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History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania
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The opening up of the coal mines of Tioga county and the development of the coal and coke trade have not been without troubles and perplexities. To write an impartial history of the various strikes which have occurred from time to time is a delicate and difficult task, viewed from any standpoint; we enter upon the work, we believe, as thoroughly devoid of any feelings of prejudice or favoritism as it is possible to be, and our only desire is to write out the facts and leave comments to the reader. Our history will only date back to the year 1865, a period when the "great strike" occurred, and we shall only refer incidentally to those which preceded it.
In the year 1863 a society was formed at Fall Brook and Morris Run entitled "The Miners’ and Laborers’ Benevolent Union," which was joined by the miners and laborers in those places, with few exceptions. Subsequently the laborers, including the carpenters and all other mechanics, withdrew and had a "union" of their own, separate from that of the miners. Their meetings were secret and none but members were admitted. Each union had a committee whose duty it was to hear all complaints made by individual members and to present such complaints to a full meeting of the union for its action; also to receive applications for work from any one desiring to be employed by the Fall B rook Coal Company, the Morris Run Coal Company and the Salt Company, which latter company was at that time operating mines at Morris Run. These committees virtually dictated the number of men that these companies should employ. A miner making application to Mr. Brewer, superintendent of the Fall Brook mines, for work must obtain from the union permission to work before Mr. Brewer could give him a job. He must also be a member of the union. Another important feature of the miners’ union was that when its membership amounted to a certain number no more members were admitted.
The laborers’ union was not so strict in regard to numbers, for many miners joined it when they could not obtain membership in the miners union, and worked in the woods at two dollars and fifty cents per day, when if permitted by the union to work in the mines they could have earned six dollars. It will be born in mind that the great war of the rebellion was then going on, and every able bodied citizen was wanted at the front. Many of the citizens who were liable to military duty either enlisted, were drafted and commuted at $300, or furnished substitutes. Native citizens were therefore going into the army, and their places were supplied by those from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, who were exempt from military duty, not having declared even their intention to become citizens. Wages ad-
THE MINERS’ STRIKE OF 1865 51
Vanced, labor was scarce, and every article which entered the household was necessarily high. The miners’ union and the laborers’ union had several times made a demand for more pay, which was sometimes cheerfully given them and at other times, when the companies thought that their demands were exorbitant, a strike would ensue. This would generally be compromised and settled by the company "splitting the difference" with the employes or wholly acceding to their wishes. This state of things existed for one or two years before the final struggle came in 1865.
During the years 1863 and 1864 the demand for tenements for the use of the miners and other employes of the companies named was great. A large force of carpenters and house builders was employed in erecting dwellings, but they could not keep pace with the applications for houses. The Fall Brook Coal Company had by the 1st of September 1864 erected about two hundred dwellings, and the Onondaga Salt Company and the Morris Run Coal Company were exerting themselves to the utmost to build houses; and the saw-mills were run night and day both at Fall Brook and Morris Run to keep the carpenters at work. The companies at Morris Run even erected quite a number of tenements of round logs dovetailed at the corners and chinked with clay in the interstices.
The Strike of 1865 – It was during this great demand for houses that the president of the Fall Brook Coal Company, Hon. John Magee, went to Fall Brook and ascertained that quite a number of the occupants of his dwellings at Fall Brook were working either for the salt company at Morris Run or the Morris Run Coal Company, whose mines were about two miles distant from Fall Brook. Mr. Magee was very much dissatisfied with this arrangement and spoke in strong terms to his superintendent, Mr. Brewer, for permitting the miners to reside in the Fall Brook Coal Company’s houses and work for rival companies; and he directed that a lease or contract should be drawn up and submitted to the householders embodying a specification that whenever they ceased to work for the Fall Brook Coal Company they should vacate the premises, in order that the company might supply their places with those who desired to occupy the houses and work for the company. Upon investigation it was found that there were miners living in the houses of the companies at Morris Run and working at Fall Brook. An understanding was then had between the companies at Morris Run and the Fall Brook Coal Company that each company should restrict the miners or laborers to the occupation of house belonging to the companies for which they respectively worked. The contract spoken of, directed by Mr. Magee, was drawn up and submitted to the committees of the miners’ and laborers’ unions, and they in turn submitted it to a general meeting of each union specially convened for the purpose of deliberating upon the proposition of the company. Both unions refused to comply with the demand of the companies at Fall Brook and Morris Run, and appointed committees to notify the companies of their determination. The companies, through their agents, then gave the miners and laborers notice that unless they did comply with the terms of the proposed contract the mines would be closed, and stand closed until such an arrangement was made. The unions responded that they could not and would not sign the proposed contract, claiming it was beneath their manhood so to do. The Fall Brook Coal Company, through its manager, on the 31st of December 1864 caused the following notice to be served upon all occupants of houses in Fall Brook:
"Sir, - You are hereby notified and required to quit, remove from, and deliver up to the Fall Brook Coal Company possession of the premises and house No. _____, now occupied by you, which you hold as an employe of the said company. In default of your immediate compliance with this demand legal proceedings will be resorted to for the possession of said premises.
"H. Brewer, Manager.
"Fall Brook, December 31st, 1864
Similar notices were served on the miners and laborers at Morris Run.
Simultaneous with the notices referred to, John Magee, president of the Fall Brook Coal Company, issued the following circular:
"To the Miners and laborers employed at the Fall Brook Coal Mines:
"You have been notified that the business of mining at Fall Brook is this day suspended, and it will continue suspended as long as the miners and others employed by the company arrogate to themselves the right and exercise the power to dictate and control the business of the company. For more than three years you have run the mines very much in your own way; certainly not to the satisfaction or profit of your employers, and it is believed not to the satisfaction of yourselves. The company have therefore resolved to take charge of their own business and manage it hereafter, as they have a right to do, independent of dictation from those they employ. If they cannot obtain men on these terms who will respect the rights of their employers, they will not resume business. Their rights must hereafter be respected, and their superintendent and bosses treated with respect and obeyed in the rightful performance of their duty. If you or any portion of you shall regard the rules adopted for the future conduct of the business at Fall Brook, herewith submitted, to be inconsistent with your rights or the dignity of labor, you will of course leave, and seek employment in some other locality. This you have a right to do; but you have not the right to dictate, control and disorganize the business of your employers. It is well known that a portion – a majority it is believed – of the people at Fall Brook are industrious and well disposed; and it is equally well known that another portion constitute a disturbing element, ever busy in fomenting discontent, seeking to exercise power and dominion over others. These disturbers are respectfully requested to leave. They will have no difficulty in selecting themselves out from the rest.
"The company have at all times paid liberal prices; they have done every thing in their power to make the people comfortable; have respected their feelings, all
"With you it is left to determine whether work shall be resumed with your aid or stand suspended. To the company it makes but little difference. They have no contracts to perform, no debts to pay. Their coal is safe in the mountains, and it is better to leave it there than to bring it out at an enormous cost under humiliating circumstances. The proprietors are not dependent upon the revenue derived from the mines for their support, and can get on quite comfortably during the time of suspension, be it one, two or more years, without supplies from that quarter. This is not said in a spirit of boasting, but to place before you the fact that we are not in your power. The houses have been built for the accommodation of those employed and willing to do their duty; not for idlers or disturbers of the company’s business. Hereafter no one can occupy a house except he executes a contract defining his rights and duties. To this end a special agreement has been prepared and will be submitted herewith, which must be executed by all who wish to occupy our houses in future.
"There shall be no relaxation on this point. The company will maintain the right to control their property. Self-respect and justice require this. If the company had at any time denied you full, generous compensation for your services you would have had some reason to form combinations. As it has been, and is, your action is uncalled for, unreasonable and disorderly, as well as disrespectful to your employers and best friends. The continuance of such unjustifiable conduct cannot and will not be tolerated. The accompanying notice and regulations have been prepared upon mature deliberation on the part of your employers, with a fixed and unalterable determination on their part to insist upon and sustain them at all hazards. The above remarks and considerations are addressed to you, believing that their careful and candid consideration as well as observance by you will conduce as much to your welfare as to that of your employers.
"John Magee, Pres’t."
From time to time there was subsequent correspondence between the company and the several committees, but the general situation remained unchanged. The mines were closed, and all outside as well as inside work stopped. Those who had not hitherto belonged to either union were forced to remain idle, excepting a man or two at the company’s mule barns, the clerks in the office or store, and a contractor who was erecting the Fall Brook Hotel. The miners had been earning at the rate of $8 per day per man, and some heads of families had three or four boys who worked with them, running up their gross earnings to $20 or $30 per day, so they were prepared for a long siege. The laborers had been receiving from $2.25 to $2.75, while the mechanics had been getting still higher wages. Many of the men had when the lock-out or strike commenced from $500 to $2,000; and while those who had recently arrived, or those with large families of small children, had but a small sum of money or perhaps none at all, yet upon the whole there was a large amount of money in the hands of the people.
For a few weeks the strike took the form of a holiday. Funds were subscribed and money was paid to the needy by the unions, and everything went on swimmingly for a time. The snow fell unusually deep that winter, being nearly three feet deep on the level. Under the general landlord and tenant act of Pennsylvania it required three months’ notice on the part of the landlord before he could commence suits of ejectment. This the miners and laborers understood, and held possession of their houses.
After about four weeks many of the miners, who had really from the first been opposed to the action of the union, on seeing their money going out daily either to supply their own wants or those of poor neighbors and none coming in, quietly moved away, or objected to a longer continuance of the state of affairs which then existed. Here were two large villages, containing about two thousand inhabitants each (Fall Brook and Morris Run), substantially idle, when were the men at work they could be earning from two to three thousand dollars per day; a number of the more conservative miners and laborers tried to effect a reconciliation, while others would not hear the first suggestion which looked toward a compromise.
Several times the strikers had processions, headed by martial music, and in other ways they endeavored to pass away the time as best they could. As a general thing they abstained from the use of strong drink, but occasionally overstepped the bounds of propriety and had a convivial time. The freshet of March 17th 1865 tore up the railroad track between Blossburg and Fall Brook, sweeping away the river bridge near Gulick’s Mill and doing great damage near Somerville. The company needed men to assist in repairing the damage, and was obliged to take clerks out of the store, and manage in various ways to put the railroad in shape again. The laborers’ union of course would not permit any of its members to work, and progress in repairing the damage done by the flood was slow; some of the most hotheaded and vindictive men belonging to the laborers’ union stoned and insulted those who were at work on the track. We believe there were only two miners who worked during the strike, one of whom was Patrick Sullivan; the other’s name has escaped our memory.
Time hung heavily upon all concerned, and yet every day was one nearer to the time appointed for the commencement of the suits and issuing of the writs of ejectment. A few days before that time arrived the laborers’ union, concluding to accept the conditions of the company, signed the leases and went to work.
The miners, however, persistently refused the terms. The three months having expired suits were commenced at Blossburg before Justice Bosworth by the Morris Run Coal Company and the Onandaga Salt Company, and at Fall Brook, before L. C. Shepard. This was a grave mistake on the part of the companies. They should have commenced their actions before a justice of the peace living remote from the scene of action, for the reason that less censure would fall upon a justice living in some other portion of the county, though he had done precisely as the home justices did; and the home justices would have been relieved from many unpleasant
THE MINERS’ STRIKE OF 1865 53
Things which the law compelled them to do. Judgments were obtained by the companies and writs of ejectment issued. Those at Fall Brook were placed in the hands of E. W. Noble, constable of Lawrenceville borough. He and his deputies ejected a number, but met with considerable resistance. About as fast as he ejected a family or families they would be taken in by others, and thus he made slow work. Finally he met with so much opposition and resistance that he appealed to the sheriff, Leroy Tabor, who summoned a posse of two or three hundred of the yeomanry of the county. This large force was also resisted, and several of the number were maltreated and assaulted, among them Jack Kizer of Tioga. This occurred on the 8th of May 1865. On the 10th of that month warrants were issued against six persons who were charged with being either principals or accessories to the assault and beating, who were arrested and held in sums ranging from $300 to $1,000 each for their appearance at the next court of quarter sessions at Wellsboro. On the same day warrants were issued for the apprehension of sixty-four persons, who it was charged were guilty of conducting themselves in a riotous and tumultuous manner, and who did by force of arms, guns, clubs, etc. prevent the constable of Lawrenceville borough from executing certain writs, etc. A number of the 64 were apprehended and had an examination. Two of them were committed to jail, a number were released on their own recognizance, and the others were held with surety in sums ranging from $500 to $800. On May 15th complaints were made on oath against four others. Warrants were issued and they were arrested and held in the sum of $200 each to keep the peace and for their appearance at the next court of quarter sessions. Several other warrants were issued and arrests made.
It was evident that the sheriff and his posse of yeomen could not succeed in serving the writs and enforcing ejectments, for he and his posse had not only to encounter the male portion of the community but the female portion also; and it was evident to him that there were miners and sympathizers coming in from other mines and other sections of the State to reinforce the miners at Fall Brook and Morris Run. He therefore appealed to the governor of the State for assistance. The Bucktail regiment was ordered by the governor to go at once to the assistance of Sheriff Tabor. The railroad had been repaired and the telegraph line was in order, and before the miners were aware of their approach about 300 of the Bucktails suddenly steamed into Fall Brook and took possession of the town. A number of the leaders of the miners were immediately arrested, under the direction of the sheriff, by the Bucktails, who were temporarily commanded by Captain Fisher and Lieutenant Snodgrass. The next day after their arrival they commenced dispossessing the miners, removing their household goods to the cars which were standing on the track in front of the depot. When this was accomplished the owners of the good were placed on board and with a suitable number of guards conducted to Blossburg, where they were unloaded into the street. It was a pitiable sight, and many bystanders shed tears when they saw these poor deluded miners with their wives and little ones thus turned into the streets without a shelter. The same process was adopted at Morris Run and the town was cleared of miners. A force of carpenters immediately nailed up with boards the windows and doors of the dwellings recently occupied, which gave the towns a sorry and melancholy look. The regiment was divided into squads, a portion being detailed to Fall Brook, a portion to Morris Run, and a portion to Blossburg.
Negotiations were soon after commenced between the miners and the companies, which resulted in a large majority of them returning to their respective places, signing the contracts and going to work; not, however, at the price they were receiving on the 1st of January, 1865, for the war was now over and coal had declined materially in the market, and their wages were correspondingly low. They had fallen nearly 50 percent.
Men who but a few months previous had a thousand dollars in their pockets were now destitute, and were compelled to get some of the more fortunate ones to go their security in order to procure the necessary tools and provisions to commence work again. Those that had nothing when the strike commenced of course were no poorer, but those who had economized and saved up a few hundred dollars with the idea of buying farms and retiring from the mines, and who had not lost all, keenly and sorely felt the changed condition of their affairs.
Mutual confidence was gradually restored between the companies and the miners, and they again entered upon a plane of prosperity. From 1865 until the 20th of September 1873 the mines at Fall Brook and Morris Run were in operation uninterruptedly, and many of the miners recovered in a measure from the strike of 1865. In the meantime coal mines had been opened four miles southwest from Blossburg, and a new town had been founded, known at Arnot. Wages during all these years had been fair and the work steady, insuring certain monthly installments of cash to every household. Tioga county was mining and sending to market annually nearly a million tons of coal, the tonnage being for 1873: Fall Brook, 312,466; Morris Run, 357,384; Blossburg Coal Company, 321,207; making a total tonnage of 991,057. The Tioga county coal fields were attracting attention in the coal markets of the country, when in September 1873 the great panic in the money market of the country caused a sudden depression in all industrial pursuits. Mining was no exception to the general and widespread stagnation in business. The Tioga mining companies felt it severely and were about closing their mines when, upon consultation with some of the leading miners, it was determined to run the mines from two to three days per week in order to give employment to the men. This course of the companies had only been in operation about four weeks, and the miners were getting four days’ work per week, when the strike of 1873 was inaugurated.
The Strike of 1873 – Several causes led to this strike, the most prominent of which was the establishment of a miners’ union similar to that of 1862-5. The companies were opposed to anything which savored of the times of 1865, and, although the miners assured them that the new union was an altogether different institution from that of 1865, they refused to listen to the miners, and declared by a posted notice that they would not employ any one that belonged to it. The agents of the companies pointed out to the miners the numerous societies and organizations which they already had – the Odd Fellows, Free Masons, Knights of Pythias, Ivorites, friendly societies and various church organizations – and thought these should be sufficient for them. The miners claimed a right to form a union. The companies conceded the abstract right, but claimed that such an organization was calculated to cause distrust between the companies and men, and that it would ultimately lead to the re-enacting of the scenes of 1865. Neither party was willing to yield. The companies were determined that no union men should work for them, and did all they could to prevent such an organization being instituted at the several mines. The miners were determined to have a union, even if they did not work for the company. The issue was thus drawn. Other issues and other matters were ultimately involved in the contest, of which we shall speak hereafter, but union-and-no-work or work-and-no-union was the primary question in controversy.
The Morris Run and other companies issued notices
like the following:
"MORRIS RUN, December 11th, 1873.
"Notice is hereby given that on Saturday the 13th instant
this company will pay all their miners for September who do not belong to the miners’ union proposed in Tioga county, Pa., and who pledge themselves not to join the same. Also we will pay up all miners who do belong to the union in fall as soon as they are ready to settle their accounts and vacate our houses. All miners employed by this company will be expected to give satisfactory replies to the following questions: (1st) ‘Are you a member of the union of miners proposed in Tioga county, Pennsylvania, or any society of a similar character?’ If the party is not a member then he will be asked, (2nd) ‘Are you willing and do you pledge yourself not to join any such society?’ If the party is a member he will then be asked, (3rd) ‘Are you willing and do you pledge yourself to dissolve your connection with such society without delay, and not join the same again?’
"The companies will protect all men working for them from
"MORRIS RUN COAL COMPANY,
"Tioga Co., Pa."
We should have stated that, funds not being procurable on
account of the panic, the companies owed their men about two months' wages, a case which had not occurred before with the Fall Brook Coal Mining Company since its organization, in the year 1859. But the men were not demanding money; it was a union they wanted, and this they were determined to have, even at the loss of position and work. This they accomplished at Fall Brook, Morris Run and Arnot; but at Antrim they did not succeed and kept steadily at work. Many of the Antrim miners formerly lived at Fall Brook and had experience in the "great strike" of 1865. The Fall Brook Coal Company, as well as the Morris Run and Blossburg Coal Companies, served notices on the miners to vacate their houses, but the Fall Brook Coal Company did not attempt to eject any of them. Several were sued and judgment obtained against them. A large number, however, vacated their houses and removed to other places, some going to Blossburg, where a long shanty was erected, capable of holding many families, and living there until the difficulty was settled. The citizens of Blossburg contributed liberally to the wants of those there, while much help was obtained for them in various sections of the county. The miners remained away from the mines and were idle until about the 1st of March 1874.
The other issues, heretofore alluded to, which were brought
into the controversy were raised by the writing of certain letters to the Bureau of Statistics at Harrisburg by men living in Blossburg, Corning, Hazleton, Mahanoy City and other places, in which the miners were instigated to induce the governor to issue a "quo warranto" to oblige the companies to show cause why they should not surrender their charters. The miners intended to employ Hon. Lin Bartholomew and Hon. George W. Biddle, of Philadelphia, in case the governor issued the warrant. They also endeavored to enlist the United States government on their side by showing that the companies were liable, under the second section of the act of Congress of July 17th 1862 (Vol. XII, page 592 of Statutes at Large), for giving orders on the store and in case the order was not fully traded out keeping the order and giving due bills payable in merchandise for the balance. The section reads thus:
"Section 2nd. – And be it further enacted that from and
after the 1st day of August eighteen hundred and sixty-two, no private corporation, banking association, firm or individual shall make, issue, circulate or pay any note, check, memorandum, token or other obligation for a less sum than one dollar, intended to circulate as money or to be received or used in lieu of lawful money of the United States; and every person so offending shall on conviction thereof in any district or circuit court of the United States be punished by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months, or by both, at the option of the court."
The companies held that the order given on the store was
not "intended to circulate as money" in lieu of the lawful money of the United States; nor was the due bill which the holder of the order received payable in merchandise for any untraded balance; and therefore they were not amenable to the provision of the act above quoted; and lastly, the companies claimed and satisfied the United States officers that when they did settle with their miners or employes they invariably paid them in current United States funds or national bank funds, which were lawful currency of the United States. The United States revenue officers examined into the matter and held that the positions thus taken were correct.
THE MINERS’ STRIKES OF 1873 AND 1880 55
These and many other side issues were agitated. Much warmth and bad blood was stirred up on both sides, and when each had cooled down a settlement was effected, the Fall Brook Coal Company submitting the following terms to those wishing to commence work for that company, which the representatives of the employes accepted: 1st, the company to pay for the remainder of 1874 for mining and other labor the same price as paid in the summer of 1873; 2nd, the weight per ton of coal from drift No. 2 to be 2,200, from drift No. 3 2,100 pounds; 3rd, if desired by the miners (upon application to the manager) they were to appoint one man and the company one to see that the scales were properly adjusted; 4th, the company to hire such men as it could agree with and discharge such as it deemed proper; 5th, the leases to be signed and remain the same as at the date of these conditions; 6th, in case of emergency the foreman to consult with a committee of miners.
The following agreement was made between the Blossburg Coal Company and its employes for 1874; 1st, the company to pay the wages paid during the summer of 1873; 2nd, any man working in the mines, who should become dissatisfied with the price offered by the foreman, to be permitted to have another place, and the foreman to arrange with any other man or other men to do said work, and no other man or men to have any right to interfere, and in case the foreman insisted on any miner working a difficult place for less than the workman was willing to work for, and refused to give him other work, then the difference to be settled by arbitration; 3rd, the men to appoint two miners and the company one to arrange weights, so that the company might have, to sell, a ton of coal for every ton of coal it paid for mining; 4th, ten-day leases to be signed as usual.
The families that had removed from Morris Run, Arnot and Fall Brook generally returned to their respective places after the settlement. The Morris Run Company had made similar agreements to those quoted above, and all were ready for work.
About that time the Fall Brook Coal Company received propositions for a very heavy order of coal, amounting to nearly one hundred and fifty thousand tons annually, but at reduced prices. The managers submitted a proposition to the miners to work for less wages than those stipulated above, but after consultation the miners refused to make any change in their price, and the order was not filled by the company.
The Strike of 1880. – The coal trade of 1874 was very dull in the Blossburg region, the total production in that year being 796,388 tons, against 991,057 the preceding year, showing a shrinkage of 195,669 tons. The loss of the mining of nearly two hundred thousand tons was felt severely by both the miners and the companies. Nor had the trade reached its lowest point. In the year 1875 the tonnage of the Blossburg coal region was 581,792, being a shrinkage of 409,265 tons since 1873. The miners were not in operation in some localities more than two days per week. Everything looked dark and gloomy. In 1876 the trade revived a little, there being mined that year 616,984 tons, being an increase of 35,192 tons over the preceding year. This tonnage did not give the miners more than half time on an average. In 18978 the trade shrank to 602,245 tons, a falling off of 14, 739 tons. In the spring of 1870 the trade was dull, and the companies secured contracts at the best attainable figure for the year ending May 1880.
In that spring the Industrial Register was founded. It was edited and owned by the writer of this history, and was neutral in politics, giving especial attention to mining, coking, railroading, tanning, lumbering, glass manufacturing and agricultural interests, and local and general news of the day, historical and biographical sketches and family reading. It was published at Blossburg, in the center of the Blossburg coal region. The editor went to work in earnest to build up the industrial interests of the county, of whatsoever nature and kind. He obtained a wide circulation for his paper in northern and central Pennsylvania, southern New York, and wherever he though capital might be enlisted in tanning, lumbering, glass manufacturing or other pursuits in Tioga county. He wrote up the coal regions of northern Pennsylvania, gave descriptions and analyses of the coal, and showed its superiority for blacksmithing and steam purposes, and also explained through the columns of the Register the use of bituminous coke as a fuel. He was in possession of a list of all the principal rolling-mills, furnaces, machine shops and foundries in the United States, and through the columns of the Industrial Register or by slips taken therefrom called the attention of iron manufacturers generally to the Blossburg semi-bituminous coal and coke.
The coal trade increased, so that the tonnage for 1879 came nearly up to the old figures of 1873, it being 874,010 tons, and in 1880 it reached 921,555, being 439,773 tons more than was mined in 1875, and giving the miners at least 110,000 more days’ work than they had in 1875. The coal trade had been so brisk during the year 1879 that in December of that year the miners demanded an advance of prices. This they were given, although the companies were filling contracts made in the month of May preceding, when coal was low, the demand quit, and competition lively among coal companies to make sale of their coal. After a few days another advance was demanded by the miners. This the companies refused to give, claiming that their contracts were made when the price of coal was low, and that the advance they had already given was all they could possibly pay and have anything left them for their coal. The matter was discussed pro and con for about six weeks, the companies in the meantime assuring the miners that when they made their new contracts on the 1st of May 1880 they would endeavor to secure contracts that would enable them to pay the price they demanded. The editor of the Industrial Register, who thoroughly understood the situation of the coal trade, and knew the parties who stood ready to seize the trade of this county in case of a suspension of work in the Blossburg coal region, in the issue of February 12th, 1880, under the title of "Coal
"In our last week’s issue we briefly alluded to the competition with which our northern bituminous coal companies have to contend in relation to the cutting of prices by those engaged in selling certain grades of anthracite at points where the northern coal companies usually find a market. We now propose to make a few suggestions as to the course which we believe is the best to be pursued by the miners and companies under existing circumstances.
"We start out with the propositions that the interests of the miner and his employer are mutual; that it is impossible for them to stem and overcome the competition which now menaces them without they work in harmony; that in this crisis it is their duty to stand by each other, and do all in their power jointly to sustain each other, or else both will suffer to a very serious extent. The miner must take into consideration the difficulties which beset the companies in making sale of their coal at remunerative prices which will enable them to advance the price for mining, remembering that by far the largest amount of coal mined in this section is sold on season contracts, which expire and are renewed on May 1st each year; and the companies must bear with patience the restlessness of the miners, for a majority of them do not fairly understand the condition of affairs, and are not aware of the serious competition which is being made against the companies by those engaged in selling anthracite, Clearfield and Butler county coal, and therefore through their authorized agents should make them (the miners) acquainted with the true condition of the coal trade, explaining to them the competition against which they are obliged to contend. We believe that if the true state of affairs is well understood by the old, reliable and leading miners of the northern coal fields that a mutual understanding will be arrived at, and the threatened storm of a strike will pass over, and sunshine, peace and harmony will prevail, instead of discord, contention, strife and ill feeling.
"Miners, you are friends; you are patrons of the Industrial Register, which was established for the purpose of promoting the interests of all who are engaged in industrial pursuits, and we feel it our duty to warn you of the threatened danger that awaits you. You are not aware of the many indirect and subtle influences which are being brought to bear upon you by those interested in stopping the mining and production of coal in this northern coal region. We positively know it has been done heretofore, and we have every reason to believe that there are emissaries among you now for the purpose of making you discontented, and to incite you to a strike or suspension of work in order that a particular coal region of this State may profit by your misfortune. You are men of sense; will you suffer this trick to be played upon you?"
These articles were read with interest, some regarding them in the true light, as being calculated to set before the miner the situation as it was; while some were loud in their denunciation of the writer, heaping all sorts of epithets and anathemas upon him, charging him with being in the interest of the companies and an enemy to the miner. Conscious of being in the right, and having a friendly feeling toward those who had reviled him through ignorance of his good intentions, the next week, under the head of "Coal Trade," he gave some more information which he believed was for their best interest. It read:
"It will be seen by extracts from the state of the anthracite coal trade, to be found in another column, that the anthracite dealers are confidently anticipating a strike in the bituminous coal regions on Monday next. Miners of northern Pennsylvania, can you not see the object of those who are inducing you to strike? They want to profit by your calamity. They want to make catspaws of you, as it were, for the purpose of promoting their interests. They want to stop the production of bituminous coal to obtain a market for their coal where Blossburg coal has usually been sold. If they once get a foothold in our northern markets and displace our semi-bituminous coal the miners of this region can take a long rest; for the northern coal companies will not be able to renew their contracts. As will be seen in another column, the new rates for anthracite are $3.40 for furnace lump; steamer lump, grate and stove, $3.45, and chestnut $3.85, in New York. These prices have been made in anticipation of a strike in this region. Last week there were over forty thousand car loads of anthracite standing on the track, ready to be sent in any direction when there was an opening. In their haste to rush into market and cut rates they find themselves in a position where they have been obliged to put their men on half time in order to get rid of their surplus coal. If our miners stand firm and work for their own interests they will do nothing to stop the production in this section of the State. It is a critical point in our mining history, and we earnestly hope that our miners will act wisely. Two months more of steady work at present prices will bridge us over the critical point and enable the companies to make contracts that will insure the miner an advance in the price of mining.
"By another circular, which we have received since writing the above, we are informed that the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company are selling pea coal at Port Richmond for $2.25 per ton. With the great amount of surplus coal on hand they can readily invade our market, and with an understanding with their miners either to work three or six days per week just as circumstances require they expect to control and influence the market, both in the east and in our northern regions. We hope they will be disappointed in their anticipations of a strike. They will be if our miners consult their own interests."
It seemed that all that could be said or done could not prevent the miners of Tioga county from striking. The miners at McIntyre, Barclay and Carbon Run, however, took a different course. They remained at work, and the mines were run to the fullest capacity. The closing of the mines in Tioga county was of great advantage to the Lycoming and Bradford county miners, and they reaped a rich harvest.
The coke ovens of the Blossburg Coal Company were
THE MINERS’ STRIKE OF 1880 – THE LUMBER BUSINESS 52
In full blast when the strike commenced, and the fires were allowed to go out, involving a loss of two or three thousand dollars. The suspension of mining threw a large force of railroad men and coal yard men out of employment all along the line of the Tioga and Elmira State Line Railroad and its connection; also along the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim and Syracuse, Geneva and Corning railroads and their connections, besides the laborers at the mines.
On the 28th of February 1880 F. N. Drake, president of the Blossburg Coal Company, submitted to the miners the following propositions, which were subsequently concurred in by the Fall Brook Coal Company and the Morris Run Coal Mining Company: 1st, the present price of coal will not warrant an advance in the price of mining or other labor connected therewith; 2nd, the several above named companies propose the present price for mining and other labor necessary and the present price of coal as a basis upon which to regulate prices of labor for the future; 3rd, if the price of coal shall rise in the future then the price of labor to advance, and if it shall fall then the price of labor to fall correspondingly; 4th, that a committee, or other persons duly authorized by miners and other laborers connected with mining operations shall meet with Mr. Drake and others, and make the necessary arrangements to carry out the above propositions; 5th, the above proposed arrangement to go into effect as soon as the same can be perfected; 6th, these propositions to be withdrawn in case work is suspended on the part of the men.
These propositions were not accepted by the miners, and they were withdrawn and the strike went on. It was but the repetition of the old programme. Notices were served on the miners to vacate the houses; no ejectments were made so far as we were able to learn, but a large number left the mines, among them quite a number of single men, who were very officious in bringing on the strike, and, this object accomplished, left and found employment in other localities, leaving the men with families to bear the burden of the strike. There was a provision in the contracts of the company which released it from fulfilling them in case of a strike, and therefore they had no contracts to fill. But they had been in the habit of supplying numerous foundries, rolling-mills and other industrial establishments with coal, and other and rival companies from the Clearfield, Bradford and Lycoming coal districts were getting their customers, and the Tioga county coal companies were suffering a great loss of trade and the miners a loss of work by the suspension.
During the months of March and April committees were appointed by the miners and Knights of Labor to confer with the companies. A few days previous to one of these conferences a committee called on the editor of the Industrial Register and desired him to republish a communication which had appeared in a newspaper at Wellsboro, concerning a miners’ meeting which had been held more than a month previous, which he agreed to do. But on the very day of publication a conference was being held with every prospect of a final adjustment; and after consultation with a prominent miner he decided not to republish the article, as it might jeopardize the negotiations.
The strike continued. A committee of miners was appointed to solicit donations of money and provision, and another committee was appointed to take charge of the stores and deal them out to the needy. Supplies were purchased by the car load and shipped in, and there was not as much suffering as in 1873 or 1865, for the strike did not last so long. Still there was enough. The first of May finally arrived, the time at which the companies had assured the miners their contracts would be renewed and an advance given them if possible; and work was resumed, to the gratification of all concerned.
LUMBERING AND TANNING.
The lumbering business of Tioga county can be divided into two eras. The first extended from 1800 to 1865 and we shall denominate it the White Pine era. The first lumbering to any extend was carried on at or near Lawrenceville, on the Tioga, and on the Cowanesque at the same place, and at Beecher’s Island, Elkland, Knoxville and other points on the latter river. The first saw-mills were of course rude, and were intended only to supply the demand of the settlers in their erection of dwellings and barns. But only a few years elapsed before the enterprise of those owning pine lands along the banks of the Cowanesque and Tioga Rivers began to extend their trade. The Tioga was navigable for rafts as far south as the mouth of Mill Creek, and small rafts were even run as far south as Mansfield. The navigation of the Cowanesque enabled the lumbermen to gather into the stream the timber as far west as Knoxville. The lumber thus manufactured up to the year 1840 found an outlet by the way of the Tioga, Chemung and Susquehanna to market at Harrisburg, Middletown, Marietta, Columbia and Baltimore. Lumbering gradually extended up the valley of Crooked Creek to Middlebury, and in time to Delmar and on to Pine Creek. A large force of men was required in the fall and winter in felling trees and cutting saw-logs for the mills; and when the spring rains swelled the streams the lumber was rafted in and floated to market. A hardy and jolly set of men were engaged in this work, and when they arrived in towns in central and southern Pennsylvania they were looked upon with awe and suspicion by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who termed them "wild Yankees," from the "Wildcat district of Tioga." But the Tioga lumbermen were not daunted by these epithets, and found equally significant names for their down-the-river friends.
Those from the western and southwestern portion of the county who descend Pine Creek reached the west
As time advanced improvements were made in the character of the saw-mills. Steam took the place of water as the motive power, and mulay, gang and circular saws were invented and more capital invested in the manufacture of lumber. The pine forests in the township of Jackson, along the valley of Seeley Creek, were invaded by a class of lumbermen who made sad havoc among the evergreens of that region. The lumber manufactured in that vicinity generally found a market at Elmira, and was hauled on wagons to that point, there shipped by canal for Albany, and thence to New York by the Hudson River.
Up to the year 1845 the battle against the pine of Tioga county had been confined to a few localities, but from that year the war was waged with unceasing energy all long the line in every portion of the county until the year 1865, when after a twenty years siege, the pines had succumbed, with only here and there an exception, where they were preserved by strong land owners like Phelps & Dodge, and the Bingham estate and a few others. In the sixty-five years crusade, according to the most reliable estimates of old lumbermen, there must have been manufactured and taken to market one thousand million feet of white pine lumber, besides the millions of feet used for building purposes. Then there were millions of feet which were allowed to go to waste, or burned to clear the land of the pioneer who desired to cultivate the soil. It is safe, therefore, to estimate that in the year 1800 there stood within the limits of Tioga county 1,500,000,000 feet of white pine lumber, about two thirds of which was sent to market. The average price obtained for the lumber during the sixty-five years would not reach more than eight dollars in market, for there was a period of forty-five years when five dollars was esteemed a round price per thousand for clear stuff, and it was only in the last fifteen years of the crusade that the price began to reach beyond ten dollars, though in the closing years of the war, when there was not much to sell, the price ranged beyond that. Here then was a product of the forest which brought our fathers seven or eight millions of dollars, which had it been properly husbanded would have brought twenty millions. But perhaps it was better for our fathers to thus dispose of their lumber than to have left it to their posterity, who might not have appreciated their generosity and foresight. A few scattering groves of pine still remain; with here and there a patriarch, whose evergreen boughs chant a sad requiem over his departed companions.
THE ERA OF HEMLOCK.
We have said that the era of the white pine extended from 1800 to 1865. The time since the latter date we shall denominate the era of Hemlock. Although hemlock lumber had been used to a considerable extent in various portions of the county, and had been shipped to market, bringing unremunerative prices, before the year 1865, it was about that year that it began to grow in favor with builders and those who desired a cheap class of lumber. It was also about that year that in commercial circles it was learned that the white-grained hemlock of Tioga county was equal and in many cases superior to white pine lumber for building purposes; and we recollect distinctly what credulity and old lumber merchant of New York manifested when in the year 1863 we informed him that a large proportion of the hemlock of Tioga county, and especially that in the southern portion, was so straight-grained that shingles could be rived and made from it. "If such is the case," said he, "it will go up in the market, and I desire to purchase hemlock lands." He did purchase some and has since regretted that he did not purchase more.
Tanning was to some extent carried on in the county before 1865, and very much of the hemlock from which the bark was obtained was allowed to remain in the forest and decay. The increased demand for hemlock leather both in this country and Europe has had a tendency to stimulate the tanning business. Luckily the demand for hemlock lumber has kept pace with the demand for hemlock-tanned leather. The hemlock belt of the United States was narrowing down to the Pennsylvania counties of Sullivan, southern Bradford, northern Lycoming, southern and western Tioga, southern Potter, McKean, Elk and Forest, and tanners from the eastern sections of the United States were looking for desirable locations for the establishment of tanneries. Happily for the citizens of Tioga county, at a period when they had nearly exhausted their supply of white pine timber an opportunity was presented for rendering valuable a timber which they had hitherto looked upon with indifference. So great is the present demand for hemlock lumber and bark that there are about seventy saw-mills in the county, two-thirds of which are manufacturing hemlock lumber exclusively; and the production of hemlock lumber for the year ending July 31st 1882 will reach the enormous amount of one hundred and fifty million feet. This vast amount of lumber only represents the timber cut to keep the tanneries of Tioga supplied with bark for tanning purposes. It remains to be seen whether our people will become as prodigal of
LUMBERING AND TANNING 59
Their hemlock lumber as their fathers were of pine. At the present rate of consumption in fifteen years the era of hemlock will practically close in Tioga county.
Tioga county originally possessed some very excellent hard wood timber, especially on the ridges and highlands. Much of the beech and maple has been cut down and destroyed in various portions of the county, and yet a large amount remains. In the mining regions these woods have been used for props and other purposes about and in the mines. No great demand has been made for the timber, and hence it has been cut down by farmers, who desired to clear the land. There is quite an amount of black and yellow birch, black cherry, white ash and chestnut still standing in the county, and a limited quantity of white and black oak. There were originally some very fine tracts of white oak in the northern portion of the county, also of hickory and walnut; but they have principally been cut down.
It will be seen from the reading of the preceding pages that the white pine of the county is nearly exhausted; while the great forests of hemlock are being swept away at the rate of one hundred and fifty million feet per annum, which in the estimation of the writer will close the trade in that kind of lumber in fifteen years. There is but a small portion of yellow pine left, and while there is a moderate supply of hard wood which has escaped the farmer and the coal operation there is no very great demand for that class of timber. There is room to hope that the portion remaining will be utilized in the manufacture of articles at home which we now import. But it only fair to state that a very large proportion of the whole amount of timber in the county is held by coal companies, tanning firms, etc., which exercise control over one-fifth of the whole area of the county. The lumber interest therefore will hereafter be confined to sawing and shipping hemlock, unless we go into the manufacture of agricultural implements, carriages and wagons and small articles, for which not much timber is required.
We have incidentally alluded to the subject of tanning in connection with the hemlock lumber trade. The annual production of sole leather in the county for several years has amounted to between 500,000 and 600,000 sides. A huge tannery, the largest in the world, has just been completed at Babb's Creek, in Morris township, by Hoyt Bros., of No. 72 Gold street, New York. Its capacity is said to be one thousand sides per day. Here then is added to the already large production the sum of 313,000 sides, swelling the aggregate production for the year 1882 to the enormous number of 900,000 sides of hemlock-tanned sole leather. This will require the use of bark from 190,000,000 feet of hemlock, to say nothing of the amount required to tan 25,000 sides of harness and tough upper leather.
There are now of every grade and description nineteen tanneries in operation in the county. Some are small, however (but a few years ago they were thought to be large), while the bulk of the tanning is confined to establishments tanning from 25,000 to 300,000 sides annually.
The business of tanning gives employment directly in the several tanneries the county to one thousand men, at an average of $1.50 per day, including foremen and bosses, the total wages amounting to $450,000 per year. During the time of bark-peeling (seventy days - there are a thousand men more employed, at the average rate of $1.75 per day, making $122,500 more. The bark is worth on the tree, less the cost of peeling and hauling, $250,000 or $300,000 more, say the latter figures; the cost of hauling, at a low figure, is $75,000 – for some of it is drawn six or eight miles – and the tanneries have already paid out for labor and bark the handsome sum of $947,500. The lumberman then takes the work in hand to get rid of the trunks of the hemlock trees, and by the time he has them sawed into logs, skidded, hauled to the saw-mill and manufactured into lumber ready for market $450,000 more has been expended in labor, on the basis of 150,000,000 feet, and on the basis of 190,000,000 feet the sum of $570,000; making a total for labor in these two industries of $1,517,500. The greater part of this money remains in the county. After allowing the laborer and manufacturer $570,000 for their labor the owner of the timber has for his share an amount a little in excess of these figures, providing he makes a sale of his lumber advantageously. If he sells it at $7 per thousand he has $760,000 to pay him for the use of his mill, breakage, interest on the money invested, etc. Putting these aggregates together our figures reach $2,277,500. Finally add the amount received for the 900,000 sides of sole leather, less the cost of bark and other materials used, and the reader can comprehend the vast business directly and indirectly growing out of the tanneries of Tioga county.
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