Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Workday Wednesday - Coal Mining


U.S. Historical Archive 
 
 

Coal Mining in Scranton, Pennsylvania

My great-grandfather, Peter Dempsky, left his native Lithuania in the early 1900s, possibly to avoid being inducted into the Russian army. With his young wife, Lucy, they sailed to Scotland where he worked as a miner in the Lanarkshire region coal mines. Several years later, Peter, Lucy and their young son, Victor (my grandfather) immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Sometime between 1907-1910, Peter left his wife and son to seek employment in the coal mines of Scranton, Pennsylvania. From my research, I found that Peter worked at the Mount Pleasant Colliery in west Scranton. At this mine, Peter was seriously wounded by a gas explosion at the front of a mine chamber, on 19 April 1917. He died later that day at the Moses Taylor Hospital, in Scranton.
 
 
 
"Scranton is a city in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. It is the county seat of Lackawanna County and the largest principal city in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area.
 
During the first half of the 20th century, it became home to many groups of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. This patchwork still survives and is represented by the Catholic and Orthodox churches that primarily dot the North Scranton, West Side, and South Side neighborhoods of the city; a substantial Jewish community was established as well." (Wikipedia)

Courtesy USBM/Wikipedia
"Scranton is the geographic and cultural center of the Lackawanna River valley, and the largest of the former anthracite coal mining communities in a contiguous quilt-work that also includes Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, and Carbondale. Scranton was incorporated as a borough on February 14, 1856, and as a city on April 23, 1866.
 
The Anthracite Mining Region of northeastern Pennsylvania extends over 485 square miles of nine counties. Anthracite was first quarried from outcrops.  When quarrying became impractical, the miners went underground.  When the geology and topography would permit, access to the coal beds was obtained through horizontal tunnels which also provided drainage. Vertical shafts were used when the coal was deep. Many of the early mines had only one entry/exit point. Vertical shafts frequently used a furnace at the bottom of the shaft to create a flow of air to ventilate the mine. These practices increased the risk to the miners. In the working areas, the coal was loaded into mine cars and pulled by mules to the tipple or to the bottom of the shaft for hoisting." (Discover Mining History)
 
"After World War II, coal lost favor to oil and natural gas. While some U.S. cities prospered in the post-war boom, the fortunes and population of Scranton (and the rest of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties) began to diminish. Coal production declined rapidly throughout the 1950s. The Knox Mine Disaster of January 1959 erased the mining industry in northeastern Pennsylvania. The event eliminated thousands of jobs as the waters of the Susquehanna River flooded the mines. Mine subsidence was a spreading problem in the city as pillar supports in abandoned mines began to fail; cave-ins sometimes consumed entire blocks of homes. The area was then scarred by abandoned coal mining structures, strip mines, and massive culm dumps." (Wikipedia)
 
Burning culm dump, Scranton, 1908.
Culms are huge dumps of coal mine waste some of which burn incessantly.