The following is excerpted from M. S. Henry’s History (1860) of the Lehigh Valley (pp. 382 – 394). The article covers a period starting in the years 1813 – 1814 after many unsuccessful attempts by others to economically transport coal to Philadelphia. This excerpt covers the activities of Josiah White and Ebenezer Hazard regarding the formation of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co.
As we have before remarked, during the war Virginia coal became very scarce, and Messrs. White & Hazard, then engaged in the manufacture 6f iron wire at the Falls of the Schuylkill, having learned that Mr. J. Malin had succeeded in the use of Lehigh coal at his rolling-mill, procured a cart-load of it, which cost them a dollar per bushel. This quantity was entirely wasted, without getting up the requisite heat. Another cart-load, however, was obtained, and a whole night was spent in endeavoring to make a fire In the furnace, when the hands shut the furnace door, and departed from the mill in despair. Fortunately, one of them, who had left his jacket In the mill, returning for it in about half an hour, observed the door of the furnace to be red-hot, and, upon opening it, was surprised to find the interior at glowing white heat. The other hands were summoned, and four separate parcels of iron were heated by the same fire, and rolled, before renewal. The furnace was then replenished, and as letting the fire alone had succeeded so well, that method was tried again, with a like result. Thenceforth Messrs. W. & H. continued the use of anthracite coal, which they procured from Schuylkill County in wagons, and occasionally in flats by freshets, and also from the Lehigh in one of Messrs. Minor & Co.'s arks.
Thus instructed in the invaluable properties of anthracite, and finding in 1817 they could not obtain it as cheaply from the Schuylkill region as they were led to believe it could be procured from the Lehigh, they determined that Josiah White should visit the Lehigh mines and river, and obtain the necessary information on the subject. In this visit he was joined by George P.A. Hauto. Upon their return, and making a favorable report, It was ascertained that the lease on the mining property was forfeited by non user, and that the law - the last of six which had been passed for the improvement of the navigation of the river - had just expired by its own limitation. Under these circumstances the Lehigh Coal Mine Company became completely dispirited, and executed a lease to Messrs. White, Hauto, and Hazard, for twenty years, of their whole property, on the conditions that, after a given time for preparation, they should deliver for their own benefit at least forty thousand bushels of coal annually in Philadelphia and the districts, and should pay, upon demand, one ear of corn as an annual rent for the property.
Having obtained the lease, these gentlemen applied to the legislature for an act to authorize them to improve the navigation of the Lehigh, stating in their petition their object of getting coal to market, and that they had a plan for the cheap improvement of river navigation, which they hoped would serve as a model for the improvement of many other streams in the State. Their project was considered chimerical, the improvement of the Lehigh particularly being deemed impracticable, from the failure of the various companies who had undertaken it under previous laws, one of which had the privilege of raising money by lottery. The act of 20th of March, 1818, however, gave these gentlemen the opportunity of “ruining themselves," as many members of the legislature predicted would be the result of their undertaking. The various powers applied for, and which were granted in the act, embraced the whole scope of tried and untried methods of effecting the object of getting “a navigation downward once in three days for boats loaded with one hundred barrels, or ten tons," with the reservation on the part of the legislature of the right to compel the adoption of a complete slackwater navigation from Easton to Stoddartsville, should they not deem the mode of navigation adopted by the undertakers sufficient for the wants of the country.
Messrs. White and Hazard, having leveled the river from Stoddartsville to Easton, in the month of April, 1818, with instruments borrowed of the Delaware and Schuylkill Canal Company (the only Instruments at that time to be met with in Philadelphia), and having also taken the levels from the river to the coal-mines, to ascertain that a road could be constructed altogether on a descending grade from the coal to the navigation, and having ascertained, from the concurrent testimony of persons residing In the neighborhood, that the water in the river never fell, in the driest seasons, below a certain mark in a rock at the Lausanne landing, were satisfied that there would always be a sufficiency of water in the river to give the depth and width of water required by the law, if the water were confined by wing dams and channel walls in its passage over the “riffles" from pool to pool. This plan was therefore decided upon for the improvement of the navigation, as well as the use of fist-bottomed boats, to be constructed for each voyage from the timber lands which were purchased for this purpose on the upper section of the Lehigh.
It may not be uninteresting to state the situation of the country along the Lehigh, as they found it at this period. From Stoddartsville to Lausanne, a distance of thirty-five miles, there was no sign of a human habitation; everything was in the state of nature. The ice had not yet left the shores of the river, which runs for almost the whole of this distance in a deep ravine between hills from four hundred to one thousand feet high, and so abrupt that but few places occur where a man on horseback can ascend them. The adjacent country, though in many parts well covered with timber, had only a nominal value, as all hope of getting it to market was extinguished by the repeated failures of all attempts to improve the navigation, which was now considered impossible. The fall in this part of the river was ascertained to be, from Stoddartsville to Mauch Chunk, nine hundred and ten feet, or, on the average, about twenty five feet to the mile. Above the gap in the Blue Mountain there were but thirteen houses, including the towns of Lausanne and Lehighton, within sight from the river. Below the gap the country was improved. Rafts were sent, during freshets, from Lausanne downward, but no raft had ever come from above that point. From Mauch Chunk to Easton the fall was three hundred and sixty-four feet, making the whole fall from Stoddartsville to Easton twelve hundred and seventy-four feet.
The great first and second anthracite coal regions were then entirely unknown as such. Coal had been found on the summit hill, and also at the Beaver Meadows; but there was then no knowledge that there were in each location continuous strata of coal for many miles in extent, in each direction from these two points. Indeed, the old Coal Mine Company for some years offered a bonus of two hundred dollars to any one who should discover coal on their lands, nearer to the Lehigh than the Summit mines, but without its being claimed. The use of the coal from these locations was confined to the forge fires of the neighboring blacksmiths and the bar-room stoves of the taverns along the road. Wood was almost the only fuel used in Philadelphia, and that and bituminous coal supplied the fire-places of New York and eastern cities. The only canal in Pennsylvania, at that time in navigable order, was one of about two miles in length at York Haven, on the Susquehanna, and one made by Josiah White at the Falls of Schuylkill, with two locks, and a canal three or four hundred yards long.
It was under these circumstances that the legislature of 1818 granted the privileges of the "act to improve the navigation of the river Lehigh," to Josiah White, George F. A. Hauto, and Erskine Hazard, which are now considered of such immense magnitude that they ought never to have been granted, and that those gentlemen were at that time pointed at as extremely visionary, and even crazy, for accepting them.
Having obtained the law, the lease on the coal-mines, and the necessary information respecting them, and decided upon the plan of making the improvements, the next step of the pioneers was to raise the necessary capital for carrying on the work. Preliminary to this they published, in pamphlet form, a description of the property, and the privileges annexed to it, and proposed to create a company to improve the navigation and work the coal-mines.
The stock of this company was subscribed for on the condition that a committee should proceed to the Lehigh and satisfy themselves that the actual state of affairs corresponded with the representation of them. The Committee consisted of two of our most respectable citizens, both men of much mechanical experience and ingenuity. They repaired to Mauch Chunk, visited the coal-mines, and then built a bateau at Lausanne, in which they descended the Lehigh and made their observations. They both came to the conclusion, and so reported, that the improvement of the navigation was perfectly practicable, and that it would not exceed the cost of fifty thousand dollars, as estimated, but that the making of a good road to the mines was utterly impossible; "for," added one of them, "to give you an idea of the country over which the road is to pass, I need only tell you that I considered It quite an easement when the wheel of my carriage struck a stump instead of a stone !" This report, of course, voided the subscription to the joint stock.
It very soon appeared that there was great diversity of opinion relative to the value of the two objects. Some were willing to join in the improvement of the navigation, but had no faith in the value of the coal, or that a market could ever be found for it among a population accustomed wholly to the use of wood. On the other hand, some were of the opinion that the navigation would never pay the interest of its cost, while the coal business would prove profitable. This gave rise to the separation of the two interests; and proposals were issued for raising a capital of fifty thousand dollars, on the terms that those who furnished the money should have all the profits accruing from the navigation up to twenty-five per cent., all profits beyond that to go to White, Hauto, and Hazard, who also retained the exclusive management of the concern. The amount was subscribed, and the company formed, under the title of the "Lehigh Navigation Company," on the 10th of August,1818. The work was immediately commenced, the managers taking up their quarters in a boat upon the Lehigh, which moved downwards as the work of constructing the wing-dams progressed. The hands employed had similar accommodations.
On the 21st of October of the same year "The Lehigh Coal Company" was formed, for the purpose of making a road from the river to the mines, and of bringing coal to market by the new navigation. The capital subscribed to this company was fifty-five thousand dollars, and was taken on the same plan with that of the Navigation Company; but the managers were to be entitled to all the profits above twenty per cent., they conveying the lease of the coal mine company's land, and also several other tracts of land which they had purchased, to trustees, for the benefit of the association. The road which now, for seven miles, constitutes the grading of the railroad to the Summit mines, was laid out in the fall of 1818, and finished in 1819. This is believed to have been the first road ever 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 to have no undulation. It was intended for a railroad, as soon as the business would warrant the expense of placing rails upon it. A pair of horses would bring down from four to six tons upon it, in two wagons.
Everything was thus making satisfactory advances towards the accomplishment of the object, when, late in the season of 1818, the water in the river fell, by an unparalleled drought, as was believed, fully twelve inches below the mark which has been mentioned as shown by the inhabitants to be the lowest point to which the river ever sunk. Here was a difficulty totally unanticipated, and one which required a very essential alteration in the plan. Nature did not furnish enough water, by the regular flow of the river, to keep the channels at the proper depth, owing to the very great fall in the river, and the consequent rapidity of its motion. It became necessary to accumulate water by artificial means, and let it off at stated periods, and let the boats pass down with the long wave thus formed, which filled up the channels.
This was effected by constructing dams in the neighborhood of Mauch Chunk, in which were placed sluice-gates of a peculiar construction invented for the purpose by Josiah White (one of the managers), by means of which the water could be retained in the pool above, until required for use. When the dam became full, and the water had run over It long enough for the river below the dam to acquire the depth of the ordinary flow of the river, the sluice-gates were let down, and the boats, which were lying in the pools above, passed down with the artificial flood. About twelve of these dams and sluices were made in 1819, and, with what work had been done in making wing-dams, absorbed the capital of the company (which, on the first plan of improvement, would have been adequate), before the whole of the dams were completely protected from ice freshets. They were, however, so far completed as to prove, in the fall of that year, that they were capable of producing the required depth of water from Mauch Chunk to Easton.
The following letter from Geo. F. A. Hauto, to a member of the legislature, relative to the improvements, will be found interesting.
MAUCH CHUNK, Northampton County, PA., December 19,1819.
“You know, I believe, the ground between this and our principal coal mine, and that it would hardly be possible to find a more unfavorable one for the construction of a good road-so much so, that when we determined on making it, many of our friends doubted our being compos mentis. The perpendicular elevation from the river (at this place, where it ends) to this mine, is 1000 feet - the distance from it to the river is upwards of eight miles. Down it, and following the windings of the mountain, which runs nearly at right angles to the river, we constructed, in about three months, and most part of it in the winter season, a road having a regular declination of two and a half feet in every hundred feet, and which is acknowledged by those who have seen it, not to have (for its distance) its equal in the confederacy. On it, one horse can draw four tons with ease.
“This mine, at our arrival, had quite an inconsiderable opening, like a moderate-sized stone quarry; since which we have uncovered about two acres of coal land, removing all the earth, dirt, slate, &c. (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 rooks, 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. We have worked the stratum about thirty feet deep; how much deeper it is, we do not know; probably Captain Symmes will find the end of it worked by our brethren within, when he gets under Mauch Chunk. At any rate, ocular demonstration proves it to be sufficient for the utmost consumption of centuries to come. The effect of our road has already been, that it enables us to sell the coal at the landing here, where we have a large quantity, cheaper than the price our predecessor (Mr. Cist) had to pay for the hauling only. On this road we have now a sufficient number of teams to haul several thousand bushels of coal per day. We employ at present mostly oxen and large carts, except a few horse wagons, each of which loads nine tons. We are constructing a steam wagon contrived by Mr. Hazard, which will be ready in a week (as a substitute for cattle), to draw our coal. Should we succeed in this experiment, the second one, on a larger scale, will be immediately put on the stocks, and followed by others, so as to have a sufficient number for our spring operations. All the works for the steam engine, except some rough castings, were made and finished on a spot which was, twelve months ago, a wilderness, and where, within the period of a generation, the Lenape filled the air with their war-whoops.
“We have erected about forty buildings for different purposes, amongst which is a saw-mill driven by the river, for the purpose of sawing stuff for the use of the navigation. It has a gang to which twenty-four saws belong, cutting about 20,000 feet per day, on one side, and a circular saw on the other. One other saw-mill, driven by the Mauch Chunk; a grist-mill, a mill for saving labor in the construction of wagons, &c., also driven by the creek - smitheries, with eight fires - workshops, dwellings, shipyards, wharves, &c. &c. We have cut about 15,000 saw-logs, and cleared four hundred acres of land.
“On the river, notwithstanding the extreme low water, which prevented our floating the timber used in the construction of our dams, to the spots wanted, we have constructed fifty dams (measuring 38,500 feet, or about seven and a half miles), and thirteen locks. The locks are the invention of Mr. White, and will be found, in every respect, superior to those now in use. Should it be desired, I will send you a description of them. Our brave boys worked in the river till the ice drove them out last week.
“Just before the winter set in, we had the satisfaction to ascertain, by taking a couple of our coal boats down loaded as far as our improvements extended (the water being ten inches under the common low water mark), that the plan of creating artificial freshets in time of extreme low water, which formed the basis of our plan of improvement, is correct, and answers fully our expectations, and would have enabled us, had the river kept open a few days longer, to take all our arks down to the city. To complete the improvement of the lower part of the river, will take us, should the season be any way favorable, till some time in June next, when we shall apply for inspection, and commence the upper section of the river.
"As everything that relates to internal improvement is viewed with great interest by us, we beg that you will take the trouble to communicate to us, at an early hour, anything in that line which may come before the legislature. And as the Delaware - being part of our turnpike to an ultimate market - interests us more particularly, we would thank you for the earliest information respecting any offer for its improvement."
In the spring of 1820 the ice severely injured several of the unprotected dams, and carried away some of the sluice-gates. This situation of things, of course, gave rise to many difficulties. It was necessary that more money should be raised, or the work must be abandoned. A difficulty also arose among the managers themselves, which resulted in White and Hazard making an arrangement with Hauto for his interest in the concern, on the 7th of March, 1820. On the 21st of April following, the Lehigh Coal Company and the Lehigh Navigation Company agreed to amalgamate their interests, and to unite themselves into one company, under the title of the "Lehigh Navigation and Coal Company," provided the additional sum of twenty thousand dollars was subscribed to the stock by a given date. Of this sum nearly three-fifths were subscribed by White and Hazard. With this aid the navigation was repaired, and three hundred and sixty-fire tons of coal were sent to Philadelphia, as the first fruits of the concern! This quantity of coal completely stocked the market, and was with difficulty disposed of in the year 1820. It will be recollected that no anthracite coal came to market from any other source than the Lehigh before the year 1825, as a regular business.
The money capital of the concern was soon found to require an increase. The work was done, with the exception of one place at the “slates," where the channel and wing walls were made over the smooth surface of slate ledges, which projected alternately from one side of the river nearly to the other, and rose to within four inches of the surface of the water for a considerable distance along the river. From the nature of the ground, it was impossible to make the wing walls remain tight enough to keep the water at the required height, and it was evident that a solid dam must be resorted to, to bury the slates permanently to a sufficient depth below the surfaces This, it was estimated, could not be erected at a less cost than twenty thousand dollars. To raise this sum, in the circumstances of the Company, was a difficult task. The small quantity of coal which had been brought down. having so completely filled the market, and the inexperience in the use of that species of fuel having excited so many prejudices against it, that many of the stockholders doubted whether it would be possible to introduce the coal into general use, even if the navigation were made perfect. While this difficulty was in the process of arrangement, the work was kept alive by the advances of one of the managers. At length on the I1st of May, 1821, a new arrangement of the whole concern took place, by which all the interests became more closely amalgamated. The title of the Company was changed to "The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company." It was agreed that the capital stock should be increased by new subscriptions, and that in consideration thereof, and of certain shares of the stock to be given to them, J. White and E. Hazard would release to the Company all their reserved exclusive rights and privileges, and residuary profits, and convey to trustees, for the use of the Company, all their right to the water power of the river Lehigh, and come in as simple stockholders; the Company, at the same time, assuming the settlement of Hauto's claim upon White and Hazard. It was, however, agreed that the subscribers to the new stock should have the benefit of all the profits up to three percent semiannually; then the original stockholders became entitled to the profits until they derived semi-annual dividends of three per cent.; and, finally, any excess of profit beyond these was to go to the stock allotted to J. White and E. Hazard, until the profit in any six months should be sufficient to produce a three percent dividend on all the stock. From that time all discrimination in the stock was to cease, and all the owners to come in for an equal share of the profits in the proportion of shares of stock held by them.
The business of the Company was to be carried on by five managers, two of whom were to reside at Mauch Chunk, under the title of acting managers, and superintend the navigation and coal department, while the others took care of the finances.
After this agreement was made, a number of the stockholders and their friends visited the works and property of the Company, and although they expressed themselves agreeably disappointed in the appearance of things, yet the doubt of the possibility of getting a market for the coal induced a timidity in subscribing to fifty thousand dollars of new stock, which was only overcome by J. White and E. Hazard transferring, as a bonus to those who would subscribe, an amount of the stock held by them equal to twenty per cent, on the amount of the new subscription. In this way the whole fifty thousand dollars was subscribed. The dam and lock at the slates were erected, and one thousand and seventy-three tons of coal were sent to Philadelphia in 1821.
The unincorporated situation of the Company, now that its operations were becoming more extensive, caused uneasiness among the stockholders with regard to their personal liabilities, and necessarily operated as a check to the prosperous extension of the business. In addition to which, the whole property and interests of the concern were virtually mortgaged to the holders of the fifty thousand dollars of new stock, which would render any extension of the capital excessively difficult. To remedy these difficulties, application was made to the legislature, who, on the 13th of February, 1822, granted the act of incorporation under which the Company are now operating. In this year the capital stock of the company was increased by new subscriptions amounting to $83,950, and two thousand two hundred and forty tons of coal were sent to market.
The boats used on this descending navigation consisted of square boxes, or arks, from sixteen to eighteen feet wide, and twenty to twenty-five feet long. At first, two of these were joined together by hinges, to allow them to bend up and down in passing the dams and sluices, and as the men became accustomed to the work, and the channels were straightened and improved as experience dictated, the number of sections in each boat was increased, till at last their whole length reached one hundred and eighty feet. They were steered with long oars, like a raft. Machinery was devised for jointing and putting together the planks of which these boats were made, and the hands became so expert that five men would put one of the sections together and launch it in forty-five minutes. Boats of this description were used on the Lehigh till the end of the year 1831, when the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania Canal was partially finished. In the last year forty thousand nine hundred and sixty-six tons were sent down, which required so many boats to be built, that, if they had all been joined in one length, they would have extended more than thirteen miles. These boats made but one trip, and were then broken up in the city, and the planks sold for lumber, the spikes, hinges, and other iron work, being returned to Mauch Chunk by land, a distance of eighty miles. The hands employed in running these boats walked back for two or three years, when rough wagons were placed upon the road by some of the tavern, keepers, to carry them at reduced fares.
During the low water upon the Delaware, it was found necessary to improve several of the channels of that river, and in this way about five thousand dollars were expended by the Lehigh Company, under the authority of the commissioners appointed by the State, for the improvement of the Delaware channels, whose funds were exhausted.
The descending navigation by artificial freshets on the Lehigh is the first on record which was used as a permanent thing; though it is stated that in the expedition in 1779, under General Sullivan, General James Clinton successfully made use of the expedient to extricate his division of the army from some difficulty on the east branch of the Susquehanna, by erecting a temporary dam across the outlet of Otsego Lake, which accumulated water enough to float them, when let off, and carry them down the river.
The descending navigation of the Lehigh was inspected, and the Governor's license to take toll upon it obtained on the 17th of January, 1823, it having been in use for two years previous to the inspection. No toll was charged upon it till 1827.
The great consumption of lumber for the boats very soon made it evident that the coal business could not be carried on, even on a small scale, without a communication by water with the pine forests, about sixteen miles above Mauch Chunk, on the upper section of the Lehigh. To obtain this was very difficult. The river, in that distance, had a fall of about three hundred feet, over a very rough, rocky bed, with shores so forbidding that in only two places above Lausanne had horses been got down to the river. To improve the navigation it became necessary to commence operations at the upper end, and to cart all the tools and provisions by a circuitous and rough road through the wilderness, and then to build a boat for each load to be sent down to the place where the hands were at work by the channels which they had previously prepared. Before these channels were effected, an attempt was made to send down planks, singly, from the pine swamp, but they became bruised and broken by the rocks before they reached Mauch Chunk. Single saw-logs were then tried, and men sent down to clear them from the rocks as they became fast. But it frequently happened that, when they got near Mauch Chunk, a sudden rise of the water would sweep them off, and they were lost. These difficulties were overcome by the completion of these channels in 1823, which gave rise to an increase of the capital stock, at the same time, of ninety-six thousand and fifty dollars, making the whole amount subscribed five hundred thousand dollars. In this year, also, five thousand eight hundred and twenty-three tons of coal were sent to market, of which about one thousand tons remained unsold in the following spring, there being still a great prejudice against the domestic use of coal. This prejudice was, however, on the wane, and very soon after this time became nearly extinct.
In 1825 the demand for coal increased so much that twenty-eight thousand three hundred and ninety-three tons were sent down the Lehigh, and the coal trade on the Schuylkill now commenced by their sending down by that navigation seven thousand one hundred and forty-three tons.
It became evident that the business on the Lehigh could not be extended as fast as the demand for coal increased, while it was necessary to build a new boat for each load of coal; besides, the forests were now beginning to feel the waste of timber (more than four hundred acres a year being out off), and showed plainly enough that they would soon disappear, in consequence of the increased demand upon them; while, at the same time, the Schuylkill coal region had an uninterrupted slackwater navigation, which would accommodate boats in their passage up as well as down, and, of course, admitted any extension of the coal trade that might be deemed advisable. It should also be mentioned that almost the whole of the shares of the stock of the old "Coal Mine Company" had been purchased, so that the mines had become nearly the sole property of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. These shares represented fiftieth parts of the whole property, and the purchase of them commenced at one hundred and fifty dollars per share; the last was purchased for two thousand dollars, after the slackwater navigation had been made. Under all these circumstances, it was concluded that the time had arrived for changing the navigation of the Lehigh into a slackwater navigation. The acting managers, who resided at Mauch Chunk, formed a plan for a steamboat navigation, with locks one hundred and thirty feet long, and thirty feet wide, which would accommodate a steamboat carrying one hundred and fifty tons of coal. These looks were of a peculiar construction, adapted to river navigation. The gates operated upon the same principle with the sluice-gates in the dams for making artificial freshets, and were raised or let down by the application or removal of a hydrostatic pressure below them. The first mile below Mauch Chunk was arranged for this kind of navigation. The locks proved to be perfectly effective, and could be filled or emptied, notwithstanding their magnitude, in three minutes, or about half the time of the ordinary lock. Application was then made to the legislature for an act for the improvement of the river Delaware upon this plan, but the commonwealth decided upon the construction of a canal along that river, provided the estimate of the expense of its construction should not exceed a limited amount per mile. This, of course, put an end to all thoughts of continuing the steamboat plan upon the Lehigh. Had this plan been adopted, there can be no doubt the transportation of coal upon it could have been effected at an expense not exceeding four mills per ton per mile, and the same steamboat could proceed (when the Delaware and Raritan Canals were done) to New York, Albany, Providence, &c. &o., without transshipment.
The large quantity of coal which had been brought to market and sold in the previous year produced a profit which brought the semi-annual dividend fully up to three percent on the 1st of January, 1826, and placed all the stock of the company upon an equality from that time forward. In the previous years the dividend account stood as follows: January 1, 1822, the first dividend made, was confined to the preferred subscribers, who then received three percent on their subscription of fifty thousand dollars, and the same dividend regularly afterward. July, 1822, gave the original subscribers one percent, and from that time they regularly received three percent, except in July, 1824, when the dividend to them was omitted. On the stock allotted to J. White and E. Hazard a dividend of one percent was made January, 1824, and two and a half percent January, 1825. These were the only dividends in which they participated, previous to the one which equalized the stock.
In 1826 there were thirty-one thousand two hundred and eighty tons of coal sent down the Lehigh. The business was now becoming so large that it was difficult to keep the turnpike to the mines in good working order without coating it with stone, and it was determined that the best economy would be to convert it into a railroad. The only railroad then in the United States was the Quincy Railroad, about three miles in length, made in the fall of 1826. There had previously been a short wooden railroad, not plated with iron, at Leiper's stone-quarry, of about three-quarters of a mile in length, but this was worn out, and not in use. The railroad from Mauch Chunk to the Summit mines was commenced in January, and completely in operation in May, 1827. It is nine miles in length, and has a descent all the way from the Summit mines to the river. The road to continued beyond the summit about three-fourths of a mile, and descends Into the mines west of the summit about sixty feet. With this exception, the whole transportation of the coal upon it is done by gravity, the empty wagons being returned to the mines by mules, which ride down with the coal. This, also, was an arrangement made at the suggestion of Josiah White, entirely novel in its character; and enabled the mules to make two and a half trips to the summit and back, thus traveling about forty miles each day. Numerous branch railroads are now constructed into the different parts of the mines.
In February, 1827, the balance of the stock, amounting to five hundred thousand dollars, was subscribed for; and, it having been decided that the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania Canal would be made, it was determined to go on with a canal and slackwater navigation upon the Lehigh, from Mauch Chunk to Easton. Mr. Canvass White, whose character as a canal engineer stood as high as any in the country, was invited to take charge of the work. He recommended a canal to be constructed of the then ordinary size, to accommodate boats of twenty-live tons. But the acting managers argued that the same hands could manage a much larger boat, and the only additional expense for a boat of one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons would be for a larger boat, and for an additional horse or two to tow it. The whole lading being coal, which could always be furnished in any quantity, there need be no detention for a cargo for the larger boat, and the expense per ton would be very much lessened. It was at last concluded that the engineer should make two estimates, the one for the canal to be forty feet wide, and the other for a canal of sixty feet wide, each with corresponding locks. The difference in the estimates for the two canals in that location was so small (about 30,000) that the largest size was unanimously adopted. The wisdom of this decision has been most clearly demonstrated, and other canal companies in the United States have since followed the example. The dimensions of the navigation were fixed at sixty feet wide on the surface, and five feet deep; and the locks one hundred feet long, and twenty-two feet wide, adapted to boats of one hundred and twenty tons. The work was at once laid out and let to contractors, who commenced their operations about midsummer.
The canal commissioners met soon after at Bristol, for the purpose of deciding upon letting the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania Canal. They were applied to construct it so as to correspond with the work going on upon the Lehigh ; it was, however, insisted that the experience of Europe had proved that a twenty-five ton boat was the size most cheaply managed; and that even upon the New York Canal, which would admit of boats of forty tons, it rarely happened that the packets carried more than twenty-five tons. The commissioners at length concluded to make the locks of half the width and of the same length as those on the Lehigh, so that two of the Delaware boats could pass at once through the Lehigh locks, and thus save half the time in lockage. Had not the "experience of Europe" thus thwarted a noble work, sloops and schooners would, perhaps, at this day, have taken in their cargoes at White Haven, seventy-one miles up the Lehigh, and have delivered them, without transshipment, at any of our Atlantic ports.
The Lehigh slackwater navigation, from Mauch Chunk to Easton, was opened for use at the close of June, 1829, while the Delaware division was not regularly navigable until nearly three years afterwards, although it was commenced but about four months after the Lehigh. The contractors upon the Delaware division were suffered to use improper materials, and, when finished by them, the canal would not hold water. It was at length left to the care of Mr. Josiah White to make it a good and permanently useful navigation.
The want of the Delaware division, after the Lehigh was completed, caused the failure of eight dividends to the Lehigh Company, as they were obliged to continue the use of the temporary boats, which were very expensively moved on the Lehigh navigation, but were the only kind that could be used upon the channels of the Delaware River, which were still necessarily used to get to market. This not only prevented the increase of the Company's coal business on the Lehigh, but also turned the attention of persons desirous of entering into the coal business to the Schuylkill coal region, which caused Pottsville to spring up with great rapidity, and furnish numerous dealers to spread the Schuylkill coal through the market, while the Company was the only dealer in Lehigh coal. In this manner the Schuylkill coal trade got in advance of that of the Lehigh.
The capital of the Company being limited by the act of incorporation to one million of dollars, which amount had been expended in the operations of the Company prior to the completion of the slackwater navigation, it became necessary, in 1828, to consider the means to raise the necessary funds to carry on the work. By this time a total change had taken place in the views of the community respecting the undertaking of the Lehigh Company. The improvement of the Lehigh had been demonstrated to be perfectly practicable, and the extensive coal field owned by them was no longer considered to be of problematical value. The legislature of 1818 was now censured for having granted such valuable privileges, and all the “craziness" of the original enterprise was lost sight of. Hence applications to the legislature for a change in their charter were thwarted by the influence of adverse interests. With such opposition, it was in vain to apply to the legislature for an increase of capital, as it was evident that such a change could not be effected without a sacrifice of some of the valuable privileges secured by the charter of the Company. Resort was therefore necessarily had to loans, to enable the Company to complete the work required of them by law, and these were readily procured, in consequence of the good faith always evinced in the business of the Company, and their evidently prosperous circumstances. The first loan was taken in 1828.
The claim upon the Company arising from their assumption of the agreement of J. White and E. Hazard with G. F. A. Hauto for the purchase of his interest, before mentioned, was finally settled in 1830, by the purchase by the Company of the remaining shares of the stock into which Hauto had converted his claim.
Upon the completion of the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania Canal, the operations of the coal business were very much simplified by the change from temporary to permanent boats, and the consequent discharge of the host of hands required in chopping, hauling, sawing, rafting, piling, and otherwise preparing the large amount of lumber necessary for building, on the average of some years, eleven to thirteen miles in length of boats sixteen to eighteen feet wide.
In 1831 the Company constructed a railroad, about fire miles long, from the landing to the mines which had been opened along Room Run, which, like the one from the Summit mines, operates by gravity, but has a more gradual descent towards the river.
As the time at which the original act granted to White, Hauto, and Hazard required the navigation to be completed to Stoddartsville was now approaching, and the attention of the public was awakened to the second, or Beaver Meadow coal region, it became necessary to look to the commencement of that part of the Company's work. It was evident that the descending navigation by artificial freshets would not be satisfactory to the legislature, who had reserved the right of compelling the construction of a complete slackwater navigation. The extraordinary fall In the upper section of the Lehigh rendered its improvement by locks of the ordinary lift impracticable, as the locks would have been so close together, and would have caused so much detention in their use, as to render the navigation too expensive to be available to the public. The plan of high lifts was proposed by the managers as one that would overcome this difficulty, and, in 1835, Edwin A. Douglas, Esq., was appointed as engineer to carry it into execution. The work, as high as the mouth of the Quakake, was put under contract in June, 1835, and from thence to White Haven in October of the same year. The descending navigation above Wright's Creak was also put under contract in the same year.
On the 13th of March, 1837, the legislature passed an act authorizing the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to construct a railroad to connect the North Branch division of the Pennsylvania Canal with the slackwater navigation of the Lehigh, and increasing their capital stock to one million six hundred thousand dollars; at the same time repealing so much of the former act as required or provided for the completion of a slackwater navigation between Wright's Creek (near White Haven) and Stoddartsville. This act was accepted by the stockholders of the Company on the 10th of May, 1837.
The whole work of the navigation required by the acts of the legislature was completed, and the Governor's commission given to the inspectors to examine the last of it, on the 19th of March, 1838.
A history of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, from its earliest infancy clown to the completion of the canal and slackwater navigation, has thus been furnished. To give a description in detail of all the improvements since that period would require a large volume. We have heard this company, not inaptly, termed the East India Company of the United States. It owns, beyond doubt, a very valuable property, and owes much of its credit and good condition to the economical and skilful conduct of its managers. To examine its present condition, and see its immense property in coal and other lands, its navigation and railroads penetrating the vast regions of timber, and coal, and iron ore, and limestone, with abundant power for manufacturing them, there can be no doubt of such an institution affording perfect security for the regular payment of all the loan-holders, and amply reimbursing the stockholders for their investments. As investment securities for the support of families, trust funds, etc., the loans of this company are equal, if not superior, to any other in the market, as much from the fact of the confidence of the public in the discretion and integrity of the President, officers, and managers, as the fact that the interest periods on them are quarterly - both important considerations.
The officers of the Company are:
President JAMES COX.
Acting Manager JAMES S. COX.
Secretary and Treasurer EDWIN WALTER.
Superintendent and Engineer E. A. DOUGLAS
Assistant Engineer DANIEL BERTSCH, Jr.
Rev. December 2009