Dec. 31, 1818, the managers said that they had “made dams amounting in length to about thirteen thousand feet, and supposed to contain upwards of sixteen thousand perches of stone. By these dams the parts of the lower section that were considered the worst have been made navigable at all seasons of common low water, and a fresh dam of four hundred and fifty feet long is nearly finished, which they trust will accommodate the public with a navigation to Easton the coming season.” The following year, however, they found that they had been misinformed in regard to the lowest point reached by the river, and that the natural flow of the Lehigh was insufficient to give eighteen inches and a width of twenty-five feet, as was required by law, and hence they were obliged to resort to the plan of producing artificial freshets. For this purpose a peculiar sluice was needed, and Josiah White devoted himself for several weeks to the work of constructing one, finally producing what came to be known as the “Bear Trap.” He built a miniature experimental sluice in Mauch Chunk Creek, about where Concert Hall now stands, and the name “Bear Trap” was given to it by the workmen, who were annoyed by the inquiries of the curious as to what they were making. (The term was afterwards applied to the locality where the sluice was constructed, and is still sometimes used to designate it.)
During the year 1819 twelve of these dams and locks were built, and the managers fully proved their ability to send to the market, by the artificial navigation, such a regular supply of coal as would supply the demand. The improvement of the river was extended to the Lehigh Water Gap, ten miles below Mauch Chunk. The company, notwithstanding it had spent all of its capital, employed as many men during the winter of 1819-20 as they could find work for, and kept their financial condition a secret from the public. It would have been ruinous for them to have disbanded their men, “and,” says White, “would have confirmed the public in what they had predicted—another failure.”
In the year 1820, the two companies having been united as heretofore described, further improvements were made in the locks and dams, and the first anthracite coal sent to market by artificial navigation, the whole quantity being three hundred and sixty-five tons, which proved more than enough for family supplies in Philadelphia, and the company being indebted to the rolling-mills for taking the surplus. The price was $8.40 per ton. In 1821 the amount sent down the river was one thousand and seventy-three tons. In 1822 and 1823 the descending navigation was perfected. In the former year two thousand two hundred and forty tons of coal were shipped, and in the latter five thousand eight hundred tons, of which one thousand tons was left and sold the next spring. In 1824, “with many misgivings,” says Josiah White, “there was sent down the enormous quantity, as it was thought, of nine thousand five hundred and forty-one tons.” The predictions that were made that not half of it would be sold did not prove true, for people finding that the supply was likely to be permanently adequate, and the price kept at $8.40 or less, began to use it more generally for domestic purposes. The turning point in the use of anthracite had been reached. In the year 1825 the company sent to market twenty-eight thousand three hundred and ninety-three tons of coal. Here we take leave of the old system of navigation, of which a further account will be found in the chapter on internal improvements, as well as the history of the more advanced canal navigation which succeeded the river improvement.
The mines at Summit Hill had, of course, had been vigorously worked to supply the quantities of coal which we have seen were shipped from 1820 to 1825. The coal was taken out as stone is quarried. Hauto, writing of it in December, 1819, says, “ … We have uncovered about four acres of coal, removing all the earth, dirt, slate, etc. (about twelve feet deep), so as to leave a surface for the whole of that area of nothing but the purest coal, containing millions of bushels. We cut a passage through the rocks, so that now the teams drive right into the mine to load. The mine being situated near the summit of the mountain we are not troubled with water and the coal quarries very easy (sic). We have worked the stratum about thirty feet deep, and how much deeper it is we do not know.” In an address published by the company in 1821, the mine was described as appearing “to extend over some hundreds of acres of land, covered by about twelve feet of loose, black dirt, resembling moist gunpowder, which can be removed by cattle with scrapers, and thrown into the valley below, so as never to impede the work. The thickness of the coal is not known, but a shaft has been sunk in it thirty-five feet without penetrating through.” Professor Silliman, in his journal, nine years later, described the mine as follows: “The coal is fairly laid open to view and lies in stupendous masses, which are worked in open air exactly as in a stone-quarry. The excavation being in an angular area, and entered at different points by roads cut through the coal, in some places quite down to the lowest level, it has much the appearance of a vast fort, of which the central area is the parade-ground, and the upper escarpment is the platform for the cannon.” Mining coal from the open cut was practiced almost exclusively at this point until 1844, when, owing to the dip of the veins, the uncovering became too heavy to be profitably carried on, and was, therefore, abandoned and underground work resorted to. Prior to 1827 all of the coal taken from the Summit Hill mine was sent to Mauch Chunk in wagons down the turnpike road, which has been described, but this method of transporting it was superseded by a better one, which bore strong testimony to the enterprising and far-seeing nature of the managers.
Rev. April 2010