Excerpts from: Munsell, W. W., History Of Schuylkill County, Pa, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, W. W. Munsell & Co., 36 Vesey Street N.Y., 1881.
Chapter V. Coal
Chapter XI. Railroad System
Click here for large scale Schuylkill County Map
DEVELOPMENT OF THE COAL PRODUCTION
TRADE IN SCHUYLKILL COUNTY.
In the year 1749 the proprietaries of Pennsylvania obtained from the Indians, for the sum of £500, their title to the lands between Mahanoy creek, on the east side of the Susquehanna river, and the Delaware river north of the Blue mountain; embracing in whole or in part the counties of Dauphin, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Columbia, Luzerne, Monroe, Carbon and Pike. The space comprehends the lands between the Blue or Kittatinny mountain range to the south, the Susquehanna river to the west, and a line drawn from the point of the mountain at the mouth of Mahanoy creek to the mouth of Lackawaxen creek, at the New York State boundary, and at the junction of that creek with the Delaware river: being one hundred and twenty-five miles long and thirty miles in average breadth.Within this territory of 3,750 square miles is comprehended the entire group of anthracite basins, usually styled the southern and middle coal fields.
In his work on "Statistics of Coal," R.C. Taylor gives the following eloquent description of the great depositories of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania:
"The physical features of the anthracite country are wild; its aspect forbidding; its surface broken, sterile, and apparently irreclaimable. Its area exhibits an extraordinary series of parallel ridges and deep intervening troughs.The groups of elongated hills and valleys consist of a number of axes, all or nearly all of which range in exact conformity to the base of the Alleghany Mountains. When viewed from the latter, they bear a striking resemblance to those long rolling lines of surf, wave behind wave in long succession, which break upon a flat shore. In the year 1748 a large portion of this region had received upon the maps the not unapt title of the wilderness of St. Anthony. Three-fourths of a century after, when the greater part of this area was still in stony solitude-when this petrified ocean, whose waves were sixty-five miles long and more than a thousand feet high, remained almost unexplored-a few tons of an unknown combustible were brought to Philadelphia, where its qualities were to be tested and its value ascertained."
The wheels of time revolve unceasingly in their course, events multiply rapidly, the expectation of to-day becomes the commonplace reality of to-morrow; and so the period arrived when the "stony solitude" of the wilderness of St. Anthony was to be aroused from its lethargy, and the treasure embedded in its hills utilized in the cause of civilization, commercial and manufacturing progress, and the wants of an increasing population.The birth of a great productive industry may be dated from the year 1829, when 365 tons of anthracite were sent to Philadelphia from the headwaters of the Lehigh River. From that time the capitalists with their millions and the miners with their implements of toil penetrated the wilderness; canals and railroads were built, furnishing transportation for the "unknown combustible" to the markets on the seaboard; colliery after colliery was established; until in the year 1847, Mr. Taylor says, the "surprising amount of three millions of tons of anthracite was mined, or an aggregate of nearly nineteen millions of tons within a quarter of a century, and 11,439 vessels cleared from the single port of Philadelphia, loaded with a million and a quarter of tons for the service of the neighboring States." A quarter of a century later, in the year 1872, the three millions of tons production which had astonished Mr. Taylor had been increased to nineteen millions of tons annual production, and an aggregate of two hundred and thirty-seven millions of tons in half a century. The development of the coal fields continues with unabated vigor; the volume of the trade continues to expand; railroads above and below ground ramify in every direction; the shriek of the locomotive and the roll of the cars resound on every hillside and valley; the green slopes of a thousand hills are blotted with the debris of the coal mines; the density of the population, the growth of cities and villages, the large domestic trade and commerce, all testify to the great importance and magnitude of an industry in which anthracite sits enthroned.
FIRST SUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS TO USE COAL.
Having made these preliminary observations, we will now turn our attention exclusively to the coal trade of Schuylkill county. The existence of anthracite coal in the southern and middle coal fields must have been known or suspected prior to 1770.In Sculls map, published in that year, some localities are indicated, especially about the headwaters of the Schuylkill, and stretching thence westward to those of the Swartara. The first observation of anthracite coal in Schuylkill County, of which we have particular record, was awarded to Nichol Allen, a lumberman who lived on the Broad Mountain. Allen led a vagrant kind of life, and in one of his expeditions, in the year 1790, he camped out over night and built a fire among some rocks, under shelter of the trees. During the night he felt an unusual degree of heat upon his extremities, and waking up he observed amid the rocks a mass of glowing fire, he having accidentally ignited the outcrop of a bed of coal. This was his first experience of stone coal. He never profited by his discovery, and after having for a considerable time advocated the value of anthracite, and of his important service to the region in discovering it, without receiving substantial reward, he left the region in disgust, for his native State in new England.
The introduction of anthracite coal into general use as a fuel was attended with great difficulty in Schuylkill County, as well as in the other coalfields. In the year 1795 a blacksmith of the name of Whetstone used it successfully for smithing purposes. In the year 1806 coal was found in cutting the tailrace of the Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill, and was used successfully by Daniel Berlin, a blacksmith, which led to its general use by the smiths in the neighborhood. Its introduction for household purposes was only accomplished after years of persistent and arduous labor. Its hardness and the difficulty of igniting it, compared with wood, commonly used, involved all the prejudice and opposition to novel appliances usual upon such occasion.The erroneous impression that it required an artificial blast to produce combustion, the superabundance and cheapness of wood throughout the country, the distance from the seaboard and centers of population, and the entire want of transportation facilities to market, made its introduction for many years entirely impracticable, except at its places of deposit. Judge Fell first experimented with it in the Wyoming region, using a common wooden grate in his efforts to produce combustion, arguing that if he succeeded in burning up his wooden grate he would then be warranted in making an iron one; which he afterward did, making the grate with his own hands in his nephew's shop. This interesting and successful experiment was made in 1808. The following memorandum was made by the judge at the time:"February 11th, of Masonry 5808.-Made the experiment of burning the common stone coal of the valley in a grate, in a common fire place in my house, and find it will answer the purpose of fuel, making a clearer and better fire, at less expense, than burning wood in the common way.
FIRST USE OF COAL IN A ROLLING MILL.
About the year 1800 William Morris, the owner of a large tract of land near Port Carbon, sent a wagon load of coal to Pennsylvania, but was unable to bring it into public notice. Dissatisfied with the result, he sold his lands, and abandoned mining operations.
The first successful attempt to introduce anthracite coal in the Philadelphia market was made in 1812, by Colonel George Shoemaker, subsequently the proprietor and hose of the Pennsylvania Hall, in Pottsville, then as now one of the principal hotels in the place. The colonel loaded nine wagons with coal from his mines at Centreville, near Pottsville, and hauled them to Philadelphia for a market; but the good people of that city denounced the colonel as a swindler and impostor for attempting to impose "black rocks" upon them for stone coal. The following extract from a report of the Board of Trade of the Schuylkill County Coal Association, drawn up by Samuel Lewis, Esq., is the most authentic account of the enterprise of Colonel Shoemaker that has come down to us:
"In the year 1812 our fellow citizen Colonel Shoemaker procured a quantity of coal from a shaft sunk on a tract of land he had recently purchased, on the Norwegian, and now owned by the North American Coal Company (1833) and known as the Centreville tract.With this he loaded nine wagons and proceeded to Philadelphia. Much time was spent by him in endeavoring to introduce it into notice, but all his efforts proved unavailing. Those who deigned to try it declared Colonel Shoemaker to be an impostor for attempting to impose stones on them for coal, and were clamorous against him. Not discouraged by the sneers and sarcasms cast upon him he persisted in the undertaking, and at least succeeded in disposing of two loads for the cost of transportation, and the remaining seven he gave to persons who promised to try to use it, and lost all the coal and the 0charges on the seven loads. Messrs. Mellon & Bishop, at the earnest solicitation of Colonel Shoemaker, were induced to make a trial of it on their rolling mill in Delaware county; and finding it to answer fully the character given it by him, noticed its usefulness in the Philadelphia papers.
"At the reading of this report Colonel Shoemaker was present by invitation, who fully confirmed the foregoing statement and furnished some additional information, among which was that he was induced to make the venture of taking the coal to Philadelphia from the success attending its use at Pottsville, both in the blacksmiths' fire and for warming houses; and that he could not believe that so useful an article was intended to always lie in the earth unnoticed and unknown. That when he had induced Mr. Mellon to try the coal in the rolling mill he (Shoemaker) accompanied the coal to the mill, arriving there in the evening.The foreman of the mill pronounced the coal to be stones and not coal, and that he was an impostor in seeking to palm off such stuff on is employer as coal. As a fair trial of it by this man or the men under him could not be expected it was arranged between Shoemaker and Mellon, who was a practical workman, that workmen came. They accordingly repaired to the mill in the morning, and kindled a fire in one of the furnaces with wood, on which they placed the coal. After it began to ignite Mellon was inclined to use the poker, against which Shoemaker cautioned him. They were shortly afterward called to breakfast, previous to which Colonel Shoemaker had observed the blue blaze of the kindling anthracite just breaking through the body of the coal, and then he knew all was right if it were left alone, and he directed the men left in charge not to use the poker or open the furnace door until their return. When they returned they found the furnace in a perfect glow of white heat. The iron was put in and heated in much less time than usual, and it passed through the rolls with unusual facility, or, in the language of the workman, like lead.All, employers as well as workmen, were perfectly satisfied with the experiment, which was tried repeatedly and always with complete success; and to crown the whole, the surly foreman acknowledged his error, and begged pardon of Colonel Shoemaker for his rudeness the preceding evening".
Thus Colonel Shoemaker had the honor of establishing the fact-a fact of incalculable importance-that the "black rocks" of Schuylkill county were combustible, and that as a fuel they were combustible into general use for household purposes.This was very gradually accomplished, both because of the abundant supply of wood and of the want of the proper appliances for the combustion of coal. The invention and manufacture of grates and stoves adapted to the purpose was the first requisite.
At the time of the remarkable adventure of Colonel Shoemaker with his "black rocks" in Philadelphia the mountainous region of the Schuylkill coalfield had been only partially explored.Its sparse but hardly population depended in great measure upon the game which abounded in the forest, and upon the sale of lumber, for the supplies required for their necessities and comfort. The lumber cut during the winter was formed into rafts, and sent down in the spring, when the freshets made the river navigable. Before the completion of the Schuylkill canal, in 1825, the products of the county were always sent to market by this precarious and unreliable navigation.
In the year 1812 Messrs. White & Hazzard and other individuals made an application to the Legislature of Pennsylvania for an act of incorporation to improve the navigation of the Schuylkill river, upon which occasion the senator from Schuylkill county rose in his place and said that there was no coal in Schuylkill county; there was a kind of black stone that was called coal, but it would not burn. In consequence of this observation the act of incorporation was not granted at that time; but, notwithstanding the opinion of many people that the project of making a canal into the wild, mountainous region of Schuylkill was a chimerical scheme, the charter was granted in 1815, and the work finished sufficiently by the year 1825 to accommodate the coal trade.The originators of the project, with a few exceptions, did not count upon the coal trade to promote the success of the undertaking.They looked forward mainly to the agricultural products below the mountains, the lumber of Schuylkill county, and the grain and other products of the counties bordering on the Susquehanna river, for a tonnage that would ultimately afford dividends to the stockholders. A division of trade from the north branch of the Susquehanna to the headwaters of the Schuylkill was a favorite idea at that time. Stephen Girard had that object in view when he promoted the construction of the Pottsville and Danville Railroad, which was completed to Girardville-a gigantic enterprise for those days, which only served the purpose of a public curiosity. Colonel Paxton had the same object in view in his devoted advocacy of the Catawissa Railroad-a road whose tortuous alignment through formidable mountain barriers and stilt-like trestling over frightful chasms were the terror of all travelers.
The first shipments of coal by canal were made in the year 1822, when 1,480 tons were poled down the line, the towpath being yet unmade. In an address of the managers in 1817, they predicted that the day would come in the history of the Schuylkill Navigation Company when ten thousand tons of coal per annum would be shipped by canal. So little idea had the most sagacious capitalists of that day of the enormous future growth of the coal trade. In some of the early reports of the presidents of the company we meet with statements possessing a curious interest. For example, in the report of Cadwalader Evans in reference to the operations of the year 1812 he says: "There have been completed on the upper section of the river since the report of last year the tunnel and the canals and locks at that time commenced, so that the navigation is now completed from John Pott's, at the coal mines, to within half a mile of Reading."Boats carrying eighteen tons traversed this part of the canal during the fall, and transported "produced of the upper county and large quantities of coal to the neighborhood of Hamburg, where it was deposited, and the coal sold to the county people at and near that place." No toll was charged during the fall, as the company wished "to encouraged experiments in this novel kind of navigation."It appears that the worthy president of the navigation company had no other designation for Pittsville than "John Pott's, at the coal mines."The tunnel referred to was situated above Port Clinton.The excavation of it was regarded as a prodigious undertaking, and it was a great curiosity in its day.Many persons came by stagecoach or private conveyance from Philadelphia and other places to see the great tunnel and to witness the spectacle of the passage of boats under and through a mountain. The wonder and admiration with which our ancestors regarded this work-so simple and commonplace in our day-afford a striking elucidation of the great advancement since then in civil engineering. This tunnel was the first driven in North America.It was commenced about the year 1818, and was completed, as before stated, in 1812. It was originally 450 feet in length, arched 75 feet from each end. It was reduced in length and enlarged from time to time until at length, in 1855-56, it was made a through cut.
The capacity of the canal was gradually increased by deepening the channels, and by other improvements, and the tonnage of the boats, which had been only eighteen tons in 1825. In the year 1846 an enlargement and reconstruction of the canal was accomplished, and the tonnage of the boats increased to 180 or 200 tons.
Incorporated without mining or trading privileges, it was the interest of the Schuylkill Navigation Company to invite tonnage from every available source. The canal was designed for a grand avenue for the conveyance of the products of the mine, the field and the forest, a free navigation to all who chose to participate in its facilities. Entering the southern coalfield at its centre, it afforded an outlet for most of its territory. The projectors of this valuable improvement were the pioneers in inland navigation in this country, and to them is due the credit of commencing works of this nature. Their enterprise contributed largely to subdue the wilderness and to unfold the mineral treasure hidden in the wilds of the Schuylkill coal region.
INFLUX OF OPERATORS AND SPECULATORS.
An outlet having been provided by the Schuylkill Navigation Company for a regular supply of anthracite coal, public attention was strongly attracted to the southern anthracite coalfield. The developments already made in this region being quite convincing as to the extent of the deposits, and its evident advantages in regard to location and nearness to tide water conduced greatly to this result. The disappearance of the forests in the vicinity of the large towns, and the consequent appreciation in the price of wood-which in 1825 was already more expensive than coal-crystallized public opinion in favor of the long despised "black diamonds." The superiority of anthracite over every other description of fuel was at length becoming demonstrated.Its great convenience, and the cheerful, flowing warmth it imparted, secured a comfort to the domestic fireside that had never been experienced before. Suitable appliances for its combustion were gradually introduced into public and private houses. Manufacturers were beginning to appreciate its superiority to bituminous coal in power and economy. The fact was dimly dawning upon the minds of the people that they were at the portals of a great and wonderful productive industry an industry of super-eminent power and influence-which would ameliorate the condition of mankind, prove a valuable accessory to all mechanical and manufacturing operations, stimulate every branch of trade and commerce, promote the prosperity of and diffuse inestimable benefits upon the country generally.The apathy, the incredulity and the prejudice which had so long dominated the minds of capitalists and consumers were gradually removed, and golden visions of prospective fortunes captivated their imaginations.
A few years after the inauguration of the Schuylkill coal trade (1825), when anthracite was recognized in commerce as a staple article, the Schuylkill coal region became the theatre of a wild spirit of speculation and adventure, somewhat similar to the frenzy which prevailed in the oil regions not many years since.There was a rush to Schuylkill County of a promiscuous crowd of capitalists, adventurers and fortune hunters, who were inspired with the delusive phantom of suddenly becoming millionaires in the new El Dorado. This was the first speculative era (in 1829) of the Schuylkill coal trade. Pottsville, the center of the movement, overflowed with strangers, for whom there were very limited accommodations and lodging provided; a share of a bed was a fortunate circumstance; a chair to repose in was a cause for congratulation or envy; and, inasmuch as strangers had liberty to sleep on the floor, there was a lively competition for the softest plank. A few provident travelers, having special regard for their bodily comfort, carried their beds on top of the stagecoach, ready for any emergency. The mirth their arrival created while unloading at the hotel can be readily imagined.In this assemblage of solid men and spirits there was not wanting a representation of the silk glove gentry, with fast horses and dashing turnouts, who did not fail to astonish the natives. City swells and sporting characters, whose profession says, added to the demoralization of the place.
The mountains were scarified by pits and trial shafts sunk by enthusiastic prospectors, traces of which yet remain. Having no knowledge of the geology of the coal formation, they "went it blind," trusting to chance; and many of them dug the graves of their sanguine hopes and their small capitals in the vain search for anthracite.
RAPID GROWTH OF TOWNS AND APPRECIATION OF COAL LANDS
After such failures the mysterious disappearance of fast teams with their owners, without the formality of paying their bills, was not an uncommon occurrence. Other and more successful explorers revealed the existence of a great number of veins of coal, extending over a vast stretch of county and abounding with a seemingly inexhaustible quantity of the combustible. These discoveries fanned the flame of excitement; lands were bought with avidity; roads were laid out in the forest, mines were opened and railroads projected, and innumerable town plots decorated the walls of public houses. The demand for houses was so great that the lumber for quite a large number was framed in Philadelphia and sent by canal to the coal region, ready for the joiner.The spectacle was presented of a city coming up the canal in boats-a forest moving to make way for a thriving town.Whole villages along the roadside thus sprung into existence like mushrooms. The opportunities of promising land speculations were almost unexampled, and many fortunes were made by shrewd and enterprising capitalists. Tracts of land that had been offered for sale at twenty-five cents per acre, and others which could have been bought a few years before for the taxes that had been paid on them, advanced a thousand fold. Within a period of six months from the beginning of the speculative movement-which continued with varied activity for three years, culminating in 1828-29, nearly $5,000,000 had been invested in the coal lands of Schuylkill county; yet so little appreciation had the owners of the real value of these lands that some properties which had been sold in 1827 for $500 were again sold in 1829 for $16,000.The Peacock tract, belonging to the New York and Schuylkill Coal Company, bought in 1824 for $9,000, was sold in 1829 for $42,000; a tract of 120 acres on the Broad mountain, sold in 1829 for $12,000, was bought nine months before for $1,400; one-fourth of another tract sold in 1829 for $9,000, the whole tract having been purchased six years before for $190; a tract on the west branch, which brought $700 was sold nine months afterward, in 1829, for $6,000. Another, tract sold for $16,000, was bought nine months before for $1,000. These transactions indicate the advance of the speculative movement, and the entire ignorance of the property holders in early times of the intrinsic value of their elands. It is questionable whether at any time during the excitement elands were sold at more than their real value as an investment, except in those instances where the purchasers incautiously selected barren tracts, or through ignorance crossed the boundary line of the coal field and located in the red shale. Speculators who invested at the comparatively high prices of 1829, with the view of a quick operation, were, many of them, caught two years afterward in the first revulsion of the coal trade, and, not being able to hold their properties, were obliged to sell them at a sacrifice.
PRIMITIVE MINING AND TRANSPORTATION
The mining operations in the early days of the coal trade in the Schuylkill region were conducted in the most primitive manner, all the arrangements being rude and simple. The leases embraced a run on the outcrop or strike of the veins of about fifty to one hundred yards, with an allowance of sufficient space on the surface to handle the products of the mines.The plan first adopted was to sink pits on an elevated position, from which the coal was hoisted in buckets, with a common windlass, worked by hand; and when the water became too strong to be hoisted, which occurred at a depth of thirty to forty feet, the pit was abandoned and a new one started from the surface. The yield under this system was very trifling and unsatisfactory, which led to the application of the gin worked by horse power-generally a wheezy or decrepit animal, unfit for other service-and it increased the product very much, being considered at the time a great improvement; but as the shaft became deeper the water would increase in volume, and eventually drown out the mine. The operators, although inexperienced in mining, were intelligent, enterprising and energetic men, who were not content to follow old ruts or beaten tracks. They soon discovered the advantages of opening the veins from the ravines, at the foot of the hills, by drifts.The leases were then made with longer runs, the water was removed by natural drainage, and the pitch of the veins facilitated the mining and loading of the coal. For a short time the coal was taken out of the mine in wheelbarrows, and afterward railroads were laid in the gangways, and the coal hauled out by horse or mule power. These changes effected a great economy in the whole process until the coal was delivered outside of the mine.
The contrivances on the surface for handling the coal were at the beginning of the trade equally rude and simple with those of the mining department. The modern appliances of breakers, machinery and steam engines did not exist at that time. The pick, the hammer, the shovel, riddle and wheelbarrow were all the implements in use. The removal of the dirt and slate from the coal was all the preparation it was subjected to. The transportation to the wharves or landings on the canal was made in the ordinary road wagons. This was a slow and very expensive operation, the charge for hauling being about twenty-five cents a ton per mile. In the year 1829 the production amounted to 79,973 tons, nearly all of which was hauled in wagons over the common roads of the county. Taking one week for an example-June 19-251,831 tons of coal were hauled through the streets of Pottsville, over roads that had the aspect of rivers of slimy mud. No wonder the introduction of railroads was hailed as a happy deliverance.
In the year 1829 the following railroads from the shipping ports to the mines were put under construction: The Schuylkill Valley Railroad, commencing at Port Carbon, the head of navigation, and terminating at Tuscarora, a distance of ten miles, with fifteen branch railroads intersecting it, the distances combined amounting to ten miles. This road was in partial operation during the year 1829.
The Mill Creek Railroad, extending from Port Carbon up the valley of Mill creek four miles, with about three miles of branch roads intersecting it. This was the first road completed and was in operation part of the year 1829.
The Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, commencing at Schuylkill Haven and terminating at Broad Mountain, having a length, including the west branch, of fifteen miles. There were also about five miles of branches interesting it.
The Mount Carbon Railroad, commencing at Mount Carbon and extending up the east and west branches of the Norwegian creek; length of road seven miles.
The Little Schuylkill Railroad, from Port Clinton to Tamaqua, twenty miles in length, was likewise projected this year.
The superstructure of all these roads was a wooden rail strapped with flat bar iron.
The Schuylkill Valley Railroad was completed on the 12th of July 1830. Soon afterwards, as an experiment, twenty-one cars were loaded with coal by Aquilla Bolton, the proprietor of the Belmont mines, about two miles above Port Carbon, and hauled to the landing with great ease by three horses, the cars being under perfect control of the brakes, so as to stop at the weigh scales and move on again without assistance. It would have taken fifty horses to haul the same quantity of coal over the common roads in wagons. In the year 1830 19,426 tons of coal were passed over the road.
The Mount Carbon Railroad was completed in the spring of 1831. Transportation commenced on the 19th of April, on which day the interesting spectacle of a train of cars loaded with anthracite was seen descending the road for the first time. The coal with which the care were filled was mined by Samuel J. Potts from the celebrated Spohn vein. This event ended the road wagon transportation of coal through the town of Pottsville.
The Little Schuylkill Railroad was completed a few weeks before the close of navigation in 1831. On the 18th of November of that year the opening of the road was celebrated at Tamaqua. A grand entertainment was given. On Monday, March 11th, 1833, a novel and interesting spectacle was presented on the road. A trial trip was made by a locomotive engine, running from Port Clinton to Tamaqua. It excited considerable interest, as it was the first locomotive introduced in Schuylkill County. The superstructure of the railroad was too light for the engine, which spread the rails and ran into the river. It was used afterward as a shifting engine at Tamaqua. It is said that the engine was shipped from Liverpool to Philadelphia, where it was loaded on a wagon used for hauling marble, and with sixteen horses hauled to Schuylkill County
.During the progress of the coal trade the railroads noticed above had been greatly extended, and after the completion of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad they were reconstructed, with a wider gauge and an iron rail.
It is a notable circumstance that to Abraham Pott, a pioneer coal operator, belongs the honor of having built the first railroad in Schuylkill County, in Pennsylvania, and perhaps in the United States. A railroad which was about half a mile in length, and extended from the junction of Mill creek and the Schuylkill River to a point in the Black Valley, was built by him in 1826-27.It had an entirely wooden superstructure, and was successfully operated. Mr. Pott was the first to use drop bottom cars, with wheels fixed to the axles. He erected a steam engine in 1829 to drive a saw-mill the first steam engine in the county. To him belongs the credit of being the first to use anthracite coal for the generation of steam for a steam engine.
EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRADE
The coal trade from 1825 to 1829 inclusive had been very encouraging to the operators. All the coal that could be mined found a ready market at fair prices. The following is a statement of the number of tons shipped from the Schuylkill region during these years, with the price per ton obtained at Pottsville: 1825, 6,5000, $3.08; 1826, 16,767, $2.80; 1827, 31,360, $2.80; 1828, 47,284, $2.52; 1829, 79,973, $2052.
This result inspired a buoyant feeling among the producers at the beginning of the year 1830 in contemplating the prospects of the trade for the ensuing season. The market was in a healthy condition. The superiority of anthracite as a fuel for domestic, for manufacturing and for steam generating purposes was gaining recognition, and its popularity was enhanced with its introduction into more general use. All the indications pointed to a greatly increased consumption in the near future, and it seemed to warrant the preparation made to meet the probable demand. The Schuylkill canal was in order for business on the first of April. The coal operators were felicitating themselves upon their glorious prospects. At no previous period had they indulged in greater expectations. The turmoil of business resounded in the streets of Pottsville. Coal wagons, in a continuous train, were conveying the treasure of the mines to the landings; the wharves presented an enlivening picture of activity; there was talk of having relays of horses on the canal to hasten the transit of anthracite to the markets where it was so anxiously expected. Great impatience was displayed at the snail-paced way of dragging along on the canal, with one horse, and that only in the daytime.Coal was king, and all the people in the coal region were his worshipers.
FLUCTUATIONS AND EMBARRASSMENTS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING 1830
To this impulsive enthusiasm there was, unfortunately a check before these flattering hopes had time to blossom.The movement of the trade had but fairly started when a series of misfortunes occurred on the canal; leaks and breaches and damaged locks interrupted the navigation. The shippers because vehement with impatience at the supposed tardiness of the superintendents who had charge of the repairs, and at the inefficiency and parsimonious policy of the managers of the navigation company, who could not be made to appreciate the exigency of the occasion. At length on the 17th of May the navigation was restored, but complaints that the canal did not afford sufficient accommodation for the trade continued to be made throughout the season.
The sequel to all this outcry and protestation was an overstock market at the close of the season. The amount sent from the Schuylkill region was 89,984 tons, an increase of 10,011 tons over the supply of the preceding year. The aggregate supply from all the regions was 175,209 tons, being an increase of 63,126 tons over the supply of 1829. The actual consumption of anthracite coal in 1830 was 126,581 tons, or 48,628 tons less than the supply. The prices of coal were fair in the spring, and they averaged for the year $2.52 per ton at Pottsville and $5.50 to $6 per ton at Philadelphia. As the season advanced prices receded, and before the following spring they were as low as $4.50 per ton in Philadelphia by the cargo.
The year 1831 forms an important epoch in the Schuylkill coal trade.It was then it met with its first serious reverse, induced by overproduction. The market was broken down by excess in the supply of the previous year of not over fifty thousand tons.Half a century afterward an excess of millions of tons would be required to produce an equal effect. Truly, the trade was in its infancy. Prices of coal declined to $1.50 per ton at Pottsville and $4 per ton in Philadelphia. Miners' wages were reduced to $1 per day, laborers' to 82 cents. All together the situation was deplorable. It was the first serious revulsion the trade had encountered, and it was destined to become the first of a long series of periodical inflictions.
In the meantime the low prices of coal had effected almost insensibly a greatly augmented consumption, especially for household purposes. In the beginning of autumn the demand became unprecedented. The miners and boatmen, who had sought other employment during the stagnation of the trade, could not be brought back in time to mine and transport coal enough to supply the market.The scarcity of workmen caused an advance in wages. Canal freight rose from $1.12 to $2.50 ton to Philadelphia, and from Philadelphia to New York from $1 to $2 per ton. On the 3rd if December Schuylkill coal was selling at $9.50 in New York, advancing to $17 by the 26th of the same month.
The business of the year 1832 was distinguished by unvarying and unexampled prosperity-it was an oasis in the trade, affording unmingled and general satisfaction. The first boat of the season was shipped by the Schuylkill canal on the 28th of March.Loud cheers and several salutes of firearms testified to the satisfaction of the spectators. The amount of coal sent from the Schuylkill region in 1832 was 209,271 tons, an increase over supply of the preceding year of 127,417 tons. The average price of coal during the year was $2.37 at Pottsville, against $1.50 in 1831.
An embarrassing feature of the coal business in 1832 was the great scarcity of boats. Freight, which started at $1.50 per ton to Philadelphia (which was deemed a fair rate), advanced to $3.075 per ton before the close of the season. The prevalence of the Asiatic cholera in Philadelphia during the summer alarmed the boatmen, and many boats were withdrawn from the trade during the worst stage of the epidemic. The boatmen who continued were only induced to remain by the increased wages they received.The dealers, becoming uneasy in regard to their supplies, instructed their agents to forward their coal as soon as possible, without a limit as to freights. From this time may be dated the origin of an element in the trade which became very harassing and uncontrollable. The freights on the canal, whenever there was a good demand for coal or whenever boats were scarce, were advanced at a rate beyond the bounds of moderation or fair dealing. The boatmen were sharp and unscrupulous, and they quickly took advantage of every circumstance which could be made to inure to their benefit. It became a common practice for the shippers or his agent to travel down the towing path ten or fifteen miles, if necessary, to charter boats, which could only be secured by an advance in freight at the expense of the consignee, and a bonus of five or ten dollars at the expense of the shipper.This intolerable practice was not entirely broken up until the navigation company became the owner of a majority of the boats and was enabled thereby to control and regulate the freights in the canal.
COAL MINING ASSOCIATIONS.
In the month of January 1832, the "Coal Mining Association of Schuylkill County" was organized. It was composed exclusively of master colliers, and those immediately connected with mining. In the roll of its members can be found the manes of pioneers in the coal trade, who were distinguished for force of character and superior enterprise. The following is a list of the officers in 1822: President, Burd Patterson; vice-president, John C. Offerman; Treasurer, Samuel Lewis; secretaries, Andrew Russel and Charles Lawton. In connection with the association there was a board of trade, composed of the following prominent gentleman, who were identified with the anthracite coal trade and its early history: Benjamin H. Springer, Samuel Brooke, Samuel J. Potts, M. Brooke Buckley, James E. White, Thomas S. Ridgway and Martin Weaver. In the first report of the association, the board estimated the amount of capital invested in the Schuylkill coal trade up to that time as follows:The cost of the railroads, including the Mill creek, Schuylkill valley, Mount Carbon, Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven and the Little Schuylkill, was about $656,000; the amount invested in coal lands and building in the county was estimated at $6000,000; the amount expended in opening veins of coal, in building fixtures; cars, etc., connected with mining, was $200,000; to which may be added 500 boats, averaging $500 each, $250,000; and the total investment is shown to have been $7,106,000. The saving in the cost of fuel since the introduction of anthracite coal was estimated by the board as being then $6,000,000 annually. Not an individual miner engaged in the business since its commencement was supposed to have realized a cent of profit.
An earnest and increasing opposition to incorporated coal companies in the Schuylkill region, which had agitated the public mind for some time, culminated in 1833 in public meetings, in communications to the press, in memorials to the Legislature, and in well sustained public and private argument and discussion.It was contended that acts of incorporation were unnecessary, all the transactions of the coal trade coming within the scope of individual enterprise. In the year 1833 and a number of years subsequently, coal-mining operations in the Schuylkill region were conducted with rude simplicity and economy, very little capital being required for their successful prosecution. The workings were all above the water level, no machinery being required for water drainage or for hoisting the coal to the surface. Coal breakers and other expensive fixtures and appliances for the preparation of coal had not then been introduced.There were at the time were many rented mines properly and successfully worked, which had not at any time required or had expended upon them a capital of five hundred dollars each. There were many operators sending from five thousand to six thousand tons to market annually (which was then considered a respectable business) that had not at any time a capital employed of as many thousands of dollars, including the first purchase in fee simple of the coal mine. It was confidently asserted that it did not require as much capital to buy a piece of coal land and open the coal mines upon it as it did to buy a decent farm and stock it did not require as much capital to work a coal mine as it did to establish a line of stages or transportation wagons. Hence the granting of acts of incorporation with associated capital was unnecessary for mining purposes, and they were only procured for stock gambling purposes, and they were only procured for stock gambling purposes. On the 19th of March, 1833, a committee was appointed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania "to investigate the present state of the coal trade within this Commonwealth and the history of mining operations generally, with a view to ascertain the effect the incorporated companies, with mining and trading privileges, will have on the progress of the business and the improvement and prosperity of the State; and also to inquire what further legislative provisions will be necessary to protect, facilitate and encourage this branch of industry." Samuel J. Parker, the chairman of the committee, made a very able, lengthy and exhaustive report. It took decided ground against the incorporation of coal companies, especially when combined with the control of railroads and canals.
CRUDE VIEWS CONCERNING COAL DEPOSITS
To what extent the coal seams extended downward was a matter of great curiosity and speculation in 1833.Although it was believed that the beds above the water level would not be exhausted during that generation, the North American Coal Company, Robert Young, M. Brooke Buckley, and Blight Wallace & Co., more as a matter of experiment or convenience than necessity, and as a mean of ascertaining the relative expense of operating above and below water level, were engaged in sinking shafts to a considerable depth. Beside the fact that the coal did descend to an unknown depth, their experiments, it is fair to presume, were not of much utility, the means adopted being entirely inadequate to the purpose intended. The undulation of the seams, forming basins and saddles, was not understood. Every outcrop was regarded as a distinct vein, but whether they ran through to our antipodes, or wedged out in Gnomes' land-the sphere of the guardian of mines and quarries-was a mooted question among the miners.That the veins should stop their descent and return to the surface in another locality was never dreamed of in their philosophy.
"Nearly twenty years since," said Henry C. Carey, the great writer on Political Economy, at the McGinnes testimonial presentation in 1854, "Mr. Burd Patterson and myself were associated in sinking the first slope, by help of which our people were made surrounded.Until then, strange as it may seem, it was universally believed that the coal stopped at the water level-that the seams did not penetrate far down; and that idea had been apparently confirmed by the unsuccessful result of an attempt at going below the level, that had been made by the North American Coal Company. We were then laughed at; but we proceeded and thus established the fact that the quantity of coal was ten times greater than had ever been supposed." The slope alluded to by Mr. Carey, the sinking of which was promoted by himself and Burd Patterson, was sunk by Dr. Gideon G. Palmer, the practical work being under the superintendence of George Spencer.
The belief that the coal above water level would not be exhausted in that generation proved a delusion to many of the operators. Already in 1835 preparation were being extensively made to sink to lower depths for a continued supply. Several slopes were under progress in that year, among the number one on the Black mine, within the limits of the borough of Pottsville; one on the tract of land known as the York farm, one at St. Clair and another about three miles east of Port Carbon.The American Coal Company had sunk two slopes, one of which was in operation; the other was waiting the erection of a steam engine.The coal trade opened in the year 1834 under less favorable auspices than had distinguished it for some years previously. The general stagnation of business incident to a financial panic and a grave political convulsion, such as then agitated the nation, precluded the possibility of large shipments or great activity in the business. The amount of coal held over on the 1st of April from the supply of the preceding year was estimated at 120,000 tons, which was about one-fourth of the total production.This fact, together with the diminished consumption by manufacturers during the first half of the year, had a tendency to seriously check the demand. The effect, upon the laboring classes in the coal region, of this blight upon this great industry was severely felt. About one thousand workingmen were thrown out of employment in the Schuylkill region alone.
The opinion was very generally entertained that the prospect of the trade for the year 1835 wore a favorable aspect. A continued increase in the consumption for household and manufacturing purposes could be relied upon with confidence; and the recent application of anthracite coal to the purpose of steam navigation could be reasonably expected to greatly extend its use. The belief was in fact warranted that the demand and consumption for this year would be commensurate with the expectations of those who would derive advantage therefrom. The incentives to enterprise and industry were irresistible to the coal operators, who were naturally inclined to see a silver lining to every cloud, and who were generally under the influence of the fascination which characterized the pursuit of mining; a pursuit the hazards and precariousness of which gave it additional zest and piquancy, in view of a possible bonanza.
The expectations of the operators were happily realized in this instance. The shipments of coal from the Schuylkill region show a gain over those of the preceding year of 119,796 tons, all of which had been consumed by the first of April 1836.
THE BOATMEN'S STRIKE
Among the notable events of the coal trade of 1835 the turnout of the boatmen and the demonstrations made by them produced the greatest sensation. In May intimations were given of the intended combination to raise the freights on the Schuylkill canal.In June the conspiracy culminated in coercive measures and acts of violence; the movements being animated by the crews of forty or fifty boats. Hamburg was made the centre of operations, the base of its supplies, and the field for obstructive measures against the movement of the coal trade.Boats were stopped and contributions extorted from their crews to meet the expenses incurred by the strikers. Acts of violence were committed, outrages perpetrated, and by force of intimidation the business on the canal was almost entirely suspended. Finally individuals were assailed with stones and other missiles; a reign of terror prevailed at Hamburg and its vicinity, and the mob pursued its insurrectionary measures with impunity. The civil authorities connived at the lawless proceedings of the rioters, and by their culpable apathy afforded them encouragement. The interruption to the trade on the canal became at length a very serious and intolerable evil, involving severe loss and suffering to thousands of people, who were interrupted in their daily avocations by the closing up of the only avenue to market for the produce of the country. An attempt was made by some prominent citizens of Pottsville to pass up a boat, with a view of testing the accuracy of the reports of the conduct of the boatmen.They were resisted by a formidable force and violence committed upon their persons. This led to the arrest of seventeen of the principal offenders.A descent was made upon Pottsville by about three hundred of the rioters, headed by a band of music and with banners flying. They met with a warm reception; several of the leaders were arrested, while others made their escape, being hotly pursued for several miles by the sheriff.Thus after nearly three weeks interruption to the trade the boatmen's rebellion was subdued. At the November term of the court in Reading ten of the offenders were arraigned on a trial for conspiracy. They pleaded guilty to the charge, and, at the request of the prosecutors not to fine or imprison them; they were sentenced to pay a fine of one cent and the costs of prosecution.
FLUCTUATIONS IN 1836
The fluctuations in the coal trade were remarkably exemplified in year 1836. The movement of coal commenced unusually late in the spring, after a severe winter. The market was bare of coal, and the demand for it was active and urgent, from the beginning of the boating season to its close by frost, at an earlier period than usual.During the first half of the season the prices of coal were moderate, ranging from $2 to $2025 per ton at Pottsville. After that time an apprehension of a short supply included redoubled exertions to increase the yield of the mines. The usual result followed. Miners became scared and their wages rose rapidly. A supply of them and of laborers of every description could not be procured, and those already employed became demoralized by the high wages they were receiving. They became exacting and unreasonable in their demands, and aggressive in conduct toward their employers. Another difficulty encountered was a scarcity of boats. All the boat builders on the line were fully employed, but they could not keep pace with the growth of the trade. Freights advanced from $1.25 per ton to Philadelphia in the spring to $2 per ton at the close of the season.Runners were employed on the line of canal to secure ascending boats, and day and night a sharp and vigilant competition prevailed. In sympathy with the rise in prices of other commodities, and the increased cost of its production, anthracite coal advanced in price to $3 per ton at Pottsville before the close of navigation.
The production from the Schuylkill region in 1836 was 448,995 tons, a gain over the shipments of the preceding year of 90,418 tons. During this year there were shipped from Philadelphia in 2,924 vessels to distant ports 313,838 tons of anthracite coal.
FIRST SHIPMENT DIRECT TO NEW YORK
Although the Delaware and Raritan canal had been completed and in navigable order since fall of 1834, no steps had been taken to use the facilities it afforded for transportation to New York by the Schuylkill coal trade up to the year 1837. At length Colonel John M. Crossland, a boat builder in Pottsville-a man of spirit, energy and dash-conceived the idea of making an experimental voyage by this route, with a view of testing its practicability and if successful of bringing its advantages into public notice.Accordingly, having built a boat for the purpose which he named the "Adventurer"-an open boat without deck covering, furnished with a mast, sail, cordage, windlass and anchor-he departed from Pottsville on the 30th of August 1837, with a cargo of coal bound for New York. It being the initial voyage by this route, great interest was taken in the enterprise, and fervent hopes were entertained that its issue would be prosperous; for, in the event of its success, it would probably be followed by regular shipments of coal by the same route.
From some cause not fully explained the voyage was ended at New Brunswick, where the cargo was sold and discharged. It was the full determination of Colonel Crossland, however, to make another trial. Having been kindly provided with a cargo of coal by Messrs. T.& I. Beatty, he again, about the middle of October, started off on his adventure. He encountered adverse winds, dense fogs and innumerable vexatious delays.With wonderful audacity he neither employed a steamboat to tow the "Adventurer" or a pilot to direct her course, depending altogether upon his sail, his pluck and his star for the issue. After an absence of thirty-eight days our voyager returned to Pottsville. He had not been "round the world" but he saw something of it, and he delivered the first cargo of coal from the Schuylkill region to New York direct and without trans-shipment. In the year following Colonel Crossland's experiment, Messrs. Stockton & Stevens had a fleet of boats built expressly for the direst trade to New York.
COAL TRADE IN 1837.
The short supply and high prices of coal in 1836 induced a strong effort to be made in Congress to remove the duty on foreign coal, under the pretext that a supply of the domestic article could not be obtained. This circumstance stimulated the coal operators to make extraordinary preparations throughout the winter of 1837 to meet an increased demand. Day and night they labored with indefatigable industry and enterprise to increase the productive capacity of the mines, at the same tine stacking the banks on the surface with mounds of coal, in anticipation of a large consumption and to demonstrate that a supply could be furnished without foreign importations. Scarcely had the shipments attained their full volume, in the month of April, when there occurred a financial panic, which deranged all branches of business. Its immediate effect upon the coal trade was disastrous. Orders were countermanded to a degree that involved the necessity of suspending operations at a large number of the collieries.The operators at this juncture held a public meeting, and issued an address to their customers and the public, defining their position, their preparations made during the winter to supply the market, and the heavy amount of their expenditures, and admonishing the consumers of coal that the consequence of permitting time to elapse in inactivity would be a short supply in the market at the close of navigation. To avert this deplorable event, which always bears so hard upon the poorer classes, capitalists were invited to make investments in coal. Their appeal was met with derision by the representatives of the press in the large cities, and the operators were unjustly accused of practicing a ruse to keep up the price of coal by gulling the public into the belief that coal would be scares unless something was done.
The violence of the monetary convulsion was soon expended, and after languishing awhile the coal trade relied, and the absolute necessity for a supply of coal-the market being bare-restored activity. After many vicissitudes in the business during the year, and oscillations in prices of coal, of freight and of the wages of labor, the season of 1837 came to a close with an increase in the supply, compared with that of the preceding year, of 97,361 tons from the Schuylkill region.
On the first of April 1838, the stock of anthracite coal in the market remaining over from the preceding year was estimated at 200,000 tons. A considerable depletion of the market was required before a demand for the new product could be expected. The shipments, consequently, were very light until about the first of June, and after that period the general and protracted depression in almost every branch of business, and especially the diminished consumption of coal by manufacturers, cast a cloud over the trade, and it dragged sluggishly along until the close of navigation. The supply of coal from the Schuylkill region was 94,332 tons less than in 1837.
FIRST MINING COMPANY INCORPORATED
During the session of the Legislature of Pennsylvania in the winter of 1838 the coal operators, the miners and laborers at the mines, and the citizens generally of Schuylkill County were very much exercised upon the subject of incorporated coal companies. The occasion of this excitement was a bill introduced in the Senate by the Hon. Charles Frailey, the member from Schuylkill, for the incorporation, with the usual exclusive privileges, of a company entitled the "Offerman Mining and Railroad Company," to be located in the Schuylkill coal region. The indignation of the people was intensely wrought upon; not only because they were opposed in principle to conferring such grants, but they believe they were being betrayed by the party to the application and the senator who was its champion, who had on former occasions stood by them shoulder to shoulder in opposition to similar measures. The covert, insidious and persistent manner in which this bill was pressed upon the Legislature provoked energetic opposition and implacable hostility. First it was introduced-at a former session-as incorporating the "Cataract Company," and failed.It next appeared as establishing the "Buck Ridge Railroad and Mining Company," with a capital of $350,000 and a term of twenty years. It stood at the head of ten other-so called-monopolies, all incorporated in the same bill. It was logrolled through both houses, and at length found its way to the governor, who put his veto upon the whole batch, including the famous "Buck Ridge." It was supposed this blow would destroy the monster forever.Not so, however. It was hydra-headed, and appeared again under the title of "Offerman Mining Company." In opposition to this bill a memorial signed by two thousand persons was sent to the Legislature in charge of a committee. The voice of the coal region was heard in earnest remonstrance, but it was all of no avail.The bill passed both houses, was vetoed by the governor and passed over the veto.
The charter thus obtained never became operative under the title bestowed upon it was buried out of sight for a time, to be resurrected at some future day under another name.
ANTHRACITE FOR SMELTING IRON ORE.
The discovery of the process for smelting iron ore with anthracite coal was as event of transcendent importance in the manufacture of iron in Pennsylvania, and, as a resulting consequence, in the production of anthracite coal. The impulse it gave to the trade in both commodities diffused inestimable benefits upon commerce, navigation, manufactures, and every industrial pursuit. The construction of furnaces along the main channels of navigation, especially in the valleys of the Schuylkill and the Lehigh rivers, had an almost magical effect upon, the development of the natural resources of the country, enhancing its mineral and agricultural wealth, its internal trade, commerce, manufactures, and every description of business and industry; all of which was made manifest by the increase and spread of population, and the aggregation of towns, villages and cities.The consumption of anthracite coal affords a fair index of the consequential results of the manufacture of anthracite iron.For example, its consumption on the line of the Schuylkill above Philadelphia in the year 1839, at which time the first anthracite furnace in the United States-the Pioneer, at Pottsville-was put in blast, was 30,290 tons. Ten years afterward it had increased to 239,290 tons, in the year 1859 to 554,774 tons, and in 1873 to 1,787,205 tons. A large proportion of this rapid expansion of the coal trade on the line of the Schuylkill can be fairly attributed to the iron works, which so greatly stimulated every business enterprise.
The navigation of the Schuylkill canal, which had been impeded by the low stage of water in 1838, was seriously damaged by an ice freshet of extraordinary magnitude on the 26th and 27th of January, 1839. The ground being frozen hard and impervious to water, the streams were soon overflowing by the heavy rain, the ice broke up, and the torrent with the force of a deluge swept crashing and roaring through the valley of the Schuylkill with fearful impetuosity, carry along with resistless force every obstacle or obstacle or obstruction that it encountered.The water rose in a few hours in many places twenty feet above its usual level, sweeping away bridges landings, canal boats and dams, and doing great damage to the works of the canal in exposed situations.In Philadelphia the freshet caused the greatest inundation ever known in the Schuylkill. The wharves were entirely submerged, and the entire eastern shore of the Schuylkill, extending from the Market street bridge over a mile toward the Naval Asylum, presented a scene of chaotic confusion, wreck and ruin. Not a single vessel of any kind was left afloat after the water had subsided. Barges, boats, sloops and schooners were lying ashore, and some of them had been lifted by the rising water over vast heaps of coal, and deposited in a situation from which they could only be extricated with great difficulty.By extraordinary exertion the Schuylkill canal was repaired in time for the usual opening of navigation to the coal trade.
The coal business of 1839 was unsatisfactory and unrenumerative.Starting in the spring with 150,000 tons of coal in the market, the trade languished throughout the year. Many of the collieries were idle part of the time, although coal was offered at less than the cost of putting it into boats. Many miners for want of employment were forced to leave the region.This deplorable estate of affairs was caused by overproduction, by a want of vessels to pressure of the money market.It may be truthfully said that the trade was suffering because of the under-consumption of coal, for if the country had remained in its normal condition of prosperity all the coal that could have been produced would have found a ready market.
The aggregate supply of anthracite coal from all the regions during the twenty years of its production-commencing with the year 1820, and ending with the year 1839-was 5,723,997 tons.Of this amount the Schuylkill region furnished 3,346,413 tons, or 58 per cent.To this preponderance of coal production was added superiority in the development and improvement of the region, Schuylkill surpassing the other regions in population, in all industrial and trade pursuits, and in every indication of prosperity. This can be easily accounted for. The Schuylkill region had an advantage in distance to tide water, in the accessibility and facility of development of its coal beds, and it was open to the enterprise of all who chose to enter. The Schuylkill Navigation Company was incorporated without mining privileges, and it was consequently the interest of the company to invite tonnage from every source. Hence public attention was strongly attracted toward the southern coalfield.In the Lehigh region an overshadowing monopoly controlled the coal trade, and for many years repelled all competition. Consequently the trade was restricted, and the growth of the country and the development of its resources retarded. The same observations had not yet been opened.
The great depression in coal trade continued throughout 1834, without a noticeable improvement in its condition. On the 8th of January 1841, there occurred an ice freshet of unexampled violence, in the Schuylkill and Lehigh rivers, which had a marked influence upon the coal trade. The Schuylkill at Reading was higher than it had been for fifty-five years. It caused unusually heavy damage to many portions of the Schuylkill Company's works, particularly in the mountainous section above Reading. Measures were promptly taken to repair the damage sustained.It was not until the middle of May that all was in readiness to open the works throughout for the accommodation of the trade.The consequences of the flood on the Schuylkill were trifling, however, compared with the devastation on the Lehigh, for there it assumed the proportions of a terrible and deplorable calamity. Contemporary writers describe it as awful and tremendous.The obstruction to navigation caused by the flood gave rise to an apprehension of a short supply of coal, and it stimulated the demand throughout the year. The great prostration of the trade during the two previous years had crippled the resources of the Schuylkill region to an almost ruinous extent, and a serious crisis in their affairs was only averted by the disaster on the Lehigh.How often has the coal trade been rescued from ruined and disaster by providential visitations interposing checks to overproduction. Just when the producers were disposed to abandon a pursuit that afforded more disappointment and worriment than satisfaction and remuneration a good year would be interjected and fresh happy stroke of fortune gave a fascination to the business that always kept the ranks of its devotees full.The demand for coal was pressing and the season short. Great activity and energy were displayed in supplying the market. The urgency of the condition of affairs developed a troublesome element in the trade, which was a marked feature in the year's operations. We allude to the extravagant rates of freight on coal on the Schuylkill canal. The freight from Pottsville to Philadelphia range from $1.10 to $2 per ton, the average for the whole season being $1.50; and the freight from Pottsville to New York commenced at $2.75 per ton, and rose as high as $4.40, averaging for the season $3.42. The great competition among shippers in procuring boats, and the pernicious expedients restored to, were the cause, mainly, of the rise in freights. The weekly shipments from the Schuylkill region in 1841 were larger than they had ever been before, and the shipments for the year showed a gain over those of the previous year of 127,161 tons. The average price of Schuylkill white ash lump coal by the cargo at Philadelphia was $5.79 per ton during the year. This was an advance of 88 cents per ton over the average price of the previous year.
At a public meeting of persons engaged in the coal trade of Schuylkill county held at Pottsville January 31st, 1842, a report on the coal statistics of that county was made, by which it appears that the value of the real estate and personal property, and the cost of the public improvements dependent upon the coal operations of that district, were as follows: 65 miles incorporated railroads $650,000; 40 miles individual railroads, $90,000; 40 miles individual railroads, underground $40,000; 2,400 railroad cars, $180,000; 1,500 drifts cars, $45,000; 17 colliers below water level, with steam engines, etc., $218,000; 9 steam engines for other purposes, $14,000; 100 colliers above water level, $150,000, 80 landings at shipping ports, $160,000; 850 boats, $425,000; 900 boat horses, $54,000; 80,000 acres coal land, at $40 per acre, $3,200,000; working capital, $200,000; towns, etc., in the coal region, $2,500,000; Schuylkill canal, $3,800,00;Philadelphia and Reading railroad, cars,etc., $5,000,000; Danville and Pottsville railroad,$800,000. Total, $17,526,000.
Population engaged in or entirely dependent on the coal trade, 17,000; number of horses employed in boating and at the collieries, 2,100; agricultural products annually consumed, $588,572; merchandise consumed annually, $918,352.
At that time there were in use in the county thirty steam engines, amounting to upwards of 1,000 horsepower.Twenty-two of these engines were manufactured in the county.
The market created in the coal region for the produce of the farmer had more than double the value of the farms in the county of Schuylkill, and materially enhanced the value of some portions of adjoining counties.
The rents paid to the owners of coal lands, for coal and timber leave, amounted to $2000,000 in 1841; the average rent on coal alone was about twenty-five cents per ton.
The greatest depth attained in mining below the water level in 1842 was 153 feet perpendicular below the level of the Schuylkill river in dam No.1 of the navigation; and at that depth the coal was found to be as good in quality and as thick in the vein as at the surface.
PHILADELPHIA AND READING RAILROAD
In the progress of our sketch, we have reached an epoch in the history of the anthracite coal trade of Schuylkill County of paramount interest and importance-the opening of a new avenue to market from the Schuylkill coalfield, by the completion of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The commanding influence this rail road has had, and must continue to have, upon the destiny of this important and rapidly augmenting trade entitles it to the greatest attention and the most profound consideration. The Schuylkill navigation, which was the pioneer public improvement and channel of communication between the Schuylkill coal region and tide water, had afforded up to this period ample accommodation to the coal trade; and to the Schuylkill Navigation Company must accorded great credit for the inestimable aid it extended, by means of its works, in the development of the resources of the valley of the Schuylkill, and of the mineral treasure embedded in the mountains of Schuylkill county.The time had, however, arrived when another avenue to market was required for the accommodation of the prospective increased in the consumption of anthracite coal, and the completion of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was hailed with universal satisfaction. The benefits that could reasonably be expected from this great improvement were fully appreciated. Its ultimate effect was to revolutionize the entire modus operandi of the coal business.
On the first of January 1842, the first locomotive engine and passenger train-with the officers and directors of the company on board-came through from Philadelphia to Mount Carbon. On Monday and Tuesday, the 10th and 11th January, a grand excursion party of citizens of the coal region passed over the road to Philadelphia and back by invitation of the directors.On the evening of the 11th a public dinner and ball was given at Pottsville which closed the ceremonies of the opening of the road.
The immediate effect of its completion was a reduction in the cost of transportation. An immediate rivalry was instituted between the canal and railroad companies for the coal traffic, resulting on the reduction in the cost of transportation of $1.11 compared with the rates of 1841 by canal to Philadelphia.But this reduction was of no benefit to the producers, who, in the ardor of competition, instead of advancing the price of coal proportionately with the reduction in freights, lowered them twenty-five to fifty cents per ton on board boats at the landings.Never before had prices been so low. Coal was a perfect drug in the market. So sluggish was the movement of the trade, so short the demand, that it was impossible to keep the collieries running with any regularity. The prices of coal declined to so low a figure that it was ruinous to all engaged in the business. Unquestionably the most disastrous year of the trade since its commencement was 1842. The operatives at the mines, with low wages and only partial employment, were reduced to great suffering and distress. Wages had fallen to $5.25 per week to miners and $4.20 to labors, payable in traffic. There was scarcely cash enough paid out at some mines to bury the dead. It was a sore grievance to the workingmen that they did not receive money for their little earnings instead of "store orders." The excuse for the payment of the men in traffic was that the exigencies of the trade made it unavoidable, and the "half a loaf was better than no bread." Such an attempt at vindication only made more conspicuous the utter demoralization of the trade. There could be no logical justification for depriving the laboring man of the satisfaction of drawing the amount of his earnings-after deducting charges voluntarily contracted-in the currency of the country. The continuance of the practice led to deplorable consequences. The dissatisfaction gradually increased until it culminated in the first general strike in the region.
STRIKE IN 1842
On Thursday, July 7th, 1842, a meeting of miners and laborers was held at Minersville, about four miles from Pottsville, at which the grievances of the workingmen were discussed, and measures for their redress decided upon. It does not appear that any conference was held with their employers, or complaint made by committee, preliminary to the inauguration of forcible measured. Through the influence of some of the turbulent spirits who swayed their councils they were incited to violence, intimidation and outrage as a first resort. Accordingly, on Saturday afternoon, the 9th of July, the first demonstration was made. The citizens of Pottsville were startled by the appearance in the town of several hundred men, begrimed with the dust of the mines and armed with clubs and other weapons. They come down the Norwegian Railroad, passed hastily along to the landings at the Greenwood basin, driving the laborers engaged there away by force, and hence to Mount Carbon, where the laborers were likewise driven away.This invasion was so unexpected that the outrage was perpetrated before the citizens were prepared to prevent it, or to make any arrests. In the evening of the same day two companies of volunteers were ordered to Minersville for the protection of the citizens, who were alarmed for their safety on account of divers threats and demonstrations of intended violence.On Monday the sheriff ordered the Orwigsburg and Schuylkill Haven volunteer companies to march to Pottsville and aid in suppressing any disturbance that might ensue. On the some day about a thousand of the disaffected workingmen met in the Orchard at Pottsville, when they were addressed by the District Attorney, F.W. Hughes, who explained the law to them. The behavior of the men throughout the day was characterized by order and decorum. There were about fifteen hundred men engaged in the strike, many of whom were dragooned into it by force of intimidation.After having committed numerous acts of violence and outrage at the collieries, and spent several weeks in idleness, those of them who could obtain employment were glad to accept it upon any terms.Schuylkill County put in conditions for the passage of the cars of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company.On the third of March 1842, eighteen cars passed over it from the mines of Gideon Bast, at Wolff creek, and were forwarded by rail to Philadelphia.
On the 17th of May 1842, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was open for transportation to the wharves at Port Richmond, and on the 21st of that month the first train, of fifty cars, containing 150 tons of coal from the mines of Gideon Bast, was forwarded to that point.The train left Schuylkill Haven at four o'clock in the morning, and the coal was discharged into a vessel which set sail for an eastern port in the evening of the same day. This transaction presented a striking contrast to the slow movement by canal, and it gave the trade an idea of the facility with which the coal business could be conducted by rail when all the arrangements were completed.
On the 8th of August 1842, the information was given to the public, in the Philadelphia Evening Journal, that eight barks, four brigs and eight schooners were counted at the wharves at Port Richmond, loading with and waiting for cargoes of anthracite coal.The reporter of this intelligence did not dream that the day would come when 225 vessels could be loading at those wharves at the same time, when 28,000 tons of coal would be shipped therein from in one day, 95,858 tons in one week, 2,720,027 tons in one years, and that their capacity for shipping would be 4,000,000 tons annually. Yet all of this came to pass within thirty-five years.
The average price of coal in 1842 on board vessels at Philadelphia was $4.18 per ton, a decline of $1.61 per ton compared with the average price of the preceding year. The average price in 1843 was $3.25 per ton, a further decline of 93 cents. The reduction in the price by the cargo in Philadelphia since the opening of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad,-two years-was about $2.50 per ton.
The result of the operations of 1843 in the Schuylkill region was of course very unsatisfactory. It was a repetition, somewhat exaggerated, of the previous year. They were both very distressing years, when every species of property was alarmingly depreciated and every description of business appeared to be paralyzed. But, notwithstanding the dark shadows of the past and the gloom of the present, there was a remarkable infatuation throughout the region to rush into the coal business. Storekeepers, mechanics, and others who had been enabled to save a little money could not rest contented until they had lost it in a coal mine. Labor was cheap, they argued, and then was the propitious time to develop the mines, and be prepared for the good times coming. The older operators, however, who had pinned their faith upon the trade, and who had so long relied upon the coming tide "which taken at the flood leads on to fortune," began now to realize that there was something radically wrong in the conduct of the coal business. Every year those persons engaged in it became poorer, and many had lost all they formerly possessed in this hazardous pursuit.A very few only, who had superior mines and advantageous locations, were enabled, with economical working, to realize any profit at the close of the year. The opportunities which nature had so lavishly provided for the attainment of business success were frittered away by a system of empirical mining and reckless competition. The richness of the coal deposits in the Schuylkill region, and their great accessibility, seems to have invited a superfluity of delvers, who like bungling reapers destroyed the harvest they had not the skill and wisdom to garner.Overproduction, from the commencement of the trade, has been the main cause of failure in colliery operations. In 1843 there were many operators, the product of whose mines was so small that a handsome profit per ton mined would not have paid the salary of the superintendent. Many operators were so cramped in their circumstances, in consequence of previous losses and a want of capital, that they were evermore "tiding over" a pressing crisis in their affairs by forces sales of their coal, ending in their own ruin and the demoralization of the trade generally.
PRIMITIVE METHOD OF PREPARING COAL-BREAKERS.
The original method of preparing anthracite coal for market was simply to divest it of slate and other impurities and of the fine coal and slack. It was passed over a chute with longitudinal bars about two inches apart, and all that passed over the bars was merchantable coal, and all that passed through them was rejected. There was consequently much coal deposited on the dirt banks, which at the present time is considered of full value; also much left in the mines as unmerchantable on account of its small size. The market would not accept any coal that would not pass for lump coal. After a number of years, however, it was suggested that coal for household purposes ought to be broken at the mines, and John White, the president of the Delaware Coal Company, paid fifty cents per ton extra for coal broken down to a size suitable for burning in grates. The coal thus prepared was known in the market as "broken and screened" and it commanded fifty cents per ton more than lump coal. Finding this mode of preparation received popular favor, the system was extended. Screens were manufactured of iron rods (subsequently of wire) with meshes of various dimensions, which assorted the coal into the sizes now known in commerce. This refinement of preparation, resorted to by the operators to captivate their customers, added greatly to the cost of the coal, for which they were not remunerated, and it cultivated a fastidious fancy for uniformity of size, which was impracticable and of no advantage. Indeed, the caprice of the consumers in the demand for the different sizes of coal, and the fluctuations from one size to another in their preferences, have been a fruitful source of expense and annoyance to the operators every since the introduction of the system.
The first method of breaking coal-on the pile, with hammers was slow, wasteful, expensive, and laborious. After being broken it was shoveled into a revolving screen to remove the dirt, and it was then shoveled into barrows and dumped into the cars.The coal was then hauled to the landings with horses or mules on the railroad, dumped on the wharf, screened and assorted into the various sizes and deposited on a pile, ready to be wheeled into the boat. The whole process was crude, primitive, expensive, and compared with the present system, absurd.
About the year 1842 the breaking and preparation of coal became the subject of great cogitation among the operators, and many improvements were suggested, resulting in the adoption of what became known as the penitentiary; which was a perforated cast iron plate, through which the coal was broken with hammers, the coal falling into a hopper, and from thence into a circular screen worked either by hand horse power, or by steam. It was an improvement on the old system, but it did not meet the requirements of the business.
The first attempts to break coal by machinery were made at Pottsville, we believe, by Mr. Sabbaton, and by Mr. Larer, but, not proving as successful as was anticipated, they were afterward abandoned.
In 1844 the first coal breaker, after the patent of Joseph Batten, of Philadelphia, was erected as an experiment at the colliery of Gideon Bast, at Wolff Creek, near Minersville.So superior was this improvement that it was soon generally adopted through out the coal regions. The machinery constituting the breaker was driven by a steam engine, generally of fifteen to forty horse power, and it consisted of two or more cast iron rollers with projecting teeth, revolving toward each other, through which the coal was passed; and the coal thus broken was conducted into revolving circular screens, separating the different sizes and dropping the coal into a set of chutes or bins, ready to be transferred, by the raising of a gate, into the railway cars. Sufficient elevation above the railway to the dump chutes above the rollers was always secured to carry the coal by gravity through all the stages of preparation into the cars below. Such is the modern coal breaker, which enables the operator to handle an amount of coal that was impossible before its adoption, some of these structures having a capacity of one thousand tons per day. The reader can form no idea of these huge structures from a written description. In a few years they became the conspicuous and striking feature of every colliery of any importance in the several coalfields.
IMPROVEMENTS IN RAILROADS.
The average price of white ash lump coal by the cargo in Philadelphia in 1844 was $3.20 per ton, which was the lowest figure it had ever been sold at. This reduction was caused entirely by the low ration of transportation, induced by the active competition between the canal and railroad interests. The prices of coal at the shipping ports in Schuylkill County ranged from $2.00 to $2.25 per ton, and were fairly remunerative.The demand was good throughout the season, and the result of the year's business was very satisfactory. A great impetus was given to manufactures and all industrial interests by the operation of the tariff of 1842, causing an increased consumption of anthracite coal. The increase in production in the Schuylkill region over that of 1843 was 166,002 tons.
The shipments of coal in 1845 show an increase of 270,003 tons over those of 1844 in the Schuylkill region. The region had doubled its production since 1842, and still maintained the position it had held since 1832 of supplying more than one-half of the amount of anthracite coal sent to market. From the commencement of the trade in 1820 to the end of 1845 the total amount sent from all sources was 13,629,393 tons, of which the Schuylkill region furnished 7,673,163 tons, an excess over all others of 1,716,933 tons.
At the completion of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1842 to Mount Carbon, which was then it terminus; it had merely progressed to the entrance gates of the great southern coalfield.Before the heavy coal tonnage for which the company was aiming could be secured there was much more to be done. All the railroads in Schuylkill county, leading from the landings or shipping ports on the canal to the collieries were in their superstructure wooden roads, strapped with flat bar iron; they were not adapted to the movement of the heavy cars of the Reading Railroad company and it was entirely impracticable to run locomotive engines over them. Moreover, there were connections only with the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven and the Mount Carbon Railroads. A bridge was required at Port Clinton to connect with the Little Schuylkill Railroad; and a new road was required to connect Mount Carbon with the Mill Creek and Schuylkill Valley Railroads at Port Carbon. These lateral railroads were owned by different incorporated companies, who levied tolls on the coal transported over them, of from tow and a half to four cents per ton per mile. In connection with these roads were many short branches, belonging to individuals. All of these roads had to be reconstructed to comport with the changes made in coal transportation.
Before the close of 1845 the lateral railroads had all been reconstructed, and they were operated, with some exceptions, by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company. The introduction of the company's cars on said roads produced a complete revolution in the management of the coal business. When the canal was the only avenue to market the operators had their own cars, and they furnished their own transportation to the terminus of the lateral road, when motive power was used, was reduced from fifty to sixty-six per cent; but they were dependent upon a transportation company for facilities to conduct an essential part of their business, and had thereby lost control of the amount of their production. A short supply of cars became a great grievance, and it crippled many operations. Although the railroad company had been increasing its rolling stock every year it had been unable to keep pace with the demand of the trade for cars. In 1845 the company was overwhelmed with complaints, both of the short supply of cars and of their unfair distribution. The attention of the president of the company having been directed to the abuses of the distribution, he manifested a disposition to extend every accommodation in his power.On the 5th of March 1846, he addressed a circular note to the operators, requesting them to attend a meeting at Pottsville on the 10th of that month, to devise means to insure an equitable distribution of cars during the ensuing season.The meeting was largely attended, embracing all the operators in the region, a number of landholders, and a large representation of wharf-holders at Port Richmond. The interest felt in the proceedings was earnest and absorbing, many of those present believing that their business interests had been inexcusably trifled with, and improved regulations were adopted.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE SCHUYLKILL NAVIGATION.
The Schuylkill Navigation Company had learned, after a few years' experience and competition with its formidable rival, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, that it was in danger of losing the bulk of its coal tonnage, and that to preserve it decided measures must be adopted immediately and put into execution to improve the facilities of the navigation, to enlarge its capacity, and to generally increase its advantages and attractions as an avenue for the transportation of coal. An enlargement of the canal, increasing its capacity so as to float boats of from 180 to 190 tons burden, was determined upon, and the work was completed in 1846.In order to bring this improved navigation into active employment the company directed its attention to the new arrangements required at the shipping ports in the coal region. The old landings were not adapted to the large cars made necessary by the wide gauge of the reconstructed railroads and the use of locomotive power upon them; and the old docks were to contracted for the large barges adapted to the enlarged navigation. New docks, new wharves and landings were consequently required. Prior to the enlargement of the canal and the reconstruction of the lateral railroads, the shippers provided their own landings or rented them from the owners, and they furnished their own cars; nor was it uncommon for the shippers to furnish or partially furnish their own boats. The extension of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad into the region, and the facilities offered to the trade by it, changed the situation, and it devolved upon the navigation company, in order to keep pace with its rival, to furnish the cars in which to transport the coal from the mines to the canal, and to provide all the shipping facilities.It is due to the managers to acknowledge that this enterprise was performed in a manner highly satisfactory to the trade.The new landings were admirably contrived for the purposes intended, combining every essential for convenience, economy and dispatch.
The coal operators regarded the improved and enlarged navigation with unmingled satisfaction. The presumed ability of the navigation company, in its improved condition, to cope with its powerful rival would, it was believed, inure to the advantage of the trade.
The amount of coal sent from the Schuylkill region in 1846 was 1,247,202 tons, a gain of 121,408 over 1845. The trade was reasonably prosperous, the prices fair and well maintained. There were 110 operators in the region and 142 collieries. Thirty-two operators sent to market in round numbers 990,000 tons, leaving only 247,000 tons as the product of seventy-eight operators. There were 107 collieries above and 35 collieries below water level. Twenty-two collieries were in a state of preparation, 12 of which were above and 10 below water level.There were 106 steam engines, of 2,921 horsepower, employed at the collieries, 38 of which were built during the year.
Great expectations of the future of the Schuylkill coal trade were entertained at this period. The Miners' Journal, of Pottsville, remarked upon the prospect as follows: "When we consider the indomitable spirit of perseverance and enterprise which pervades our business community; the two splendid avenues to market, now completed; the numerous railroads penetrating through and almost encircling our region, all of which are now or will soon be re-laid with heavy iron rails; the immense steam power, equaling the capacity of more than 14,000 men, with its iron sinews and unwearied toil, employed in raising, breaking and screening coal; the extent and capacity of the region, the varieties of its coal and its geographical position-it must be clear to the minds of all that Schuylkill county is destined hereafter to increase in wealth and prosperity to an unexampled degree, and far to outstrip her competitors."The supply of anthracite coal from all the regions in 1847 was 2,977,400 tons, an excess over that of the preceding year of 686,623 tons. This was the largest annual increase that had ever occurred.Of this excess 398,721 tons were from the Schuylkill region, notwithstanding there were complaints of a want of transporting facilities during the whole year.This condition of affairs afforded strong evidence of the great preparations that had been made, within a year or two, in increase the yield of the mines; and it presented another example of the irrepressible tendency of the coal producers to overstock the market.
RIVALRY IN TRANSPORTATION.
The Schuylkill Navigation Company transported only 222,693 tons of coal in 1847, the first year after the enlargement, which was attributed to deficient equipment and an injudicious tariff of tolls, which repelled the line trade.
The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company was deeply impressed with the folly of continuing the war which had characterized the business of 1845 in the struggle with the Navigation Company, and it was anxious to enter into an amicable arrangement with the latter company, of mutual advantage, whereby harmonious relations might be established and perpetuated. Early in 1847 an attempt at negotiation between the two companies was made. Believing that the canal would be capable of carrying the increased production, the railroad company made no preparation to extend its business, and it conceded 400,000 tons of the coal tonnage for the ensuing year to the Navigation Company.The latter company rejected this offer with disdain, insisting upon 500,000 tons as its share of the trade. This not being acceded to, the negotiations were broken off, and each company made its own arrangements. It happened that both companies had all the tonnage they could carry, and their united facilities were not equal to the demand of the trade. The sequel was that of 1,583,374 tons of coal sent to market in 1847 by the two avenues, only 222,693 tons were sent by the Schuylkill canal.
The stock of coal remaining over in the market on the 1st of April, 1848, was estimated at 275,000 tons; a burden under which the trade dragged heavily during the whole year. In connection with this circumstance the prostration of business diminished the consumption and checked the demand for coal. The result was a breakdown in prices and a great demoralization in the trade. The production in the Schuylkill region showed an increase of only 89,297 tons.
An agreement entered into between the railroad and navigation companies for the government of the transportation of coal during 1849 had for its basis the principle that the toll and transportation from Pottsville to Philadelphia. The transportation of one-third of the coal tonnage was conceded to the canal, which was estimated to 600,000 tons for this year-the amount actually transported being only 489,208 tons. The tolls for 1849 were adjusted so as to average $1.70 per ton by rail, and 75 cents per ton by canal. These rates were regarded as too high for the languishing condition of the trade-they did not admit of a competition in the market on equality with other regions. It was not apparent to the average understanding why the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company should charge $1.70 per ton for a service that cost no more than 65 cents, or why the Schuylkill Navigation Company should charge 75 cents per ton for a service that it performed without loss before the "enlargement" at 50 cents per ton. How, it was asked, about the great advantages over all other lines of the Reading railroad, with its admirable and uniformly descending grades, in favor of the trade? How about the great reduction in the cost of transportation that was to be accomplished by the improved, the enlarged, the magnificent Schuylkill navigation?The low prices at which coal was offered in 1849, by the dealers in Philadelphia, about the first of March-prices that would not net the operators the ruinous rates of the previous year-caused great excitement in Schuylkill county. A very large meeting of the operators was held at Pottsville on the ninth of March, at which a remarkable unanimity was exhibited and a stern resolution manifested to maintain the prices of coal at a remunerative rate, notwithstanding the sinister arts of the parasites who had fastened themselves upon the vitals of the trade.The co-operation of all the operators in the region was earnestly solicited in the adoption of such measures for their mutual protection as the exigency required. A committee appointed at a former meeting reported substantially that the people of Schuylkill County had been brought to the verge of bankruptcy by a bold and novel system that had been devised in the previous year, and had been again introduced at that time. Some speculative persons enter the eastern markets in advance of the producers, and by offering coal-which they had not yet bought-at prices below the cost of its production they secure all the orders for immediate delivery.The nature of mining requires that the daily product shall have an uninterrupted sale and removal from the mines. Having thus all the orders in their hands, these forestallers avail themselves of this peculiarity in the business, and the want of union for common protection against such a scheme, to alarm the small colliers, and thus to break down the market prices to suit their purposes. In this way a barrier was created between the producers of coal and the consumers, keeping them effectually apart.To put a stop to this unjust system the colliers of Schuylkill County were strongly urged to form an efficient organization without unnecessary delay. The principle was asserted that the only legitimate regulation of prices is the relation between supply and demand, with some reference, of course, to the cost of production.
SUSPENSION AND STRIKE.
It was then resolved, with the concurrence of the operators representing three-fourths of the tonnage of 1848, to suspend the shipment of coal to market from the 19th of March to the 7th of April, both inclusive, except to iron works. This suspension was subsequently continued from week to week until the 2nd of May, making all together seven weeks.
On the 2nd of May, the day appointed for a resumption of work at the mines, the operators were confronted with an organized strike by the miners and laborers for an advance in wages.As usual upon such occasions this movement was attended with demonstrations of violence, the object being to compel their fellow laborers who were disposed to work to join their ranks.Where the men had made terms with their employers and had gone to work, they were driven from the works by large bodies of man armed with clubs and other weapons. The whole difficulty would have been promptly arranged had it not been for the interference of self-constituted leaders, styling themselves a central committee, who arrogated despotic power. The collieries were all in operation again by the 21st of May, but the demand for coal was very moderate, and in a few weeks there were symptoms of a drooping market. To prevent an overstock another suspension of work, for two weeks from the 23d of June, was determined upon. A lethargic feeling in the market continued to the end-no improvement took place, and prices were not maintained.
During the period of the suspension of mining much salutary discussion was had in regard to the morbid condition of the trade, and the reckless disregard of sound business principles and judicious regulation and control, with which it had been suffered to drift along, to the inevitable ruin of all embarked in it. It was estimated that the operators in the Schuylkill region had sunk in 1849 $250,000 on their current business alone, without considering interest on investment.
GENERAL CONDITION OF TRADE TO 1850.
The aggregate quantity of anthracite coal sent to market from the several coal fields in Pennsylvania during the first thirty years of the trade-from 1820 to 1850-was 25,230,421 tons; of which there was derived form the Schuylkill region 13,990,050 tons, or 55.45 per cent. The supply of the last ten years included in the above-from 1840 to 1850-included from the Schuylkill region 10,655,567 tons, or 54.63 per cent.
It will be observed in the above statements that the statements that the supply from the Schuylkill region exceeded that of all the other regions combined, and this was the result, mainly, of individual enterprise in competition with large incorporated companies endowed with special privileges. But while the Schuylkill region greatly surpassed all others in production, the conclusion was not so satisfactory in regard to remuneration for capital invested and time and labor expended. There were weak points in the management of the business which had a very unfavorable influence upon it. The profits realized in favorable years were immediately invested-often with as much more capital or credit as could be secured-in making improvements on lands in which only a leasehold interest was held; instead of requiring the landowners to develop and improve their own properties.In this way all the risk was assumed by the tenants, of the condition of the seams of coal when opened and of the value of the colliery when complete; while large sums of money were expended which were needed in the commercial routine of the business, and especially in marketing the coal without the aid of intermediary factors, who usually absorbed all the profit derived from its production.Another injurious element in the Schuylkill trade was the large number of small operators, many of whom were without sufficient capital to conduct their business properly, and were soon financially embarrassed and caught in the toils of the "middlemen," to whom they sold their coal at reduced prices, under the vain hope that something would turn up opportunity in their behalf. They were in a great measure the cause of the ruinous prices that so frequently prevailed. Subsequently to the period now under review Mr. Cullen, then president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, was reported to have remarked that the mining of coal in the Schuylkill region would not become profitable until the small operators were broken up.
The Schuylkill coal operators, however successful in attaining a large production generally, failed in an essential part of their business-the marketing and sale of their product.Without organization or unity for the conservation of their interests as producers and venders of coal, they rushed into the market in destructive competition with each other, over one hundred in number, as though their object was to break down the market, or to produce a larger tonnage than their neighbors, or perchance to raise money to pay their hands and life some promissory notes. It was only when their affairs became desperate, when a crisis was nearly impending, that a call was made to halt and a spasmodic effort made for self preservation. Under such management, or rather want of management, the periodical distress of the trade was inevitable.
During the ten years ending with 1849 there were only four years of prosperity in the Schuylkill trade. On 10,655,567 tons of coal sent to market from the region during that period there was not probably, on an average, any profit realized by the operators. But if they derived no emolument from their business, other interests in the region, dependent upon the coal trade, flourished and prospered in an eminent degree. As an evidence of this, we need only state that the population of Schuylkill County was 29,072 in 1840, and in 1850 it had increased to 60,713 or over 200 per cent, in ten years.
FLOODS IN 1850.
In the spring of the year 1850 the Schuylkill coal trade wore a gloomy aspect. It was universally conceded that unless something was done to arrest the downward tendency of the trade the operators must sink under the difficulties with which they were contending. An appeal to the landowners and to the transporting companies for aid was in contemplation. A disastrous crisis was closely impending. The sheriff had already closed out some of the colliers, and others were "hanging on to the willows."This deplorable condition of affairs continued until the 19th of July, when by the interposition of Providence a great flood swept down the valleys of the Schuylkill and the Lehigh, which suspended navigation for a period, restricted the supply of coal and changed the whole aspect of the trade. Hope again lent its inspiration to the operators; and when on the 2nd of September a still greater flood descended than the first, rendering it certain that the prices of coal must advance, they felt that their situation had been affirmed.The storm of the 18th and 19th of July, 1850, was of an extraordinary character for that season of the year, and it was particularly severe in the valley of the Schuylkill. Property to a vast amount was destroyed. The boatmen suffered heavily by the loss of boats, the coal operators by the loss of coal and the inundation of the mines. The damage to the Schuylkill canal was considerable. It was not until the 28th of August that the navigation was restored.
Only five days after the movement of loaded boats had fairly commenced-on the 2nd of September-a second flood descended, which destroyed the Schuylkill navigation for the remainder of the year.The destructive force of the flood was tremendously augmented by the bursting of the Tumbling run reservoir, and, as a consequence, the breaking away of the numerous dams in the Schuylkill river. The reservoir covered twenty-eight acres of ground, was forty-two feet high at the breast of the embankment, and contained over 23,000,000 cubic feet of water. The effect of suddenly precipitating such an immense volume of water into an already swollen and angry flood, roaring and dashing through a narrow mountain gorge, is beyond imaging.It was the highest freshet, and the most destructive to life and property, known from memory or tradition to have visited the Schuylkill. At some places the river rose twenty-five feet above its ordinary level, and covered the Reading railroad track at several points for the depth of three to five feet.In referring to this freshet the president of the Schuylkill Navigation Company says: "A flood with which nothing that has heretofore occurred in the valley of the Schuylkill within the memory of man can be compared. In the great elevation of the waters, in the destruction of property and life, and indeed in all it accompaniments, no living witnesses have seen its parallel. The most stable buildings were compelled to yield to the fury of the raging waters, and the very foundations of the mountains in many places were actually swept out."After the September freshet the prices of coal on board vessels at Port Richmond advanced $1 per ton, which prices were maintained until the close of the season. The cars and machinery of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company were taxed to their utmost capacity, day and night, to supply the urgent demand for coal after the September flood. The amount of coal transported by the company during 1850 was 1,351,507 tons, an increase of 253,745 tons over the tonnage of the preceding year. From the Schuylkill region, including the Lykens valley, there was an increase in the supply of 59,677 tons compared with that of 1849.
RIVAL MARKETS AND TRANSPORTATION LINES.
The antagonism in the New York and eastern markets of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, and the Pennsylvania Coal Company, to the Schuylkill coal operators and dealers assumed a determined shape in 1851. It was alleged that a combination had been formed by those companies to conduct their sales so as to command the whole market as far as possible, leaving the Schuylkill region to supply only so much coal as the combination might be unable to mine or transport.An effort was made to secure a mutual good understanding with these parties in reference to charges for transportation and to the quantity to be mined, but they were determined to lend no hand to effect an arrangement. The Schuylkill region had heretofore supplied more than one-half of the anthracite coal consumed, and the parties interested in the mining and transportation of coal from that region were not willing to submit to or acquiesce in a policy by which they would be unable to maintain their accustomed position, and command their usual proportion of the trade.The managers of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company resolved to adjust their charges so as to meet the occasion and commanded a fair proportion of the trade. Before, however, giving publicity to the course upon which they had determined, arrangements were made with the parties occupying the wharves at Port Richmond to secure the large tonnage of the year. This covert movement excited the suspicion of the managers of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, who believed the canal was being deprived, by some underhanded measure, of its portion of the trade, and that the terns of the arrangement between the two companies were being violated. Instigated by these impressions, the managers, with great precipitancy, made such extraordinary reductions in the tolls on the canal that the whole trade was thrown into confusion. The results of these complications were unprecedentedly cheap transportation, a spirited demand for coal at low prices, a greatly augmented production and supply, and the introduction of anthracite coal into new markets. Over one half the supply was furnished, as previously, by the Schuylkill region. The supply of anthracite from all the regions in 1851 was 4,428,919 tons, an increase of 1,151,554 tons over the supply of 1850. The increase in the supply from the Schuylkill was 535,656 tons over the supply of 1850.
It was a cause for wonder and surprise that the heavy supply of coal in 1851 had almost disappeared by the opening of spring in 1852, and the market was seeking with avidity a fresh supply. The notable increase in the consumption of coal was due to the relief of the business depression, the resumption of operations at the iron works and other manufactories that had been totally or partially suspended for a long time; the impulse given to ocean steam navigation and the coasting trade; the expansion induced by low prices, facilitated by the extension of the railway system of the country into new markets; the increase in population, and the great scarcity and high price of wood. During the whole of 1852 the anthracite coal trade was prosperous.The operators received a fair return for capital invested and labor was liberally rewarded.
A statistical chart, prepared by Benjamin Bannan, Charles W. Peale and Colonel J. Macomb Wetherell, for the World's Fair, held in New York in 1853, furnished the following statistics of the Schuylkill coal region: Number of collieries, 115; red ash, 58; white ash, 57; operators, 86; miles of underground railroads, 126 1/2; steam engines employed in the coal operations, 210; aggregate horse power, 7,071; number of miners and laborers employed at collieries, 9,792; miners' houses, out of towns, 2,756; capital invested in collieries, $3,462,000; of which there was invested by individual operators about $2,6000,000; number of yards in depth of the deepest slope, 353; thickness in feet of the largest vein of coal, 80; of the smallest, 2. The coal lands worked in 1853 were owned by six corporations and about sixty individuals; about twenty-five of the owners resided in Schuylkill county; the remainder abroad. The entire coal production of 1853 was the result of individual enterprise. The coal royalty in the region averaged about thirty cents per ton. The income to the landowners in 1853 for rents was nearly $800,000.
There were several obstructions to an even flow of the coal trade in 1853. In the fall of 1852 a decline in prices of coal occurred and some loss was sustained by dealers on their stocks laid in before the decline. Mistrusting that the same condition would occur in 1853, they delayed making their purchases in the spring and influenced others to pursue a similar course, and as a consequence, the production fell off largely. Until after the first of June the trade moved sluggishly and prices ruled low. After that the demand for coal improved, and by the middle of July it became importunate and could not be satisfied. Frequent local strikes by the miners, who had become demoralized by the advance in wages previously paid, reduced the yield of the mines and proved the fact that the higher the wages the less the percentage of production.
In the mean time the demand for coal for steamers, iron works and other manufacturing purposes became so great that coal, which sold at $1.80 at the mines in the spring, was run up to $2.50 and $3 before the close of the season. The consumption of coal had apparently overtaken the capability of the mines for production, and the supply was decidedly short, as was made quite apparent the following year.
A PERIOD OF PROSPERITY.
The year 1854 is remembered by those engaged in coal mining at that time as the "good year." It was indeed an extraordinary year in the history of the coal trade; extraordinary for the demand and high prices for coal, for the high rates of transportation, the high prices of provisions, the high prices of labor, and the stringency of the money market.Every department of business connected with the production and transportation of coal was distinguished for its prosperity.
The trade opened in the spring under the most auspicious circumstances.Coal was in great request. The market was in a depleted condition. The rush and struggle for coal which soon ensued surpassed the expectations of the most sanguine.The operators were masters of the situation, and they would have been censurable, in view of losses in the past, had they not availed themselves of the rare opportunity to improve their fortunes. The demand continued pressing, almost without pause, until the close of navigation, prices reaching $3.50 per ton at the shipping ports in the coal region.
The cost of the transportation of coal to tide water and the coastwise freights advanced in a proportional degree with the price of coal at the mines. Freight from Port Richmond to Boston advanced from $2 to $3.80 per ton.
Labor, and every material entering into the cost of coal, advanced in price in as great or a greater degree than that product, as will be seen by the following quotations:
Flour per bbl $5.50 $9.50
Corn per bushel 70 1.15
Oats 42 66
Potatoes 45 1.30
Pork per lb. 07 10 1\2
Beef 08 12
Lumber per M 13.00 18.00
Iron advanced ninety and miners' wages from forty to fifty per cent.
One of the most interesting events in 1854 was the presentation at the Mansion House at Mount Carbon, on the 11th of October, by gentlemen of Philadelphia interested in the coal deposits of Schuylkill county, of a tea service of silver to Enoch W. McGinnes as a token of their appreciation of his invaluable service to the region in the development he so successfully made at the Cartey shaft at St. Clair. Mr. McGinnes sunk the first perpendicular shaft in the Schuylkill region, and demonstrated the fact that the great white ash coal veins of the Mine hill and Broad mountain ranges ran under the red ash series of the Schuylkill basin.He established the face of the accessibility for practical working of the white ash coal measures throughout the entire basin.
OPENING OF MAHANOY VALLEY.
The extension of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad to the Mahanoy region at Ashland was completed in September 1854. This was the first practicable and effective railroad to penetrate the great Mahanoy coalfield. In anticipation of the approach of the railroad a number of collieries were in a state of preparation, a large number of houses had been erected, and a considerable population had centered at Ashland and vicinity during 1854. The first car of coal sent over the road was from the mines of Conner & Patterson, and was consigned to John Tucker, the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company.Neither the branch railroads nor the collieries were ready for business, and the regular shipments of coal did not commence until the following spring.
The amount of coal sent to market from the Schuylkill region in 1855 was 3,513,860 tons, 417,958 more than in the preceding year.Judging by the amount of the production a superficial study of the trade of this year would indicate a satisfactory condition of prosperity. But a closer examination reveals the fact that the great volume of the business was the mistake and the misfortune of the trade; the operators were stimulated to make improvements and extensive preparations for an enlarged business, instead of nursing their resources and accumulating for a year or two. The consequence was overproduction, a plethoric market and low prices.
Impressed with the folly of the recklessness of the past, and smarting under the losses sustained in their business, a determined effort was resolved upon by a number of the leading Schuylkill operators to bring the coal business within the control of safe and rational principles. Early in February 1856, a coal association was organized, with Samuel Sillyman, a man of sound judgment and large experience, as president. Meetings were held every Tuesday and Friday to deliberate upon the condition and prospects of the trade in the near future, to promote unity and steadfastness of action, and to devise measures for mutual protection and benefit.
COMPETITION IN CARRYING-JOHN TUCKER'S MANAGEMENT
Among the most effective causes of a drooping market in the spring of 1856 was the opening of new sources of\ supply. The new avenue to market from Scranton to New York had a malign influence on the trade; not so much by what could actually be accomplished by that route as by its high pretensions and boastful promises. With all these blatant pretensions the total amount of Scranton coal sent to competitive points in 1856 was only 85,668.
The rates of transportation to tide water for the year were of vital importance to the Schuylkill coal operators, and not the promulgation of the new program was looked for with great solicitude.The influx of coal from the Lackawanna region by a new avenue, and the candidature of the Lehigh Valley Railroad company for a proportion of coal tonnage to its new road, made it of great consequence that a conflict between the transporting companies should be avoided and an equitable adjustment of rates be established. The miners of coal who were without transporting facilities of their own had become deeply sensible of the disadvantage they were laboring under in being forced into competition with large corporations possessing mining and transporting privileges, who could when so disposed sacrifice all profit in the mining to secure profit on the transportation of their product.
About the first of May the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, John Tucker, having discovered that the tolls to Port Richmond were equivalent to the prices of the New York companies in the New York market, but were fifteen cents too high for the eastern markets, concluded to make a drawback of fifteen cents to the latter points and not disturb the rates to other points; because if he did the Pennsylvania Coal Company assured him they would reduce their prices for coal.This arrangement it was supposed would remove all difficulty, and restore animation to the Schuylkill trade. Frederick Frailey, the president of the Schuylkill Navigation company, was no sooner apprised of this measure than he, either misapprehending the object or suspecting a design to take advantage of the Navigation Company, immediately announced a reduction in the toll by canal to Philadelphia of fifteen cents per ton-from 80 to 65 cents. This surprising movement unsettled the whole trade. The Reading Company, in order to maintain its relative position with the canal in the New York market, was obliged to reduce the toll on the road fifteen cents per ton, and the New York companies reduced the priced of coal in a corresponding degree. This reduction, so far from being of any service to the trade, added to the evil it was already suffering from. It created an impression abroad that there might be another season of destructive competition among the transporting companies; and dealers and consumers withheld their orders in anticipation of still lower rates.The reduction did not benefit the operators-the only parties really suffering-as it was deducted from the price of coal at tide water; and it proved an unnecessary sacrifice of profit on transportation, without increasing the consumption. The result of the year's business was a decline of nineteen cents per ton in the price of coal at the mines below the low rated of 1855.
The amount of coal sent to market from the Schuylkill region in 1856 was 3,437,245 tons, a decrease of 76,615 tons compared with the supply of the preceding year. The supply from the Schuylkill region in the 1857 was 273,376 tons less than that of 1876, and it was the first year since 1832 that this region did not furnish over half the entire supply of anthracite coal from all the coal fields. The position then lost has not since been recovered, even with the accession of the Mahanoy region.The market at the opening of canal navigation in 1857 was sufficiently stocked to supply immediate wants, and the demand was consequently very sluggish, and so remained for several months. The depression in business generally caused an interruption to the usual percentage of increase in the consumption of coal, and the capacity for production in the different regions was consequently greatly in excess of the requirements of the market.The large New York companies entered into a desperate struggle and rivalry for the market, initiating their proceedings by a reduction of about fifty cents per ton in the prices of coal, as compared with the prices of the preceding year.The trade progressed in a languishing way until September, when the ever-memorable monetary convulsion took place, paralyzing industry, destroying confidence and credit, bankrupting thousands of businessmen and producing a general contraction or collapse in business transactions. Many of the operators had reached that condition when an additional feather's weight would break them down, and they now succumbed.
EFFORTS TO ACQUIRE CONTROL OF THE COAL TRADE.
The Schuylkill coal operators early in 1857 entered into an arrangement with John Tucker, who had resigned the presidency of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, to assume the regulation of the Schuylkill coal trade. Mr. Tucker by his long acquaintance with the movements of the trade, the official intercourse he had held with the representatives of the different mining and transporting companies, and his ready tact, superior management and ability, was admirably qualified for the position. After due deliberation it was determined to give a plan submitted by Mr. Tucker a fair trial. Operators representing over three millions of tons subscribed to the new arrangement. Mr. Tucker became the head of the coal association and assumed the duty of controlling the supply of coal, so that it could not fall below a paying price to the producer. His utmost skill and energy were applied to this work, but he must have ascertained that it was more difficult to manage the Schuylkill coal trade than the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The effort to regulate the trade and make it prosperous was a failure. The time was inauspicious and the trade incorrigible. After the financial crash in September every operator was left to his own devices. Sales were made at the best prices that could be obtained. The result of the year's business was a great disappointment.
On the 21st of January 1858, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company sold at auction in the city of New York 10,000 tons of Lackawanna coal, $1 per ton below the circular prices of the company at the close of the preceding year.Whatever the original object was in resorting to this unprecedented expedient, it became the usual practice of this company.The system of periodical sales of coal at public auction was interjected into the business as a permanent measure. This reprehensible practice has proved to the trade an incubus of the most blighting description. To obtain a monopoly in the market the profit on the carriage of the coal became the main object, to which the product of the mines was made entirely tributary.No other measure could be devised so well adapted to demoralize the trade and to depreciate the commercial value of the article sold. If the evil consequences of the practice were confined to the parties indulging in it, there would not be so much cause for complaint, but unfortunately they permeate the whole trade; the prices obtained becoming the standard of value. By these periodical forced sales the mining interest as a specialty, its capital and the product of thousands of operatives have been disregarded and sacrificed-made a subservient auxiliary of a transporting company and of its stock jobbing operations. The low prices at which these sales of coal were made-always below the cost of production, adding the tolls-amounted virtually to a reduction in the rate of transportation on the company's coal, and to a monopoly of the Scranton coal trade at Elizabeth.The other coal companies and individual operators in the Lackawanna region could not pay the prescribed toll on the railroad and deliver coal at Elizabethport in competition with the company without sustaining a heavy loss, and their only alternative, therefore, was to sell their coal to the company at any price they were offered.The Schuylkill operators viewed with great alarm the illegitimate methods pursued by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company. In the exercise of its privilege to both mine and transport coal that company threatened destruction to individual enterprise in the Schuylkill region. Having no transporting facilities of their own, the Schuylkill operators were virtually excluded from the New York and Eastern markets unless large concessions were made in the charges for transportation by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company and the Schuylkill Navigation Company. Low tolls and freights were absolutely necessary in this crisis. It was the interest of those companies to support the region from whence they derived their tonnage. The navigation company made no abatement in the tolls, but allowed the whole burden to fall upon the poor boatmen, in an unprecedented reduction in freights. Just enough was conceded by the Reading Railroad Company to induce the producers to continue operations, taking care to exact from the trade a profit to base a dividend upon. This contracted and illiberal policy caused great dissatisfaction in the region in 1858 and 1859, and a strong effort was made to build a railroad direct to New York, as a radical remedy for the evils that encompassed the trade.The Reading Railroad Company succeeded in thwarting this project. The increase in the supply of coal in 1859 compared with the supply in 1855, from all the regions, was 1,136,909 tons, while during the same period the decrease from the Schuylkill region was 326,533 tons.
A notable feature of the Schuylkill coal trade in 1858 was the upheaval of labor. Strikes for higher wages were frequent, and in some instances stubbornly prolonged. Wages were based upon the prices of coal and were undoubtedly reduced to a low standard. The workingmen got all that the proceeds of their labor would bring in the market, while their employers were receiving nothing for the use of their capital. The attempt to exact more than their labor was worth at that time, by a combination and turnout, was necessarily a failure, and it recoiled upon those who essayed it, with suffering and loss.
TRADE DURING THE FIRST FORTY YEARS.
The supply of anthracite coal from all the regions during the first forty years of the trade-from 1820 to 1860-was 83,887,934 tons. Of this amount the Schuylkill region furnished 42,719,723 tons, or 50.93 per cent. In the decade ending with 1849 the Schuylkill region furnished 54.62 per cent of the whole supply; in the decade ending with 1859 it furnished 49 per cent.Comparing the shipments from each region during the ten years ending with 1859 with the shipments of the ten preceding years, we find an increase from the Schuylkill region of 18,047,106, or 169.62 per cent; from the Lehigh region of 7,359,920 tons, or 170 per cent; from the Wyoming region of 12,531,661 tons, or 285.72 per cent; and from the Shamokin region of 1,185,402 tons, or 809 per cent. The aggregate increase from all the regions was 39,151,089 tons.The supremacy heretofore held by the Schuylkill coal trade was gradually departing. The tendency of the trade was alarming, and it invoked the profound solicitude of the intelligent operators, whose fortunes were involved in its prosperity or adversity. For a number of years investigations and interchange of opinions had been made in regard to the characteristics of coal mining in the Schuylkill region-the errors committed and the remedies best to be applied. Proud of their achievements as individual operators, in contrast with incorporated companies, yet there was a decided change of opinion manifested about this time (1860) in regard to the wisdom of the system upon which their mining operations had so far been conducted. The mistakes of the region were becoming manifest, and their consequences obvious to all. It was becoming more and more evident that associated capital was essential for the development and improvement of the region thenceforward. Since the trade first sprang into importance, very nearly all the money made in it was invested in improvements upon leasehold properties, of insufficient area for durable operations.In a paper read by P.W. Sheafer before the Pottsville Scientific Association in 1858, he says: "It is doubtless unfavorable to the profitable working of our coal beds that there is frequently both a want of capital and of the proper concentration of that which exists.Certainly no method of mining coal can be less economical than to fit out a number of separate operations upon comparatively small estates, with all the necessary engines and other improvements, instead of selecting a suitable point from which the coal of several adjacent tracts could be worked by one large operation equipped in the best manner. This policy can only be carried out effectively by the union of the proprietors of adjacent tracts. Indeed the pursuit of the coal below the water level, requiring increased capital, has already tended to the concentration of the business of mining in fewer hands; and as the necessity of shafting to the lower coals becomes more apparent, the discussion, among those interested, of an enlightened system of harmonious action is more and more frequent."
CONDITION OF SCHUYLKILL OPERATORS.
The Schuylkill coal operators were scarcely ever without a grievance. Being subject to the arrangements of the transporting companies for the movement of their product, they were as a consequence peculiarly exposed to measures of a grievous tendency. They had no voice in the regulation or control of one of the most important elements of their business-transportation to market. The tolls imposed were inexorable and they were cunningly devised to stimulate production of tonnage without promoting the prosperity of the producer. In the Schuylkill, as in the Lackawanna and other regions, the coal mining interest was reduced to a subservient vassalage to the transporting interest.The operators, instead of being recognized by the carrying companies as patrons or customers, whom it was politic to cultivate, were regarded as machines to provide tonnage for their lines, which it was their interest to keep in good running order-that and nothing more. The coal operators might have asked with great propriety whether individual enterprise in coal mining, with hired transportation, could ever compete with the large companies possessing mining, trafficking and transporting privileges.
The particular grievance with the Schuylkill operators in 1860 was that the rates of transportation did not place them on an equality with the producers from other regions in the New York and eastern markets.The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, in the report of the managers, showed that the quantity of coal transported in 1860 was 1,878,156 tons, and the receipts for tolls on coal were $2,328,157.52. A comparison with the coal business of the road in 1859 shows an increase of 245,224 tons carried, an increase of $444,472.40 in receipts and an increase of $367,742.86 in profits. The net profit on the general business of the company, after deducting all expenses and the renewal fund, was $1,625,984.67. The dividend fund after deducting interest on the bonded debt was $894,863.67 as against $388,329.42 in 1859.The report makes a very favorable exhibit to the stockholders, but at the same time it seems to justify the complaints of illiberal exactions in the charges imposed.
In 1861, for the first time in the history of the trade, the supply of coal from the Wyoming region exceeded in quantity that from the Schuylkill, and this supremacy it has held ever since, except in 1865 and 1866. The entire supply of 1861 was 595,001 tons less than in the preceding year. The falling off in the Schuylkill region was 653,903 tons. The war excitement interfered seriously with the movement of the coal trade, and many of the collieries were crippled by the departure of numbers of miners and laborers, who had enlisted as volunteers in the army. The general depression in business that prevailed this year, and the prostration of the iron trade and other industrial pursuits of a peaceful character especially, induced a greatly diminished consumption. Competition, always excessive, was double intensified, and prices of coal depressed almost beyond precedent.The general result of the year's business was consequently even less favorable than in 1860.
The same disadvantages and inequality under which the Schuylkill trade struggled in 1860 were again imposed by the transporting companies in 1861. The loss in coal tonnage of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was 417,324 tons, and of the Navigation Company 173,118 tons, compared with the tonnage of the previous year. The operators felt that they had become the pack horses to bear the burdens of the trade for the benefit of the carrying companies. They believed that ruin would inevitably overtake every one engaged in the trade unless some effective remedy was promptly applied.
The extraordinary action of the Pennsylvania Coal Company in reducing the prices of coal in the spring of 1862, about fifty cents per ton below the opening rates of the preceding year, elicited a burst of indignation in all the coal regions.The promulgation of their circular paralyzed the trade.But the depression caused by that action proved to be the finale of the gloomy period in the history of the coal trade.
DAWN OF BETTER TIMES.
The increasing consumption of anthracite coal by the United States government for war purposes, and by manufacturers of war material, gave an impetus to the trade that was gradually improving its condition, and would have been quicker and more decided in its effects had it not been for the folly of some of the producers. It required the intervention of Providence to administer a quick and effective remedy for the ills of the trade, and this was applied on the 4th of June 1862, by a flood of unexampled violence and destructiveness. The navigation of the Schuylkill was interrupted about three weeks, of the Lehigh until the 4th of October. One of the consequences of the freshet was a diminution of nearly a million of tons in the supply of coal for the year. Prices of coal, of transportation, and of labor rose rapidly.The price of coal on board vessels at Port Richmond advanced from $2.65 in April, to $5.75 before the end of the season, and averaged for the year $4.14, against $3.39 in 1861.
After the June freshet the miners became exacting.Frequent acts of violence were committed and unlawful demonstrations made by men on a strike. Before the close of the season numerous turnouts took place, and a number of collieries were forcibly stopped.
The project of building a railroad direct to New York was revived in 1862. On the 15th of July books for subscription to the stock of the Schuylkill Haven and Lehigh Railroad Company were opened at Philadelphia and a majority of the stock taken. On the 5th of August following the company was organized, engineers employed to locate the road, and a vigorous effort made to carry out the project. After the road had been put under construction the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company succeeded in stopping it.
The following railroads were leased by the Philadelphia and Reading and taken possession of at the periods named: Schuylkill Valley and Mill Creek railroads, Sept. 1st, 1861; Swatara, April 1st, 1862; Mount Carbon, May 16th, 1862; Mahanoy and Broad Mountain, July 1st, 1862; Union Canal, July 25th, 1862.
The Mahanoy and Broad Mountain Railroad was completed late in May 1862.The first car of coal passed over the road on the 30th of May, from the mines of Connor and Patterson, consigned to Charles E. Smith, president of the Reading Railroad, Philadelphia. On the 4th of June occurred that memorable flood by which the road was so seriously damaged that three months were required to make the necessary repairs.
The demand for coal throughout 1863 exceeded the most extravagant calculations made early in the season, and was greater than the producing and transporting companies could supply. Prices consequently ruled higher than ever known before.The season opened with a bare market. Notwithstanding there was an increase of 1,747,445 tons in production during the year, the consumption was so great that no stock in first hands was left over for sale in any of the great markets. The prices of coal on board vessels at Philadelphia in 1863 advanced from $5.38 per ton in January to $7.13 in December; averaging for the year $6.06, as against $4.14 in 1862.
The cost of producing coal increased at a greater ratio than did its cost to consumers in the leading markets of the seaboard. The following comparison of the cost of the items named in November 1862, and November 1863, is taken from the books of a large operator. Laborers per week, $6, $12; miners, $7.50, $18; powder per keg, $4, $4.75; whale oil per gallon, .90, $1.25; iron rails per ton, $45, $90; corn per bushel, .60, .90, oats per bushel, .45, .90; hay per ton, $12, $30; lumber per thousand feet, $12, $28; mules each, $150, $240; miners by contract per day, $2, $5.
The high wages received by miners caused considerable dissatisfaction among those engaged in other pursuits. The remuneration to skilled mechanics, to experienced accountants, to mining engineers, to learned professional men, was far below that of the uneducated miner. The anomaly was presented of muscle, applied six to eight hours per day, receiving better reward than brains, exercised from the rising to the setting of the sun.And yet those pampered miners demanded still more. The coal regions were rendered hideous by violence and outrages committed in the enforcement of their importunate and unreasonable demands.The lives of the superintendents and agents of the operators were threatened in written notices, conspicuously posted, couched in execrable language and hideously embellished with drawings of pistols and coffins. Nor did they hesitate to use their pistols upon any slight pretext or occasion, with the feelings and in the spirit of hired assassins. Their fellow workmen who were well disposed were forced to acquiesce, at the peril of their lives, in this reign of terror. To prevent the anthracite coal regions from sinking into a state of barbarity-to prevent the center of a great industry from becoming a pandemonium for outlaws-and to secure to the government a supply of coal for war purposes, it became necessary to occupy the coalfields with national troops. The rioters were controlled by a number or imported professional agitators, whose business it was to sow dissension, to cultivate discontent, and to organize conspiracies.
The coal regions also became the harbor of another class of immigrants.These were confirmed and hardened criminals, the scum of foreign lands. Desperate and unscrupulous, they were the terror of every neighborhood, and exercised a fearful domination over their fellow workmen. These were the Mollie Maguires, the men to waylay and murder superintendents, to burn coal breakers, and to commit every description of outrage.
PERIOD OF GREATEST EXPANSION.
The year 1864 was a period of overflowing and bountiful prosperity.It was notable for the high standard of values of all staple commodities, and in the anthracite coal trade for the wonderful expansion in all its branches-with high prices for coal, high prices for labor, high rates for transportation, and a great appreciation in value of every material entering into the cost of the production of coal. It was also notable in the coal regions for the aggravated nature of the aggressions of labor against capital, and for the turbulence, violence and flagrant outrages committed with impunity by numbers of workmen employed at the mines. Such was the contemptuous disregard of the restraints of law and civilization, and such was the subdued meekness of capital in its relation to labor, that a true and faithful narrative of the events of that and subsequent periods will scarcely be credited after the lapse of not many years.
The year was notable for the large fortunes suddenly acquired by the sale of collieries, as well as by the profits in mining; by the extensive sales of coal lands; and by the organization of numerous coal corporation. The exceptional times of 1864 afforded a number of coal operators an opportunity to retire from the business, with a competency who had been on the brink of bankruptcy.Of these a few were wise enough to embark in safer enterprises. Many more returned to their first love, and wer scorched in the flames of their own carbon. Some invested in oil, and their hard earned gains soon slipped smoothly away. Very few were left after a few years who had anything substantial remaining of the good times of 1864.
The expansion of 1864 greatly hastened a revolution then under progress. The arrogance and demoralization of labor finally deprived capital of the control of its investments. The operators having lost control of the business, and capital being repelled by lawlessness, the danger was that the coal regions would lapse into a wilderness again. The transporting companies, to prevent these evil consequences and to preserve their coal tonnage, were compelled to intervene and assume control of the coal producing interest. In this way the Schuylkill region was rescued from dilapidation by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company. This event was not consummated until some years after the period under consideration, but is alleged that the events of 1864 precipitated the revolution.
Very extensive sales were made of coal lands in 1864 at prices ruling much higher than ever before, though some of the estates then sold commanded better prices subsequently, when the pulse of the capitalist beat in its normal condition. The purchase and sale of coal lands and collieries in 1864 were followed by a furor for acts of incorporation. In the Schuylkill, Mahanoy and Shamokin regions alone about fifty coal companies were organized in that year. Many of them were organized for speculative purposes alone, and they had but an ephemeral existence. Others, with substantial assets and healthy organizations, embarked in the business of mining and selling coal under favorable auspices, followed by considerable success.The price of anthracite coal on board vessels at Port Richmond in 1864 ranged from $7.25 per ton in January to $11 in August, declining to $8.50 in December. About the middle of September the trade became dull, with receding prices. Shipments fell off heavily, and prices declined $2 per ton in one month. In August coal retailed in New York at $13 to $14 for 2,000 pounds.
The commencement of the year was distinguished by a fresh installment of trouble in Cass Township, at the mines of the Forest Improvement Company, which had commenced in 1863. On the 16th of February Generals Couch and Sigel visited the region to make inquiry into the state of affairs, which resulted in the beginning of April in stationing a portion of the 10th regiment of New Jersey in Cass Township, which restored order in that district.
BOATMEN'S GRIEVANCES AND TURNOUT OF RAILROAD EMPLOYES.
A difficulty occurred between the boatmen and the Schuylkill Navigation Company, growing out of the fact that the fluctuations in the freights had heretofore been an obstacle in making contracts for the delivery of coal by canal. The navigation company proposed to enter into contracts with the boatmen to carry coal at fixed rates of freight during the year, or at least for stated periods of time, which would enable dealers to make contracts for the delivery of coal by canal at fixed sums, the company collecting the freights, who would account to the boatmen. The boatmen, however, regarded the project with great hostility, and became very much excited upon the subject. They contended that it would be giving all their privileges as individuals to the navigation company, and they declared that a combination had been formed between the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company and the Schuylkill Navigation Company, by which their interests were made identical.The rivalry between them ceased, they alleged, because the business was sufficient for both-the necessity for competition had passed away. The only obstacle to excessive charges for freight, they believed, consisted in the fact that the boatmen of the Schuylkill canal, being owners of the boats, could, upon the payment of the tolls, as limited by the charter of the navigation company, carry the coal at such rates as they deemed proper, and thereby enter into competition with both the canal and the railroad company.The boatmen's idea of entering into competition with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company-"that voracious and devouring monopoly"-for the conservation of the coal trade was magnanimous, it was chivalrous. But even then it was too late.The fiat had gone forth-although not fully revealed-that for weal or for woe the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company was destined to own and control the Schuylkill coal trade, from the minutest filaments of the roots to the topmost branches of the tree. The obstacles attempted to be interposed by the boatmen to the plans of that ambitious and powerful company were never felt, and the boatmen, before many years, were dependent upon that company for employment, protection and support. There was a time when the boatmen exercised considerable influence upon the coal trade.They were not so conservative then. They exacted the last dollar from the trade that it would bear. The most annoying branch of the business at that time was the freighting of boats on the canal. But it is not generous to visit the sins of the fathers upon even the second generation, and this second generation had been subjected to such a crucial ordeal in past years as to merit public sympathy.
In the first week of July 1864, a turnout of the engineers and brakemen on the lateral railroads suspended the coal trade in the Schuylkill region. In consequence of the interruption to the supply of coal for government use the Reading railroad and its branches were seized for the military service of the United States, and a new set of hands sent on from Washington to work the lateral railroads. After two weeks demonstration of their strength-with parade and flourish of banners, accompanied with music of drums and fife-the old hands resumed their positions without having obtained the object of the strike.
The great central fair for the Sanitary commission held in Philadelphia in 1864 afforded an opportunity to the liberal minded citizens of this country to show their patriotism, benevolence, and charity. To Colonel Henry L. Cake, of the St. Nicholas Colliery, in the Mahanoy region, belongs the honor of having originated and set the example of making contributions in coal to this great charity. No sooner was it known that he had set apart Saturday, May 14th, as his contribution of a day's production of coal from his colliery for the benefit of the fair than he was notified that the freight and toll would be remitted for its passage over the Reading Railroad and the Little Schuylkill Railroad, so that the good cause would receive the whole proceeds of the sale of the coal. The coal-forty cars, containing 210 tons-was sold at the Corn Exchange rooms in Philadelphia on Monday, the 16th of May. The proceeds amounted to $1,605.20. The largest contribution made was by Davis Pearson & Company, being half the proceeds of the sale of 101 cars of coal, amounting to $1,830.61. In addition to the above we find the following reported from the Schuylkill region. The total amount contributed from the anthracite regions was $62,003.46.The employees of the following houses contributed the sums mentioned: St Nicholas Colliery, $200; Wheeler, Miller & Co., $124.53; J.& E. Sillyman, $125; Hammet, Vandusen & Co., $305; George W. Snyder, $314.75; William Milnes, Jr., & Co., $511.50; J.M. Freck & Co., $154.85; T. Garretson & Co., $248.69. There were donated by T. Garretson & Co. 41 cars of coal; J. & E. Sillyman added $200 to the gifts of their employees mentioned above.
FLUCTUATIONS IN TRADE.
That the inflated prices of all commodities in 1864 should recede as the rebellion faded away was natural, and a transition state of trade generally was revealed in 1865.The immediate effect of the restoration of peace was a partial paralysis of the iron trade, and of the manufacture of cotton and woolen fabrics; and a long list of supplies for the army and navy received a check to their manufacture. This was followed by stagnation in the coal trade, and a decline in prices to a point below the cost of production. The demand from the government almost ceased, and from manufacturers it was very much diminished, at a reduction in prices of over $2 per ton. To meet this great change, a new basis of operations was necessary. A reduction in expenses was essential.Labor was the principal element in the cost of producing coal, and the wages of labor were out of proportion to the value of its productions. A reduction was proposed of twenty-five to thirty-three per cent in wages, which was resisted. A partial suspension of work at the collieries followed. Not until after two months times were the terms of the reduction generally accepted.
The depression in the trade continued until about the 1st of August, when business began to revive, the demand for coal improved and prices advanced. The turnout in the Lackawanna region, which caused a total cessation of mining for about ten weeks, alarmed consumers during its progress, and stimulated the demand to a degree that overtaxed the productive and transporting capacity of other regions and again ran up the price of coal and labor. The loss in the supply of coal, compared with that of the year 1864, which was over a million of tons on the 1st of August, was reduced at the end of the year to 625,896 tons.So rapid was the advance in wages that by the 1st of October they had risen $5 a week to laborers, and about 55 cents a wagon for cutting coal by the cargo at Philadelphia opened at $8.38 in January, declined to $6.03 in July, and advanced to $8.93 in October, averaging for the year $7.86, as against $8.39 in 1864.
The supply of coal from all the regions in 1866 was 12,432,835 tons-an excess of the extraordinary amount of 2,945,097 tons over the supply of the previous year.Of this excess 923,918 tons were from the Schuylkill region.Notwithstanding the large production, the Schuylkill operators, in consequence of the high rates of transportation and the great shrinkage in the price of coal, did not find their business profitable. At the auction sales in New York the prices of coal declined between January and December over $400 per ton, and at Port Richmond the decline was during the same period $3 per ton. The usual consequences of an oversupply affected the market after the first of September. The operators were unable during this year to reduce the cost of coal in proportion to its shrinkage in value.The high prices of all the necessaries of life made it impossible to reduce the wages of common labor, and the miners offered a resistance, combined and powerful, to any reduction. The reduction in the price of coal, having been greater than on any other article, bore heavily on the operators.
The downward tendency of the prices of coal continued through 1867. Sales at Port Richmond averaged for the year $4.37 per ton, as against $5.80 in 1866. The auction sales in New York averaged for stove coal $2 less per ton than in the previous year.The market for Schuylkill coal at competitive points was reduced to a supply of what other regions could not furnish, unless furnished at a loss which reduced the trade to a deplorable condition. The effect of the adverse condition of the trade was a loss of coal tonnage during the year of 592,645 tons by the transporting companies from the Schuylkill region.The gloomy prospects of the Schuylkill trade in 1867 caused great concern and apprehension among the operators early in the season and a renewal of interest in a new, direct and independent outlet to the New York and eastern markets. The "Manufacturers and ConsumersÕ Anthracite Railroad Company" was chartered in March 1866. A powerful effort was made in its behalf, but failed of procuring the necessary support.
The occurrence of a turnout in the Schuylkill region, beginning about the 1st of July, 1868, and ending about the 1st of September-the object being the establishment of the eight hours system of labor-saved the trade of that year from disaster by curtailing the supply of coal during the suspension about 600,000 tons. At the New York auction sales the price for stove coal was $5.05 in July, and in October it was $9.05, receding in December to $6.50. The speculative and extravagant price for stove coal manipulated at the auction sales of Scranton coal taxed consumers heavily and proved detrimental to the permanent interests of the producers.It created an excitement in the trade, and induced the operatives at the mines to demand prices for work that could not be afforded for any length of time, and which once granted could not be easily reduced to a fair basis after the prices of coal had receded. The men claimed participation in every rise and exemption in every fall. The strike for the eight hours system of labor-which meant eight hours' work for ten hours' pay, and amounted to twenty per cent advance in wages-was conducted with mob demonstrations, by raiding through the region, driving men from their work, and stopping collieries. The movement was a failure, the ten hours system prevailing, but an advance in the price of coal having resulted from the suspension of work, a corresponding advance in wages was paid.
WORKINGMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION.
The organization of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association on the 23d of July, 1868, followed very closely the violent demonstration made on the eight hour question, and the conception of such a combination was no doubt due to the excitement growing out of that event; it was then made apparent to the designing men who manipulated the whole affair that a union of the working classes could be formed, through which great power, influence, and pecuniary profit could be made to accrue to themselves by arraying labor against capital. The title assumed by the association was a misnomer and a deception to begin with; the true object being not benevolence, but a purpose to establish and maintain a high standard of wages, to get control of the property and the management of the mines and to give effective force and aggrandizement to their proposed aggressive movements against the coal operators.Had their object been to extend beneficial aid to their members who were sick, disabled, or unfortunate, it would have been a very exemplary charity, worthy of commendation; but we believe the only contributions made by it in support of the members were during the strikes precipitated by the leaders, when small sums were doled out in order to prolong the contest.The power lodged in the officers was in its exercise deleterious and oppressive to the laboring classes, blight upon their industry, a tax upon their earnings, a hindrance to their comfort and welfare, and a fruitful source of poverty, privation, and distress. The aggressiveness of this association against the rights of the proprietors of the collieries was practiced unceasingly; one exaction after another was imposed; the control of the mining department of the business was usurped by the "committee men," and their constant interference and frequent interruption of the works entailed a great loss to the operators. They were unable to sustain themselves against the successive strikes of the miners instigated by the leaders of the association, and in two years many of them were virtually driven out of the business. The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company was compelled by the destructive tendency of the acts of the miners to engage in the business of mining, in order that the production of coal might continue to meet the requirements of the market.The threatened disaster toward which the Schuylkill coal trade was gravitating was thus averted, and the mad conspirators, too powerful for the individual operators, were held in check by that powerful corporation. A stubborn and prolonged contest ensued, culminating in the strike of 1875, which terminated in the complete defeat and overthrow of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association.The year 1869 was notable for the excitement and agitation that prevailed throughout the anthracite coal regions, induced by the aggressive movements of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association or Miners' Union. This state of things caused prolonged interruptions in mining, threatening a short supply of anthracite. The measures introduced by these leaders were a suspension of mining for three weeks, with the ostensible object of depleting the market of the stocks of coal lying over, and the establishment of the "basis system," by which wages were to be regulated by the prices of coal. In attempting to adjust the basis a difficulty was encountered between the men and their employers, the miners demanding more for their work as a starting point, than the prices of coal would warrant, in the opinion of the operators.
On the 29th of April 1869, the executive committee of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association ordered a general suspension of work, to take place on the 10th of May. The design was to suspend through all the regions and to continue three weeks, but the men in the Lackawanna region did not join the movement, the effect of which was to prolong the suspension. On the 9th of June, the general council of the association ordered that on and after June 16th "all districts and branches which can agree with their employers as to basis and conditions of resumption do resume work." The result of the suspension was a removal of the excess of coal in the market compared with the supply of the previous year, with a deficiency of 105,809 tons. The curtailment amounted to 818,541 tons, of which 469,363 tons were from the Schuylkill region. If the average value of this coal at the shipping ports in the region was $2.70 per ton, the loss to the Schuylkill region was $1,267,280.
The Schuylkill operators, not knowing the practical operation of the basis system, agreed to try it as an experiment, providing that there should be no "illegitimate interference with the working of the collieries." The conditions of resumption having been agreed upon by the parties, and an assurance having been given on the question of interference that no such right was claimed by the miners' association, work was resumed in the Schuylkill region.The basis accepted by the operators was proposed to them by the leaders of the Miners' Union, and it met with considerable opposition from many operators; but as all other efforts to control the trade had failed, and it might be the means of preventing the chronic strikes which had operated so disastrously, it was concluded to try the experiment. Thus, virtually, the operators surrendered the control of their business by accepting the participation in its management of the men in their employment. The three large companies in the Lackawanna region persisted to the last in refusing to confer with their men on the question of a basis. In their opinion the only question involved in the issue was whether their property should be controlled and the policy of the companies determined by the owners, or whether they should be committed to the care and direction of an irresponsible organization. The Miners' Association failed after a four-months strike, extending from the middle of May to the middle of September, to establish the basis system in that region, but they compelled the companies, by the action of the other regions, to make large advances in wages. The effect of these interruptions to the trade was to run up the price of coal to consumers, without benefiting the producers.Under the operation of the basis system, the interference with the working of the collieries continued through the local committees, who dictated who should be employed and who discharged.
ANTHRACITE BOARD OF TRADE.
The anthracite board of trade of the Schuylkill coal region was organized on the 19th of November 1869, with William Kendrick as president. It represented 4,437,000 tons of coal, and acted thereafter in all negotiations with the workmen.
Upon the resignation of Charles E. Smith, Esq., on the 28th of April 1869, as president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, Franklin B. Gowen was elected as his successor. The election of Mr. Gowen met with the hearty approbation of the Schuylkill operators, and we believe of every person connected with the Schuylkill coal trade. From his knowledge of the coal business, his enlarged and liberal views of men and things, his eminent ability and great business capacity, the most exalted anticipations were indulged in as to the characteristics and success of his administration. A strong hope was inspired-which was not disappointed-that under his administration the producing interest of the Schuylkill coal region would receive that consideration and fostering support which had been withheld from it for many years.
From the commencement of the anthracite coal trade to the 1st of January, 1870, the quantity of anthracite coal sent to market from all the regions was 190,058,685 tons, of which from the Schuylkill region, 82,030,232 tons; the Shamokin region, 6,584,523; the Lehigh region, 36,564,177; the Wyoming region, 64,879,753; total, 190,058,685.
A comparison of the quantity of anthracite coal furnished by the different regions in the decade ending with the year 1859, and the decade ending with the year 1869, shows that the Schuylkill region furnished 12 per cent less of the whole supply in the latter decade, than it did in the former, although its tonnage was augmented 36 per cent. When we consider the disadvantages of the Schuylkill coal trade during the ten years prior to 1870, the formidable and somewhat adventurous and speculative competition encountered in the market, the oppressive and illiberal policy of the transporting companies and the baleful influence of the so-called Workingmen's Benevolent Association, it is surprising that its position in the trade was so well sustained.
The year 1870 was one of the most unfortunate years in the Schuylkill coal trade since the breakdown in 1857.Mining operations were suspended from the first of April to the first of August, while negotiating for a basis of wages.The miners claimed the wages of 1869, based upon $3 per ton for coal at Port Carbon, as a minimum. The operators declared that experience had proven conclusively that the basis of $3 per ton was entirely too high to permit Schuylkill coal to compete with the large companies in the Lackawanna region. Mr. Gowen, at the request of both parties, settled the difficulty under the terms of what became known as the "Gowen compromise," which was the $3 basis, but sliding down as well as up with the change in the price of coal. The price averaged for the year $2.45 at Port Carbon, and the wages fell below the rates offered by the operators in February. The loss in production, compared with that of the previous year, was 782,578 tons.
LEASE OF THE SCHUYLKILL NAVIGATION.
Upon the 12th of July 1870, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company leased the Schuylkill navigation.
On the 7th of November 1870, the committees representing the Anthracite Board of Trade and the Workingmen's Benevolent Association met in Pottsville to arrange the terms of a basis for wages in 1871. An agreement was signed and ratified, based upon $2.50 per ton as the price of coal at Port Carbon. It was a judicious arrangement, which had it been adhered to, would have operated beneficially to all interests involved; but it was repudiated subsequently by the leaders of the Miners' Union, in order that the association might join in the strike of their fellow members in the Lackawanna region. A general suspension was ordered by the general council of the association, to commence on the 10th of January, and on the 25th of January the delegates of the association in Schuylkill County resolved to adhere to the $3 basis. This course was in violation of good faith, and it satisfied the public that the leaders were unworthy of confidence.Great opprobrium was brought upon the association and its officers. The union could be no longer regarded as a protection to labor, but as an engine for its oppression. Its iniquities became known of all men, and the necessity for its suppression, as an enemy to the business interests and prosperity of the coal regions, became generally acknowledged.The suspension of work continued for four months, the region being kept in a state of agitation and excitement in the meanwhile.All other efforts to make an arrangement having failed, the difficulty was referred to a board of arbitration, with Judge William Elwell as umpire. On the question of interference with the working of the mines the umpire rendered a decision adverse to the claims of the miners, and on the question of wages a scale of wages was adopted based upon $2.75 per ton for coal at Port Carbon.
PHILADELPHIA AND READING COAL AND IRON COMPANY.
The average price at Port Carbon for the eight months of the year after the adoption of the $2.75 per ton basis was $2.61 per ton.
In 1870 the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company was organized as an auxiliary of the railroad company. The new company purchased during the year seventy thousand acres of coal lands in Schuylkill County. "The result of this action has been to secure-and attach to the company's railroad-a body of coal land capable of supplying all the coal tonnage that can possibly be transported over the road for centuries."The amount of coal sent to market in 1872 was 19,371,953 tons, an excess of 3,579,475 over the supply of the previous year. From the Schuylkill region the supply was 5,355,341 tons, 81,130 more than in the previous year. There was no interruption to the production in 1872 by strikes. The basis of wages was arranged on the 6th of January and adhered to throughout the year.The arrangement was based upon $2.50 per ton at Port Carbon, and the wages were not to go below that with a decline in the price of coal except in April and May, and then not below the rates based on $2.25 per ton. The arrangement operated unfavorably to the operators. The average price for the year was $2.14 per ton, or 46 cents per ton less than in 1871, while the wages were higher than in that year, with a $2.75 basis. The "basis" adopted for 1872 amounted virtually to a surrender of their business interests by the operators, to a formidable and antagonistic labor combination. The consequence was that they crippled themselves, while they invigorated their enemies. So reduced did many of them become that the Reading Railroad Company, to enable them to continue their production and supply the railroad with tonnage, found it expedient to advance money on mortgage to them.
"Our first intention," said Mr. Gowen, "was never to mine a ton of coal. The idea was that the ownership of these lands would be sufficient to attach the tonnage to us, and that we could get individuals to mine the coal at a rent. That was the policy inaugurated by the company, and to develop it they expended eight or nine hundred thousand dollars, simply in loans to individuals to enable them to get into business. We built collieries, rented them to individuals and advanced money on mortgage; and had it not been for the terrible demoralization of labor in the coal regions, resulting in strikes, individuals would have been able to do all that we wanted.But we had, during the time I speak of, a succession or strikes which entirely destroyed individual enterprise. There was no man who had the capital to stand up against them; six months out of a year they were idle, and we saw that we had to take the bull by the horns and go into the business of mining ourselves.There was nothing else for us to do. We tried honestly and sincerely for nearly eighteen months to develop these lands and work them by individual enterprise; nay, more than that, when we found that would not do, in several instances we opened the collieries and associated men of know experience with us as partners in mining, and let them have the business; but that was also unsuccessful, and we had to take hold of the coal trade as we took hold of the railroad-establish ourselves in it as a large corporation, with fixed rules."In no previous year was the anthracite coal trade so judiciously and systematically governed as in 1873. Indeed it may be said that never before had the trade been governed in union and harmony, and with the co-operation and accord of the great representative interests in all regions. The trade, heretofore so capricious and ungovernable, was subjected to complete discipline and control. Under the title of the "Associated Coal Companies" an organization was formed, composed of the large mining and transporting companies, for the purpose of proportioning the supply of coal at competitive points to the demand, and to regulate the prices of coal during the year so as to secure remuneration to the producers. The plan was to establish prices at the opening of the spring trade in March at the lowest rates on board vessels at the shipping ports, and to raise the prices ten cents per ton every month until the close of the year. By virtue of this arrangement the coal trade remained prosperous throughout the year, with prices fully maintained, notwithstanding the monetary panic, the opposition of the coal brokers and the clamor of the press against the "combination."The question of wages in the Schuylkill region for the year 1873 was arranged on a basis of $2.50 per ton at Port Carbon as a minimum. It operated well, because the Associated Coal Companies prevented coal from receding below the basis price. The price of coal averaged for the year $2.58 per ton, or forty-four cents per ton more than in the preceding year. The production of coal in the Schuylkill region was 314,081 tons in excess of that of the previous year.
In 1873 the consolidation of coals at Port Richmond for shipment known as the "pool" was put into operation. By this system which was a commingling of coals from different collieries to save expense in handling and vending-the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company undertook, at a greatly reduced cost, the shipping and selling of the coal of the producers. In the same year the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company embarked in the retail coal business in the city of Philadelphia, having built yards and depositories of great capacity.
The following were the essential features of the program of the Associated Coal Companies for the government of the anthracite coal trade to competitive points in 1874:Tonnage to competitive points for ten months from February 1st to November 30th inclusive to be 10,000,000 tons, and to be distributed among the six interests in the same proportion as that adopted in February, 1873, for the business of that years, viz.: To the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, 2,585,000 tons; Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, 1,598,000; Central Railroad of New Jersey, 1,615,000; Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, 1,837,000; Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, 1,380,000; Pennsylvania Coal Company, 985,000. It was recommended that prices should open in March, 1874, at an average of fifteen cents per ton above the opening prices of 1873, and thereafter advance as follows: say in April five cents, May ten cents, and July, August, September, October and November each fifteen cents per ton.
The great depression in all manufacturing industries in 1874, and especially of the iron trade, diminished the consumption of coal for manufacturing purposes and caused considerable stagnation in the coal trade. Of the 662 furnaces in existence in 1873 only 410 were in blast on the 1st of January 1874, and only 382 at the close of the year, showing the great prostration of that interest.The coal trade moved very sluggishly from the start, and the Associated Coal Companies soon found it necessary to curtail the allotment of tonnage to competitive points.Instead of 10,000,000 tons there were only 8,248,928 sent to competitive points. In the mean time the program was carried out in regard to advancing prices. In the Schuylkill region, the basis of wages for 1873 was continued. The average price at Port Carbon for the year was $2.60.
REDUCTION OF WAGES AND THE "LONG STRIKE."
The supply of anthracite coal in 1874 from all the regions fell off 774,333 tons from that of 1873; of this decrease 327,382 tons was from the Schuylkill region.
A general reduction of wages was determined upon in all anthracite regions in 1875 by virtue of imperative necessity.The shrinkage in value of nearly all commodities since the crisis of 1873 had produced a corresponding reduction in the wages of labor; coal could not be made an exception to the general rule to enable the producers to pay war prices to their operatives; the time for short hours and $5 a day had passed away, and the miners like other men were required to be industrious and frugal.A reduction of ten per cent in wages had already been made and accepted in the Lackawanna region. The coal operators in the Schuylkill region, after careful study of the situation-the market being overstocked with coal., one half the furnaces in the country being out of blast, and manufacturers of all kinds running half or quarter time if at all-concluded that to reduce the price of coal, as was demanded to start the furnaces and manufactories, there must be a corresponding reduction in wages.Accordingly the following scale of wages for the year 1875 was decided upon as an ultimatum: Outside wages-first class, $1.50 per day; second class, $1.35; all inside work to be on a basis system-basis $2.50 per ton at Port Carbon; inside labor and miners' wages to be reduced ten per cent below the rates of 1874; contract work to be reduced twenty per cent; one per cent on inside work to be paid in addition to the basis rate for every three cents advance in the price of coal above $2.50 per ton; and one per cent., to be deducted from the basis rate for every three cents decline in the price of coal below $2.50 per ton at Port Carbon. No maximum and no minimum.The wages in 1874 were: for miners, $13 per week; inside labor, $11 per week; outside labor, $10 per week, when the price of coal was $2.50 per ton at Port Carbon and to rise one cent to every three cents advance in the price of coal above $2.50 per ton. These terms were submitted to a committee of the Miners and Laborers' Benevolent Association on the 1st of January 1875. After some discussion they were rejected, and an order issued by the officers of the association that work at the mines should be stopped immediately. Thus was inaugurated the celebrated "long strike" of 1875. The conflict of labor against capital, which had been prosecuted so aggressively through the agency of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association ever since its organization, reached a decisive issue this year, after a six months; struggle of the most determined character that had yet taken place, culminating in the overthrow of the miners' combinations and the permanent rescue of the property of the proprietors of the collieries from the arbitrary control of an irresponsible trade union; as well as the emancipation of the workingmen themselves from the power of the political and professional agitators who had so long controlled them. In this prolonged and bitter contest the workingmen-or those who assumed to act for them-resorted to their usual methods during strikes, of intimidation, violence, outrage, incendiarism and assassination.A reign of terror prevailed, unchecked for a period, throughout the anthracite coalfields. The pernicious combination of the miners had fastened itself like an incubus upon the coal-producing interest, and the individual operators were too weak to cast it off; but the strikers now had to contend with the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company as well.
At the end of the strike, in the middle of June, there was a deficiency in the supple of coal, compared with that of the previous year to the corresponding period, of 2,400,000 tons, nearly all of which was made up by the end of the year.The decrease from the Schuylkill region, however, was 689,011 tons. The prices were maintained, with monthly advances, by the Board of Control of the Associated Coal Companies.The prices in November, compared with those of November 1874, show a reduction of fifty cents per ton on lump, steamer and broken sizes, twenty-five cents on egg and thirty-five cents on stove.The wages of the men working on the sliding scale varied from two to six per cent above the basis of $2.50 per ton for coal at Port Carbon.
THE COAL TRADE IN 1877, 1878 AND 1879.
Mining operations were brought to a close in the Schuylkill region in 1875 on the first of December, the market being fully supplied, and the wharves at Port Richmond and all other depositories overflowing with coal. Before the trade of 1876 could begin to move a large depletion of the stocks on hand was absolutely necessary. Consequently, there was very little coal mined until the following April, and in two months afterward such stagnation prevailed that suspensions were ordered every alternate week by the Coal Exchange, and the Board of Control of the Associated Coal Companies reduced the monthly allotments. The peculiar condition of the coal trade this year, arising from the under-consumption of coal, caused by the general prostration of industrial interests, seemed to indicate the necessity for a regulating and controlling power in the management to a greater degree than had ever existed before, and it was with unconcealed apprehension that the coal operators received the intelligence of the dissolution of the organization called the Associated Coal Companies, on the 22nd of August.Following the disruption of the association was the sacrifice of half a million of tons of coal at public auction, at prices that would not pay the freight to deliver it, and about $2.50 below the August circular rates. New schedules of prices were announced, based on an approximation to this great reduction; transportation was lowered correspondingly, and the wages of the operatives were reduced fifteen twenty-five per cent to meet the changed circumstances.Operators worked their collieries experimentally, to solve the problem whether the loss would be greater to work or to stand idle.
FREE COMPETITION VS. ASSOCIATION.
The average price received for coal during 1877 on board vessels at Philadelphia was $2.41 per ton, or about $1 per ton less than the lowest prices previously known, and about the value of the coal in the coal region. The only compensation to be expected from these low rates was the extension given to the consumption of anthracite coal by its entrance into new markets and by the stimulus it afforded manufacturing industries. The amount of anthracite sent to market this year was 20,828,179 tons, an excess of 2,327,168 tons over the supply of the previous year. The amount sent from the Schuylkill and Shamokin regions was 8,195,042 tons, 1,973,108 more than in the previous year.The coal tonnage of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, including 152,742 tons of bituminous coal was 7,255,317 tons, an excess of 1,660,111 over that of the previous year. These figures represent a heavy trade, and they likewise represent a heavy loss to the producer. So dissatisfied were the producers with the result of "free competition" in 1877 that another combination was formed on the 16th of January 1878, for the government of the trade of that year. The immediate effect was to advance prices of coal fifty cents per ton. A large curtailment of production was determined upon during the winter months, which was effected by suspension of work at the collieries. The following percentages of the coal tonnage were allotted to the several interests:Philadelphia and Reading, 28.625; Lehigh Valley, 19.75; New Jersey Central, 12.905; Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, 12.75; Delaware and Hudson, 12.48; Pennsylvania Railroad, 7.625; Pennsylvania Coal Company, 5.865. The trade was very dull, and the association of coal companies was unable to secure for coal a sufficiently increased price to compensate for the great restriction of production found necessary, and consequently the anticipations formed of profits to result from the combination were not realized. The operation of restricting the production of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, and its effect upon the business of that company and the railroad company, is exhibited the following table: _________________________________________________________________
RAILROAD MINED BY COAL
AND IRON CO.
MONTH TONS CWT TONS CWT
Dec., 1877 647,727 03 361,829 06
Jan., 1878 231,323 11 96,935 03
Feb.," 173,462 01 65,680 18
Mar.," 229,260 00 89,324 06
April, " 408,620 09 180,983 03
May," 513,614 04 240,057 06
June," 754,653 15 333,193 06
July," 440,722 04 191,880 03
Aug.," 683,076 15 341,129 03
Sept., " 327,539 15 139,736 11
Oct.," 695,332 10 299,268 02
Nov.," 803,807 17 378,590 14
--------- -- ---------- --
5,909,140 04 2,727,608 01
Chart above is continued below...follow lines across by date
COST OF COAL NET PROFIT AND LOSS OF
MINED BY COAL OF BOTH COMPANIES.
AND IRON CO.
MONTH AT BREAKER PROFIT LOSS.
Dec., 1877 $0.95 1-10 $400,488.23
Jan., " 2.38 $107,652.9
Feb., " 3.12 9-10 236,174.82
Mar., " 2.16 4 -10 87,638.98
April, " 1.26 7 -10 197,955.31
May," 1.14 484,165.83
June, " 1.07 5 -10 688,588.15
July, " 1.36 7 -10 211,695.28
Aug., " 1.10 8 -10 588,660.14
Sept., " 1.49 5- 10 ,522.43
Oct., " 1.10 5-10 688,281.10
Nov., " .91 8 –10 956,283.03
------- ------- ---------- --------
$1.23 7 10 $4,213,117.07 $438,989.14
The above table indicated that in open competition for the market, with the admitted excellence and great variety of Schuylkill coal, and no restriction imposed upon production, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company had no cause to fear any of its competitors in the coal trade. But it does not follow that the restrictions imposed upon production in 1878 were not necessary and beneficial to the trade generally. The benefits resulting from the "combination" were the actual consumption of all surplus coal and the ability to secure fair prices in the future, which it was impossible to obtain so long as the large production kept the market overstocked.
The amount of anthracite coal sent to market in 1878 was 17,605,262 tons, a decrease of 3,222,917 from the supply of 1877. The amount of coal sent to market from the Schuylkill, Mahanoy and Shamokin regions in 1878 was 6,282,226 tons, a decrease of 1,912,816 from the supply of the preceding year. The decrease in the coal tonnage of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company in 1878 compared with that of 1877 was 1,346,177 tons.
The restriction of production in 1878 made room for and rendered profitable the extraordinary production of 1879.In the latter year the trade was much improved, the demand active at low prices, and the consumption largely increased; but the supply of coal was excessive, and the result of the year's operations afforded another example of the irrepressible tendency of the producing interest to over production. In 1879 the Schuylkill region produced 8,960,329 tons, 2,678,103 more than in 1878; the Lehigh region 4,595,567 tons, an increase of 1,358,118 over 1878; and the Wyoming region 12,586,293 tons, 4,500,706 above the production of 1878; total 26,142,189 tons, an increase of 8,536,927 over 1878. The coal tonnage of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1879 was 8,147,580 tons, an excess of 2,238,440 tons over that of 1878.
The aggregate amount of anthracite coal sent to market from the year 1820-the beginning of the trade-to the 1st of January 1880 was 384,023,046 tons. Of this amount 155,693,353 tons were from the Schuylkill region, 7,415,446 from the Lehigh region, and 156,903,247 from the Wyoming region. In this statement the Schuylkill region is credited with all the coal sent to market and reported from the Southern or Schuylkill coal field (except the eastern end of the basin, which has its outlet by the Lehigh), from the Mahanoy district, and from Columbia and Northumberland counties; the Lehigh region is credited with all the coal sent to market and reported from the eastern end of the Southern coal-field and from the detached basins in the middle coal field; the Wyoming region is credited with all the coal sent to market and reported from the Northern coal field. The amount of anthracite coal produced and not reported was at least 20,000,000 tons, making the aggregate production 404,012,246 tons. According to the estimate of Professor P.W. Sheafer we still have, after allowing sixty-six per cent for waste, 8,786,858,666 tons to send to market. By the year 1900 we will reach our probable maximum annual production of 50,000,000 tons, and will finally exhaust the supply in 186 years. At the rate of production in 1879 the Northern coal field is being rapidly exhausted: the Middle coal field will cease extensive mining in about twenty years; and the source of supply beyond that period will be largely from the Southern coal field in the deep basins of Schuylkill county.
pp 83 - 93
THE RAILROAD SYSTEM OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY.
The railroad system of Schuylkill county embraces a network of roads more extensive and intricate than that of any other region of equal extent in the country. These roads ramify in all parts of the county where coal is mined, follow the windings of the streams through the many valleys and ravines, climb the mountains, over planes or by winding along their sides, or pass under them through tunnels. They enter the mines, to all parts of which they extend; and it is a well known fact that a greater number of miles of railroad run beneath the surface than above it in this county. Like the ramifications of the vascular system of an animal, these branches unite in a few main lines, which carry to the different markets the immense amounts of coal that are brought to them from the mines to which the branches extend.
The development of the railroad system in this county has kept even pace with the growth of the mining interest. As elsewhere stated, the Schuylkill navigation was projected with the view, mainly, of affording an outlet for the lumber which had before been taken to market from this region in rafts, and a means of transportation, in connection with the Center turnpike, of the commerce between the Susquehanna region and Philadelphia. The coal trade was then in its infancy; and the most sanguine did not dream of the growth which it was to acquire, or look forward to the time when it would constitute more than a considerable item in the business of the navigation. A few of the projectors foresaw an increasing trade; and in 1817 the managers, in an address, stated that probably "coal might one day be carried along the Schuylkill to the amount of ten thousand tons per annum;" but, in the absence of any prevision of the importance which the coal trade has since assumed, many prudent men looked on the scheme as a visionary project, that would be beneficial to a few speculators and stock gamblers, but not a permanent source of advantage to the public, or of wealth to the stockholders.
For a few years after the completion of the navigation the coal which was carried over it was brought to the boats in wagons by teams. In 1827 a railway nine miles in length was built, to connect some coal mines with the Lehigh navigation at Mauch Chunk. It has been stated by many historians that this was the first railroad in Pennsylvania, and the second in the United States; but such is not the fact. In 1826 Abraham Potts, now living at Port Carbon, built the pioneer railroad in the state. This road was half a mile in length, from his mine to the head of navigation at the mouth of Mill creek. It had wooden rails, and the cars running on it carried each 1-1/2 tons of coal. It proved a success; and after it had been in operation some two years the place was visited by some of the managers of the Schuylkill navigation to see the new method of carriage. Mr. P. had thirteen cars loaded, ready to take to the canal. When they saw him fasten a single horse to the foremost car, they asked him if he proposed to "draw a ton and a half with one horse." When they saw this one animal easily move the train of thirteen cars, with about twenty tons, to the canal, their astonishment was great. Mr. Potts told them that in ten years they would see coal taken from these mines to Philadelphia in cars over a railroad. They replied that if he came to the city they would find a place for him in an insane asylum, for he was certainly crazy. Eleven tears saw the fulfillment of the prediction. It may be remarked here that the cars which Mr. Potts used were unloaded through the bottom, instead of by dumping, and that the wheels were fixed on the axles. He was the originator of both these plans, which have since been almost universally adopted.
As soon as the practicability of railroads for transporting coal from mines to the navigation came to be demonstrated such roads began to spring into existence. After the completion of the Schuylkill navigation other navigation companies were chartered, for the utilization of the waters of other streams, but supplementary acts authorized railroads instead of these navigations, and nothing was done under the original charters. In 1826 the first act authorizing the construction of a railroad in this county was passed. This was followed in 1828 and 1829 by others, and in the latter year portions of several were in operation. These roads were operated by horses or mules, and by the conditions of their charters were highways, over which the cars and freight of any one might be taken, on the payments of the tolls, which were prescribed or limited by the charters. In 1833 two locomotives, named the Comet and the Spitfire, were placed on the Little Schuylkill Railroad, and afterward locomotives came into use on other roads. On roads where motive power was used the law prescribed regulations for the tolls on freight drawn by the locomotives of the company or individuals. It was not at first the design of the people through their representatives to grantto these railroad companies privileges of exclusive transportation on their roads, but these companies have come to exercise and even claim that privilege, without the sanction of legislative enactments.
Of the reciprocal influence upon each other of the coal and railroad interests in this county it is hardly necessary to speak; for it is evident to every one that neither could have been developed, to its present extent, without the other. It is also unnecessary to allude to the combination of these interests, and to the effect of such combination on the prosperity of the county; for these subjects are before the people here in a practical form. During many years there have been in this county a growing tendency toward the combination or concentration of capita in important branches of trade and industry, and the smothering of healthful competition.
The following history of one of the most important roads in this county, by one whose relation to it gave him a thorough knowledge of everything pertaining to it, will, at the same time, illustrate the development of the railroad system here, the experiences which the builders of railroads have encountered, and the improvements which have been made since the first rude and somewhat awkward structures were built. Comparatively little will be said of other roads that would not be repetition of portions of this history. Nearly all the roads in the county have, by purchase, lease or otherwise, been absorbed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company.
MINE HILL RAILROAD
What are known as the lateral railroads of Schuylkill county were first constructed to accommodate the Schuylkill canal with a coal tonnage from the district south of the Mine hill and east of the west branch, covering an area of between sixty and seventy square miles. Previous to the construction of the laterals, the coal openings had been made in the immediate vicinity of the canal; no one was more than half a mile distant, and the tracks running to the loading place were no more than an extension of the mine roads a short distance beyond the mouths of the drifts. The mine tracks were very primitive. They consisted of notched cross ties (sleepers) on which a wooden rail, three by four or four by six inches, was laid and fastened by wooded keys driven in by the side of the rail. The gauge of the track was made to suit the fancy of the owner, but the average was forty inches. The mine cars held about a ton of coal and slate, and the wheels were loose upon the axle, like those of a wagon. There was usually a platform upon which the coal was dumped for the purpose of separating the impurities before loading, as breakers had not then been introduced. The pure coal went into the boats as it cane from the mines; large and small sizes were intermingled, and the consumer in that day had to break it to suit himself. Could that method have been continued through the intervening years, a hundred millions of dollars would have been shared by the land owner, and miner and transporter.
The Mill Creek Railroad, extending from Port Carbon to the vicinity of St. Clair, was commenced in 1829. It had a forty-inch single track and was built much like the mine tracks just described.
The Schuylkill Valley Railroad was also commenced the same year, and finished in 1830. This line runs from Port Carbon to Tuscarora - ten miles-and was at first a double forty-inch track, costing about $6,000 per mile.
The Norwegian and Mt. Carbon Railroad was built about the same time and extended from navigation at Mt. Carbon to the several coal mines northwest of Pottsville. This road had a common gauge of 56 1/2 inches and was built in a more substantial manner than either of the first-named lines. The first three miles were double track, and the balance single track so arranged as to accommodate a large traffic.
The Little Schuylkill Railroad, extending from Port Clinton to Tamaqua-twenty-two miles-was built subsequently to most of the others and is mentioned in this connection only because it formed a part of the lateral system of the county. It had gauge of 56 1/2 inches.
The most important of all the laterals is the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, which extends from Schuylkill Haven to the coal fields north and south of the Broad mountain, and enters by short branches every ravine of the mountains and other suitable places for locating a colliery. It was first projected by a few landowners who were desirous of developing their properties and obtaining revenues therefrom. The original charter was approved by J. Andrew Schulze, governor of Pennsylvania, on the 24th day of March, 1828. Several amendments and supplements have been made since to meet the expanding trade and provide facilities for moving the tonnage, that grew year by year.
The company was organized on the 21st of May, 1828. The amount of stock subscribed was only $13,000, on which ten per cent. was paid into the treasury. With this small sum of $13,000 the company began the construction of a road that ultimately covered, like a network, more than one hundred square miles of the anthracite coal fields. The treasury was empty before the preliminary work had been accomplished, and then efforts were made to obtain subscriptions to the whole capital stock of $25,000. The managers took it individually, but soon found it to be entirely inadequate to the undertaking, and then restored to the plan that has wrecked so many enterprises and individuals in this country; they endorsed the notes of the company and were obliged to protect then individually when they fell due. This condition could not continue, and the managers availed themselves of the power conveyed in the charter to increase the capital stock to $100,000, by a vote of the stockholders; a part of this additional stock was taken by parties interested in the completion of the work, but a large amount of money was still needed, and capitalists were invited to make up the requisite sum on the security of a mortgage upon the road. With the funds thus obtained the road was finished, and in April, 1831, the first coal passed over it. The cost of the loan at this time was $185,783.02, of which $68,450 was stock and $117,333 was borrowed money. Of course this amount was far beyond all estimates of the projectors of the work and such engineers as laid out the line. In the eight months following April, 1831, seventeen thousand five hundred and fifty-nine tons of coal were transported over the road, which was esteemed a food beginning; and one sanguine gentleman predicted the time when as much as a hundred thousand tons would be carried, and was laughed at as a visionary. More than two millions per annum have since been carried as an earnest of his prophecy.
The engineers of that period had little knowledge of railway construction, and it was well they had not, for few of the early lines would have been built. An estimate of $50,000 per mile would have scared the capitalists more than an attempted burglary. Such estimates as they did make were wide of the mark, and consequently the construction proceeded by degrees, and funds were obtained in the same way, and each succeeding effort encouraged to more vigor, till finally the line would be opened to traffic and rosy reports circulated then as now to induce investments in the stock or loans.
The line followed the sinuous valley of the west branch, and as near grade as possible: consequently it was altogether a succession of curves of small radii, simple and compound, with a few connecting tangents. The bridges were frequent, and consisted of untrussed stringers placed four or five feet above the water. The railroad track was made by laying cross-ties four feet apart, and placing in the notched ends an oak rail, three by seven inches, on which was spiked a strap of iron about fifteen feet long, and one and a-half inches wide by three-eights thick, which was designed for the wearing surface. The locomotive had not then entered into the dreams of those builders, and horsepower was employed to haul the cars. The road soon reached the highest expectations of the owners, and in the second year the tonnage equaled 65,420 tons. All doubts vanished, and a dividend of seven per cent. was declared from the surplus after paying interest and all indebtedness. All the loans that could be converted were changed to stock. The capital was increased to $2000,000 by an act passed in January, 1831, and all the indebtedness was allowed to take the form of stock. The year 1833 was also very prosperous, and the tonnage increased to seventy-seven thousand tons, which served to increase the sanguine views of the owners to a greater extent than ever before. But the following year brought great commercial embarrassment and heavy losses to nearly every department of trade, and as a consequence the traffic of the Mine Hill Railroad was reduced to 42,616 tons, the income from which was barely sufficient to pay interest on its debt, leaving nothing for dividends. The recovery from depression was rapid, and the traffic was increased again in 1835 to 66,000 tons, and in 1836 to over 107,000 tons. This increase indicated a healthy demand for coal, and many land owners and operators desired extensions of the road to the lands where their interests centered, but the company had no capital for that purpose. To remedy this an act was approved the 29th of March, 1836, authorizing an increase of capital to $4000,000; at the same time power was given to put locomotives on the road but the company did not use this privilege till about ten years later.
The policy of the company was one of progress, keeping pace with the gradually increasing demands of an expanding market and the efforts of the land owners and operators to meet it. After constructing branches to most of the available points south of the Broad mountain and west of Pottsville, as far as Tremont and Mt. Eagle, they asked to extend their main line across the formidable barrier of the Broad mountain into the Middle coal field. The effort to do this had once before been made in the partial construction of the Girard Railroad on a very bad system of inclined planes, which proved an absolute failure and was abandoned altogether.
Just previous to the time the application for what has been known as the "Ashland Extension" was made, several important changes had taken place in the management, and in the mode of working the road. The increase in tonnage from 1844 to 1847 made it necessary to substitute locomotives for horse power, so as to decrease the great number of trains, that then obstructed the road. A firmer and better track was found necessary also, and a general modification of the line took place for the reception of steam engines. This consisted mainly of stronger and wider bridges, planting the double tracks farther apart to make room for the passing of trains with broader coal cars and locomotives, and in substituting heavier rails to support the greater weight upon the wheels and increased speed.
The Tremont extension was finished in 1847; and in May, 1848, a much more extensive project was undertaken by the company. Many land owners in the Middle coal field had petitioned the company to open their coal field to the eastern market by continuing their main line up the west branch and across the Broad mountain, at a point about 1,520 feet above tide at Philadelphia. The surveys were commenced of the 25th of May, 1848, at the summit between Rattling run and Dyer's run.
S.W. Roberts, Esq., of Philadelphia, was chief engineer, and R.A. Wilder principal assistant. Soon after the beginning of the work Mr. Roberts was appointed chief engineer of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad (now Pittsburg and Fort Wayne), and left the field work in charge of the principal assistant. The surveys covered the region between the Schuylkill and the water sheds of the Susquehanna a few miles below Shamokin, where connection was made with the old Sunbury and Pottsville Railroad, which was the western portion of the Girard Railroad before referred to. The crest lines were about ten miles in length on the Broad mountain. At that time the whole region was densely wooded, and, with the exception of a few farm houses here and there, miles apart, uninhabited. The work of the surveying parties was exceedingly laborious on account of the long distances walked morning and evening to and from the lines. It was necessary to finish the surveys within a specified time required by the terms of the supplement to the charter, so that the company could determine the question of accepting, or not, the provisions of the act. The preliminary work for an accurate topographical map had consumed much of the time, and the final location had to be pushed in a manner very exhausting to the party. An approximate estimate of the cost showed that the authorized capital was inadequate, and the company concluded not to accept the supplement.
This line had two inclined planes on the north of the mountain to hoist the loaded cars by stationery machines. The ascending grades to the summit along the southern slope were an average of eighty-four feet to the mile. This line followed the underlying strata of the coal measures, and consequently avoided the danger of the cavings on the coal seams which have given so much trouble on the line built a few years later and which is now being operated.
At the close of these surveys Mr. Wilder was appointed resident engineer, and immediately began surveys of the main line for the purpose of straightening it wherever practicable. In this way much of the old line was rebuilt and improved in every respect. The standard width between the tracks was made six feet, which has since been very generally adopted on all lines of railway having a double track. On the first of January, 1849, Mr. Wilder became superintendent of the road, and later in the same year he took entire charge of the machinery and transportation (in addition to his former duties) with title of chief engineer and superintendent. Between 1849 and 1852 many improvements were made in the old tracks, and the Swatara and Middle creek branches were built. At the session of the Legislature of 1852 an act was passed which again authorized the construction of the Ashland extension, with an increase of capital not exceeding $500,000. At that period of time the Legislature was exceedingly jealous of corporate bodies, and rarely gave sufficient capital to pay the cost of the authorized to be done.
Edward F. Gay was appointed engineer of construction, and in April, 1852, began a resurvey of the line located in 1848. Unfortunately for the company his desire to reduce the former estimates of costs induced him to increase the grades to ninety-three per mile in order to diminish the distance to the summit, which brought his line on the outcrop of the veins of coal in the vicinity of Glen Carbon for a long distance. The results has been disastrous in the extreme. Frequent falls of the surface have taken place at various points, causing interruptions to the traffic, and entailing heavy expenditure for repairs, litigation, and re-location of the road. The line was opened on the 16th of September, 1864, by passing an engine and train of coal cars, with one small passenger car attached, from Cressona to the terminus at Big Mine Run. The machines for hoisting and lowering cars at the inclined planes were not ready, and the descent was made down these steep inclines by the use of brakes on the cars, and iron shoes placed under the wheels of the tender and fastened by chains to the frame of the locomotive. The vertical descent of the two planes is seven hundred and twenty feet, but the train was taken down without accident. The return was made by separating the train and hauling single cars up the planes with mules. The opening of the road in this imperfect manner was rendered necessary by the requirements of the charter, which limited the period for finishing the line.
Mr. Gay resigned his connection with the work at this time. While the tracks were in a condition to be run over, the most important parts about the planes were unfinished. The chief engineer of the company began at once to make the deeded alterations and improvements of the work, and in the course of the next two years the whole was remodeled upon plans that have been successfully used ever since. The first hoisting machinery was imperfect in design and construction, and after many efforts to adapt it to the wants of the trade it was abandoned, and that in present use was designed and patented by Mr. Wilder. The hoisting wheels of the Mahanoy and Broad mountain planes, and also of the Wilkes-Barre planes belonging to the Lehigh Navigation Company and operated by the New Jersey Central Railroad Company, are of the same construction. The pushing cars (Barneys) attached to the wore ropes had at first telescopic axles to enable them to be drawn together, after descending the planes on the same rails as the coal cars run, to enter the pit at the foot of planes, while the train passes over them. Frequent accidents rendered it necessary to lay another track of narrow gauge between the main rails, and run upon it a "pusher,) of "Barney," with wheels made fast to a shorter axle, that would enter the pit without danger of getting off the track. A new method of ballast for the tail rope was also devised. Owing to the length of the planes the method of signals on common use to communicate between the head and foot of the planes was found to be impracticable, and a simple electro-magnetic bell signal was arranged and put in use successfully in 1856. This has worked so well since that not even the telephone has supplanted it. The various new devices introduced cheapened the cost of movement over the planes to such an extent as to reduce it to the sum charged on any other part of the road, viz., two and a half cents per ton per mile. The blocks of wood inserted in the perimeters of the wheel, in which the groove to three years, and the wire rope has elevated more than 3,000,000 gross tons before removal.
In 1856 an extension of the Tremont branch was made to Mt. Eagle under a charter creating the Mt. Eagle and Tremont Railroad Company. This road opened the lands owned by Hon. Henry K. Strong, who procured the authority to build the line while he was a member of the Legislature. A large amount of coal was transported from the property, but in this case, as in many others in the anthracite coal fields, the cost of the road was too great for the tonnage supplied, and taken by itself it never was profitable to the company. Indeed, all the branches running into the lands in the vicinity of Tremont never paid a large percentage. As a rule, land-owners and operators are sanguine men, and lavish in promises which are seldom fulfilled. In the same year (1856) the Big Run branch was built as far as Locust Dale, about three miles from the foot of the planes, to open new mines at that point. In 1860 the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company made application for an extension of the Big Mine Run branch to the basin north of the Locust mountain. The elevation of the valley was three hundred feet above the terminus of that branch; and as the only method of overcoming the heights by a graded line was through a long switch-back, involving heavy and very expensive work, it was deemed advisable to make a self-acting or gravity plane, where the descending load raised the empty cars. This was done at a comparatively small cost, and a new system of machinery, specially adapted to heavy and rapid working, was invented and put in use, and is still in good order after twenty years of heavy service. During the same year the Big Run branch was extended from the terminus of the portion constructed from the foot of the planes westward through the Big Run valley to Locust Gap, where it connected with the Shamokin Valley and Pottsville Railroad. By this line the railway system of Schuylkill county was connected with the western and southern railroads through the Philadelphia and Erie and Northern Central railways. The opening of this branch, on the 18th of October, 1860, was celebrated by an excursion train from Philadelphia to Sunbury, participated in by the Schuylkill Navigation Company, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, and the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad Company, and their guests. Six passenger coaches, with other five hundred persons, were hauled by a single locomotive, weighing thirty tons, across the Broad mountain at a speed of twenty-five miles an hour. This was considered quite a feat at that time, and probably no engine of equal weight has ever done better on ascending grades of one hundred and ten feet per mile. The train was taken down the planes (two cars at a time) without delay or accident.
An extension of the Mill Creek branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad into the Mahanoy basis, via the old Girard line, or the immediate vicinity of it, by the Mahanoy and Broad Mountain Railroad Company, was put under contract at this time, with George B. Roberts as chief engineer. The road was intended to be a rival of the Mine Hill Railroad in that region, and the charges for transportation over it were reduced below those of the latter company, to the serious detriment of its aggregate income. As was perfectly natural under the circumstances, a conflict began between the rival interest, and litigation of a very unsatisfactory character continued for more than a year, resulting in nothing more than a confirmation of what had been suspected from the beginning, that the Philadelphia and Reading Company had been the instigator of the whole movement, for the purpose of obtaining ultimately a control of the Mine Hill road, and through it crippling the canal as a coal carrying line.
The next movement was to withdraw the eastern tonnage from the Reading company, which had previously received more than one-half the coal passing over the Mine Hill Railroad, and send it to New York by a new connection with the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey Central railroads. A charter had been granted by the Legislature of Pennsylvania for a railroad, entitled the Schuylkill Haven and Lehigh River Railroad, in 1856, and in October and November of that year a preliminary survey of the line was made by Alexander W. Rea. At the session of 1850 the charter was extended and amended to include members of the Mine Hill Company among the commissioners to open books and organize the company. On the 15th of July the books were opened at Franklin Hall, Philadelphia, and 8,000 shares, or a majority of the stock, were taken by the Mine Hill Company. The commissioners met on the 5th August and completed the organization of the company. The surveys were rapidly made, and the work placed under contract on the 5th of December following. The grading and masonry were pushed ahead as fast as possible through the winter, which was favorable for the contractors, and by spring had advanced so much as to convinced the managers of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company that at an early day they would have to encounter a competition for the eastern traffic far more formidable than they had thought it possible to effect; and when they learned that the whole superstructure and rolling stock had been contracted for, they sought at once to stop the construction of the road by opening negotiations for the lease of the Hine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad and its dependencies for a period of 999 years. As a preliminary to this the new company was to be merged in the old, under a general law providing for such action between corporations, after which the terms of the lease began to be discussed by committees of the two companies. A meeting was finally held on April 24th by the directors of the Schuylkill Haven and Lehigh River Railroad Company at their office in Philadelphia to take action upon the Reading offer, and they resolved to accept it, stop all work upon the line, go into a liquidation of the contracts, and settle all claims for damages that had been incurred during the progress of the work. In the meantime an appraisal of the rolling stock and loose property of the Mine Hill Railroad Company was made, and the property scheduled in the lease, with the option by the Reading Company to take it at such estimated value. Many things occurred to retard the final transfer of the property, and the officers of the company continued to operate the line all through 1863 and during the early apart of 1864, dividing their time and energies between the transportation of coal and movement of troops stationed at various points for the protection of the region, and to aid the enrolling officers to make the draft for the army.
Few will ever know the extent of labor and anxiety involved in the railway service of this period, not to say anything of the personal peril that daily and nightly followed the movements of officers. The loyal men and youths of the mining population were in the field doing noble work for their country, whether by birth or adoption; the disloyal remained at home, and they far outnumbered the former, and carried with them everywhere the means of destruction to properties of immense value in themselves, and of still greater value to the government in its hour of greatest peril; because from the anthracite mines came the power of supremacy over the blockade runners that used bituminous coal, the black smoke from which signaled their presence from along distances to their foe, unseen save perhaps by a doubtful wreath of steam rising upon the frosty air. To guard these properties, and keep the reckless population in check by kindness, by vigilance that knew no rest, and, when necessary, by the dark mouthed cannon and glittering bayonets, was a work of no ordinary character, and could have no recognition, and no reward but the consciousness of duty.
At length the contracts were signed, and on the 16th of May, 1864, the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad was formally transferred to the officers appointed by the lessee to receive it. The chief engineer and superintendent was retained by the old company till January 1st, 1865, when he asked to be relieved, and closed his connection with the road, after a continuous service of nearly seventeen years, during which time he had never been absent from duty for any purpose except when absolute necessity called him away.
A general review of the status of this company results in an impression of profound regret that the stockholders ever permitted the control of it to pass from them. They had always received large dividends in their investment, and had they availed themselves of the recommendation of those fully qualified to judge the condition of things impartially they would have found no cause to apprehend financial difficulties in the future. The terms offered by the Lehigh Valley Company and the Central Railroad of New Jersey were such as would have given them all the benefits of a through line, and would also have put those companies in a position to defy competition; and the crisis through which each has since passed, bringing disaster to one and great reduction in the value of the other, would probably have only been drawn and executed at once, as suggested by the chief engineer, all these results evils would have been avoided, and the region would have remained in a comparatively flourishing condition. The great corporation which today is floating, an unwieldy wreck, on a sea of trouble, threatened with utter ruin by every financial wave sweeping over it, would have been the safe investment its patrons believed it in years gone by. At the time of the change the road had a reputation abroad for its progressive spirit, and on no one were greater advances made in the department of machinery and road fixtures. Its hoisting machinery for inclined planes was excelled nowhere in this or any other country; its locomotives were the most powerful of all then constructed, and the accommodations furnished the numerous collieries of the various branches have never been equaled. In the local management great vigilance was exercised: no trains collided, no engines exploded, and few men in the long term of years were killed or injured. And yet in the very midst of a prosperous career, with a full corps of energetic men to aid them in an expansive policy, with a prestige that would have commanded any amount of capital, and the co-operation of men whose views of our railway system were constantly widening, they suffered a work that cost $4,000,000 to pass away from their control, and became the passive observers of the decline of a system they had created, to the mere shadow of corporate authority. All the elements of a greater system still exist, and may be combined in the future to make the road what it should have been in the past, ere the desire for personal aggrandizement and corporate agreed had paralyzed its energies. The present organization is no more than a mere agency for the distribution of semi-annual rentals among the stockholders.
UNION CANAL RAILROAD
This was the first railroad chartered in the county. It was incorporated by a supplement to the several acts incorporating the Union Canal Company, which supplement was approved March 3rd, 1826. It authorized the company "to construct a railway or railways branching from said navigation to any point or points which may be required for the communication between the said Union canal and the coal mines of the Swatara and the country west and northwest thereof."
In accordance with the provisions of its charter it was constructed to the junction of Lorberry and Swatara creeks, and used mainly for the transportation of coal. It was operated by horse power till about 1848, when motive power was brought into use on this and the roads that had been built beyond it.
A supplement approved on the 14th day of April, 1828, to the act incorporating the Little Schuylkill Navigation Company, empowered that company to construct a railroad in place of the canal and slackwater navigation which the original act authorized; or in lieu of any part of such canal and navigation, from a point at or near where the Wilkes-Barre state road crosses the Little Schuylkill to a point at or near the foot of Broad mountain.
Though the work was commenced early several acts were passed extending the time for its completion. In 1833 its completion was extended to 1838, in 1842 till 1847, and in 1847 five years from the date of the act.
Locomotives were placed on this road in the spring of 1833. Of one of these the Miners' Journal said at that time: "It is able to travel at the rate of ten miles an hour, leading a train of fifteen cars, each carrying three tons. Now, allowing two trips a day for an engine, this would be equal to 90 tons a day; or 540 tons per week."
This company were transporters only, at first, but subsequently, like many others, they came to be owners of coal lands, and operators. An act passed in 1832 gave exclusive privileges of transportation; and at a public meeting in McKeansburg, in 1833, a resolution was adopted recommending the circulation of petitions for the repeal of this act. The resolution stated that this "monopolizing policy is daily practiced to the great injury of individuals in that section of the commonwealth." At that time there existed a strong feeling of opposition to the creation of charter companies, with exclusive privileges.
By the connection which was formed with the Catawissa railroad this road became a link in the through line between Philadelphia and Buffalo and Niagara Falls; and thus became an important passenger road.
A branch of this road was extended west from Tamaqua about a mile and a half, connecting with the Mountain Link railroad. Other short branches were constructed to different collieries along its course.
SCHUYLKILL VALLEY RAILROAD
This was chartered March 20th, 1827, as a navigation company; and on the 14th of April, 1828, a supplement passed which authorized he construction of a railroad from near the mouth of Mill creek to a point at or near the mill of George Reber, Esq.
An extension of six miles was authorized by a supplement passed April 12th, 1844. January 24th, 1845, the time for completing the second track between Middleport and Tuscarora was extended till the annual tonnage of coal over the first track should amount to 1,000,000 tons; and in 1849 it was extended to the 24th of March, 1853.
March 8th, 1859, a road from Tuscarora to Tamaqua, to be completed in eighteen months, was authorized; and April 2nd, 1860, the time was extended twelve months from the date of the act.
The progress of construction of this road is indicated by the supplements to the charter, passed from time to time, as above stated.
It is noteworthy that the supplement of April 12th, 1844, provided that the company should charge no more than one cent per mile for transporting loaded cars, and should return them empty without charge; and that it should make no charge for the locomotives of others, used for this purpose, on its road.
Near Tamaqua this road connects, by means of the Mountain Link Railroad, with a branch of the Little Schuylkill; and through it with the system of railroads running out from Tamaqua. A number of short branches run from this road at various points along the Schuylkill valley to the collieries on the southern slope of Mine hill.
MILL CREEK RAILROAD
An act authorizing the incorporation of the Mill Creek and Mine Hill Navigation and Railroad Company was passed February 7th, 1828. This highway was to extend from near the mouth of Mill creek to a point on the Center turnpike near the foot of Broad mountain. The time for its completion, which had been fixed at February 7th, 1863, was, by act of May 28th, 1840, extended to February 7th, 1845. It was partially built in 1829, and at that time only connected with some coal mines and the head of Schuylkill navigation. It was a 40-inch single track road, built with wooden rails covered with strap iron, and operated by horse power. It was an important avenue of coal transportation, and continued to be used mainly for that purpose many years.
In 1847 a supplement to its charter empowered it to build branches to accommodate its business, and another in 1857 authorized it to const-ruct branch roads to the Mahanoy coal region.
MOUNT CARBON RAILROAD
This road was incorporated by an act approved April 29th, 1829. Its location, according to the act, was to be from "the lower landings at Mount Carbon, in the county of Schuylkill, thence up the river Schuylkill to the mouth of Norwegian creek, and the west branch thereof, to the south side of the Broad mountain in the said county; and also a single or double railroad from the forks of Norwegian creek, up the east branch thereof, to the south side of Mine Hill."
April 8th, 1833, the time for completion of this road was extended to April 1st, 1838; and on the 17th of March, 1838, it was further extended to April 1st, 1848. April 11th, 1848, it was empowered to construct laterals, not to exceed one mile each in length.
The road was constructed in accordance with the provisions of its charter, and in the style of early railroads. Many branches to collieries were built, but the company never extended the main lines beyond their original chartered limits.
About 1848 the wooden track was superseded by the T rail, but, although the locomotives of other companies occasionally passed over it, mule power continued to be used till February, 1862, when the road was leased by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company for the period of 999 years. It has been operated since by the P. and R. company, and it is used almost exclusively for the transportation of coal. In 1868 or 1869 a switchback was built at Mount Laffee, the terminus of the west branch of this road, in order to reach the Beech-wood colliery.
The Little Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad, to extend from the terminus of the Little Schuylkill Railroad, as designated in its char-ter, along the valleys of Messer's run and Catawissa creek to a point on the north branch of the Susquehanna, at or near Catawissa, was incorporated March 21st, 1831.
In 1833 the time for commencement was extended three years, and for completion six years. By a supplement of February 26th, 1846, the time for completion was extended five years, and the construction of lateral branches to mines authorized; the owners of those mines to have the privilege of transporting the products in their own cars, with their own motive power.
March 20th, 1849, the name was changed to the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie Railroad, and the time for completion further extended to December 1st, 1855. In 1860 an act was passed concerning the sale of the road; and in 1861 the time for completion was further extended to 1871, and branches and connections to coal mines and iron works authorized.
This road was commenced not long after the date of its charter; but by reason of financial embarrassments the work was suspended during several years. It was afterward resumed, and the main line completed about 1854.
The road has two tunnels; one under the Mahanoy mountain at the summit of grade having considerable length. The other is a shorter, curved tunnel, which passes under a spur of the mountain jutting into the Catawissa valley. This road constitutes a link in the chain of roads between Philadelphia and the great lakes.
A peculiarity of this consists in its uniform grade of about 30 feet to the mile from the Susquehanna to the summit tunnel. This uniformity necessitated the erection of seven timber viaducts, from 90 to 130 feet in height, and of various lengths up to 1,100 feet.
This was chartered as the Swatara and Good Spring Creek Railroad, April 2nd, 1831. It was to run "from the northern end of the Union Canal Company's railroad, up the Swatara river to its junction with the Good Spring creek, and thence up the said creek to a point most suitable in the heart of the coal region.
"March 25th, 1841, its name was changed to the Swatara Railroad Company."
By supplements to the charter the time for construction was several times extended, and by other supplements the company was authorized to construct branches, make extensions and form connection. By a supplement passed April 6th, 1848, the use of locomotive power on the road was authorized, and locomotives were soon afterward placed on the road.
In 1863 the road was leased by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, and afterward purchased by that company. About six miles had been built when it was leased, and a branch from Tremont up Middle creek partly graded. The road has been extended by the Philadelphia and Reading company.
PHILADELPHIA AND READING RAILROAD
On the 20th of March, 1838, an act was approved empowering the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company " to extend their said railroad from its present termination in the borough of Reading to some suitable point in or near the borough of Pottsville in the county of Schuylkill," or to connect with the Mount Carbon road if deemed expedient. The act required the work to be commenced simultaneously at both termini of the road within a year, to be completed between Mount Carbon and Port Clinton within two years, and through its entire length within four years.
The road was constructed in accordance with the terms of the act; and the first train of cars passed over it on the 19th of January, 1842.
By a supplement, approved March 29th, 1848, the company were required to extend their road into the borough of Pottsville and establish a depot there. The required extension was made through the Mount Carbon Railroad. Previous to the completion of this road the net work of railroads in this county had been used for the transportation of coal from the mines to the Schuylkill navigation. The establishment of this through line to the city of Philadelphia not only furnished an outlet for the products of the mines during the winter season, but relieved but relieved the navigation of a portion of its tonnage during other seasons of the year. By reason of increased facilities for transportation the development of the coal trade was more rapid, and other avenues were opened. In order to maintain itself against the rivalry of these, the Philadelphia and Reading Company inaugurated and carried out the policy of absorbing, by lease, purchase, or otherwise, the control of the various lines in this portion of the coal region. In this they succeeded; and all the principal roads in the county, except the Lehigh and Mahanoy, came under their control. By lease of the Schuylkill navigation their control of the means of transportation to Philadelphia became complete.
Under their charter the company had not the power to carry on mining operations, and their control of the avenues of transportation did not enable them to control the trade, or prevent the construction of other avenues. To accomplish the latter a corporation first known as the Laurel Run Improvement company was chartered, and the name was soon changed to the "Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company." It was owned, and its operations were directed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company; and it was a separate organization only in name. Many millions of dollars were expended in the purchase of coal lands, and the purchase and establishment of collieries, and for these purposes an immense debt was incurred. Under this company mining operations were carried on to a very great extent in this county; and during many years the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company were able almost wholly to control the coal trade and the transportation of this county. At length, for reasons which it would not be proper to discuss here, these corporations,-or rather, in fact, this corporation,-which had grown to such gigantic proportions, collapsed. President Gowen was appointed receiver, but an influential party of stockholders opposed his management, and secured the election of Frank S. Bond as president, who on the 21st of April, 1881, issued a circular announcing his assumption of the duties of the office. Mr. Gowen immediately stated that the points involving the control of the road would be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, pending whose decision he intended to retain the management.
MOUNT CARBON AND PORT CARBON RAILROAD
This road was incorporated by an act of Assembly approved July 16th, 1842. The route designated in the charter was from "the lower landings at Mount Carbon, at or near the termination of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad;" thence to pass across the river Schuylkill to Port Carbon. By a supplement passed April 14th, 1843, the time for its commencement and completion was extended to one and three years respectively from the date of the supplement.
It was built as provided by its charter, and connected with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad at Mount Carbon, and with the Mill Creek and Schuylkill Valley railroads at Port Carbon. The first locomotive and cars passed over it in November, 1844-a year after its commencement. It was empowered to construct branches to mines, furnaces, etc., of other companies by an act of April 25, 1854.
May 5th, 1855, an act was passed authorizing the sale of this road; and in accordance with the provisions of this act it was sold to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company.
SCHUYLKILL AND SUSQUEHANNA RAILROAD
On the 25th of April, 1844, the Fishing Creek, Swatara and Schuylkill Railroad, commonly called the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad, was incorporated. It was to run from Fishing Creek gap in the Sharp mountain, near the junction of Fishing creek and Baird's run, in Pine Grove, along the valley between Sharp and Second mountains, to the Swatara; and thence, by a favorable route, to the summit between Little Swatara and Bear creeks; and by the valley of the latter to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, at some point near the mouth of Bear creek. In 1847 the time for commencement was extended to 1850, and in 1850 to 1855.
This road runs from Auburn to the county line in Tremont township, via Pine Grove, and extends thence to Dauphin, where it connects with the Northern Central, and through it with the northern and southern systems of railways.
EAST MAHANOY RAILROAD
This was incorporated April 21st, 1854, to run from a point where it would connect with the " Little Schuylkill Navigation Railroad and Coal Company," about five miles north from Tamaqua, and thence by a route considered favorable by the directors to "any point or points in the Mahanoy second coal field, with suitable branch roads thereon not exceeding in the whole twenty-five miles in length."
An act of April 11th, 1859, authorized the leasing of this road to the Little Schuylkill Company; and another of April 21st in the same year revived the charter and extended the time for commencement of construction five years.
It was constructed, in accordance with the provisions of its charter, to the southern base of Mahanoy mountain at a point about four miles from Mahanoy City. It passes under the mountain through a tunnel some four thousand feet in length. It was extended to Mahanoy City and there connected with the railway system in the eastern part of the county.
The road was built under the patronage of the Little Schuylkill Railroad Company, and after its completion was leased by that company.
LEHIGH AND MAHANOY RAILROAD
The charter of the Quakake railroad was granted April 25th, 1857, and authorized the construction of a road from the Beaver Meadow railroad, at the junction of Quakake and Black creeks, westwardly up the Quakake valley, and thence to make connection with the Catawissa railroad between its two summit tunnels in the township of Rush.
A supplement, approved March 22nd, 1859, authorized the extension westwardly of this road to the head waters of and down the Mahanoy creek, "as far as may be deemed expedient;" with authority to make connection with any railroad in the valley, and to construct branches.
Under this charter and supplement the Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad was built, and completed as far as Mount Carmel in 1865. In 1866 it was merged in the Lehigh Valley Railroad, by which it has since been owned and operated. It has a branch to Ashland, and branches to various collieries. The grades on this road are very heavy. It connects at Mount Carmel with the Northern Central, and through that road with the southern and western system of railways. It connects with the collieries of the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, in which the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, in which the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company owns half interest. This company also owns the collieries on the Girard coal lands, formerly owned by the Philadelphia Coal Company. The shops of the Lehigh and Mahanoy railroad are located at Delano, in the township of Rush.
MAHANOY AND BROAD MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
The charter for this road was granted March 29th, 1859; and the route prescribed was from a point in Mahanoy or Butler township, and "thence, by the most expedient and practicable route, to connect with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, or any of its tributaries, with the privilege of making lateral roads into the Mine Run, Shenandoah, Mahanoy, and New Boston coal basins."
In 1860 this road was constructed, with its termini at the terminus of the Mill creek railroad on the south, and a point near Ashland on the north. Subsequently it was extended; and connections were made with the Mine Hill railroad at Big Mine Run and Locust Dale. On the northern slope of the Mahanoy mountain, near the old Girard plane, this road was an important plane, with an elevation of about 380 feet. It is what engineers term a reciprocating plane; and its annual tonnage is about two millions of tons. The expense of this tonnage is not more than one-fifth of what the cost of the same would be over a route and grade that would dispense with the plane. If, by any accident, the plane should become useless for a time, the tonnage of the road could be carried away through interconnecting branches.
NESQUEHONING VALLEY RAILROAD
This was chartered April 12th, 1861. By the provisions of its charter it was allowed to form connections with many other roads at the option of its directors.
It extends from the line between Carbon and Schuylkill counties to Tamaqua, and coal lands in its vicinity. It was leased and operated by the Lehigh Navigation Company, which was subsequently leased by the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey.
MOUNTAIN LINK RAILROAD
Between the terminus of the Schuylkill Valley Railroad at Tuscarora and the Little Schuylkill Railroad at Tamaqua was a space of about four miles, over which passengers passed in stages during many years. No railroad was built over this route, by reason of a want of cordiality on the part of the two companies. When the Philadelphia and Reading had acquired control of both these roads of course this antagonism ceased; and in 1864 and 1865 a road was constructed and put in operation by that company across this space, and railroad communication was thus established between these places.
The road passes over the watershed, or divide, between the head waters of the Schuylkill and Little Schuylkill rivers, and this necessitates grades, in some places, of about 100 feet to the mile. The connection which it established over this height rendered its name-Mountain Link-quite appropriate.
THE PEOPLE'S RAILWAY
was incorporated April 4th, 1865. It might extend "from and in the borough of Pottsville to any point or points in any direction, in the county of Schuylkill, not exceeding six miles in length, as the direct-ors may select, and through any streets of boroughs, or roads, or by any routes they may deem advisable." The powers conferred on this road were extraordinary. April 28th, 1871, the time for completing the work was extended till 1874, and the company was empowered to use dummy engines instead of horse power, to which it was restricted by the original charter. March 4th, 1873, it was authorized to use locomotive engines.
The road was opened in 1872 between Mount Carbon and Fishbach, and used as a street railway. Early in 1873 it was opened from the head of Market street, in the borough of Pottsville, to Minersville; and it has since been operated between those points with motive power. From Mount Carbon to the head of Market street to Fishbach it has been discounted, and the rails have been removed
pp 327 - 341
In 1799 Berkhard Moser, of Northampton county-now Lehigh-a German, to better his condition and provide for the wants of a growing family, left his home and directed his steps to this narrow valley of Tamaqua, and settled at the junction of Panther creek and Little Schuylkill river.
In 1832 the town was incorporated. The population was 300, and rapidly increasing. July 26th, 1833, the first borough officers, having been then recently elected, were formally organized as follows: John Franklin, chief burgess; David Hunter, president of council; Charles D. Cox, William Caldwell, William George, John N. Speece, and Lewis Audenreid, councilmen.
Improvements were rapid in 1846-47. New or Hunter street was laid out, many miners' houses were built, two large brick stores were erected by J. and R. Carter and James Taggart. There was a large influx of enterprising men. The business interests in 1846 were represented as follows: Merchants, 7; agents, 4; blacksmiths, 5; cabinet-makers, 2; butchers, 3; hucksters, 2; miners, 65; hotel-keepers, 5; carpenters, 12; tailors, 2; shoemakers, 4; boarding-house keepers, 6; clerks, 4; laborers, 44; physicians, 5; watchmakers, 1; tinsmiths, 1.
The principal coal operators at that time were J. and R. Carter, Heaton & Carter, Harlan & Henderson, R. Radcliffe & Co.,, William Donaldson, and James Taggart. In 1862 there were Charles F. Shoener, J. Donaldson & Co., H. Dintinger, George W. Cole; later, E.J. Fry, George Wiggan, Henry L. Cake, Gideon Whetstone, Richard Winlack, William T. Carter. The collieries operated in the vicinity were known as the East Lehigh, the Greenwood, the Alaska, the Newkirk, the East-East, the Buckville, the Reevesdale.
Under the act of 1851, a petition was presented December 7th, 1851, praying for a charter; which was granted by the court March 22nd, 1852.
Concerning the formation of the new borough government the records are singularly silent. John A. Smith was the chief burgess in 1852, followed by Michael Beard. There are no records of the councilmen. From 1865 to 1879 Herman B. Graeff was clerk of the council; the present incumbent is Samuel Beard.
In September, 1832, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, claiming a parcel of land in that part of the town near the hotel of John Zehner, now the Washington House, Pine street, which rightfully belonged to the Kershner family, employed a company of men to erect a log house upon it and place a tenant there, so that they might obtain the benefit of possession. They did it in twelve hours, but high constable Bannan came along at the close of the job, armed with both warrant and rifle, and marched the party off to Orwigsburg. The whole matter was amicable settled, however.
Up to the time of the erection and laying out of the towns, in 1829, but little had been attempted at improvement, either in the intellectual or moral condition of the people. Rev. Mr. Schellhart lived with John Kershner and taught his and other children. Early in 1830 a school-house was erected upon the lot now occupied by the residence of Mrs. H.L. McGuigan, Broad and Nescopec streets. É..
In 1849 William J. Harlan awakened the public mind to the desirability of having a system of water supply. At an expense of $23,000 Tamaqua constructed her first water works. On municipal improvements alone the borough has expended $850,000 to 1881, fully $150,000 of which has been upon the water supply. The Rabbit run and springs furnish the reservoir, located two miles from the town, at the farm of Henry Enterline, in the New England district of Walker township, and the capacity is 15,000 gallons. The water supply is under the direction of the council.
The newspaper history of Tamaqua covers a period of thirty-two years, and centers nearly in the office of the Tamaqua Courier. The Tamaqua Legion was started in July, 1849, by J.M. and D.C. Reinhart, the name being altered in 1855 to the Tamaqua Gazette. In January, 1857, the name was again altered, to the Tamaqua Anthracity Gazette. The paper suspended publication two months in 1861, and was then sold to R.N Leyburn, who changed the name to the Anthracite Journal. Captain Leyburn joined the army a year later, and Fry & Jones assumed proprietorship until his return. The paper was then sold to the Monitor Publishing Company.
Albert Leyburn published the Saturday Courier until it was sold to Eveland & Shiffert, in 1872. It was afterward published by Eveland & Harris until 1873, when Eveland, Harris & Richards took charge, and the paper was renamed the Tamaqua Courier. A.S.R. Richards withdrew from the firm in 1875, and the remaining partners purchased the material of the Anthracity Monitor, a Labor Reform journal, started in March, 1871, and which at one time had an immense circulation and influence. They thus acquired the title to the old Legion and to all the honors of the first and only printing establishment Tamaqua ever had. March 15th, 1878, Harris & Zeller took charge, Daniel M. Eveland retiring.
At one time (1875, 1876) Tamaqua had two daily papers, the Item, published by Levi Huppert, and the Courier, published by Eveland & Harris; but they hardly started before they died. March 2nd, 1881, the partnership in the Courier office existing between Harris & Zeller was dissolved, the interest being purchased by Robert Harris, William H. Zeller retiring.
A gentle rain began Sunday evening, September 1st, 1850, and at daylight a freshet commenced which brought death and destruction on every side. At Newkirk the trestles of the tracks running into the mines were filled in with earth and a great dam was thus formed. This gave way, and the pent up waters rushed down the valley, meeting those of the swollen Schuylkill, and bringing a perfect deluge upon the borough. The generally accepted theory is that the flood was caused by a great waterspout which burst over the valleys. In the gorge on Burning mountain, a tree sixty feet up the side marks the height of the sudden flood.
The water extended from BeardÕs Hotel to the mountains. Everything on the flats was swept away. Dwellings, foundries and workshops were taken away by the waters. A double framed house, in which twenty-two persons had taken shelter, was torn asunder and all were drowned. The Rev. Mr. Oberfield was caught by the waters while in the act of rescuing a child and was drowned. It is said 62 persons in all were lost. Not a track of the Little Schuylkill Railroad remained. Tamaqua was without communication with the outside world for six days. A wagon load of provisions hurried on from Philadelphia by George Wiggan and Robert Ratcliffe saved many from starvation. September 2nd and 3d were sorrowful days to the desolated town. Everybody turned out to exhume and carry in the dead from down the river. One procession brought in eleven at one time. Many households mourned; the town was in deep gloom. Death claimed a victim in every other home it seemed, and the mourners truly went about the streets. There been later floods-in 1862 and 1869-but the one of 1850 surpassed them altogether.
THE POST-OFFICE IMBROGLIO.
In 1830 Tamaqua post-office was established near the present residence of Rowland Jones, with H.B. Ward as postmaster. In connection with this Isaac Hinkley performed the duties of mail carrier as well as stage driver, running a hack from summit Hill and back, connecting there with the cars on the Switchback Railroad for Mauch Chunk.
About this time a sharp contest arose between the inhabitants of Dutch hill and the west end of town. The grand object was to secure the center of the town. Burd Patterson and his party actually procured, by some means, the establishment of a second post-office; so that Tamaqua in 1832 had two distinct post-offices, established by the government.
Abraham Rex was postmaster number 2, but the office did not long survive.
At this date George W. Baum made an effort to draw the center of the town around his residence, calling the place Wittemberg, but it failed. The Little Schuylkill Railroad Company endeavored in 1827 to build the town upon the beautiful level running out from Dutch hill, and they had erected the first stone building, intended for a hotel, now occupied by Rev. I.E. Graeff and Bodo Whitman, and Market and Union streets were laid out. The center of business and extension remained in the valley, however.
THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.
Many years expired before Tamaqua established its present well equipped fire department. The first attempt resulted in a single hose carriage in 1852, housed in a barn. A house was built a year later and stood near the Pines bridge until 1879, when it was removed. This was the beginning of Perseverance Hose and Steam fire Engine Company, No. 1, which numbered in its old list of membership the leading citizens of Tamaqua of twenty-five years ago. B.T. Hughes was president of this company twenty- eight years. In 1879 the town council caused to be erected the present admirable edifice, built of pressed brick with sandstone trimmings, two stories in height, with a mansard roof. The first and only steam fire engine in town was bought in 1875. The Perseverance company entered their new home in October, 1879. connected with their organization is the Matthew Newkirk library, of some 1,500 books, and their parlor is classed as among the best furnished in the county. Their property at present consists of one steamer, two hose carriages and 1,500 feet of gum hose, valued at $6,500. The membership of the company is 35. The president is David Morgans; the secretary, William H. Zeller; the treasurer, J.G. Schod; the engineer, Joshua Morgans.
American Hose Company, No. 1, housed in a frame building at Mauch Chunk and Pine streets, was reorganized January 17ty, 1878, upon the remains of the old Reliance Hook and Ladder Company, which was in existence from 1860 to that time. The present members (all young, active men) number 28. The property consists of equipments, one carriage and 1,000 feet of hose. The president is Hon. William C. Felthoff; the secretary, F.R. Krell.
The chief engineer of the fire department is Frederic Beliner; the assistant chief engineer, Harry Myers.
COAL INTERESTS AND MANUFACTURES.
Though distinctively at one time a mining town, Tamaqua to-day enjoys the reputation of being quite a manufacturing center, being one of the few towns in Pennsylvania located in the coal regions that have almost completely turned from the pursuit of mining into that of manufactures. The restrictive policy of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company causes the mines to be idle. Shortly after the lease of the Little Schuylkill Company lands in 1869, and about 1874, mining almost entirely ceased in this section. Two of the largest breakers (the Buckville and the Greenwood) were burned to the ground by the Mollie Maguires, and were never rebuilt. There was no prospect of safety to property in those days (1869-1875) were the company to rebuild, and when the leading outlaws and murderers were brought to the bar of justice, and thence to the gallows, it was too late to retrieve the lost industry. The period of severe business prostration had swept like a whirlwind over the country, and no venture was safe. Then, too, a coal combination of the leading producing companies had been formed and, the production being limited to an exact quota, collieries that were in operation were closed and none were built. Largely for these reasons the coal fields at Tamaqua-classed as the most valuable of all the possessions of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company-cased to be worked ten years ago (1871) and the capital of the town drifted into other industrial investments.
West Lehigh Breaker.-This breaker is an old property on the New England road, at the southern borough line, and has been worked since 1845. It is the only breaker standing of all the many that ten and fifteen years since dotted the country at and around Tamaqua. The Donaldsons, Burlack & Whetstone, and the Philadelphia and Reading coal and Iron Company successively operated it, and after standing idle for years it was leased in July, 1878, to Wood & Pearce, old and practical miners. The number of men and boys employed outside is 36; inside, 26. The capacity of the breaker is 800 tons per week, and 100 tons per day is the present output.
East Lehigh Breaker.-This breaker stands at the end of the vein in Sharp mountain, now worked by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and on its present site a slope had been sunk and a mammoth breaker put in operation about 1850. Its passing away is a sample of Mollie Maguire means of vengeance, for the property was destroyed by them about twelve years ago. A penitentiary breaker was built there by Samuel Randall in 1876, and operated by him until the spring of 1880, when Mitchel & Symons leased the property, enlarged and improved the breaker and trebled the capacity. Their trade is largely local; the production is about 400 tons weekly, and twenty-five men find employment.
The Allen Machine Shops.-These shops are possibly the largest operated by a single firm in Pennsylvania, and rank among the most complete of their kind in the country. they comprise a foundry, pattern shop, boiler and machine departments, the whole embraced in a building of white stone occupying a square, situated along Railroad avenue and Foundry street.
The first building was erected in 1846 by John K. Smith, and in 1847 a co-partnership was formed by Hudson, Smith & Taylor. Taylor soon after left the firm, Hudson withdrew not long afterward, and Smith was sole proprietor until about 1853 or 1854, when John and Richard Carter and Lucian H. Allen bought him out, and operated under the firm name of Carter & Allen. In 1865 Charles F. Shoener was taken into the firm. By the latter's failure in October, 1878, the interest of the Carters ceased, and by settlement the new firm became Shoener & Allen. C.F. Shoener failed again in June, 1880, and William T. Carter taking his interest, the firm became Carter, Allen & Co. The shops were destroyed by fire in 1872 (the work of an incendiary), at a loss of $100,000, and were rebuilt in the spring of 1873 by William Gettinger, contractor. These works make every manner of mining machinery, engines, boilers, cotton presses, and so on. Four hundred men can find employment when there are orders which demand running on full time.
Robinson's Foundry.-This establishment is situated on East Broad street, beyond Pine. Originally the foundry was located at Taggartsville, by Bright & Co., in 1859. In 1863 Robinson & Co. became owners by purchase, and removed the business to Tamaqua, building on ground now occupied by the east ward school-house. The present buildings were erected and occupied in 1869. The principal manufactures are stoves, castings and iron railings; 25 men are employed.
Greenwood Rolling Mill was first built and operated in 1865, by Robert Ratcliffe. It is located on Railroad street at Elm. Cotton ties for the southern market are manufactured. The business of the establishment has seen some severe periods of prostration-in 1877, part of 1878 and since July, 1880. In the spring of 1877, the Greenwood Rolling-Mill Company took chargethe members being L.H. Allen, Wallace Guss, H.S. Godshall, E.J. Fry and Charles F. Shoener, the latter taking nineteen and onehalf twentieths of the stock, within a fraction of the whole.
Tamaqua Shoe Factory.-The first manufacture of goods for the market by the Tamaqua Shoe Company was made about 1874, in a building at Broad and Center streets, where an immense trade was worked up. The headquarters becoming too small, books were opened for the subscription of stock in the latter part of 1875, and the present commodious three-story brick building in East Tamaqua, on the Lansford road, was built in 1876 at a cost of $12,000. The company was considerable crippled by the peculations of the first superintendent. The factory was closed shortly after getting into the new building, though operations in a small way were carried on by Oram & Jones in 1879-80. Those most interested in the erection of te building and work of manufacture were Daniel Shepp, W.B. Bensinger, H.A. Spiese, Michael Beard, Philip A. Krebs, J.J. Kauffman and others.
Philadelphia and Reading Shops.-These shops were built by the Little Schuylkill Railroad company, about 1848, when the round house near by was enlarged to shelter twenty-one locomotives. Repairs to engines are the principal work done here, and some coal and freight car work is also done. The number of employes is 90; 10 are employed at the round house.
Other Industries.-The Shepp & Horich mill on Railroad street below Broad was built in 1854; Behler's on Railroad street near Elm, in 1865; Kershner's mill is located on Central and Cedar streets. All have an excellent trade.
Water's foundry was established as the iron works of John Ollis, in May, 1846. In 1847 it passed into the hands of Hudson & Waters. It is now managed by H. Water's Sons, and employs twelve to twenty hands. Engines and castings are manufactured.
The first brewery was established in 1850, by George Goeldner, who put up buildings for that purpose on Broad street, immediately back of the present National House. Five years later he sold out to Joseph Adam, the second brewer, and an early settler. Joseph Halfner, Joseph Adam and Lawrence Koenig now have breweries and enjoy a local trade. Conrad Boschoff's planing-mill and furniture factory is a three-story brick building on Rowe street, built in 1865. William Boyer's lumber-mill is on East Broad beyond Pine. The Tamaqua Hosiery Company (limited) was organized in December, 1880. F. Krell and brother, J.F. Wheenmeyer, L.F. Fritsch, John Hartman and P.C. Keilman have cigar factories. Freudenberger's tannery on West Broad, at Green street, was established by one Webb in 1850. He was succeeded by H. Enterline in 1857. The establishment is now idle, and the large brick building in which its business had been carried on is going to decay. John Becker and Joseph H. Wood have wheelwright shops on East Broad, and on Cedar streets, respectively. George L. Boyd's screen factory was established in 1867.
The First National Bank of Tamaqua was incorporated in 1865, and surrendered its charter as a State banking institution. It was originally organized as the Anthracite Bank in 1850. The amount of capital stock paid in is $150,000, two-thirds of which is owned by William T. Carter, of Philadelphia. This bank suspended payment October 14th, 1878, and resumed just a month later. This embarrassment occurred in consequence of the failure of Charles F. Shoener, whose interest passed into the hands of William T. Carter. The bank has always been a paying institution. James W. Abbot was cashier from 1852 until 1880. E.J. Fay is president; Thomas T. Carter cashier.
The Tamaqua Banking and Trust Company begun business in 1865. The president is Daniel Shepp; the secretary and cashier, Henry A. Kauffman.
The first tavern in Tamaqua was kept in Berkhard Moser's house, by the wide of John Kershner, and her son-in-law, Isaac Bennett. The date is uncertain, but is was opened about 1807.
In 1827 the Little Schuylkill Company, thinking to draw the center of population to Dutch hill, built the first stone building and hotel in Tamaqua. The house was converted into a dwelling thirty years afterward and it is now occupied by Rev. S.E. Graeff.
In 1832 James Taggart, one of the pioneers in that valley, came to Tamaqua, and engaged in 1836 in keeping hotel at the old established stand of Mr. Michael Beard, who took possession there in 1846.
Between 1845 and 1847 the United States Hotel was built by the Little Schuylkill Company, and was first kept by Joseph Haughawout. In 1850 the Washington House, on Pine street, was built, and the American and Mansion on Centre street at a later period.
LITERARY SOCIETIES AND LYCEUMS.
In 1853 Tamaqua had a public library, and debating clubs discussed the momentous questions of the day in the first town hall or school-house as early as 1845. About 1856 the Tamaqua Lyceum was organized, and held weekly sessions for a long period in the south ward school building. To this lyceum Matthew Newkirk, of Philadelphia, made a gift of 1,500 books, which passed into the hands of the Perseverance fire company when the society disbanded. No records of the first organization remain. The principal citizens were members.
November 26th, 1876, James W. Abbot, B.C. Meeker, William H. Gable, Thomas Cole, Morgan J. Williams, Charles F. Lowry, George W. Ford, Daniel F. Bower, Lucius A. Gibbs, George Bensinger and William Philips, formed the Presbyterian Social and Literary Institute, which still flourished, though many members have removed to other fields, with Joseph B. Grigg as president and Miss Kate Beard as secretary.
The first graveyard was laid out in 1831, on Dutch hill. The Catholic and Methodist buying grounds were laid out about 1837. Zion's cemetery was opened in 1876. The Odd Fellows' cemetery, the most attractive "city of the dead" in Tamaqua, is located at the upper end of Broad street. It is in charge of trustees appointed by Harmony Lodge of Odd Fellows, and it was first opened in 1865. There are thirty acres enclosed, and the various lots are in many instances beautifully laid out.
Among numerous fires of greater or less extent which have visited the place from time to time, the following were remarkable for the damage they wrought:
On the night of January 25th, 1857, a fire broke out in the store of Brock & Son on Broad street, and destroyed twelve houses on that street, which were occupied as stores and dwellings.
Friday morning, May 31st, 1872, a fire began in Daniel Dean's wheelwright shop, which spread and destroyed an entire block of building, rendering eighteen families homeless. The fire caused a loss of $75,000. The firemen were prevented from doing efficient service by a lack of hose.
Tamaqua made great contributions to the armies in the late war, notably in the 129th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers. The National Zouaves, a crack organization, existed in 1866 and 1867, making their first parade December 25th. The officers were: Captain, R.L. Leyburn,; 1st lieutenant, Thomas D. Boon; 2nd lieutenant, C.F. Garrett; A.M.S., Joseph Coulter; 1st sergeant, A.H. Tiley.
"B" Company of the National Guard of Pennsylvania was mustered in in August, 1875. The officers are: Captain, Wallace Guss; 1st lieutenant, John M. Hughes; 2nd lieutenant, George Priser; 1st sergeant, Edward Ash.
In 1870 the soldiers' monument, a beautiful marble column fifty feet high, surmounted by an eagle with outspread wings, in Odd Fellow' cemetery, was erected by Doubleday Post, at a cost of $9,000.
The first wagon-maker was Isaac Haldeman, whose shop stood on Pine street, in 1848.
The first lawyer who located in Tamaqua was John Hendricks, who began practice in 1849.
The first flour and feed store was opened by Bartlett & Taylor, in the old Oats house, next to Shepp's four-mill. The building was erected for the purpose in 1849. In 1851 the business was sold to H.F. Stidfole, who continued in it for eighteen years. He is now a prosperous merchant on West Broad street.
In 1852 Heilner & Morganroth's powder-mill, near Tamaqua, exploded, injuring Reuben Stamm, and killing Reuben Strunk, throwing him a hundred feet.
A temporary town hall, 40 by 100 feet was erected in 1868, at a cost of $4,500.
In 1855 the first regular theatrical performance was given in the borough. Seitzinger's hall has been since 1869 the only place of amusement.
Harmony Lodge, No. 86, I.O.O.F. had its charter granted October 16, 1843, and the lodge has grown with the town. The charter officers were: Joseph J. Elsegood, N.G.; James H. Kelly, V.G.; John Franklin, S.; David Myers, assistant secretary; Jacob Bell, treasurer; William Hodgkins, Philip Dormetzer, Conrad Ifland, and B.L. Fetherolf, who have been identified with this lodge as active members for thirty years. Harmony Lodge meets in Odd Fellows' Hall, which, with its cemetery and other property in the borough, is its own property, and has over 150 active members. The present (1881) noble grand is Charles M. Greene; V.G., Jehoida Morgans; secretary, William Barton.
Scott Encampment of Patriarchs, No. 132, was chartered February 17th, 1862. A dispensation to organize was granted to John L. Regan, Daniel Dean, James M. Hadesty, B.L. Fetherolf, Conrad Ifland, Philip Dormetzer, and William Hodgkins.
Ringgold Lodge (German) I.O.O.F. was organized in 1871.
Tamaqua Lodge, No. 238, F & A.M. was organized June 4th, 1849. The charter members were D.G. Goodwin, Henry Kepner, George D. Bowen, Benjamin Heilner, John S. Boyer, Samuel Beard, Charles Bennett, Peter Aurand, A.J. Orr, John Kolb, Richard Carter, Bernard McLean, Joseph Haughawout and Jacob Smithers.
Other branches of the masonic order are Tamaqua Chapter, No. 117, R.A.M.; Ivanhoe Commandary, No. 31, K.T.; Knapp Council, No. 17, R.S.E.& S.M.
Washington Camp No. 57 Patriotic Order Sons of America was chartered July 1st, 1859, and surrendered its charter when all the members joined the army during the late war. The camp was rechartered February 12th, 1870, with the following membership; A.M. Herrold, H.N. Shindle, J.H. Seitzinger, A.C. Bond, William Hittle, John A. Hirsch, Daniel M. Eveland, Richard Kirkpatrick, Henry Seitzinger, William A. Lebo, Zachary C. Ratcliffe, John Friese, T.J. Swartz, Philip Stein, E.A. Boyer, G.W. Rose, George Kepner, George C. Eveland, G.W. Hadesty, Robert Ratcliffe, George Kershner, F.M. Stidham, John H. Stidfole, George Grieff and C.E. Bailey.
Humboldt Lodge of Harugari was organized in 1865.
Bright Star Lodge, No. 231, I.O.G.T. was chartered in November, 1868, with Emanuel M. Whetstone, Lancelot Fairer, Lafayette F. Fritsch, John W. Byron, Robert L. Casey, Jackson L. Seiders, John W. Whetstone, John McConnell, Elias B. Whetstone, Josiah Lineaweaver, Nathan Krause, jr., William H.H. Entriken, Emma C. Meyer, Lizzie A. Beyel, Maggie Beyel and Sallie Beyel as members. The present (1881) chief templar is Jesse Templin; secretary, Charles Nair; past templar, Rev. E. Humphries; lodge deputy, William H. Zeller.
Order United American Mechanics.-A lodge of this order was organized in 1868.
Doubleday Post, No. 189, G.A.R. was organized and chartered July 20th, 1869, with O.C. Bosbyshell as grand commander and Robert B. Beath as assistant adjutant general. the original members were Henry H. Snyder, Fred Krell, George Hahn, Nathan Krause, John H. Lutz, H.C. Honsberger, Adam Krause, Daniel M. Miller, Wilson W. Miller, Joel Lins, F.T. Lins, J.H. Erdman, E.A. Jones, John Boughner, D.H. Moyer, Absalom H. Whetstone, D.G. Lewis, J.J. Zehner, John Holman, Joseph Southam, T.B. Carter, D.W. Davis, George Bond, H.P. Yeager, Charles Grieff, William H. Haldeman, Fred H. Wagner, William Lane, A.R. Markel, Owen Jones, Gottlieb Henry, Samuel Faust, C.F.M. Miller, Fred Eli, Charles Blew, John Shifferstein, Robert Bechtel, Henry N. Shindel and William S. Allebach. The soldiers' monument in the circle in Odd Fellows' cemetery is part of the work of this organization.
Tamaqua Lodge, No. 135, K.P. was chartered March 3d, 1869, with Bodo Whitman, Edward Davis, John Herrold, William Swope, Thomas Carter, George Bond, sr., William DePue, William King, Nathan Krause, Joseph H. Wood, William Griffiths, William Vardy, John F. Houser, Charles DeFrehn and William Miller as members. It meets weekly in Kirn's Hall, and is in a flourishing condition.
Tamaqua Circle, No. 52, Brotherhood of the Union was organized August 25th, 1871, and reorganized after the labor troubles of 1877. The lodge again suspended in June, 1880, but is now in operation again. The charter members were J.F. Woomer, E.A. Jones, John Beard, J.B. Lindenmuth, J.H. Erdman, Jacob Kaercher, J.V. Matthews, David A. Shiffert, William Little and C. Ben Johnson.
Railroaders' Brotherhood, No. 2, was organized June 20th, 1874. The charter members were Phaon P. Hass, Charles B. Cook, Andrew Frank, Elias B. Whetstone, Daniel Kleckner, Henry Wise, William Boyer, John Shifferstein, Christ Walters, Gottleib Scheidle, Charles Rinkler and Amos Neifert.
Greenwood Lodge, No. 2,124, Knights of Honor was organized March 26th, 1880. The charter members were David Randall, Joseph E. Hess, F.R. Carpenter, Emil Albrecht, John Davis, Charles H. Weldy, Edward F. Shindel, Philip Stein, Lafayette Fritsch, William H. Kintzle, C.B. Dreher, Edwin Schlicher, Joseph Mitchel, William Hittle, Isaac T. Sands, William H. Zeller, Franklin Schwartz, Samuel Brode, John Fink, Frank Sowers, Walter Randall, John C. Walter, Mahlon S. Miller, Samuel E. Taylor and Henry Kirn.
The first gospel sermon in Tamaqua was preached in 1810 by Rev. John a. Schellhart, a minister of the German Lutheran church, who, in connection with Rev. William Schaeffer and Rev. Theophilus Sillick, supplied the few inhabitants with occasional preaching for many years. Rev. Joseph Chattels, of the Philadelphia annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, began to hold stated services in 1830, and Rev. George Minner, of the German Lutheran church, inaugurated regular services in 1853 in east Tamaqua. About this year (it is placed by some three years earlier) Rev. Richard Webster made regular trips from Mauch Chunk and founded the First Presbyterian church, in the beginning a union church, in the old school-house, then removing to the framed church which formerly stood on the property of George W. Cole, and in 1853 to the present edifice, immediately opposite, on West Broad street. The first church was erected by the Roman Catholics in 1833. In 1837 the little school-house became too small to accommodate the growing congregations which worshiped there, and a small union church was erected on the lot now occupied by the Methodist Episcopal society. This union edifice was 26 by 40 feet in size, and for a number of years was thought quite an acquisition. In 1845 it passed into the hands of the Methodist episcopal society, by whom it was torn down to make room for the present Methodist church. The same year the German Lutherans erected on Dutch hill an edifice, which was torn down in 1814 to make room for the brick church.
The Pioneer Sunday-school.-June 21st, 1831, a meeting was held in the new school-house to organize the Tamaqua Sabbathschool. The officers elected were: George W. Baum, president; Edward Smith, vice-president; Albert H. Deuel, secretary; John N. Speece, treasurer; John Franklin, John Hetherington, Stephen Dodson, managers. June 26th, 1831, the school was formally and fully organized, with the following teachers: G.W. Baum, Stephen Dodson, John Hix, John Franklin, John N. Speece, Mrs. Maria H. Hunter, Mary Dodson and Parmelia Rhodes; $11.74 was raised upon that occasion for the support of the school, and the number of scholars present was 35. There now fourteen Sunday-schools and 1,739 scholars in the borough.
Primitive Methodist Tabernacle.-The history of the Primitive Methodist church of Tamaqua dates back as far as 1830. William Donaldson, an old and well-known coal operator, opened his house for relioious worship, and, being a local preacher, conducted the services. The cause grew with the population of the then embryo village. The old union church on Broad street was used until the society, increased in numbers and influence, decided to build a church of its own. The site was obtained, free, from the Little Schuylkill Company, and a neat, substiantial and commodious structure of stone erected, which was dedicated by Rev. Hugh Bourne, the venerable founder of Primitive Methodism, on the last Sabbath of 1846. The trustees were William Donaldson, president; R. Nattrass, secretary; R. Ratcliffe, treasurer; Charles Vaughan, Thomas Booth, William Wood and Thomas Williams. A charter of incorporation was obtained in April, 1849. For many years the charge was a part of the Pottsville circuit, but became independent and selfsustaining in 1849. The following ministers have served successively: Benjamin Webber, Charles Spurr, Thomas Foster, William Smith, Alexander Miller, Joseph Fawcett, George Parker, Joseph Robinson, Daniel Savage and Elijah Humphries. During the pastorate of Rev. Daniel Savage the old church was taken down and a new one erected upon the site. It is of stone and brick, 44 by 70 feet, and cost $10,000, requiring $3,000 more to complete it. Rev. Joseph Odell preached the dedicatory sermon, the last Sabbath of 1876, just thirty years from the dedication of the first building. The Sabbath-school was organized November 13th, 1842. The present officers are: G.W. Wilford, superintendent; D.C. Baron, assistant; C.M. Greene, secretary; W.J. Booth, treasurer. It numbers 35 teachers, 250 scholars, and owns an acre of ground at "New England." The church has prospered under the present pastor. A large portion of the debt has been paid and the membership increased to 158, divided into three classes, under John Randall, Edward Davis and Rev. E. Humphries, class leaders. The present trustees are W.H. Mucklow, president; C.M. Greene, secretary; William Booth, J. Randall, Walter Randall, E.A. Jones, J. Weston, Thomas Allen, George Wilford.
St. John's Lutheran Church.-All early records of this church were burned. In 1835 the first Lutheran church, a frame building, was erected on Dutch hill, and the present edifice in 1855. Rev. Mr. George was the first pastor. He was followed by the Rev. Peter Oberfield, who was drowned in the flood of 1850. Rev. M. Boyer came in 1872, followed by Rev. F.T. Hennicke, in 1877, and in 1881 by Rev. H. Theodore Dueming. In 1876 the chapel at Mauch Chunk and Bridge streets was erected. The history of St. John's Lutheran is that of the Reformed side also. Many years this union church has exercised a power for much good in the community, and to-day the membership is greater than that of any other Protestant church.
St. Jerome's Roman Catholic Church.-In 1836 the Catholic of Tamaqua, at one time strong and powerful, built a church on the hill where their cemetery now stands. It was a plain framed structure, and was removed in 1855, the congregation locating their new edifice, a large stone building, 48 by 75 feet, with a tower, on West Broad and Green streets. Rev. Father M.A. Walsh, now vicar-general of Pennsylvania, superintended the erection. The edifice will seat 900 people and there is a parsonage attached. The parish takes in Coal Dale and Tuscarora, and is in a highly flourishing condition. Rev. Joseph Bridgeman is the present father in charge. The value of the property is $20,000.
St. John's Reformed Church,-St. John's Church (Reformed and Lutheran), on Dutch hill, was founded in 1835. A small framed building was erected about that time, which stood until the summer of 1854, when the erection of the present brick building was begun. The new church was dedicated in 1855. Rev. ----- George was the first Lutheran pastor. In 1846 he left and was succeeded by Rev. Peter Oberfield, who was drowned in the great freshet of 1850. During Mr. Oberfield's pastorate Rev. William A. Helfrich, of the Reformed church, from Lehigh county, served as a supply for a few years. After his withdrawal Rev. Robert VanCourt became resident pastor, and from that time (1855) both congregations had pastors residing in the place. St. John's appears to be the oldest Protestant church organization in Tamaqua. A number of the other congregations in the place have organized in the church on Dutch hill. The remaining organizations have still a joint membership of more than 500. The present pastor, Rev. I.E. Graeff, commenced his labors in October, 1878, succeeding Rev. Mr. Schwartz.
First Methodist Episcopal Church.-Concerning the early organization of this church the records are silent. The congregation worshipped in the old union church, and afterward purchased a framed building which stood on the present location, and which was 20 by 40 feet in size. In 1852 the contract was awarded to Isaiah Wells to erect the present edifice, 43 by 75 feet, and it has stood without alteration since. The church became a separate charge the same year. The present pastor is Rev. John F. Meredith, brother to the Rev. Mr. Meredith who was stationed over the charge in 1852. The trustees are A.H. Glassmire, George Shoemaker, Jacob Kaucher, H.K. Aurand, J.M. Hadesty, Jesse Springer and C.F. Lloyd.
The Sunday-school has 250 members. The superintendent is Jackson L. Seiders. The church building is free from debt, and there is a membership of 150. The church and parsonage are estimated to be worth $13,000.
Evangelical Church.-The first preaching in Tamaqua by ministers of the Evangelical Association was in 1848, by Rev. G.T. Haines, at the house of Mr. Wiltermuth. An organization of an association was not accomplished until 1851, by Rev. Andrew Ziegenfuss, at the house of Philip Geissinger, the first members being Emanuel Reich and his wife Mary, Philip and Kate Geissinger, Frederick Young and wife, Joseph Strauss and wife, Samuel Schloyer and wife, David Fehr and wife. Rev. Samuel Gaumer came in 1852, the church being then connected with Schuylkill circuit, and in 1854 an effort was made at the annual conference, in Pottsville; to have a missionary stationed here, but it failed. In 1855, however, Rev. J. Eckert was sent as a missionary, who negotiated with the Presbyterians for their old church edifice on Broad street, and removed it at his own expense to Rowe street. Here the congregation worshipped until 1856, when a chapel was built on Spruce street. The Tamaqua mission was put on Schuylkill circuit that year, and in 1857 Rev. Ephraim Ely took charge, succeeding Rev. R. Deisher. Catawissa class was annexed in 1858. Rev William Bachman was appointed in 1860. Under his administration the congregation purchased the property of the Baptists on Pine street, where the present edifice now stands.
The mission became a station in 1861, when Rev. Simon Reinohl took charge of the work and organized the first Sunday-school. Rev. Anastasius Boetzel was appointed in 1863, In the following year grave charges were made and sustained against Boetzel, and part of the membership siding with him a branch church was started in the old Spruce street chapel, but went out of existence the same year. Rev. J.S. Marquardt came in 1865, and by a wise ministry healed the breach.
The corner stone of the present capacious frame building was laid out that year "with masonic ceremony, which created some irritation and difference of opinion." The new church was dedicated and occupied the same year. Rev. J. Kutz came in 1866. Grave charges were made against him, sustained and found true, and a committee declared him to suffer of spasmodic aberration of the mind. His misdemeanors were very damaging to the church. In 1867 Rev. J.O. Lehr, by good management, saved the church from the sheriff's hammer and cleared it partly from grievous debt. The English language was introduced into the services by Rev. W.K. Wiand, in 1868, but the congregation were not yet ready for the change. Rev. Seneca Breyfogel came in 1870 and served three years acceptably. The annual Conference was held in Tamaqua in 1873, and this church became a distinct charge-Coal Dale Barnesville, and Rush being taken from it and forming Barnesville circuit. Rev. J.C. Bliem became pastor and one hundred and five were added to the church by the great revival of this year. He was followed by I.K. Knerr in 1875, B.J. Smoyer in 1876, and Charles H. Egge in 1877, all men of power and ability, under whose ministry the church has grown and prospered. The present membership is 283; that of the Sunday-school is 247. The church is valued at $8,000 and it will seat 500 persons.
Welsh Congregational Church.-The Welsh church in Tamaqua was built in 1851, and is a very plain, modest edifice on Welsh hill, above Rowe street. The congregation was organized in 1848, with a membership of 36. Rev. Thomas Jones, the first rector, was in charge four years and was succeeded by Rev. J.M. Thomas, who preached statedly some ten months, and was succeeded by Rev. William Thomas, who resigned toward the close of 1855.
The Sunday-school was organized in 1847, with 60 scholars. Rev. David E. Hughes is the present pastor, having been called in 1875. The church, a framed building, is valued, with the other property, at $1,200.
Calvary Episcopal Church.-The history of this parish dates from April 30th, 1848. That day the services of the Episcopal church were first held in Tamaqua. In the morning Right Rev. Bishop Alonzo Potter consecrated Zion church in Tuscarora, and in coming to Tamaqua in the afternoon his carriage was broken and his leg badly injured. Revs. William Auddard, of Philadelphia, and Peter Russel, of Mauch Chunk, in company with the bishop, conducted the services in the evening, Rev. Mr. Auddard preaching in the Primitive Methodist, and Rev. Mr. Russel in the Presbyterian place of worship, which were offered for the purpose. The parish was organized March 27th, 1849. The first Sunday in April ensuing the first stated services were held in the "town hall," Rev. A. Beatty, rector, reading the service, and Rev. Thomas A. Starkey, of Pottsville, preaching the sermon.
At the same time a Sunday-school was organized of 80 members and 15 teachers. Regular services were held, subscriptions were opened for building a church, and a "ladies' sewing circle" was organized. A lot of ground was obtained from the Little Schuylkill Railroad Company, and the vestry decided, in view of the amount raised, to begin the work. Thursday afternoon, June 26th, 1851, the corner stone was laid by Rt. Rev. Bishop Potter, there being present Rev. Peter Russel, of Mauch Chunk; Rev. William C. Cooley, of Pottsville; Rev. Azariah Prior, of Schuylkill Haven, and the rector. The church was opened to public worship Good Friday, April 9th, 1852, the rector, who had just recovered from a three months' illness, preaching the sermon. The first administration of holy communion was given May 1st, 1852. The edifice was consecrated by Bishop Potter, Sunday, June 19th, 1853; Rev. Samuel Hazlehurst, Rev. Peter Russel, Rev. Aaron Christman (ordained in this church, July 11th, 1852,) and the rector, assisted in the services.
March 18th, 1854, Rev. Joseph A. Stone, a presbytery of the diocese, entered upon his duties as rector of the parish, Rev. Mr. Beatty having resigned June 26th, 1853. An organ was purchased in September, 1858, and gas introduced into the building in December of the same year, at a cost of $80. Mr. Stone resigned his charge March 4th, 1860. Revs. H. Baldy, William Wilson, J.L. Murphy and H.S. Getz followed until 1869, and the parish was without a rector until October 1st, 1871, when Rev. Chandler Hare became pastor. He also took charge of St. Philip's church, Summit Hill. He resigned the parish February 1st, 1878. Rev. W.J. Miller followed as rector, in November, 1878, and resigned in November, 1880. He was succeeded by the present rector, the Rev. William B. Burke.
Calvary Church is 46 by 34 feet, built of stone, with a square tower and a bell. The audience room will seat 240 persons. The property is valued at $5,000. the Sunday-school meets in the basement.
First Presbyterian Church.-As a chartered organization the Presbyterian church of Tamaqua dates from May 18th, 1851. In the summer of 1837 a union church was built, to which Presbyterians contributed, but in which the Methodist Episcopal and Primitive Methodist churches held services. The first Presbyterian service was held Sabbath evening December 24th, 1837, by Rev. Richard Webster, a pioneer missionary through this section. In 1838 the church at Summit Hill and Tamaqua was organized by the Presbytery of Newton, New Jersey. Port Clinton was also part of the same church, Rev. Richard Webster preaching there in 1839, receiving in that year Mr. and Mrs. George Wiggan, of the Presbyterian church in Philadelphia. Mr. Wiggan, honored in years and good deeds, has been ruling elder of this church forty-two years. Rev. Dr. Schenck labored in this field in 18423 and in 1845 the Luzerne Presbytery arranged to give a monthly supply. In 1846 the presbytery appointed Revs. Webster, Harned and Moore, with three elders, to organize an independent church at Tamaqua, and, after three attempts, it was accomplished in May, 1846. Mr. Webster with Mr. Edgar, of summit Hill, met the Presbyterians of Tamaqua in Mr. Heaton's parlor, now Mr. Beard's, when the church was organized with ten members-George Wiggan and Susannah, his wife; Mrs Sarah Heaton, Miss Ely McNeill, Mrs. M.H. Hunter, form the Summit Hill church; William Laird and Ann, his wife, from the Free church, Scotland; Sidney Arms, Mrs. Mary Heaton, wife of R.A. Heaton, from the Methodist Episcopal church, Tamaqua; and John Hendricks and Ely Josephine, his wife, from the Eleventh church, Philadelphia. Mr. Wiggan and Mr. Laird were elected elders and installed by Rev. W.W. Bonnel, of Port Carbon, July 26th, 1846.
Rev. B.F. Bittinger became first pastor, in 1847, at a salary of $300. Rev. Charles Glenn began his pastorate, in January, 1852, and during it the present handsome stone edifice on West Broad street was built. Messrs. Newkirk & Buck, of Philadelphia, gave $6,000-the whole cost being $8,500. At the same time a double cottage was erected back of the church as a parsonage, but those instructed to secure the deed neglected it, and Mr. Glenn was greatly surprised one fine morning when presented with a bill for $150, for rent due the company that had purchased the lands of Newkirk & Buck. Rev. Mr. Glenn resigned August 17, 1856, and in January, 1857, Rev. J.H. Callen began his labors, continuing to April, 1859. He was succeeded by Rev. William Thompson in February, 1860. During his pastorate the church at Mahanoy City was organized, 1863, and for some time he preached to both charges. In July, 1868, Rev. Benjamin C. Meeker succeeded Mr. Thompson, who closed his eight years' pastorate. In 1876-77 the church was remodeled and refurnished, Elder George Wiggan contributing $1,500. The church to-day is in a flourishing condition. The Literary Institute has been in operation five years, and is considered a town institution. The membership at this time (January, 1881) is 87; of the Sunday-school, is 150. The value of the church property is $20,000. The church seats 600.
Zion's English Evangelical Lutheran Church.-This church started as a colony from St. John's Lutheran Church, Dutch hill, the first meeting taking place in Seitzinger's hall, January 27th, 1876, attended by 48 persons. The organization of the Sabbath-school occurred December 5th, 1875, with 80 scholars. The present handsome frame edifice was built in 1876, largely by Mr. John Zehner, and its cost, with its furniture, was $5,500. The presentable pastor, Rev. William H. Laubenstein, entered upon his duties October 1st, 1877.
The Sunday-school superintendents have been John Zehner, Charles Steigerwalt, Henry A. Kauffman, William A. Snyder, John Whetstone, Henry A. Kauffman and John Semback. The present church membership is 205. The Sunday-school numbers 250.
Trinity Reformed Church.-The Trinity Reformed congregation of Tamaqua was organized by the authority of the Lebanon Classis, August 19th, 1877, and the corner stone of the present frame building at Washington and Jefferson streets was laid September 2nd, 1867. While the church was being erected the congregation held their services in the Welsh church. No regular pastor was called until September 19th, 1868, when the Rev. I.E. Graeff was elected. His pastorate continued until March 13th, 1873, and during it 62 were baptized, 24 confirmed, 28 persons received by certificate and profession, and 28 funerals attended. December 21st, 1873, Rev. J.H. Hartman received and accepted a call. He labored until February 1st, 1880, and during that time baptized 210 children, confirmed 34, received by certificate 46, and officiated at 86 funerals. January 18th, 1880, Rev. John J. Fisher, the present pastor, took charge, and was ordained February 5th, and during the years he has received 12 by confirmation, 10 by certificate, and officiated at 4 funerals.
The congregation originally consisted of 53 members, and the first consistory was as follows: Elders-Peter Hartman and Matthias Haldeman; deacons-August Wetterau, L.F. Fritsch, Jacob Eisenacher and George Eckhardt.
Rev. October 2010