or the life of a coal miner and his family
My Great Great grandfather and his sons all worked in the coal mines in Lykens/Wiconisco Pennsylvania. Therefor I have an interest in what it means to work in coal mines and all the particulars as to how it affected their lives and the families lives. I don’t have an outline of what I wish to post here or thoughts for any organization. I only got the idea form this first section I found in a Lykens newspaper.
I found this newspaper article on “Newspapers.com“. So there may be a copyright concern here, but at present I am presuming this is free license and I can copy and paste. If anyone has information to the contrary, please advise and I shall remove this.
From time to time I hope to add other pertinent information about the life of a coal miner here.
Thank you, Mike Schindler
Williamstown Colliery Notes of 1871
>>>from the LYKENS Register Jan 5 1872<<<
Few persons unacquainted with the mining of coal imagine what immense amount of work is necessary to produce the article. A complete history of the development of coal in this valley would prove to the uninitiated that not only is liberal use of muscle, brought into action by judicious application of money, and directed by business energy, but perseverance and brains of superior character are required.
Even after a successful development, the same order of things must be continued, especially where the production is so great as that of the collieries of the Summit Branch Railroad and Lykens Valley Coal Companies, which operate the mines in this `season’, working on the lowest veins of coal known in the anthracite region. That the present production of these collieries is unequalled by any in the State, and therefore in the United States, is very well known; and as the quality of the coal is unsurpassed, even the enormous amount of 491,161.10 tons produced during the year 1871 was not sufficient to supply the demand.
Our intention, however, is not to give at the present time a history of the coal development in this region, nor of the varying fortunes which attended those who engaged in the early efforts at unlocking the riches hidden in the mountains of Williams and Lykens Valleys, but rather to give a mere sketch of the doings of the Williamstown colliery during the past year.
Some of the improvements made at the Williamstown colliery have from time to time been mentioned in these columns, but there will be no harm to connect them in one article, and perhaps some day in the future the historian of coal statistics may be slightly assisted by the columns of the “Register”1.
From the time Maj. Joseph Anthony became managing superintendent, the production of this colliery has been increased enormously, and the other collieries have also in like manner been made to increase their value and productiveness since the management has been under his control. At Williamstown, the veins known by the miners as the “Little” and “Big” veins would not hold out long on the Tunnel level under the vigorous hands of the force employed in dislodging the black diamonds from their ancient beds, and therefore provision must necessarily be made to open a new but deeper supply. For this purpose, a slope became necessary, and so preparations were made a little over a year ago to sink on. Room was required inside of the tunnel for placing machinery to hoist the coal, pump out the water collecting in the slope and keep it in working order.
A point on the gangway on the “Big” vein about one hundred and fifty yards west of the tunnel was selected for the sinking of the new slope and work at once commenced. This first work was cutting across to the gangway to the “Little” vein, through which it was found most convenient to convey coal mined in the slope to the outside. In making the cross-cut or tunnel from one vein to the other ample room was allowed to place sufficient machinery for the working of the slope. A strong force, under the vigorous pushing of Mr. William Thomas, the mining foreman, completed the cross-cut, blasted out a space on the gangway of the “Little” vein sufficiently large to place six boilers in position and still allow room for the passage of wagons, drove an airway up to the surface through that vein, which was walled and arched the entire length in the most substantial manner, while the gangway was enlarged and timbered of sufficient width and height to the tunnel to admit the laying of a double track, that as soon as laid, served to convey the six boilers to the beds prepared for them, and as soon as placed thereon the masons were put to work at walling in and covering them; at the same time the rock men began the work of excavating a pit eighteen feet deep and twelve feet wide in the cross-cut, which was to serve as a receptacle for the drum and large cog-wheels needed in winding the rope for hoisting and lowering wagons in the slope.
The drum is ten feet in diameter and ten feet wide. Directly beside, but above the main shaft of the drum, is placed the double or link motion engine, having two cylinders with other necessary connections, and is calculated for two fifty horse power. Steam is conveyed to the engine through pipes leading along the roof and side of the cross-cut a distance of about fifty yards, while the exhaust pipes are led in the same manner from the engine to the condenser. Pure water being of the greatest economical value, the supply for the boilers—as well as for the other boilers in use for the outside machinery—is obtained from a reservoir on Berry’s Mountain through three-inch pipe a distance of 1900 yards, from whence it flows into a tank situated about three hundred and eighty feet perpendicularly below the tunnel level, and is pumped from that point, a distance of six hundred yards into a tank capable of holding one thousand seven hundred gallons. This tank is twenty-eight feet above the tunnel level on Big Lick Mountain.
It is then conducted through two inch galvanized iron pipes to the condenser, where it is partially heated by the exhaust steam, from which a double key pump is used to force into the boilers.
A strong stone arch was also built in the cross-cut, from the top of the slope to the engine, for the purpose of securing that portion of the roof from all possibility of breaking down, which there was a probability of its doing from the fact that the overlying rock there showed some signs of weakness, though such an event may not have occurred for years. Picture above from link posted from a blog called “Lykens Valley”
The slope was sunt by contract to a depth of two hundred and twenty-five yards, twenty-two feet wide and the height of the vein. Three shifts of three miners each, with the usual number of laborers, completed their portion of the work—or rather, they sank the slope as per contract—in seventy days, having been delayed in that time some two or three days by the horrible accident that befell on of the laborers in being crushed to death by a wagon accidently breaking from the rope while being hoised, he being caught between the descending wagon and the coal at the bottom. After the required depth had been reached, work was at once commenced on the gangways east and west.
While the slope was yet going down, other miners followed the slope men and cut into the vein at right angles, and on reaching the proper point, began to drive up an air-way to the gangway on the tunnel level. This was followed by others who commenced still lower down, so that by the time the gangway at the bottom reached far enough in the same direction others again commenced to make for the point higher up to where those who preceded them had commenced. In this manner no time was lots, and by the time the space intended to be occupied by the fan was enlarged to the necessary size—the fan—the engine for running it—with all the other necessary work==was completed, the steam pipes connected with the boilers used to supply the slope engine and the fan was ready to duck out all the smoke and foul air generated not only in the gangways at the bottom, but also, such as may arise from any number of breasts that may be worked at one time.
Hoisting the water collected at the bottom by means of the water wagons, would have become a process that could not be otherwise than an interference with the hoisting of coal and thereby decrease the quantity. A seam pump with a column of pipe ten inches in diameter has lately been put down the pump way that had been driven for the purpose, so that no interference from water collecting at the bottom need be feared. The machinery for the pump is also supplied with steam from the boilers above, but as the distance is great, the condensation of steam causes too much waste, but the condensation of steam causes too much waste, but the pipes will be entirely covered with heavy felting, a good non-conductor, that will in future prevent this loss.
One slope being found load adequate to the performance of a sufficient amount of work, another is about being completed a distance of one hundred and twenty-fire yards below the tunnel level to the gangway leading eastward, on the “Big” vein, one hundred and twenty-five yards from the main tunnel. It will be seen that this slope is not so deep by one hundred yards as the first slope, sunk on the west side, because it is intended to be used only for hoisting coal mined on the counter gangway driven along the vein at that depth on the east side of the main slope.
The old tunnel level gangway on the east side and counter gangways above it have been carried very nearly if not quite to the boundary of the tract, so this portion of the vein will cease producing when the breaks have been worked out and pillars taken down. All the larger and most important improvements that have been mentioned must not be supposed to embrace the entire list: so may minor ones having been made that their enumeration and description here would spin out this article to a length that would require more space than could be afforded.
Improvements on the outside have not, by any means been so general or important, and were confined principally to supply the increased wants of the lands, though some time was spent during the early portion of the year in repairing the breaker. That such repairs were needed can readily be imagined when the work done the previous year is taken into consideration. An entirely new engine was put into it to replace the old one, transferred to the inside for running the ventilating fan. This engine is very compact and substantially built and is calculated equal to forty horse power. Other portions of machinery that had been worn were replaced by new, and all points showing the least sign of weakness were properly strengthened. Mention has been made of the manner of supplying water, but in addition to that, a small reservoir on Berry’s mountain was constructed last spring about ninety feet perpendicular being the old one, for the purpose of collecting all waste water from the upper in time of scarcity caused by unusual drouth. A small engine beside this reservoir serves to force the water collected there through the main pipe up to the tank from whence it is pumped to the colliery.
Mules have been the motive power for hauling loaded wagons for so many years that any innovation of this method of conveyance from the mines is regarded with almost as much jealousy by the miners as was evinced by the introduction of railroads and steam power by the teamsters in the good old days when horse flesh and Conestoga wagons were considered as the ue plus ultra of convenience. Economically, there is no doubt but that the locomotive will soon replace mules about mining operations for all heavy work, if the inconvenience of escaping gases and steam can be overcome without expensive alteration in ventilation. Lately, we are informed, Major Anthony, the Superintendent, resolved to discontinue the use of the locomotive in the Williamstown Colliery, because it was found to incommode some of the miners from the unavoidable issue of gases while passing to and fro, with the intention of transferring it to the Lykens Valley colliery for outside purposes.
Accidents were few in number when compared with other mines less extensive, and but two deaths ensued from injuries received at these works. One was instantly killed in the slope and the other died by lockjaw brought on by having sustained a compound fracture of on of his legs while attempting to get on a train of loaded wagons coming out of the tunnel. W.D.H.M.
[We shall next week give an account of the operations of other collieries in this region for 1871, with Improvements made and in contemplation—Ed.]