Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

States, from the great lakes to the gulf, and from the Atlantic far beyond the Mississippi, even to the Pacific ocean.

The Wyoming coal field is the largest and most northern anthracite basin of Pennsylvania. In area it is something under 200 square miles, or about 127,000 acres. It is about fifty miles in length and about an average of four miles in width, and extends from a point above Beach Grove, on the west side of the river Susquehanna, having a course about northeast, to its terminus a few miles above Carbondale.

Resting on the conglomerate rock of bright pebble stones cemented together, which lies in a cradle of red shale, its boundaries are easily traced along the outcroppings on the Kingston mountain on the west and the Wilkes-Barre mountain on the east, while the sinclinal axis or trough, dipping under the river, is carried deep below the rough hills of the lower townships, rising gradually with an irregular formation like solidified waves, until its measures thin out and disappear along the head-waters of the Lackawanna river, having the shape of a vast canoe.

The Susquehanna forces its way through the western boundary at the middle of the basin, where it receives the waters of the Lackawanna, which have traversed the upper regions of the basin's trough, and together they leave it at Nanticoke, taking a western gorge to Shickshinny, where the stream curves and crosses the lower point of the coal formation on its course to the ocean.

The cluster of small basins in the southern townships of Luzerne county, which are opened by the Lehigh improvements, belong to the second or middle coal field.

While Josiah White, Erskine Hazard and other enterprising citizens of Philadelphia were seeking the black diamond among the rugged hills of the Lehigh to its upper waters in Luzerne county, and were solving the problem of its value as a fuel, other Philadelphians were exploring the northeastern borders of the county for mineral coal, and the passes of the Moosic mountain to find an outlet by the waters of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers to eastern markets.

Mr. William Wurts was the pioneer "who first conceived the idea of transporting coal of the Lackawanna valley to market by an eastern route." A note to an article on the Delaware & Hudson Canal company in The National Magazine, August 1845, for which acknowledgments are due to Mr. Charles P. Wurts, of New Haven, Conn., says: "With such views, as early as 1844, and while that valley was yet an unbroken wilderness, without road or bridle-path above Providence, he explored it and the passes of the Moosic mountain to find an outlet to the Lackawaxen and the Delaware rivers, selecting and purchasing such coal lands as were most eligibly situated in reference to that object."

On March 15, 1823, Maurice Wurts and John Wurts, who had conceived the bold enterprise of constructing a railroad and canal to their coal lands on the Lackawanna river in Luzerne county, procured from the legislature of Pennsylvania an act authorizing Maurice Wurts of Philadelphia, his heirs and assigns, etc., to enter upon the river Lackawaxen, or any streams emptying into the same, "to make a good and safe descending navigation at least once in every six days, except when the same may be obstructed by ice or flood," from near Wagner's gap in Luzerne, or Rix's gap in Wayne county, to the mouth of the said Lackawaxen, "with a channel not less than twenty feet wide and eighteen inches deep for arks and rafts, and of sufficient depth of water to float boats of the burthen of ten tons." Certainly a modest beginning.

Forty two days after this act of assembly was approved at Harrisburg the legislature of New York passed "an act to incorporate the president, managers and company of the Delaware & Hudson Canal company," for the expressed purpose of forming a water communication between the rivers Delaware and Hudson, so that a supply of coal might be obtained from large bodies of this valuable article belonging to Maurice Wurts, of the State of Pennsylvania.

By an act of the Pennsylvania legislature approved April 1, 1825, and an act of the New York legislature of April 20, 1825, the two companies were consolidated and reorganized in this state as the "President, Managers and Company of the Delaware & Hudson Canal company;" with power to construct and maintain such railways or other devices as may be found necessary to provide for and facilitate the transportation of coal to the canal.

Soon after the consolidation of the companies work was begun, and ground broken July 13, 1826. Parts of the New York section upon which work was first commenced were being finished when the contractor began work on the Pennsylvania section, which runs from Honesdale to the mouth of the Lackawaxen, a distance of twenty-five miles, at which point it is joined to the New York section by an aqueduct over the Delaware. The length of the canal from the Delaware to the Hudson is eighty-three miles, making the total length of canal from Honesdale to Rondout 108 miles. The act of assembly of April, 1825, at the same time authorized the company to assume all the rights originally granted to Mr. Wurts. The State had reserved the right to resume all the rights and privileges granted at the expiration of thirty years from the date of the law of March 13, 1823, without compensation to the company if the tolls received had already repaid the original cost of the canal, with six per cent, upon the capital invested.

The sites of both Honesdale and Carbondale were in the natural state of our northern wilderness when ground was broken for these canal improvements. Carbondale in 1828 contained one log cabin, built to shelter Mr. Wurts in his early explorations.

Honesdale has long been the county seat of Wayne county, a populous and flourishing borough. It was named from the first president of the company, Philip Hone, Esq.

The Delaware & Hudson Canal company's trade at first was feeble, and anthracite as difficult to introduce in New York as it had been in Philadelphia. Mr. John Wurts, many years afterward president of the company, wrote to Mr. Charles Miner, of Wilkes-Barre, a long and interesting account of his efforts to introduce coal upon boats on the Hudson to generate steam as motive power where wood had been used as fuel. It seems strange at this time that a city having constant communication with Liverpool and Glasgow should have had such strong prejudices against coal, or so little knowledge of its use. True, improvements in making coke and the discovery of applying the hot blast to the hard coal of Wales were just beginning to revolutionize the iron trade in England. It was not till J833 that the introduction of hot blast to the furnaces on the Clyde reduced the cost of pig iron more than one-half. Then, wood was still cheap in New York. Not a boat could be prevailed upon to give it a fair trial, or voluntarily to lose a day for the purpose of testing this stone coal. The greatest concession gained was permission to work at night, while the boat was lying idle, in fitting the furnace at the company's risk, and in furnishing coal for the experiment on one of the small day boats. This was at last accomplished, and the fact demonstrated that coal was good to generate steam. In 1835 it was deemed an experiment of enough importance to receive special mention in the New York Journal of Commerce under the head, "Steam by Anthracite Coal," that the new steam ferry, " Essex," had been fitted up with Dr. Nott's patent tubular anthracite coal boiler, to use Lackawanna coal. The boat contracted for all its coal at $4 a ton.

The active competition between the Schuylkill canal and the Reading railroad, approaching completion in 1841, so reduced prices that permanent enlargement of the Delaware & Hudson canal was hastened to lessen cost of transportation and meet this competition. But it was not enough. Canals had their day and were out of fashion. The long, cold winters of northern climes, where the bright fires of anthracite coal are most needed to cheer the lengthened nights, render canals use

[graphic]

less more than half the year by their frosts, and the Delaware & Hudson canal company, with an annual trade exceeding 3,000,000 tons, having reached the maximum capacity, controlled the trade on lines of railway leading from the heart of the Wyoming coal field to Canada, opening directly the very best prospective markets in the world, with numerous connections east and west at all important points along its route, insuring an almost unlimited demand for the products of its mines.

Like an oasis in the desert, the Pennsylvania Coal company through all the misfortunes and depressions of the coal trade, maintained its position as a dividendpaying corporation, and held its stock above par.

The reader will not confound this company with the Pennsylvania Railroad company, which is now enrolled among the coal-transporting companies in this region, operating under the charter of the Susquehanna Coal company on both sides of the river at Nanticoke, and which owns that portion of the old North Branch canal from Northampton street, Wilkes-Barre, south.

The subject of this sketch was originally engrafted upon the Delaware & Hudson Canal company, the ambition of which was limited in extent of its landed possessions and powers of expansion by restrictive clauses in its charter. Two charters were procured from the legislature of 1838, both approved April 16. "The Washington Coal company" was probably organized first, and on April 1, 1849, was authorized to sell and relinquish its property to the Pennsylvania Coal company, under which title the two were consolidated, and afterward absorbed the rights of the Wyoming Coal association, chartered February 15, 1851.

Large tracts of land were purchased in certified Pittston township on the Busquehanna, and in Providence and Dunmore on the waters of the Lackawanna. A double track railroad was made, the cars propelled by stationary power and gravity by a series of inclined planes a distance of forty miles. Ground for this road was broken in 1847 and it was finished in 1850. The loaded, track, as it is termed, or the track upon which the loaded cars are run, started two miles below Pittston, on the Susquehanna, with a plane upon which the coal from the Port Griffith mine was hauled, and a train of cars made up at the summit run by its own gravity to the town of Pittston, again to the foot of No. 3 at Pleasant Valley, and so on to Hawley, on the Hudson & Delaware canal, tapping in its course its mines in Luzerne, and on the Lackawanna, in the present county of that name. The return track carried the empty cars back to Port Griffith, dropping the proper proportion at the different mines in its westward course.

As a coal company, looking to large markets and to profits on coal far beyond the capacity of its canal, it was wise to be seeking new markets and encouraging the trade by every opportunity which presented. This foresight has been of great service to the Pennsylvania Coal company. When coal sold at $2.50 at Rondout this company paid no tolls, but when the price was above the sum one-half the increase was charged as tolls on the Delaware & Hudson canal. This arrangement, with the favorable terms for transportation on the Erie road, has given the company important advantages over rival companies. Without the heavy cost of locomotive railroads, owned or leased, or large indebtedness to draw interest from its treasury, it has been able to make dividends which sent its stock up to two hundred and eighty per cent, while other stocks were below par in the markets. In 1850, the year the gravity railroad was opened, it was credited with 111,194 tons upon the Delaware & Hudson canal.

Mr. William R. Griffith, a gentleman of wealth visiting Wyoming valley, became interested in its coal deposits, and was chiefly instrumental in promoting the organization of the Pennsylvania Coal company, and in selecting its coal lands.

The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad was merged in the Lackawanna & Western Railroad company, and the corporate name changed to the name, style and title of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western in 1851, and with other small

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »