COAL MINES AND MINING
The Blossburg and Gaines Coal Basins--Theories Concerning Their Formation--Their Extent and Character--The Discovery of Coal at Blossburg--Pioneer Mines and Mining--Early Attempts at Development--The Tioga Navigation Company-- First Geological Survey--The Arbon Coal Company--Sir Charles Lyell’s Visit--Coal Seams Described--Character and Uses of Blossburg Coal--The Manufacture of Coke--Labor Strikes and Troubles--Recent Statistics--Past and Present.
Geologists tell us that when the earth was many million years younger than it is now, Tioga county presented an entirely different surface appearance from that with which those who live within its boundaries are familiar. Then the sites of the existing valleys were several thousand feet higher than the mountains that now inclose them, while the mountains themselves, especially those embraced in what are known as the Blossburg and Gaines coal basins, were much lower than at present, and formed a series of troughs or basins, in which, as the years passed, were deposited veins of semi-bituminous coal, varying in thickness from a few inches to several feet. Between these coal veins there was also deposited varying strata of slate, fire clay, iron ore, sand-stone and shale. The lowest of these veins—in the Blossburg basin—lies at an elevation of about 1,400 feet above tide water, and the highest at an elevation of about 1,800 feet, giving the coal measures of that basin an average thickness of between 300 and 400 feet. The highest vein in the county is in the Gaines coal basin, and is now being worked at Gurnee, at an elevation of about 2,100 feet. The thickness of the coal measures of this basin—though not so accurately determined, is about the same as that of the Blossburg coal basin. Between the lower and the upper level of the Blossburg basin—which has been accurately surveyed and thoroughly developed—there have been discovered no less than ten distinct veins of coal, the majority of which are too thin to be workable. The best workable vein—known as the "Bloss" vein—averages from three to five feet in thickness.
If the geologists have read and interpreted the story of the rocks aright, the mountains in which for ages this coal lay concealed—a source of heat and energy—were, when the lowest vein was formed, from 300 to 400 feet lower than at present. Instead of being mountains, they were deep mountain-inclosed basins or troughs. The erosion of ages wore away these mountain barriers, burying one coal deposit after another, and raisin up the basins to a higher level. The waters flowing down the outer sides of the mountains, naturally followed the direction of the least resistance, and scooped out the present valleys. In this work of surface transformation the greater part of the coal was washed away, and was borne on the currents of the Tioga river and of Pine creek, to the Susquehanna and the sea.
After this change in the appearance of the county had been effected, there remained two coal basins of limited area and extent. The larger of these, known as the "Blossburg Coal Basin," is a "canoe-shaped synclinal basin, remarkably symmetrical, extending from a point just beyond Fall Brook, on the east," to and beyond Pine creek, west of which the basin rises out to a canoe-shaped point. The general strike of this basin is north 77 degrees east, and south 77 degrees west. Its coal deposits are broken up into irregular tracts or patches by the headwater branches of the Tioga river, and by Babb’s creek and its tributaries. There are evidences that when the different coal veins were first formed they extended in unbroken continuity over a much wider area than that covered by the existing coal-bearing tracts or patches. In scooping out their valleys, the streams washed the connecting coal away, leaving but a remnant of stored energy of a by-gone age.
It is in the Gaines coal basin, however, that this loss by erosion is most noticeable. This basin begins near the northeast corner of Jackson township, on the Bradford county line, and stretches southwest to the Potter county line. All this is left of what is supposed to have been a vast store of coal, is embraced in a few hundred acres in Gaines township, and a still smaller area in the northwestern part of Delmar township. The deposit in Gaines township covers perhaps 400 acres, near the northeastern corner, in what is known as the "Barrens." The coal openings here, in the mines of the Gaines Coal and Coke Company, are about 2,100 feet above the level of the sea. West of Long run, in the same township, on the Potter county line, is a smaller deposit.
The Blossburg coal basin is about thirty miles long, with an average
width of three miles. It contains about 30,000 acres of workable coal,
the total possible production being variously estimated, the lowest estimate
placing it at 75,000,000 tons, and the highest estimate at twice that amount,
being an average for the entire coal-bearing area of the basin of 5,000
tons to the acre. Within this basin lie the mines of the Fall Brook Coal
Company at Fall Brook and Antrim; the Morris Run Coal Company, at Morris
Run, and of the Blossburg Coal Company at Arnot and Landrus, and, also,
the mines of a number of independent operators in and around Blossburg.
The history of the organization of each of these companies is given in
the chapters devoted to the places named. Mention is also made in the proper
places of those operating independent mines.
THE DISCOVERY OF COAL AT BLOSSBURG.
Coal was first discovered in Tioga county within the limits of what is now the borough of Blossburg. It is claimed the discoverers were Robert and Benjamin Patterson, two noted Indian scouts, who were employed by Captain Williamson in 1792, to guide a party of 500 German and English immigrants from Williamsport, over the mountains, through what is now Tioga county, to the "Genesee Country," in southern New York. To enable these immigrants to reach their destination, it was necessary to cut a road through the wilderness. To this work the men addressed themselves, while the women and children remained in camp. When the road was opened as far as Tioga river, a site for a camp was selected within what is now the borough of Blossburg. This was called "Peter’s Camp," from the name of the man who did the baking for the party. It was while sojourning here that the Pattersons discovered coal in the mountains, which it is claimed, was used by the immigrants and pronounced "good." This may be, but the abundance of wood—an inexhaustible supply being afforded by the clearing of the roadway—precludes the idea that the immigrants devoted themselves to the difficult work of digging coal for fuel. If they used it at all, it was merely to sample it, but even this limited use might enable them to judge of its quality and justify them in pronouncing it "good."
PIONEER MINES AND MINING.
To the pioneer, David Clemons, belongs the credit of being the first person to mine coal in Tioga county for shipment, and to his humble efforts in this direction is to be attributed the beginning of the wide-spread name and fame of the celebrated Blossburg coal. Clemons came in 1806 and settled in the Tioga valley, near the southern boundary line of Covington township. Like all early pioneers, he was a hunter, and it is presumed that while wandering over the mountains and through the ravines, he discovered the outcropping coal on the land of Aaron Bloss, and made a satisfactory arrangement with him for developing it. He opened a drift—known for many years as the "Clemons Opening"—on Bear creek, a small stream, flowing in a southwest direction, down a narrow ravine, and emptying into the Tioga river, just below the business center of Blossburg. The vein is the fifth from the surface, and averages three feet in thickness, the coal being of an excellent bituminous quality.
The Aaron Bloss was aware of the presence of mineral on his land soon after settling at Peter’s Camp, is evidenced by the fact that under date of October 24, 1807, he entered into an agreement to convey 400 acres to Jeremiah Rees, of Harrisburg, on the event of his being able to perfect title to the same, for the sum of $1,300, which agreement contained a proviso, "that the said ore bank shall be included in the said survey when made." The ore referred to is presumed to mean iron ore, there being a large deposit of it, as well as of coal, on the land. This agreement seems never to have been perfected by the transfer of the land in question, for which Aaron Bloss obtained warrant No. 608, November 12, 1807, and a deed of patent April 26, 1808, thus becoming the lawful and undisputed owner of it.
It is to be regretted that the exact date of the opening of the first drift by David Clemons cannot be ascertained. It was probably not far from 1815. Blossburg at that time had not even begun to take on the form of a village. It could furnish him no market, nor could he hope to dispose of even an occasional load in either Covington or Tioga, then mere hamlets. The nearest trading point on the south was Williamsport, the road to which led over the mountains. Travel over it was attended with such difficulties, that the settlers as far south as Blossburg preferred to go down the river valley to Painted Post, New York. It was to this latter place that David Clemons hauled the first load of coal. A practical test showed it to be especially adapted for smithing purposes, and he soon found a ready market for the limited quantity he was able to mine and transport overland by wagon.
Soon after Clemons opened his drift, Aaron Bloss uncovered a lower vein—the sixth from the surface—known as the "Bloss" vein. This is the one that has been worked at Blossburg, Morris Run, Fall Brook and Arnot, since the opening of the mines at those places and the shipment of the coal to market began. The coal is all known as Blossburg coal. Aaron Bloss does not, however, appear to have mined for shipment, but rather with a view to ascertaining the extent and character of the deposit, for the purpose of bringing it to the notice of parties possessing the means to properly develop it.
EARLY ATTEMPTS AT DEVELOPMENT.
The fact that the mountain near the headwaters of the Tioga river contained a large deposit of semi-bituminous coal of an excellent quality, as well as an abundance of iron ore, soon became widely known, and men of means and enterprise were led to investigate their extent and character. The first of these was Judge John H. Knapp of Elmira, New York. A personal investigation satisfied him that the coal deposit was an extensive one, and that there existed in connection with it a valuable deposit of iron ore. So close were the two veins to each other that they could be mined together. The combination of these two valuable minerals invited the investment of capital to their development, and held forth the promise of an adequate reward for the labor and money thus expended.
Judge Knapp relying on the promises of others to supply him with the capital required, invested his own moderate means in coal lands, and in enterprises, calculated, if successful, to make Peter’s Camp, as it was then called, a mining and manufacturing center.
The record in the register and recorder’s office at Wellsboro, show that, on January 15, 1827, Aaron Bloss and Ruah, his wife, deeded to John H. Knapp, for a consideration of $8,000, a tract of 218 acres of land. There is also acknowledgment of the payment of the full amount of the consideration. This land, for the most part, lay south of Blossburg bridge, and east of the river, embracing within its boundaries "Barney Hill" and Coal run. On this land Judge Knapp erected a saw-mill and opened a store, and soon after began the introduction of iron works on the site of the present foundry of T. J. Mooers.
THE TIOGA NAVIGATION COMPANY.
In order to secure the successful and profitable mining of coal and smelting of iron, it became necessary to devise means of transporting the product of the mines and the furnace to market. Judge Knapp and those interested with him accordingly took steps to form a body corporate. By an act of the legislature, approved February 20, 1826, the chartering of the Tioga Navigation Company was authorized. This act contained the following proviso:
The company shall make a navigable canal or slack-water navigation, or navigable canal and slack-water navigation at such other place as they may think proper, for the passage up and down the Tioga from the State line of New York, at or near Lawrenceville, to the coal beds at or near Peter’s Camp, and by Crooked to Pine creek, for every kind of ark, raft or boat, capable of navigating the same, with such dams and other works as necessary; and make a road or towpath, and to use the water on or near the intended route of such canal, supplying the same with water.
This work was to begun within six, and completed within nine years. Repeated extensions of time were granted by supplementary acts. February 7, 1828, the company was authorized to make a railroad instead of a canal, the latter idea being finally abandoned, notwithstanding the preparation of elaborate plans for carrying it into execution. Neatly drawn maps, showing the line of the proposed canal, are now in the possession of Hon. Jerome B. Niles, of Wellsboro.
In 1835 the company received a right of way for a railroad through the land of a number of owners in Tioga, Richmond and Covington townships, but did nothing further apparently until 1839, when additional rights of way were secured, and the work of constructing the proposed line of railroad begun in earnest. July 4, 1840, this road known, as the Corning and Blossburg railroad, was completed to Covington, and in the following September to Blossburg.
FIRST GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
The discovery of coal at Blossburg had the effect of stimulating the people of southern New York to undertake to find a like deposit within the bounds of that State. On March 11, 1830, Professor Eaton, author of "Eaton’s Manual of Geology," read a paper entitled "Observations on the Coal Formations of the State of New York," in connection with the great "Coal Beds of Pennsylvania," before the Albany Institute. It was published in the transactions of the institute and "was accompanied with a demonstrative lecture, given at the request of several members of the New York legislature, while the bill for boring for coal was pending." In this address Professor Eaton entered into a general description of the coal formations of the United States, saying that those at Blossburg had been carefully examined by himself and Professor Van Rensselaer. His statement that the Blossburg coal formation extended into New York State, and that the slate rock which embraced the coal was to be found along "Seneca and Cayuga lakes and down those lakes to their outlets, and to Lake Erie," was soon challenged and proven to be erroneous.
The first systematic attempt, however, to ascertain the thickness and character of the coal and iron ore beds about Blossburg, was made in 1832 by Richard C. Taylor, who was employed by Samuel W. Morris and others for that purpose, as well as to survey a route for a railroad from the New York State line up the Tioga river valley to Blossburg. Mr. Taylor’s report, published in 1833, contains eight detailed vertical geological sections, of East creek, Bear creek, Coal run, Morris run, Boon creek, Johnson creek, Tioga valley and Fellows’ creek. Considering the fact that his investigations, owing to extremely limited facilities for carrying them on, were confined to surface indications, the results compare favorably with later and more elaborate efforts. The vertical section of Bear creek, or Bear run, as it is now called, discloses the existence of nine coal veins. The thickness of the first, second, third and fourth was not proven. The fifth and sixth veins are described as follows: "Fifth coal vein, called Clemons’ coal, of excellent bituminous quality, worked about thirty yards under the hill, 321 feet above the Tioga; 281.05 feet above Blossburg." "Sixth coal vein, called Bloss’ vein, now worked 269.80 feet above Blossburg." The seventh, eighth and ninth veins were not proved. Above the Bloss vein several courses of good argillaceous iron ore in balls was found. The ore below the Bloss vein was sandy and weak. A number of veins of good fire clay were also disclosed. There is a general resemblance between this and the other sections, which may be found in detail in Volume G of the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, published in 1878.
Mr. Taylor notes the fact that "the chief supply of coal for the neighboring country has heretofore been taken from the fifth vein"—the Clemons vein. He adds that "a lower vein of good quality has been recently opened." This is the celebrated Bloss vein. At this time Judge John H. Knapp was operating a coal mine on Coal run, about 280 feet above the level of the Blossburg bridge. This, the fifth vein, was from three feet seven inches to three feet eleven inches thick. In a note Mr. Taylor says: "A considerable quantity of coal for the supply of the neighborhood has been taken from the colliery worked" in this vein. He also adds that "about 350 tons of iron ore have been collected from the bed No. 27, and is in readiness for smelting, * * "as soon as the furnace is completed."
Mr. Taylor summarized the results of his investigations in tables, which formed a part of his report. They give the specific gravity, weight per cubic yard, thickness of vein, and the gross contents or weight per acre of each vein of coal, and also a summary of the specific gravity and weight per cubic foot of iron ore, with an estimate of the weight of one foot thick per acre of the different veins.
THE ARBON COAL COMPANY.
While Richard C. Taylor was busy investigating the character and extent of the coal and iron deposits in and around Blossburg, Judge Knapp was endeavoring to push forward his enterprises. He was visited by a committee of New York gentlemen seeking information to be used to induce the New York legislature to pass a bill for the construction of the Chemung canal. Their report had much to do with the final passage of the bill. By reason, however, of failure to receive promised financial aid, and because of feeble health, Judge Knapp sold his lands and turned over the work he had begun to Samuel Weeks, and removed to Fort Madison, Iowa. What he did accomplish, however, was of such importance, that others soon became earnestly interested in carrying forward the work of developing the Blossburg coal and iron deposits. The lands and other properties acquired by Samuel Weeks were first transferred to Ellis Lewis, and by him, on August 13, 1834, to Dr. Lewis Saynisch, who, in behalf of himself and others, soon acquired a number of other tracts of land in and around Blossburg, and became a leading spirit in the development that followed.
Under authority of an act of the legislature, approved April 13, 1838, Dr. Lewis Saynisch, Dr. Joseph P. Morris, William Frederick Seidel, Dr. Franklin R. Smith, James H. Gulick, James R. Wilson, Bowen Whiting and others organized the Arbon Coal Company, of which James R. Wilson was chosen president and James H. Gulick selling agent. The capital authorized by law was limited to $150,000, and the amount of land to be held in the name of the corporation to 2,000 acres. On May 30, 1838, another company made up of the same persons was organized and called the Arbon Land Company, its object being to promote the early building of the proposed railroad from Lawrenceville to Blossburg.
The Arbon Coal Company, having perfected its organization, entered upon the work of preparing to mine and ship coal so soon as the railroad should be completed to Blossburg. A forcer of miners were placed at work in the old Clemons drift on Bear run, and an incline tram-way built from the drift opening down the mountain side to the railroad track. A store was opened, the furnace started up, and new life infused into the village, which began to grow rapidly, with the usual activity in real estate and rapid rise in real estate values.
The mines at Blossburg were operated by the Arbon Coal Company until 1845, when their control passed into the hands of John Ward & Company, to whom the property is assessed from 1846 to 1858. they appear to have leased it until about 1852 to William M. Mallory & Company, and after that, until 1859, to John Magee, when upon the opening of the mines at Fall Brook, mining for shipment ceased at Blossburg. During the last sixteen years the mines at Blossburg were operated for shipment, they were in charge of John James, a native of Pontypool, Wales, and a practical miner. The production from the opening of the mines until the suspension of mining for shipment was as follows: "Arbon Coal Company, 49,633 tons; William M. Mallory & Company, 405,116 tons, and Duncan S. Magee, representing his father, John Magee, 78,966 tons, making a total of 533,745 tons of coal mined at Blossburg between 1840 and 1859.
The history of the organization of the Morris Run Coal Mining Company, the Fall Brook Coal Company, the Blossburg Coal Company, and of the Gaines and Coke Company, as well as of the opening of the mines at Morris Run, Fall Brook, Arnot, Antrim, Landrus and Gaines, will be found in the township and borough chapters dealing with those places, where mention is also made of the construction of the various railroads connected with these mines.
SIR CHARLES LYELL’S VISIT.
The coal mines at Blossburg were visited in 1841, by Sir Charles Lyell, the eminent English geologist. The distinguished visitor was the guest of Dr. Lewis Saynisch, then the president of the Arbon Coal Company, and appears to have been deeply impressed with what he saw. After his return to England he published the following account of his visit to the mines:
It was the first time I had seen true coal in America, and I was very much struck with its surprising analogy in mineral and fossil character to that of Europe; the same white grits or sandstones as are used for building near Edinburg or Newcastle; similar black slates, often bituminous, with leaves of fern spread out as in an herbarium, the species being for the most part identical with the British fossil plants; seams of good bituminous coal, some a few inches thick, others several feet thick; beds and nodules of clay, ironstone, and the whole series resting on a coarse grit and conglomerate, containing quartz pebbles very like our millstone grit, and often called by the Americans as well as English miners, "farewell rock," because when they had reached it in their borings they take leave of all valuable fuel. Beneath this grit are those red and gray sandstones corresponding in mineral character, fossils and positions, with our old red. I was desirous of ascertaining whether a generalization recently made by Mr. Logan in South Wales could hold in this country. Each of the Welsh seams of coal—more than ninety in number—have been found to rest on a sandy clay or firestone, in which a peculiar species of plant called Stigmaria abounds to the exclusion of all others. I saw the Stigmaria at Blossburg in abundance, in heaps of rubbish extracted from a horizontal seam. Dr. Saynisch, the president of the mine, kindly lighted up the gallery that I might inspect the works , and we saw the black shales in the roof adorned with beautiful fern leaves, while the floor consisted of an under clay in which the stems of Stigmaria, with their leaves and rootlets attached, were running in all directions. The agreement of these phenomena with those of the Welsh coal measures, 3,000 miles distant, surprised me, and led me to conclusions respecting the origin of coal from plants not drifted, but growing on the spot, to which I shall refer hereafter.
COAL SEAMS DESCRIBED.
James Macfarlane, A. M. of Towanda, Pennsylvania, says in his "Coal Regions of America," published in 1865:
The general geological section in the Blossburg region consists of 333 feet of strata, including five workable seams of coal, four of which have been worked at various times in the district. The lowest, or Coal A, known among the miners as the Bear Creek vein, is from three to three and a half feet thick, and was worked as well as the Bloss seam, at the old Blossburg mines by William M. Mallory previous to 1858. it produced a good steam coal, but it frequently thinned out. The most important seam, which is worked at all the mines is B, which is called the Bloss vein, which is from thirteen to twenty-nine feet above A. from this seam most of the coal of the region is produced. It is sometimes interlaid with a thin seam of slate, and when this occurs an allowance is made to the miner of a certain sum for each inch of slate, added to his usual price per ton for mining. This system is a very just one, on account of the additional labor. At other localities in the same mines this slate disappears, and the seam presents a clean bed of pure coal from four and a half to five and a half feet in thickness.
The next seam which is worked to a limited extent, is twenty to thirty feet higher, and sometimes less, and will be called Coal B, but on account of the heavy bed of fine clay, on which it rests, it is commonly called the Fire Clay vein. It is a variable seam, from one and a half to three and a half, and sometimes five feet thick, when impurities occur in the middle. It appears to be a rider or satellite of seam B. it produces good coal, and when it appears in its best form it is a valuable seam. It is being mined only in a portion of the field.
Coal C occurs from seventeen to eighteen feet higher, and produces a species of cannel coal. In western Pennsylvania this seam is the great deposit of cannel coal, wherever that variety is found, but cannel coal is always liable to become degraded into bituminous shale, and that is the character at Blossburg. This seam is always stigmatized in this region as the Dirty vein or the Slate vein. It is regarded as worthless and has never been mined.
Next in the ascending order, at an elevation of from seven to twenty feet above the last, is a small seam, only useful as a geological landmark—Coal C, or the Monkey vein, as the miners call it, on account of its small size, it being only from one and a half to three and a half feet thick. It has never been opened for mining purposes.
Coal D is called at Blossburg the Seymour vein, in honor of ex-Governor Seymour, who was the land owner where it was first wrought. It is from three to four and a half feet in thickness, always free from slate, and produces a bright, beautiful-looking coal of a columnar structure, and an excellent blacksmith coal. It is worked in a portion of the region. Its elevation above the last-named seam, is from thirty to sixty-seven feet, but like all the other intervals of rock, this is sometimes much less. Its elevation above the Bloss vein is from 114 to 162 feet.
About fifty feet above the last is Coal E, commonly called the Rock vein, on account of the heavy, coarse rocks over it, which is sometimes conglomoritic. This seam is from two and a half to three feet thick, and in a few localities is of a better size, but it has never been worked. Fifty-six feet of rock have been measured over this seam, but without coal, and it is not improbable that the foregoing series embrace the whole of the lower coal measures of Pennsylvania.
CHARACTER AND USES OF BLOSSBURG COAL.
Blossburg coal early acquired a wide-spread fame as a smithing coal, and blacksmiths were quick to recognize its value, especially in the finer classes of work. As the facilities for transportation increased, its use extended. It found its way to the mining camps of California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, being transported from the termini of the railroads in sacks on the backs of pack mules. A single gunny-sack full has been known to cost as high as $25. it also found its way into the lumber camps of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, where it was highly prized for use in delicate work. Wherever it was tested a report was returned praising its excellence and adding to its fame. The result was that, year by year, increasing demand made an increased output of the mines necessary, and stimulated the organization of new mining companies, until the annual output rose above 750,000 tons, and in 1873—the year of maximum production—reached a total of 991,057 tons. An examination of the published statistics shows that the total production of coal for shipment since 1840, when the Corning and Blossburg railroad was completed, is not far from 25,000,000 tons, being about one-third, according to the lowest estimate, of all the workable coal in the Blossburg coal basin.
The recent opening of mines in the extensive coal beds of Clearfield county—where the coal is more easily and cheaply mined—has had the effect to greatly reduce the annual output of the mines of Tioga county. The consequence is that there has been a marked falling off in the number of men employed by the different companies.
THE MANUFACTURE OF COKE.
Practical tests, carried on under the direction of John J. Davis, at Arnot, having demonstrated that coke of an excellent quality could be produced from Blossburg coal, the Blossburg Coal Company, in 1880, erected 200 bee-hive coke ovens at Arnot, and for a time carried on the manufacture of coke on a large scale. A similar plant was erected in 1882 at Tioga by the Fall Brook Coal Company. For several years these plants were operated successfully, a ready sale being found for the output. The necessity, however, of washing the coal, added so much to the cost of manufacture, that it was found impossible to compete, on anything like equal terms, with Connellsville and other coke producing centers. The works at Tioga were accordingly abandoned, and afterwards dismantled, and production for shipment at Arnot reduced until at present but a few ovens are operated, and those only semi-occasionally. The output for 1895 was 976 tons.
LABOR STRIKES AND TROUBLES.
From 1840 until 1865 there had been occasional disagreements between the miners and the companies operating the mines at Blossburg, Morris Run and Fall Brook. Most of these occurred after 1863, when the Miners’ and Laborers’ Benevolent Union was formed. Subsequently the laborers and mechanics withdrew and formed a separate union. Each union had a committee to hear the complaints of individual members, and to present such complaints to a full meeting for action. To this committee applications were to be made by those seeking employment, none but members of the union being permitted to work for the mining companies. A limitation was also placed on the number of members to be admitted to the Miners’ Union. The Laborers’ Union was not so strict in this regard, and many miners, unable to obtain admission to the Miners’ Union joined it, and worked in the woods, though the wages were much less than those paid to miners.
At this time the great Civil War was in progress, draining every department of industry of able-bodied laborers and mechanics. This not only created a demand for labor, but a demand on the part of the laborer for an increase of wages, made necessary by a constant increase in the cost of living. These demands were either acceded to without a strike, or compromised after a strike had been inaugurated. As the result of these repeated advances, miners were among the best paid wage earners in the country, and their union one of the strongest industrial organizations in existence. The unusual wages paid also stimulated miners from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to seek employment in the United States, and the miners at Morris Run and Fall Brook now received large accessions from those countries to take the places of those that had gone into the army, as well as to supply the demand for more men to work in the mines and the woods.
In the year 1864 there was a great demand for houses, the companies being unable to build them fast enough. While this demand was at its height, Hon. John Magee, during a visit to Fall Brook discovered that a number of miners working in the mines at Morris Run were living in his houses at Fall Brook. It was also discovered that miners were working in Fall Brook and living in Morris Run. As the two companies were business rivals, this arrangement did not please Mr. Magee, and an understanding was had between the companies that each should restrict its miners or laborers to the occupancy of houses owned by the company in whose employ they were. A contract or lease was drawn up and submitted to the householders to the effect that when they ceased to work for the Fall Brook Coal Company, they would surrender possession of the houses occupied by them. These contracts or leases were submitted to the unions and were rejected. Notices, dated December 31, 1864, to surrender possession were then served on the employes of the Morris Run Coal Company, living in the Fall Brook Coal Company’s houses, and like notices served on the employes of the Fall Brook Coal Company living in the houses of the Morris Run Coal Company.
The strike that followed was a long and bitter one. The men had been earning good wages and were prepared for a prolonged contest, to which they were urged and encouraged by their leaders. At the end of three months ejectment proceedings were begun. The opposition to this led to an appeal to the sheriff, and to the summoning of a posse of 200 or 300 of the citizens of the county which was likewise resisted. This occurred on May 8, 1865. the arrest of a number of miners followed, some of whom were committed to jail, others fined and still others put under bonds.
Finding himself unable to serve writs and enforce ejectments, the sheriff appealed to the governor, who ordered the "Bucktail" regiment to report to and assist him. The work of forcibly dispossessing the miners of their houses and removing their household goods was then carried forward, the goods and their owners being loaded on cars and conveyed to Blossburg. This action broke the spirit of the strikers, and led to negotiations which resulted in the larger number of them returning to work, though at decreased wages, owing to the termination of the Civil War, and the decline in the price of coal. The failure of the strike had also resulted in a virtual dissolution of the Miners’ and the Laborers’ unions.
The next struggle occurred in 1873. The panic of that year was severely felt by the mining companies, and they were on the point of closing the mines, when in September, upon consultation with a number of leading miners, they determined to run them two or three days a week, in order to keep the men employed a part of the time, at least. Soon after this new order of working had gone into effect, a movement among the miners looking to the formation of a miners union, similar to the one which existed from 1863 to 1865, led to another clash. The companies fearing a repetition of the scenes of the latter year, opposed the organization of the new union, and posted notices that they would not employ anyone belonging to it. The miners were determined to organize. As neither the companies or the miners would yield another strike resulted, the men organizing unions at Fall Brook, Morris Run and Arnot. At Antrim—many of the miners having suffered by the strike of 1865—they did not succeed, and work went on there without interruption.
This strike lasted from December, 1873, until about March, 1874, and though a stubborn one, and resulting in much bad feeling, was free from the violence and the distressing scenes of 1865. After it was inaugurated a number of questions became involved. Terms acceptable to the men were finally submitted by the companies and work resumed.
In 1879, after a number of dull years, resulting in a marked decrease in the output of the mines, and the employment of the miners only two or three days in the week, business brightened and the demand increased. This was followed in December of that year by a demand for an increase of wages on the part of the miners. It was acceded to, although the companies were filling contracts made in May, when prices were low. A few days later the men made a demand for a further increase of wages. This was refused, and after several weeks of discussion, another strike resulted lasting until May 1, the time for renewing contracts, when a satisfactory settlement was made and work resumed.
On May 1, 1890, the miners at Arnot struck for an advance of ten cents a ton for mining, and were joined on May 8, by the miners at Fall Brook, Antrim and Morris Run. This strike lasted until June 23, 1890, when work was resumed upon a promise of an increase of wages after July 1. During the strike the companies lost several valuable coal contracts, which resulted in less production and less work after the strike ended.
At a meeting held at Columbus, Ohio, March 11, 1894, the United Mine Workers of America resolved to demand a restoration of the scale of 1891, and in the event of a refusal to accede to the demand on the part of the operators, to order a general strike of all the bituminous coal miners throughout the country. At this time the miners of Tioga county had no grievance, but when the strike was ordered April 1, 1894, they quit work out of sympathy for the miners of western Pennsylvania and Ohio. The strike in Tioga county lasted until the middle of July when the miners returned to work at the old rate of wages. The strike was a costly one both for them and the companies. The latter lost valuable contracts, while the men lost twelve weeks’ wages, and have since worked only a portion of the time, owing to a lack of orders for coal.
The report for 1895 of James N. Patterson, of Blossburg, inspector for the Eighth Bituminous District of Pennsylvania, to the secretary of internal affairs, presents the following facts and figures relating to the coal mines of Tioga county:
Arnot.—Number of men employed in mines, 531; number of men employed outside, 120; total, 651. Number of days worked, 208; number of tons of coal mined, 262,416.
Antrim.—Number of men employed in mines, 306; number of men employed outside, 74; total, 380. Number of days worked, 136; number of tons of coal mined, 122,408.
Bear Run.—This is the mine at Landrus. Number of men employed in mines, 243; number of men employed outside, 29; total, 272. Number of days worked, 203; number of tons of coal mined, 126,694.
Fall Brook.—Number of men employed in mines, 136; number of men employed outside, 23; total, 159. Number of days worked, 248; number of tons of coal mined, 72,465.
Gurnee.—There were sixteen men employed in the mines and outside. They worked 162 days and mined 6,511 tons of coal.
Morris Run.—Number of men employed in mines, 539; number of men employed outside, 68; total, 607. Number of days worked, 127; number of tons of coal mined, 198,920.
The above figures show that 1,769 men were employed in the mines, and 316 outside, making a total of 2,085, who worked an average of 180 days during the year, and produced 789,414 tons of coal, being an average of 451 tons for each man actually employed in the mines. The 316 men employed outside embraces blacksmiths and carpenters, engineers and firemen, slate pickers, superintendents, bookkeepers, clerks, mill men and woodsmen. Each of the companies, except the Gaines Coal and Coke Company, operates one or more saw-mills and keeps a force of men at work in the woods, getting out logs and tan bark.
PAST AND PRESENT.
From 1840—the year in which the Corning and Blossburg railroad was completed—may be said to date a new era in the bituminous coal trade and production of the United States. Previous to that year, in which the production reached 78,571 tons, the bituminous coal supply of the country was confined to the Richmond (Va.) basin. The opening of the mines at Blossburg, however, and the subsequent organization of the Morris Run, Fall Brook and Blossburg Coal Companies, soon placed Tioga county at the head of the bituminous coal producing sections of the country, and gave to Blossburg coal a wide-spread reputation as a smithing and steam coal. The area of bituminous coal production, however, soon began to extend rapidly, and the output to assume enormous figures. The demand kept even pace with the supply, and operators were able to maintain prices and to pay the scale of wages demanded by the miners until the close of the great Civil War restored to the trades and industries of the country the men who had been at the front. Prices of everything, including labor, soon began to fall, and strikes and struggles between employers and employes were frequent. The great army of labor was also rapidly increased by immigration from foreign lands, and it was not long before, instead of being a scarcity of laborers, there was a scarcity of work, not because work was scarce, but because the number of laborers had increased more rapidly than the various industries had developed. Employers were therefore able to not only make terms, but to pick and choose, which they did to an extent that has practically changed the character of the mining population of Tioga county. The English, Scotch, Welsh and Irish miners, have for the most part given way to Poles, Swedes and Hungarians. These latter have proven industrious, frugal and tractable, and are becoming naturalized as citizens, as rapidly as permissible under the law.
Notwithstanding the business depression of the past few years, the coal production of the country at large continues to show a marked increase. In 1895 the production of anthracite in Pennsylvania was 45,000,000 tons, an increase of 5,000,000 tons over the previous year, and yet the miners did not work full time. For the same year the bituminous production of the country and the limited anthracite production of Colorado, reached a total of 148,990,933 tons, making for the United States a total anthracite and bituminous production of 193,990,933 tons, only 16,879,895 tons less than Great Britain, the leading coal-producing country of the world.
These figures give some idea of the enormous growth of this vast industry since the time when, in 1840, the shipment of coal by rail from Blossburg began. They tell of thousands of millions of dollars invested in coal lands, in railroad and navigation companies, in rolling-mills, furnaces and factories, and in a multitude of industries in every part of the country. And they also tell of hundreds of thousands of men who toil amid the dimness and darkness and dangers of the mines, in order to provide food and raiment for themselves and those dependent on them.
Here in Tioga county the industry has been going backward. The last
few years have been marked by decreased production and uncertain employment.
The area of coal production is limited, and the cost of mining greater
than in many other places, which does not give a hopeful outlook for the
future. Nevertheless, the companies and their employes are looking eagerly
and anxiously forward to a revival of business in the belief that even
if wages are not advanced full-time work will be guaranteed.