Added February 11th: Collieries in the Mahanoy Valley 1858-1953


How many collieries were operating in the Mahanoy valley during the peak years of deep mining? Which local colliery shipped the most coal during it's years of operation? Which colliery was the last to close when strip mining replaced deep mining? How many miners lost their lives in the anthracite fields? You'll find the answers to these questions and much more on the Colliery page.






What is Anthracite Coal?


Anthracite coal a black solid, combustible substance formed by the partial decomposition of vegetation without free access of air but under the influence of moisture and increased pressure and high temperature. It is not a rock, but rather the fossil remains of vegetable/plant matter sealed between layers of rock. It contains a high percentage of carbon (86% average) which burns or combusts and of low volatile matter (4.3% average). This means anthracite is difficult to ignite but once it gets going will burn longer and slower than any other type of coal.


Source: Department of Labor- Bureau of Mines



Types of Coal





The following paper on collieries in this section was written by the late Thomas L. Thomas from personal knowledge and from information furnished by Reese T. Reese, Scranton, Pa.; Fred Moyer, John Cleary; John Feichtner; Philip Bradbury, and Esau Rees, all deceased.



THE HARTFORD COLLIERY(#10 on map) operated by capitalist from Hartford, Connecticut, was located south of the 600 block on East Mahanoy St. The coal was mined in two drifts, located between Main and Catawissa Streets. The inside foreman was John Weber, and the outside foreman was Peter Malia - both Germans. The coal was hauled in mine cars, drawn by four mules, along the side of the mountain South of town, to a trestle leading to the breaker, and dumped. Michael Ryan who married Mary Ann Keegan, and his brother, Martin (driver for the Human Fire Co., for many years afterwards) drove the four mule teams from the Hartford drifts to the Hartford Breaker. The original company that opened and operated this breaker which was known as the "Hartford" was composed of Edward Gorman and friends from Port Carbon. Mr. Gorman was a brother of Patrick J. Campion's mother and was a first cousin of Peter, Thomas, and David Gorman, of Mahanoy City. They sold the breaker to some capitalist from New England.


Coal Scuttle



The Gormans then opened and operated what was known as the "NEW GORMAN'S" COLLIERY (Webmasters Note: This is probably the Oak Hollow Colliery # 12 on map.on the same railroad tracks near the tunnel. )


What is now known as the "Hartford" drift (previously called Baldwin's), is directly south of the City Shirt Dressing Department, 108-110 West Maple Street. (Webmaster's Note This is probably the Webster Colliery # 11 on map.) John Holland, Sr., opened the Hartford drift but soon after it was operated by Philip Conrad and William Cowley. Conrad was formerly superintendent of Wiggan's and Treble Colliery and Cowley was also a former mine superintendent of a regional operation. George King, William Tyler, and John Bryant operated this plant at a later date (This was the Old Hartford Drift). They hauled the prepared coal over Catawissa Street to the Reading tracks and loaded it into railroad cars near the Gashouse (near Linden Street and Railroad Street). The famous riot of June 3, 1875 occurred at this operation. Sheriff Werner read the riot act. That afternoon two companies of the National Guard of Pennsylvania arrived from Pottsville and were stationed in Mahanoy City for several days when they were relieved by the Harrisburg Grays and the Wrightsville Zouaves. In the early 1880's Layton Baldwin operated this colliery which was then called Baldwin Drift. He constructed shutes at Fourth Street (the present location of the Mahanoy Township High School), to load coal from this point. This mine was later sold by Baldwin and he went to North Dakota and took up farming. While in Mahanoy City he resided at 34 West Mahanoy Street, in the same house in which Charles Conrad, Sr., his predecessor in the same mines, had lived.


COLE'S COLLIERY (now TUNNEL RIDGE # 24 on map ) was owned by George W. Cole, who built a breaker and commenced shipping coal in December 1863. In 1869 it became a colliery. Thomas Lewis, Sr., father of Dr. Thomas Lewis, was general superintendent and Thomas Williams was inside foreman. The latter was shot in the labor troubles of 1875. Williams resided at 539 East Center Street. John Shipman was outside foreman in 1878. Cole's Patch extended from the end of Stony Point to what is known as Seven Blocks (there were seven block houses at this point). This is now included in Cole's Patch. John Forster, son of Peter Forster, was a loader-boss at this colliery.


SUFFOLK COLLIERY ( # 32 on map ) was also known as Fisk's Colliery. A company of men from Boston, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Pliny Fisk of Suffolk County in that State, operated this mine in 1864. The following year it was sold to the Suffolk Coal Company. John Phillips was superintendent, and his son, Captain Edward Phillips, was outside foreman. The Village of Suffolk contained thirty houses and a Union Church. Smith and Krebs owned the first store in this Village


Drift Mine Entrance.





ST. NICHOLAS COLLIERY ( # 25 on map ) was also known as Cake's Colliery. Colonel Henry Cake and his partner, Mr. Guise, opened this mine in 1861 and operated it for many years. The colliery is not standing now, but was about seven hundred yards east of the Old Suffolk Breaker. The Village near the breaker was known as Cake's Patch or St. Nicholas. At present the village of St. Nicholas comprises the communites of Boston Run, Wiggan's, Suffolk, and Cake's.


Colliery Typical of the Anthracite Region



Fossil Fern Common in Anthracite Region Diggings



WIGGANS AND TREIBLES' COLLIERY( # 26 on map) stood at what is known as Upper Wiggans and the Village was known as Wiggans. Later this colliery was identified with Bear Run Colliery. George Wiggan (prounounced Wig-gan' accent on the last syllable), was an Englishman who resided at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, where he had mining operations twenty years prior to coming into the Mahanoy Valley. He resided in a beautiful home which stood back in a yard surrounded by large shade trees at 130-138 West Center Street. George Wiggan was an Uncle to Mathilda Ellis, the second wife of Samuel Parmley. The opening of the Wiggan mining operation brought the Parmley family to Mahanoy City. Samuel Parmley conducted a general store at Center and Catawissa Street.


BOSTON RUN COLLIERY( # 27 on map ) was conducted by several men from Boston, Massachusetts. Focht and Allen operated it in 1862. Three years later it was operated by Althouse & Brother. Rees Tasker was superintendent at this operation for many years. John Skeath was inside foreman and John W. Madenforth was outside foreman in 1880.



Coal Stove with Hot Water Tank





HILL'S COLLIERY NOW KNOWN AS MAHANOY CITY COLLIERY ( # 1 on map )was owned by Hill and Harris. Charles Hill was superintendent as well as owner. He came from Pottsville and resided at 113 South Main Street in a very large and beautiful home for several years. The first coal was shipped in 1862. The veins operated were Primrose, Skidmore, and Mammoth. This is one of the earliest collieries in the Mahanoy Valley.



Miners of the 1800's




Digging at the Breast






SILLIMAN'S COLLIERY LATER KNOWN AS NORTH MAHANOY CITY COLLIERY( # 2 on map ) was the second mine to be opened in this vicinity. Samuel and Edward S. Silliman, Sr., came from Pottsville to the borough in 1861. Alexander S. Fister, cousin of Mr. Silliman, was outside foreman, he resided at Stony Point (the West end of Spruce Street). It was Mrs. Fister who gave the name to that section, suggesting it instead of Rock Town, which some of the men planned to call it. The first shipment of coal was made in 1861. The original breaker was destroyed by fire in 1869. That year, Mr. Silliman sold it to Hill, Harris, and Rumble, who built the present colliery


Explosion in Mine







BOWMAN'S COLLIERY LATER KNOWN AS COPLY COLLIERY( # 6 on map ) was opened in the Spring of 1862. The Bowman Brothers, Peter, Jonas, and David, came from Parryville, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, to operate this mine. Peter Bowman had been engaged in coal mining near Tamaqua since 1849, and was therefore an experienced operator. He "sunk" the Newkirk Slope, which was the second slope to be opened in Schuylkill County in 1849. The Village around Bowman's Colliery had fifteen houses. William Davidson was inside foreman; Gottfried Reiding was blacksmith; John Snyder was stable-boss. The original workings were six drifts. A shaft was "sunk" on the Buck Mountain Vein. Peter Bowman resided on East Center Street (site of the Domson and Elks Building), which his brother, Jonas, resided next door (site of Sherzinger's Jewelry Store property) and David resided at the Northwest Corner of Main and Mahanoy Streets.





ROBINSON'S COLLIERY( probably # 7 on map- West Lehigh ) was name for J. O. Robinson, a brother-in-law of the owner of the mine. He conducted a company store in conjunction with the colliery at 32 East Center Street.


PARK PLACE WAS KNOWN AS THE "WELSH" COLLIERY ( not on map - probably became part of Park#1 or Park # 2 when bought by Lentz, Lilly & Co. ) because it was owned and operated by Welshmen, David Reynolds, Joseph Roberts, and Richard Phillips. It was opened in 1872. In 1877 they sold it to Lentz, Lilly and Company



Miner's Safety Lantern





SHOEMAKER'S COLLIERY, LATER KNOWN AS WEST LEHIGH COLLIERY ( # 9 on map ) was operated by a man named Shoemaker from Trenton, New Jersey. It was located where the Village of Trenton now stands. This was in 1864. In 1870 he sold it to Bedford and Company. In 1874, Fisher Hazard became the owner. Mark D. Bowman was superintendent and Robert J. Bowman was outside foreman. There were twenty-four tenant houses connected with this Colliery.


FOCHT'S COLLIERY, LATER KNOWN AS SCHUYLKILL COLLIERY( # 5 on map ) was opened in 1863 by Abraham Focht, who commenced shipping coal in the Spring of 1864. The Colliery was sold in 1865 to the firm of Focht, Whittake, and Company who operated it until 1877 when it passed into the hands of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. In the early days Rees Price was foreman and William Watkins was also a foreman at this Colliery.



19th Century Coal Miners





BUCK MOUNTAIN COLLIERY( # 16 on map )was opened in 1883 by William Spencer of Minersville, Pa., who was also superintendent of the mine. The employees came from "Old Buck Mountain", near Weatherly, Pa., to work in this newly opened mine. They called it Buck Mountain in memory of the old home and colliery from which they migrated. Those who came to this section when this mine was opened were the Lowe, Coll, Trimble, Gilsion, Ryan, Quinn, Hanlon, Breslin, Fowler, Herron, Bernard O'Donnel, Michael Myers, Charles Woodrow and William Welsh families. Later in the 1890's the Griffith, Kline, and Comley families resided at Buck Mountain.


Fatalities in the Anthracite Region

1870 to Present


















Miner Chipping at Coal Vein



VULCAN COLLIERY (probably # 20 on map ) was opened in 1900. James Reese was superintendent here for many years. Michael Myers and Conrad Dresch, Jr., were foreman at one time. The breaker was built under the supervision of William Underwood, a mining engineer. Owned by the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, it was closed with their other mines in this section early in 1930.


Coal Car






NEW BOSTON COLLIERY ( # 21 on map )was opened in 1864 by a party of capitalist from Boston, Massachusetts, hence the name. Charles Hovey, of Boston, was the first superintendent. Coal shipments were made in 1865 and continued until 1871. This company was succeeded by the Broad Mountain and Lehigh Company who operated here until 1873 when a reorganization was affected under the name of the Middle Lehigh Company. In 1876 John Hitch leased the Colliery. In 1880, Asa Packer and Eugene Delano were the proprietors. Morgan Price was superintendent. John Goyne, Sr. was outside foreman, Michael Murphy and Henry Knaute were inside foremen. The Lattimore family were connected with the Colliery and store for many years. Thomas Belville was manager of the Store. William Comley and Harry Gerber were clerks. Members of the Patterson and Kline families were also employed here. Morgan Beddow was an official here for a number of years, retiring in 1937 when Madeira, Hill, and Company, its operators in recent years, entered voluntary bankruptcy on Saturday, August 28. On November 16, 1937, it reopened under the management of Tony Ross, West Pittson operator, who also leased the Morea Mine. The Village of New Boston, which grew up in conjunction with the development of the mine, numbers about fifty houses.


MILL CREEK,( not on map ) East of New Boston Colliery, afterwards was known as Mill Creek Coal Property.




Miner With Mule









MOREA COLLIERY( # 22 on map ) was known as "Old" Boston Breaker, in the early days when it was owned by Packer and Delano. The name was changed to Morea about 1893. Daniel Thomas, who was a State Senator from this district, was superientendent at this operation in the 1890's.



ELMWOOD COLLIERY( # 23 on map ) was opened in 1871 at a point opposite the Grant Iron Works (the old foundry), the site of which is now known as Foundry Row. The operators of this Colliery were Ralph R. Lee and Thomas and George Wren, of Pottsville. They erected a breaker with machinery at a cost of $85,000 and operated it until 1874 when they sold the Colliery to the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. Ralph Lee resided at 408-412 East Center Street in a large brick residence with a lawn to the East. George Wren resided at 214 West Mahanoy Avenue in a similar residence with a lawn at the Eastern side. Thomas Wren, his father, never resided in Mahanoy City.


LANIGAN'S,( # 33 on map ) FOWLER'S, JACKSON'S AND MAPLE HILL were in the same neighborhood, which seemed nearer to Shenandoah than Mahanoy City, but the people were closely allied to our community. Lanigan's later became known as Ellengowen, named for the wife of Franklin B. Gowan, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. Following the First World War, St. Aidan's Roman Catholic Church was erected at Ellengowen.


MAPLE HILL( # 35 on map ) is a more recent colliery than its neighbors. It was erected about 1890 and is midway between Ellengowen and Suffolk. The St. Nicholas Central Breaker of the P&R Coal and Iron Company, the largest breaker in the world, erected in 1932, is adjacent to Maple Hill and the other mining villages in that area.


FOWLER'S, later known as KNICKERBOCKER COLLIERY,( # 34 on map ) was opened in 1864 by M. P. Fowler and Henry Huhns. The first shipment of coal was made November 23, 1864. In 1865, the Colliery was sold to the Knickerbocker Coal Company of New York City, of which Isaac I. Hayes, the great Arctic Explorer, was president. It became a Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company operation in January 1873. The Village adjacent to the breaker was known as Fowler's, but is now called Yatesville. A Union Church with Methodist affiliation is located in Yatesville.



PRIMROSE COLLIERY, ALSO KNOWN AS STEELE'S( # 13 on map) was opened in 1862 by Steel and Patterson, who operated it until 1866, when Caleb Kneavies purchased the mine. The veins worked were the Primrose, Mammoth and Skidmore. At one time James Wynne was outside foreman and Frank F. Reed was shipper. At a later date, John Williams was inside foreman and John Pfleuger was outside foreman.



JACKSON'S COLLIERY( not on map ) was operated by Henry Jackson, who also had a store at 137-139 West Center Street in Mahanoy City.


Patrick J. Barry operated a mine known as BARRY'S COLLIERY, ( # 36 on map) near BARRY'S JUNCTION. He conducted a store in connection with the mines at 17 West Center Street.


GLENDON, ( # 4 on map ) formerly known as LAWTON'S COLLIERY, was opened in 1861 by Abram Potts, who built a small breaker in 1862. In 1863 the mine was sold to Alfred Lawton, who built a larger breaker. A Mr. Bensinger was superintendent when Mr. Lawton owned the Colliery. In 1866 this Colliery was sold to James B. Boylan and he operated it until 1876. Joseph Seligman was superintendent at this time. In 1876, the Delano Land Company took possession of it, leasing it to J. C. Hayden and Company. This company was composed of J. C. Hayden of Jeansville; Francis Robinson of York; and Dr. Thomas N. Patterson of Summit Hill. The last mentioned moved to Mahanoy City and assumed management. For thirty years the Patterson family continued to be interested in this mine. The veins mined were the Seven Foot, Buck Mountain, and Skidmore. A little Village of nine houses, known as Lawton's or Glendon, grew up about the Colliery - near Pleasant Hill picnic ground. The Palmer, Goyne, Richardson, Entwistle, Noakes, Kline and Lynn families lived there. William Palmer, Sr., was inside foreman; John Goyner, Sr., was outside foreman. Later, James McCabe was outside foreman; William P. Daniels, superintendent; Samuel Patterson, clerk, and John Tucker, fireboss.


WHIP-POOR-WILL COLLIERY (Not on map ) was located back of the 500 block on East Mahanoy Avenue. It was on the mountainside but not as high as the Hartford Colliery. A party of Welshmen operated this mine. Their names were David Reynolds, Richard Phillips, Walter Lewis, and John Griffith.


CRAIGS some people have the impression that there was a Colliery name Craigs. Near the Village or "Patch" called Hill's there lived a family named Craig. Mr. Craig held the position of foreman at the Collliery and resided in the little settlement which eventually became known as Craigs.


Author's Note:

Verification of many of the important details contained in the above article may be found in the 'Schuylkill County History" published in 1881. transcribed by Shirley E. Ryan .txt


Area History: A History of Mahanoy City Colleries written by T.L. Thomas Contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by Shirley E. Ryan, USGENWEB NOTICE: Printing this file by non-commercial individuals and libraries is encouraged, as long as all notices and submitter information is included. Any other use, including copying files to other sites requires permission from the submitters PRIOR to uploading to any other sites. We encourage links to the state and county table of contents. A History of Collieries in and around Mahanoy City, Schuylkill Co. Pa. written by T.L. Thomas, a local businessman and historian Transcribed and submitted by Shirley E. Ryan (Note: this article is not dated, but believed to have been written in the early 1940's)



Coal Train Crossing Trestle



How Coal Was Formed


Coal is a combustible mineral formed from the remains of trees, ferns and other plants that existed and died before the time of the dinosaurs. Coal, along with petroleum and natural gas, is a "fossil fuel", energy that can track its beginnings to once-living organic materials. A combustible mineral, coal can trace its ancestry back to the time of the dinosaurs. It developed from the remains of trees, ferns and other plants that existed and died in tropical-like forests between 400 million and 1 million years ago. Over vast spans of time, many layers of plants were buried under prehistoric forests and seas. Geological processes involving pressure and temperature compressed and altered the plant remains, increasing the amount of carbon present. Millions of years later, the material that once had been living plants was transformed into what we know as coal. Coal that was formed in swamps covered by sea water contains a higher sulfur content; low sulfur coal was generally formed under freshwater conditions. Coal's complex chemical structure contains other elements as well - primarily carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but also nitrogen and variable trace quantities of aluminum, zirconium and other minerals.

Click image for coal formation video.




History of Anthracite Coal Mining


Time Line


250,000,000 BC to 400,000,000 BC


Birth of anthracite. Material was deposited that eventually transforms to anthracite coal. This occurred during the Carboniferous Geologic Period. At that time, most of Pennsylvania was a flat, hot, moist plain covered with steaming swamps thick with tall trees and wide spreading ferns.



Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley discover the anthracite coal seams. The estimations are that 16 billion tons of coal lie within the anthracite seams in northeastern Pennsylvania. The recoverable (capable of being mined at this time) amount is classified at around 7 to 8 billion tons.



First recorded use of anthracite coal



Mining of anthracite starts in northeast Pennsylvania. The mine is located near Pittston.



Mining of anthracite starts in the Wilkes-Barre area. The mining is on outcrops (surface exposed anthracite coal), along the banks of the Susquehanna River.



The first industrial use of anthracite. It was used in heating and drawing iron for the making of nails.



Anthracite is discovered in the Schuylkill region of Pennsylvania.



The first recorded anthracite coal company, the Lehigh Coal Mining Company, sends the first significant shipments of anthracite out of the coal field region



First documented mine strike. 2000 miners are affected.



Avondale Mine Disaster - 108 men and boys killed during a fire at the mine. This is the largest mine disaster to ever occur in the anthracite mine region.



Industry records that close to 15 fatalities per million tons of coal occur. This fact, in conjunction with the Avondale mine disaster bring about the nation's first stringent mine safety laws.



United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) miners union issues a strike call to it's 9000 members. Within one week, 125,000 hard-coal coal miners were off their jobs and 96% of coal mine production ceased.



The historical total fatality count in anthracite mines tops 13,000 men, women and children.



Employment at anthracite mines reaches a maximum of 180,000 workers.



Anthracite coal production peaks at over 100 million tons.



With stringent laws in place and state mine inspections, the number of fatalities per million tons of coal drops to 6.5



Anthracite coal mine production steadily declines from its peak of 100 million tons in 1917 to 46 million tons in 1950. Thirty five percent of the coal being mined comes from surface facilities or the reprocessing of culm banks. The fatality rate drops to 1.86 fatalities per million tons of coal mined.



Knox mine coal disaster - Port Griffith, PA (near Pittston). The Susquehanna River breaches (or breaks through) the mine workings, permanently flooding the majority of the interconnected underground mines in the Wilkes-Barre area. Although production of coal was in constant decline in the area since its peak in 1917, this disaster is referred to as the event which ended deep coal mining in the northern anthracite fields of Pennsylvania. Additional information on this disaster is available in the historical list of fatalities.



Anthracite coal mine production continues it steady fall to 9.2 million tons. There are 0.43 fatalities per million tons of coal mined.



Anthracite coal production continues to shift from deep mining to surface mines and the reworking/recycling of culm banks and refuse piles. Several cogeneration plants are constructed. These plants are designed to burn culm bank and mine refuse material.



Production of anthracite coal drops to 5.2 million tons, of which only 615,000 tons come from the 98 deep mines in the region which employ 620 deep miners. Deep anthracite coal mining accounts for only 11.8% of coal produced.



The total recorded number of individuals that have died at mining operations over the years since anthracite mining has occurred reaches 31,088.


Source:U.S. Dept. of Labor


The Mahanoy Creek


Mahanoy Creek, known locally as Coal Creek, is a 51.6-mile-long (83.0 km)[1]tributary of the Susquehanna River in the Coal Region of east-central Pennsylvania in the United States. Mahanoy Creek rises in the anthracite coal fields of Schuylkill County, on Broad Mountain just east of Mahanoy City. It flows west, between Shenandoah and Frackville, entering a valley along the north side of Ashland Mountain and passing through Girardville. At Ashland the creek turns south and cuts through the mountain, turning west again at Gordon. The creek enters a long, narrow valley between Mahanoy Mountain to the north and Line Mountain to the south and crosses into Northumberland County. Shortly after the western end of Mahanoy Mountain, the creek turns south and breaks through Line Mountain at Dornsife Gap, then turns west again, makes several wide bends, and joins the Susquehanna River near the borough of Herndon.




Mahanoy Creek bed subsidence. Click on photos to enlarge.


The clip art on this page has been used with the permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology


The Collieries