Coal Mining and Colleries in and around Saint Clair - Part I

Coal Mining and Collieries in and around Saint Clair - Part I

Coal Mining and Collieries in and around St. Clair - Part II

Coal Mining and Collieries in and around Saint Clair - Part III

Coal Miner's Prayer

Miners in tunnel - Old postcard


Pine Forest

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Click for larger view.  Photo taken at Pine Forest Colliery, which re-opened in 1890.  Pictured are, from left to right, Doc Malia, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Wood, Mr. Betz, Cecelia McDonald, Kate McDonald, Mary (McDonald) Frew, Foreman Archibald McDonald, Foreman Mr. Tiley, James McDonald, Tim Clark, and Sam Seitzinger.  Front row:  three Tiley boys and Joseph Frew.  

Picture courtesy of Laurie McDonald Maley

1892 - Drag Line foreman at Pine Forest received a salary of $7 per week. - Harry Geiger story


SPLINTERS - Saturday, September 4, 1897

While working at the Pine Forest Colliery last Saturday, William Evans, Fireman, at that place had his leg broken.  He was giving Simon Devlin, driver of the team, a helping hand to load timber on a wagon and while I the art of sneaking an extra heavy piece, it slipped in rolling it carried another piece with it towards Evans.  Jumping the first the second caught him below the knee, breaking both bones I the right leg completely off.  His companions hurried to his assistance and conveyed him to his home where he is resting quietly.


Saturday, March 19, 1898

Pine Forest shuts down unless orders to the contrary are received in a very few days.  Pine Forest Colliery will be a thing of the past, Forman Tiley and McDonald have been sent instructions to suspend all work today and prepare to remove the machinery.  The boilers, pumps, etc.  will be taken out when the work of demolition is complete.  Their will not be employment enough to keep a half dozen hands busy about the place.  Between four and five hundred men and boys will be thrown idle.   Most of these reside in Saint Clair but the suspension will only temporarily affect our town as work at Wadesville will be hurried forward.


Splinters excerpts courtesy of Bob Scherr


Mt. Hope Colliery  Located around Pine Forest

Opened in 1852 by Enoch McGinnis.  He sunk the veing 495 feet into the Mammoth Vein later extending it 815 feet to the lower levels.  The Vein was taken over by several other  operators until its closing in 1867.  It was later reopened under the Hooker Colliery. 

Discovery of coal in Schuylkill County was made in 1790.   The first shipment of coal to Philadelphia was made in 1800 by William Morris.   This was a complete failure due to the fact the many uses of coal were not realized until 1812.  In that year Anthracite was first successfully used in an iron furnace at Philadelphia. 

Discovery of coal in Saint Clair was made in 1824 and for over 100 years this was the most important industry in the town's history.   Deemed the most important vein of coal underlying the town are the Primrose, Mammoth, Orchard, Skidmore, 7-Foot, and Buck Mountain.  they range in size from several inches of thickness to nearly 80 feet of thickness, as in the Mammoth vein.

The first coal mine opened was by Pinkerton and Company in 1830.  It was located near the old Reading Station on North 3rd Street.   The vein of coal was named the Primrose Vein because of the primroses that grew near the mine.  Frank Parvin and Alfred Lawton also operated this mine until it closed in the 1850's.

Isaac Beck, a bank teller, discovered the Mammoth vein by noting the coal seam cut through by Mill Creek in 1830.  Pinkerton and Company took over this vein in 1835 and produced 100,000 tons of coal per year.  The Mammoth was also mined by Samuel Sillyman and E. Evans.  This vein allowed mining at Crow Hollow; by the High German Mine on Mt. Hope; by Miles Haywood and Snyder's mine at Pine Forest and another mine on the gun Club Hill.  These were all consolidated into one operation by the Boston Consolidated Coal Company in 1864.

In 1850 Pinkerton and Company opened another mine in Samuel Arnot's orchard in Arnots Addition called the "Orchard Vein".  This mine was the first to produce mine for outside sales.  Pinkerton and Company also opened mines to dig out Buck Mountain and Skidmore veins in the 1870's.  These were the slimmest and lowest veins under the town.

Collieries operating  around St. Clair:

Primrose Vein Opened in 1830 by Pinkerton & Co.  Named for the flowers that grew there - end of North 3rd St.  Taken over by Frank Parvin.
Parvin's Colliery Operated 1825 to 1860 by Frank Nichols & Frank Parvin - northeast of St. Clair.
St. Clair Shaft End of West Carroll St. First vertical shaft.  Shaft's fenced in area  can still be seen on the land where the Quirin Machine Shop once stood.
Rainbow Colliery Operated from 1836 to 1868, located in Crow Hollow.
Eagle Colliery John's Eagle Colliery  Opened in 1826 by Frank Haas.  Leased to John's Brothers in 1846
Herbine Colliery Former John's Eagle Colliery.
Saint Clair Coal Co. Former John's Eagle Colliery & Herbine Colliery.  Leased in 1889 and operated until 1957.  Took in Skidmore & Buck Mt. veins also. This was the town's largest mine operation.
Hickory Colliery Operated 1828 to 1874.  Located across Mill Creek from the John's Eagle.
Sillyman Tunnel Operated 1828 to 1846 by Mr. Wetherill.   Located in eastern St. Clair.
High German Tunnel Operated from 1830 to the 1860's by Otterman and Whitenoff.  Located in the vicinity of Pine Forest Stripping.
Mt. Hope Colliery Opened 1848. Near Pine Forest.  Closed in 1867
Pinkerton Tunnel Operated 1830 to 1853 by Pinkerton and Company.   Located along Reading tracks on North Third Streets.
Lawton Peacock Colliery Operated from 1836 to 1852 by Charles Lawton and later by Frank Parvin.  Charles Lawton took charge from 1836 to 1848, Parivn from 1848 until it was abandoned in 1852.
Skidmore Vein One of the most important veins of coal found in St. Clair. Discovered by John Pinkerton & Co.  Veins were from 10" to 14" in thickness.  ( See Thirty Slope)  Located West of St. Clair - Burma Road
Buck Mountain Vein One of the most important veins of coal found in St. Clair. Discovered by John Pinkerton & Co.  Veins were from 10" to 14" in thickness.  ( See Thirty Slope)Located West of St. Clair - Burma Road
The Hooker Colliery End of East Carroll & Price Streets.  Began operation in the early 1870's and ceased opreating following W.W.I. and was torn down..   Was once known as the Jackson Colliery.  During the 1930's & 40's it was the scene of "bootleg" coal operations.  Today, there is still a bit of the culm bank remaining and a little bit of the foundation.
Repplier Colliery Located in Dark Water.   Active in the 1850's and still advertising in 1938.
Thirty Slope An experimental mining system beginning in 1968 comprised of the Skimore & Buck Mountain veins.  The first suspended monorail system in the United States.  It is a West German monorail system.
Pine Forest Part of the Mammoth Vein. Opened in High Germany by Benj. Milnes, Benj. Haywood and George Snyder in 1845.  In the general area of the High Germany Tunnel, Sillyman, & Mt. Hope veins. In November of 1866 the owners sank a vertical shaft, but ventilation was a problem.  In 1872 Snyder sold the colliery to the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company.  In 1890 the colliery was re-opened but closed down again in 1899.  Reading Anthracite operated the Pine Forest strip mining until 1986.




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From the late 1800's to the early part of the 1900's,

Coal was King
in Pennsylvania.

Anthracite History Journal


The first coal miner's union in the United States was formed in Saint Clair.  In 1868, John Siney organized the WBA (Workingman's Benevolent Association).  It was formed to protect families with injured workers and makes mines safer to work in.   A predecessor of the WBA was the Bates Union.  It was organized by John Bates in 1840.  Mr. Bates was also a St. Clair native.  The UMWA arrived in the early 1900's and is still in action today.  A monument was dedicated to John Siney on November 1, 1900 and is located in St. Mary's Cemetery. To learn more about John Siney, follow this link.

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This map will give you an idea of the locations of various collieries and "patches" located in and around Saint Clair. (Click for larger view)


In 1968 an independent operator reopened the No. 30 slope with an innovative underground monorail system, this experimental method was the first of its kind in our country.   The venture did not last and closed down after only operating a few years.  

In 1976, the year of our country's bicentennial, mining in the St. Clair area consisted of two large open pit mines; one at Pine Forest another in Wadesville.  Pine Forest stripping closed in 1986. Today the open pit mine in Wadesville has expanded so much many of the homes and churches were torn down to mine the coal underneath.  The recent picture below was taken on a spot where several houses stood only a few years ago.


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The "walking shovel" crossing the highway on August 8, 1958.   Electric, phone and CATV wires had to be taken down to enable the shovel to get by. 

To those in many parts of the country--yes, we have had Cable TV since the late 1940's.  This was another Schuylkill County invention.


Miners in the coal shaft at the Saint Clair Coal Company around 1950

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The Hooker Colliery

Hooker Colliery  

Located at the eastern end of Carroll Street, east of Morris Street above Lawton Street.

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This was the site of the Jackson Colliery opened by the Mount Hope Coal Co. in the 1870's.  When the Jackson closed, it was reopened as the Hooker Colliery which operated until 1817.


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Bootleg Miner at Hooker  workings in the 1970's

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The Hooker Colliery closed shortly after WWI - today there are still some remains of the silt bank


Below are links to other sites of mining interest.

AltaVista Find this:
  Images Audio/MP3 Video

Coal Mining and Collieries in and around St. Clair - Part II

Coal Mining and Collieries in and around Saint Clair - Part III

John Siney - Organizer of the Workmen's Benevolent Association, forerunner to the United Mine Workers

St. Clair : A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience With a Disaster-Prone Industry
by Anthony F. C. Wallace