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Early method of pounding corn. the winter, to chop down a maple-tree for our cattle to browse on all night,-and on this kind of Long fodder we had to keep our cattle a good part of the winter.
When I came here I had a horse that I called “ Main dependence," on account of his being a good steady old fellow. He used to carry my whole family on his back whenever we went to a wedding, a raising, a logging-bee, or to visit our neighbors, for several years,—until the increas. ing load comprised myself, my wife, and three children-five in all.
We had often to pack our provisions 80 miles from Jersey Shore. 60 miles of the road was without a house ; and in the winter, when deep snows came on and caught us on the road with. out fire, we should have perished if several of us had not been in company to assist each other.
The want of leather, after our first shoes were worn out, was severely felt. Neither tanner nor shoemaker lived in the county. But "necessity is the mother of invention.” I made me a trough out of a big pine-tree, into which I put the hides of any cattle that died among us. I used ashes for tanning them instead of lime, and bear's grease for oil. The thickest served for sole leather, and the thinner ones, dressed with a drawing-knife, for upper leather ; and thus I made shoes for myself and neighbors.
I had 14 miles to go in winter to mill with an ox team. The weather was cold, and the snow deep; no roads were broken, and no bridges built across the streams. I had to wade the streams, and carry the bags on my back. The ice was frozen to my coat as heavy as a bushel of corn. I worked hard all day and got only seven miles the first night, when I chained my team to a tree, and walked three miles to house myself. At the second night I reached the mill
. My courage often failed, and I had almost resolved to return; but when I thought of my children crying for bread, I took new courage.
Mr. John Peat, another old pioneer, in a communication in the Forester in 1834, says:
It will be 23 years the 23d day of May, 1834, since I moved into Potter county. Old Mr. Ayres was in the county at that time, and had been in the county about five years alone. In the fall before I came, three families—(Benjamin Birt, Major Lyman, and a Mr. Sherman)moved to the county. The East and West State Road was cut out the year before I moved in.
It was very lonesome for several years. People would move in, and stay a short time, and move away again. It has been but a few years since settlers began to stick. I made some little clearing, and planted some garden seeds, &c., the first spring. We brought a small stock of provisions with us. On the 3d day of July I started, with my two yoke of oxen, to go to Jer. sey Shore, to mill, to procure flour. I crossed Pine creek eighty times going to, and eighty times coming from mill, was gone eighteen days, broke two axletrees to my wagon, upset twice, and one wheel came off in crossing the creek.
Jersey Shore was the nearest place to procure provisions, and the road was dreadful. The few seeds that I was able to plant the first year, yielded but little produce. We however raised some half-grown potatoes, some turnips, and soft corn, with which we made out to live, without suffer. ing, till the next spring, at planting time, when I planted all the seeds that I had left; and when I finished planting, we had nothing to eat but leeks, cow-cabbage, and milk. We lived on leeks and cow-cabbage as long as they kept green-about six weeks. My family consisted of my wife and two children ; and I was obliged to work, though faint for want of food.
The first winter, the snow fell very deep. The first winter month, it snowed 25 days out of 30; and during the three winter months it snowed 70 days. I sold one yoke of my oxen in the fall
, the other yoke I wintered on browse ; but in the spring one ox died, and the other I sold to procure food for my family, and was now destitute of a team, and had nothing but my own hands to depend upon to clear my lands and raise provisions. We wore out all our shoes the first year. We had no way to get more,—no money, nothing to sell, and but little to eat,--and were in dread. ful distress for the want of the necessaries of life. I was obliged to work and travel in the woods barefooted. After a while, our clothes were worn out. Our family increased, and the children were nearly naked. I had a broken slate that I brought from Jersey Shore. I sold that to Harry Lyman, and bought two fawn-skins, of which my wife made a petticoat for Mary; and Mary wore the petticoat until she outgrew it; then Rhoda took it, till she outgrew it; then Susan had it, till she outgrew it; then it fell to Abigail, and she wore it out.
SCHUYLKILL COUNTY was separated from Berks and Northampton, by the act of 1st March, 1811. Length 30 miles, breadth 20; area 745 sq. miles. Population in 1820, 11,339; in 1830, 20,744; in 1840, 29,053.
The surface of the county is very mountainous and rugged. A pleasant and fertile red-shale valley lies between the Kittatinny and Second mountains; but the region beyond, with the exception of the narrow val. leys of the streams, is of little value, comparatively, for agricultural purposes-the great wealth of that region consisting in its coal-mines. There are farms there, it is true, and more will be opened, stimulated by the excellent market in the immediate vicinity ; but, as a general rule, the coal-region of Schuylkill county must look below the Second mountain, or even below the Blue mountain, for its agricultural supplies. The mountain ranges run from southwest to northeast: the leading chains are the Kittatinny, or Blue mountain, which forms the southeastern boundary of the county ; the Second mountain ; Sharp mountain, which is the southeastern limit of the coal measures ; Mine hill, and Broad mountain, which contain the principal veins of coal; and the Mahantango and Mahanoy mountain, the northwestern boundary of the county.
The Schuylkill, with its branches, Little Schuylkill, Norwegian, and Mill cr., is the principal stream of the county. The Swatara, the Mahantango, and Mahanoy creeks drain the southwestern end; and the sources of Catawissa cr., Lizard, and Mahoning creeks are also within the county
The great southern anthracite coal-field is about 65 miles long, extending from the Summit-mine of Mauch Chunk to the neighborhood of Pine Grove, where it divides into two branches : the northern one, under the name of Wiconisco mountain, extending westwardly beyond the county line to Lyken's valley, in Dauphin county; and the other embraced between the Stony mountain and a continuation of the Sharp mountain, reaching nearly to the Susquehanna. This coal-field is about five miles in width, between the northern slope of Sharp mountain and the southern slope of Broad mountain; and is divided by low ridges, or anticlinal axes, caused by subterranean forces, into the minor basins of Broad mountain, Mine hill, and Pottsville. Professor Rogers, the state geologist, remarks: “From geological evidences, too numerous and striking to be
questioned, we infer that all the coal deposits of our anthracite region owe their more or less inclined posture, and their limits, to the influence of two grand causes, namely--subterranean elevation, and the superficial denuding action of a deluge." "Connected with this violent upheaving action of the coal strata, outside of the coal basins, enormous parallel wrinklings of the coal measures themselves have taken place, causing great intricacy in the internal structure of many parts of these regions. This is augmented by the existence of great dislocations, the results of the same subterranean movements.” To the same cause Prof. Rogers attributes the peculiar phenomena discovered in Sharp mountain, throughout an extent of probably thirty miles, indicating that the coal measures of that mountain have been tilted over backwards, or towards the north, breaking the coal up into small flakes, and giving to its strata a dip contrary to that which they should naturally have on the southern side of the basin.
Broad and Sharp mountains, the boundaries of the basin, are cut down at various places, by the different streams that take their ris in the palfield, or pass through it. It is penetrated by the Little Schuylkill, at Tamaqua, by the river Schuylkill at Pottsville, by the West Branch at Minersville, and by Swatara creek at Pine Grove; and at the west by the Wiconisco and Stony creeks. The northern boundary is also cut through by Roush's creek, a branch of Mahantango. These creeks, or passes through the mountains, afford outlets for the coal, and favorable sites for the location of canals and railroads. The principal of these improvements are the Schuylkill Navigation, penetrating the first coal-field at Pottsville, and terminating at Port Carbon ; the Reading railroad, terminating, itself, at Pottsville, but connecting there with another railroad up the Schuylkill valley, ten miles—with the Danville and Pottsville railroad, and several other small roads diverging from Pottsville—and with the West Branch railroad at Schuylkill Haven, and the Little Schuylkill railroad at Port Clinton. The Union canal reaches near to the coal-field at Pine Grove, from which railroads diverge to the mines. These larger railroads have innumerable lateral branches, communicating with each different mine. Besides these improvements, there is an excellent stoned turnpike leading from Reading, through Orwigsburg and Pottsville, to Sunbury. Iron-ore of good quality has been found at a number of the coal-mines, and a successful attempt has been made, at Pottsville, in reducing iron-ore with the anthracite; but hitherto the coal business has been found the most profitable. The original population of the lower part of the county consisted of German farmers from Berks county; the greater part of the miners are Welsh and Irish, with a sprinkling of Scotch and Germans; and the trading classes in the coal-region are from Pennsylvania, New York and New England, and Ireland.
As early as 1790, a few quiet German farmers, among whom was the founder of Orwigsburg, had ventured up from the more thickly settled parts of Bucks county, into the red-shale valleys between the Kittatinny and Second mountain. These settlements increased, as all German settlements do, very slowly and surely, until the establishment of the county, in 1811, aided to build up the county town, and infused a more vigorous growth in the settlement. Still the region above Second mountain remained a desolate wilderness: a lonely road ran through the wild gorges, and over the Broad mountain, to Sunbury; and here and there was the
cabin of some daring backwoodsman, or hardy lumberman, who kept an humble house of entertainment for the few who were compelled to go over the road. As for the lands that now sell for their $100,000, for a small tract, and pour forth annually their thousand tons of coal, if they had the honor of being owned at all, they were known only as the valueless property of some venerable German, or lone widow, who esteemed it a burden to pay the taxes. Some of them had been taken, and some of them had been refused, by city merchants, in payment for desperate debts. The following history of the discovery and introduction of the coal of this region into notice, is from a report made, in 1833, to the Coal Mining Association ; and from a report to the state senate, in 1834, by Samuel J. Packer, Esq. :
So early as 1790, coal was known to abound in this county ; but, it being of a different quality from that known to our smiths as bituminous coal, and being hard of ignition, it was deemed useless, until about the year 1795, when a blacksmith, named Whetstone, brought it into notice, by using it in his smithery. His success induced several to dig for coal, and, when found, to attempt the barning of it; but the difficulty was so great that it did not succeed.
About the year 1800, a Mr. William Morriss, who owned a large tract of land in the neigh. borhood of Port Carbon, procured a quantity of coal, and took it to Philadelphia; but he was unable, with all his exertions, to bring it into notice. He abandoned all his plans, returned, and sold his lands to Mr. Pott, the late proprietor. From that time to about the year 1806, no further efforts to use it were made. About that time, in cutting the tail-race for the Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill, they struck on a seam of coal, which induced David Berlin, a blacksmith in the neighborhood, to make trial of it. His success was complete; and from that period it has been partially used.
In the year 1812, our fellow-citizen, Col. George Shoemaker, procured a quantity of coal from a shaft sunk on a tract he had recently purchased, on the Norwegian, and now owned by the North American Coal Company, and known as the Centreville mines. With this he loaded nine wagons, and proceeded to Philadelphia. Much time was spent by him in endeavoring to introduce it to notice; but all his efforts proved unavailing. Those who deigned to try it declared Col. Shoemaker to be an impostor, for attempting to impose stone on them for coal; and were clamorous against him. Not discouraged by the sneers and sarcasms cast upon him, he persisted in the undertaking; and at last succeeded in disposing of two loads, for the cost of transporta. tion. The remaining seven he gave to persons who promised to try to use it, and lost all the coal and charges. Messrs. Mellon and Bishop, at his earnest solicitation, were induced to make trial of it in their rolling-mill, in Delaware county; and finding it to answer fully the character given it by Col. Shoemaker, noticed its usefulness in the Philadelphia papers. From that period we may date the triumph of reason, aided by perseverance, over prejudice.
At this period the mountains were but partially explored, and the scant but hardy population of the county depended, in a great measure, on hunting, for their immediate wants; and on lum. ber for supplying those articles of foreign product that were required for their comforts or neces. sities. The lumber procured during the winter was formed into rafts, and sent down when spring freshets rendered the river navigable. By this uncertain and, at all times, precarious mode of conveyance, the product of this county was conveyed to market, until the canal was completed, in the year 1825.
In the year 1814, a few of the most enterprising of the citizens projected a canal from Phila. delphia to this place, under an impression that the lumber of Schuylkill county, and the grain of the counties bordering on the Susquehanna, would find a vent, and ultimately afford a dividend to the stockholders. At that period there were a few who looked forward to a time when the coal from this county would be the principal article of export, and would become an article of general use ; but the number was small, and a vast majority looked on the formation of a ca. nal, through this wild and mountainous region, as a chimerical scheme, more fitted for speculators in a stock market than from any benefit that might result to the stockholders or the public.
In the year 1813, several small openings were made, in different parts of the county, by sinking shafts; and the coal taken out was vended to the smiths, and others in the neighborhood, at twenty-five cents per bushel, or $3 50 per ton, at the pit's mouth. These shafts were sunk but a few feet, in the crop of the vein, and the coal raised by means of the common windlass and buckets; and, so soon as they attained a depth where the water became troublesome, (which seldom exceeded thirty feet,) the shaft was abandoned and another sunk, and the same process un. dergone.
In the year 1823, an improvement was made in the mode of working, in substituting horsepower, by the gin, for the windlass heretofore used; by which they are enabled to clear the wala
from the shafts with greater facility, and to sink further on the veins. But with this (as it was then conceived) great improvement, they were only enabled to run down the vein for a short distance; and the coal, in point of comparison, was inferior—as experience has since taught that the crop is not equal to the coal that is taken out lower, and when the roof and floor have attained the regularity and hardness so necessary to ensure good coal.
As far back as 1814, drifts had been run on the heads of veins, in several places, and the coal brought from them in wheelbarrows; but it was not until 1827 that the railroad was introduced into drifts. From that period to the present, drifts have been the universal mode. Improvements have been making from that to the present time; and it is believed they have attained that degree of perfection which has so long been desired, and such as to enable the miner to work on the best and cheapest plan.
The Schuylkill Navigation Company were incorporated without mining and trading privileges ; and hence it was, and of consequence must continue to be, their interest to invite tonnage from every quarter, and from every source. This valuable improvement, 108 miles in length, was commenced in 1815, and completed at an expense of $2,966,480. Tolls were first taken in 1818, amounting to $233; and from that time until 1825, it does not appear, from the annual reports of the company, that any account was kept of the tolls on the separate articles of ton. nage, but that the whole amounted, for the year 1824, to $635. The next year, 1825, at which period may be dated the commencement of the coal-trade on the Schuylkill, the tolls increased to $15,775. Of this sum, $9,700 were received from coal. Having a free navigation, open to all who chose to participate in its facilities, and entering the first coal-field at its centre, individ. uals of capital and enterprise were attracted to the scene, and railroads constructed, diverging in all directions to the mines. Laborers and mechanics, of all kinds and from all nations, thronged to the place, and found ready and constant employment. A new era seemed to have dawned in the mountains. The wilderness was subdued. The coal basin seemed to be literally running over with active and resolute adventurers; a rapidly growing population became established: the wild animal was driven back to give place to a host of miners, who now pierce its thousand hills. Houses, many of which are costly and splendid, and towns, the principal of which is Pottsville, sprang up in various parts of the region. Coal-lands, the basis of all this promising superstructure, grew rapidly in value. Being owned by numerous individuals, or yet remaining the property of the state, and considered until now scarcely worth the taxes, they were eagerly sought after, and presented strong inducements for the investment of capital. Sales were made to a large amount; it being now estimated that four millions of dollars have been invested in lands in the first coal district. Many individuals purchased lands and removed upon them, with their families, designing to convert them into permanent residences; and, as the farmer cultivates his farm, to prosecute the mining business with their own hands, and their own means. Other lands are held by capitalists, some residing in the district, and some at a distance; the mining operations being carried on by tenants.. Associations of individuals, forming joint-stock companies, having obtained charters for the mining of coal, from the legislatures of other states, also purchased lands, which, to evade the statutes of mortmain, declared to be in force in Pennsylvania, were held in virtue of deeds trust, and were used and occupied by those companies. Two of them, viz. the Delaware Coal Co. and the North American Coal Co., were incorporated in 1833] for the term of five years.
Capital was thus introduced, and important public improvements made. The country has grown and flourished beyond example. The farmer shared alike the general prosperity, in the new, convenient, and certain market for all his produce. In the midst of this hum of industry, this tide of prosperity, and flow of capital, it was not to have been expected that a spirit of spec. ulation should have remained entirely dormant, or all who purchased lands did so with the bona fide intention either of occupying them themselves, by actual resident settlement, or of realizing their expenditures from the product of the mines. Hence a fictitious value was sometimes given to coal-lands. Calculations being made to ascertain the number of square yards of coal con. tained in an acre of land, and its value; and some calculating also the quantity that each acre was capable of producing, without either knowing that it contained coal at all, or counting the cost, labor, and expense of producing it; the adventurer considered the sum of one, two, or three thousand dollars per acre a very inadequate price. The few who thus ran into error and extravagance, and purchased lands under these impressions, and with these expectations, (and it is rather a matter of surprise that the number was not greater,) were compelled either to lose money themselves, or impose their losses upon others. They were therefore interested in producing fluctuations and uncertainty, rather than steadiness and certainty, in the coal market. Their for. tunes could not be injured by the most sudden change, but might possibly be benefited ; and if, a supply of coal were one year withheld, in order that the price might advance to ten, twelve, or fifteen dollars per ton, data would be afforded for another estimate of the value of their lands, by the square yard of coal, and the owner again realize, and perhaps double, the amount of his purchase money. These, however, are of the things that have been, and it is believed have now passed away. It is not now in the power of the speculator seriously to affect, nor of the monopolist permanently to control, the coal-trade of Pennsylvania. This mineral is happily too vast,