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commissioners of the coal lands on the route from Harrisburg to Pittsburg. About the same time the National road starting at Baltimore was commenced to make a national road west to St. Louis. Everything at that time was directed to the western trade, while the boundless wealth of this section slept, and was unknown and unheeded. In time with the awakening of systems of internal improvements would appear articles in the newspapers or pamphlets calling public attention to the north branch of the Susquehanna. In 1791 the legislature appropriated money to improve this river, and make it easily navigable. In 1792 an appropriation was made for a road from "Metchunk mountain to Nescopeck," and another from WilkesBarre to Wyalusing. But in the idea of the proposers of these improvements there is no hint that the goal of this section was wanted. The first lock on the canal was laid at Harrisburg in 1827, and three years later the canal was completed to Nanticoke dam, and Hon. John Koons, of Shickshinny, built the boat "Wyoming," towed it to Nanticoke, where it was loaded with ten tons of coal, and after a long, tedious and difficult journey landed its cargo in Philadelphia. On its return trip, with fifteen tons of merchandise, it was frozen up, and the goods had to be carried to Wilkes-Barre on sleds. The next year, 1831, the "Luzerne" was built opposite Wilkes-Barre, and with a cargo of coal proceeded to Philadelphia under Capt. Derrick Bird. This boat made the first successful round trip to Philadelphia, loaded each way, in 1834.
At this time arose the serious question of shipping the coal northward from this point, and a struggle of twenty years finally ended in building the canal to the canal at Elmira, N. Y. In the fall of 1856 trade to New York was opened, and that year 1,150 tons were shipped, which in 1859 had increased to 52,000 tons.
In 1840 the board of managers of the Lehigh Coal & Navigation company deemed it a matter of sufficient importance to order the publication of the history of coal in this section. In that account two different hunters, at different places but about the same time, discovered important outcroppings in the year 1790. (There is now little doubt that these outcroppings had been found before this date by pioneers.—Ed. J But the two hunters who were credited with calling others' attention to the find were Nicho Allen and Philip Ginter—the former found his on Broad mountain and the latter on Bear mountain, nine miles west of Mauch Chunk. The account says Philip Ginter informed Col. Jacob Weiss of his find.
When Col. Weiss received the pieces of coal from the hunter he took them to Philadelphia and submitted them to the inspection of John Nicholson, Michael Hillegas and Charles Cist, who authorized Col. Weiss to satisfy Ginter upon his pointing out the precise location of the coal. These gentlemen united with others Id forming the coal mine company, but without a charter. Mr. Maxwell includes the eminent financier of the Revolutionary war, Robert Morris, among the active patrons of the early improvement of the Lehigh, but mention of his name does not occur in the early histories within reach.
Jacob Cist, a gentleman of unusually solid and brilliant scientific attainments, who had in early life removed to Wyoming, was a son of Charles Cist. In 1813 he united with Charles Miner, editor of the Gleaner, aud John W. Robinson, all of Wilkes-Barre, in the lease on the Lehigh. Stephen Tuttle was a fourth. Isaac A. Chapman, afterward editor of the Gleaner, and author of an early history of Wyoming, was at one time associated in the enterprise. He was an engineer with Milnor Roberts and Solomon W. Roberts on the upper division of the navigation under Canvass White, and died at Mauch Chunk while in the company's service.
A curious old contract of January 27, 1815, "between Charles Miner of the one part and Benjamin Smith and James Miars of the other part, witnesseth that the said Smith and Miars have agreed to haul from the great coal bed near the Lehigh, commonly called the Weiss bed, to the landing near the Lints place, sixty tons of stone coal by the first day of April, 1815."
There is also a memorandum, signed and sealed by Philip Heermans, agreeing to build arks in a workmanlike manner, ready to run by the first spring freshets in the Lehigh, ten arks for $400. "Said Charles to find all the materials on the spot; to haul the timber, board the hands, and to furnish them a reasonable quantity of whisky. Wilkes-Barre, November 23, 1814." A note added—"Mr. Heermans was a very clever fellow and had built the ark's previously used."
The company's history says: "Only $4 was paid for hauling the coal over the road before referred to, and the contractor lost money. The principal part of the coal which arrived at Philadelphia was purchased at $21 per ton by White & Hazard, who were then manufacturing wire at the falls of the Schuylkill. But even this price did not remunerate the owners for the losses and expenses of getting the coal to market, and they were consequently compelled to abandon the prosecution of the business, and of course did not comply with the terms of the lease."
The venerable James A. Gordon wrote from his home in Plymouth to the WilkesBarre Record of the Times, February, 1874, his recollections of this early Luzerne enterprise on the Lehigh:
"On the 17th July, 1814, with Abail Abbott, Stern Palmer, Strange H. Palmer (another printer), Thomas P. Beach, Joseph Thomas, Chester Dana and Josiah Horton shouldered knapsacks and tools for a march to the Lehigh to build arks for Messrs. Cist, Miner and Millhouse (Hillegas?).
'' Four arks were ready for loading by the first freshet. The estimated cost of fifty tons, one ark load of coal, was: Mining, $50; hauling from summit, $4.50 per ton, $225; cost of ark, $125; loading ark, $15. Total, $415.
"Lehigh pilots were on hand. The fleet moved off with the rapid current, and in fifteen minutes brought up on a reef called 'Red Rocks,' half a mile below. One ark got through. In the ensuing December peace was declared, and coal went down to $6. The enterprise was a financial failure."
Miner, Cist & Robinson made heroic endeavors to make mining coal a success, but their failure was complete and their time and money losses heavy. Their lease of coal lands expired by non user. The Lehigh Coal Mine company being wholly discouraged executed a lease to White, Hunt & Hazzard, for a term of twenty years.
In 1813 Mr. Miner was publishing The Gleaner in Wilkes-Barre; and in a long editorial article from his pen, under date of November 19 and the head of "State Policy," he urged with great zeal the improvement of the descending navigation of the Susquehanna and Lehigh rivers. He then said: "The coal of Wyoming has already become an article of considerable traffic with the lower counties of Pennsylvania. Numerous beds have been opened, and it is ascertained beyond all doubt that the valley of Wyoming contains enough coal for ages to come." He then goes on to speak highly of its quality, and says further: "Seven years ago our coal was thought of little value. It was then supposed that it could not be burned in a common grate. Our smiths used it, and for their use alone did we suppose it serviceable. About six years ago one of our most public spirited citizens made the experiment of using it in a grate, and succeeded to his most sanguine expectations."
Again, in the same paper, issued on the 31st of December, 1813, in an article headed "The Prosperity of Philadelphia," Mr. Miner wrote of the objects to be accomplished for her advantage: 1, The connection of the waters of the Chesapeake and the Delaware—since accomplished; 2, The connection of the Schuylkill with the Swatara—since much more than accomplished by the Union canal; and 3, The opening of a communication from the Susquehanna to Philadelphia by a road or railway from Wilkes-Barre to Lehigh, and thence by that river to the Delaware, and thence to Philadelphia. "I have visited," he said, "Lausanne and a number of other places on the Lehigh, having particularly in view to ascertain the real situation of its navigation." Then, in the next issue of the same paper there is another editorial by Mr. Miner, headed "Navigation of the Lehigh," and occupying two and a half columns of the paper. In it he wrote earnestly and at length as to the merits of our coal, as well as to the improvement of the Lehigh. Upon this point he printed in italics the following sentence: "I say with great confidence, this is the course pointed out by Nature for the connection between the Susquehanna and the Delaware;" and experience has since verified its truth. He then urged upon the public the improvement in question, on the ground of the comparatively small expense it would require. He was too sanguine, as the event has proved. On the contrary, he then said: "Our public improvements must grow with our growth and strengthen with our strength. We can not expect in this young country, having so many points to improve, to equal the old and more populous countries of Europe. I appeal to the judicious men who have witnessed the failure of our grandest plans, if they have not miscarried because they were disproportionate to the necessity and the ability of the country," and he closed this part of the subject by saying, "I hope our grandchildren may live to see a complete railway from this place to the Lehigh, and a canal from thence to Philadelphia."
This is an interesting passage. It would be interesting to know just how many of Mr. Miner's readers understood at that day what a railway was. There was not then a railway in existence—save the "tram roads" in and about the mines of Newcastle—and to those who understood this how much like the merest vagaries of the imagination must Mr. Miner's confident hope have seemed. And yet it has been more than realized. His grandchildren have indeed not only lived to see that very railroad and canal completed, but he lived to see it himself, finished and in use; and more than this—he lived to see not only that particular railroad and canal, but also eight other railroads and two other canals diverging from this valley to the great coal marks of the country!
But the result of Mr. Miner's investigations, and of his explorations of the Lehigh at that early day, was the hope that even then coal could be got down the Lehigh river to Philadelphia in arks from Mauch Chunk; and in December of 1813 he, in company with Messrs. Cist and Robinson, of Wilkes-Barre, leased the mines at Mauch Chunk and made arrangements to try the experiment. Mr. Robinson withdrew early from their company.
Mr. Miner for a number of years represented old Luzerne (then embracing all of northeastern Pennsylvania) in the legislature of the State. Subsequently he represented Lancaster, Chester and Delaware counties in congress; having for his colleague James Buchanan.
Jacob Cist, who was associated with him in their Mauch Chunk enterprise, was the son of Charles Cist, who with Robert Morris and others had formed the Lehigh Coal Mine company. He came to this valley in his youth, and commenced the mercantile business in Wilkes-Barre, but he was devoted to scientific studies and held a wide correspondence with scientific men. He understood better than any other gentleman of his day the geology of this region. Highly appreciating its coal, and clearly foreseeing its importance, he was ever ready to promote it appreciation abroad; and great reason have his respected descendants in this valley to bless his honored memory, his sound judgment and far-seeing forecast, verified in his short life by his wise and ample provision for them in the purchase of coal land.
After many and varied experiences, generally marked by sad failures, but these came upon men of unconquerable purposes, at length, March 13, 1837, the company was chartered to build a railroad connecting the Lehigh navigation with the north branch of the Susquehanna. The Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad was completed in time for the shipment of 5,800 tons of coal from Wyoming in 1846.
The Beaver Meadow railroad, chartered in 1830, was finished in 1836, extending from the Beaver Meadow coal basin, which is partly in Luzerne county, to its shipping point on the canal six miles below Mauch Chunk, a distance of twenty-five miles to Parryville, the real opening of the Eastern Middle coal district—the rich mines in the mountainous regions lying on the south line of the county. These coal fields are distinct from those of the Wyoming valley.
The Hazleton railroad, commenced in 1836, connected with the Beaver Meadow road at Weatherly, half way to the Lehigh, and the Hazleton coal was shipped on the canal at Penn Haven. The old "planes" are seen as you pass the mouth of the Quakake Creek at Penn Haven, decaying relics of the past, in the midst of the progress bustle and active business rivalry of competing railroads of the present; instead of the lonely wilderness described by Josiah White in 1818, when with Erskine Hazard they "leveled the river from Stoddardsville to Easton, the ice not having all disappeared, there being no house between the former place and Lausanne, obliging us to lie out in the woods all night." He further says there were but thirteen houses, including the towns of Lusanne and Lehighton, within sight from the river, and for thirty-five miles above Lusanne there was no sign of human habitation.
At the close of the year 1873 the coal lands of the Lehigh company were leased to the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal company, which was formed by the consolidation of the Honeybrook Coal company and the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron company at a minimum rental of $500,000, on a royalty of twenty-one per cent, of the price of coal at Mauch Chunk. This included lands in Luzerne as well as on the Lehigh. The great financial failure of Jay Cook & Co., in 1873, forced the New Jersey Central railroad into the hands of a receiver; the canals were abandoned and the Lehigh coal lands reverted to the original owners.
Asa Packer, native of Connecticut, a carpenter by trade, settled in Susquehanna county, whither he had traveled on foot from his eastern home, when a young man, found work upon the Lehigh, where his keen foresight had play and his great energy of character and indomitable will found material to work upon. He acquired coal property and projected a railroad to carry his coal to market from the Hazleton region. Following the river, his line absorbed the Beaver Meadow road, already in operation from Parryville to Penn Haven, where it received coal from the now abandoned planes. Crossing the Lehigh at that point, the towing path of the upper navigation occupying the west bank, his road followed on the east side to a point opposite White Haven, where by a substantial bridge it joined the Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad at its southern terminus, and thus had uninterrupted communication by rail with the great Wyoming coal field, and transportation without transhipment to tide water.
All this was not accomplished without opposition, and when, after the disastrous flood of 1862, which swept away the upper division of its navigation, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation company decided to abandon the water and extend its Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad from White Haven along its towing path to Mauch Chunk, the head of its canal, competition between the companies developed into keen rivalry for room and right of way along the narrow passes where there had been scant room for a tow path. The Lehigh Valley company, crossing from the east to the west side above Mauch Chunk, occupied available space by numerous sidings to accommodate its growing trade from the Quakake branch at Penn Haven, and the Lehigh & Susquehanna road had to draw upon the east bank of the stream at low water for material to make room for its tracks in the channel, alongside its rival.
The Lehigh Valley company met this new project by pushing the road northward from White Haven to Wilkes-Barre in 1866, competing with the Lehigh & Susquehanna road for through freight. A little incident, exciting at the time and now amusing, will show to what heat the friction of jarring interests had carried the immediate contestants. The Lehigh Valley road united with the Lehigh & Susquehanna road at grade, the bridge having been been built, of course, with a view to amicable trade. A long construction train of gravel cars crossed the bridge one evening, and was shunted upon the rival road with tools of all kinds, ready to begin operations on the new road, the high bluff on the White Haven side at the crossing precluding any other arrangement. In the early morning an energetic employee of the Navigation company observed this intrusion, and taking an old locomotive up the track with a full head of steam, he let it loose upon the innocently offending train, and butted it into the Lehigh, a heap of ruins. The immediate result is not remembered, but it is a curious fact, illustrating, perhaps, the admiration of Judge Packer for pluck and energy, that the chief responsible actor in that day's drama has almost from that time been in the service of the Lehigh Valley Railroad company.
The navigation company improved the planes at Solomon's gap, and for convenience of returning trains of empty cars, light freight and passenger traffic, made a light track for locomotive power from the head of the planes north by the Laurel Run gap and back to the foot of the planes, a distance of thirteen miles, to overcome the steep mountain grade by the planes, some three miles. The steepest grade of the back track is ninety-six feet to the mile. It was considered by many to be an almost impossible feat in engineering, but it was successfully accomplished under the supervision of Dr. Charles F. Ingham, of Wilkes-Barre, an able and experienced engineer.
In 1833 the legislature appointed Messrs. George M. Hollenback, Andrew Beaumont, Henry F. Lamb, W. S. Ross, Charles Miner, Samuel Thomas, Joseph P. Le Clerc, Elias Hoyt, Benjamin A. Bidlack. E. Carey, Bateman Downing. Ziba Bennett, Jedediah Irish, Thomas Craig, Azariah Prior, Daniel Parry, Lewis S. Coryell, Joseph D. Murray, John C. Parry, William C. Livingston, Benjamin W. Richards, Robert G. Martin, Joshua Lippincott and Lewis Ryan, commissioners of the Wyoming & Lehigh Railroad company, who employed Henry Colt and Dr. C. F. Ingham, civil engineers, to examine the route through Solomon's gap and report. The elevation of the summit above the borough of Wilkes-Barre was found to be 1.251 feet, and above the Lehigh 604 feet, and the distance between the two points about fourteen miles. Grading for a double track was recommended, with a single track at first. The commissioners, in an address to the public, say: "Persons of intelligence and capacity to judge estimate that 200,000 tons of coal and 3,000,000 feet of lumber, at least, will pass along this road to New York and Philadelphia from the vicinity of Wilkes-Barre, which now remain undisturbed where nature placed them, and the great and increasing trade of the Susquehanna, which now goes to Baltimore, will be diverted to New York and Philadelphia."
At that day, with rails of wood covered with a flat, strap-iron rail, operated by horse power, solid road beds were not so necessary as they are now. The Little Schuylkill railroad ran a light locomotive on such a track, but not with success. So, too, the Delaware & Hudson Canal company, with its first imported locomotive, a mere teapot in comparison with those of modern pattern, failed, because too heavy for the road. These estimates, ridiculous as they seem in the light of modern experience, were in accordance with the necessities of the times and the prospects they had of accomplishing a deliverance in that direction. The coal trade of the year preceding did not reach 300,000 tons from all the regions. The year before the company put their road under contract the trade was nearly 700,000 tons.
From the beginning the course of the anthracite coal trade has seemed to baffle all calculations, and those who look back see many wrecks, while in danger themselves of meeting the same fate, from want of faith in the future.
The failure of a loan in England to meet the cost of improvements to make good its loss of the upper navigation, and the sums thrown away in useless opposition to its rival roads, overwhelmed t he Lehigh Coal & Navigation company, and its works passed into other hands, to be resumed as already stated. A modicum of the good sense of the early projectors might have shown them that there is room enough and market enough for all, and that competition for the coal trade must be open for the benefit of those most interested, the consuming millions scattered over the broad union of