Mansell's History of Schuylkill County 1881 - Saint Clair

Excerpts Taken from Mansell's "History of Schuylkill County, PA"     From  1881Back to main page

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" St. Clair was incorporated April 6th, 1850. The first borough election was held on the 9th of May following. The first officers were: Jacob Metz, president; Charles Lawton, chief burgess; Jacob Metz, John R. Williams and Jacob Frantz, town council; John Seitzinger, justice of the peace; Joel Metz, high constable; Lott Evans, town clerk; Benjamin S. Jackson, assessor; Henry Krebs and Daniel Slobig, assistant assessors; Daniel Frack, John W. Lawton and Joseph Denning, auditors; William Smith, JohnW. Lawton, John W. Williams, John Sandford, William Stoker and William Montelius, school directors. St. Clair is situated on Mill Creek, near the center of the first or southern anthracite coal field.

Its first settlers was Michael Boechtel (Bechtel), who came here near the beginning of the present century, and located on the farm now by Samuel Arnaut (Arnot). He was followed by John Malone, a lumber dealer, the Nichols family and others. The first industrial beginnings were a cider-mill on the Nichols farm and two saw-mills, one built, very early, just back of the M.E. church, another, later, near John's breaker.

In 1831 Carey, Lee & Hart, who had bought the Nichols farm,which then comprised the whole of the St. Clair tract, laid out the first street of the new village, which was named from the Christian name of its former owner, St. Clair Nichols. The new village contained but eight houses. None of these remain. Banks of culm from Hickory Colliery now cover the sites of most of them. One very small house, called the saw-mill house, stood just east from R. Boone's store, and one just in the rear of the old brick building on the southeast corner of Second and Hancock streets. The Mill Creek Railroad was built from Port Carbon to this place some time in the year 1829. John Heald, now residing here,worked for Superintendent Benjamin Milnes, preparing the road be done New Year's day of that year. The cars were drawn on wooden rails, by horses. The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company built their Mill Creek branch to St. Clair and New Castle in 1845. A public road to Port Carbon was opened about 1837, by Barton Evans. Another road to the old turnpike, making connection with Pottsville, had been opened by Boechtel (Bechtel) or Malone.

In 1829, John Burgett came to St. Clair and erected a tent in which to shelter and board workmen on the Girard tunnel. Soon after erecting this tent he built a small framed tavern called "The Cross Keys," one block below the depot. His daughter Charlotte Burgett was the first child born in the borough. Daniel Frack, now of Frackville, came about 1831, and built a tavern on the next lot south, at the corner of Hancock and Third streets. The third tavern was built by Jacob Metz, in 1844, and is now kept by H.H. Marshall. The hotel now kept by John Taggert was commenced soon afterward. In 1831 St. Clair Nichols set apart a lot for a graveyard. Anthony Irwin, now residing here, helped to fence it, and was grave-digger during several years. The land was afterward deeded, by Carey, Lee & Hart, to the borough, and was set apart for a borough cemetery.

Work on the St. Clair furnace was commenced by Burd S. Patterson in 1842, and suspended in 1844. It was finished and put in blast in 1864. James Lannigan bought it and operated successfully until 1873, when he failed by reason of unfortunate speculations. The furnace, which is now idle, is the property of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company.

Private schools were commenced here as early as 1834. Among those who sustained them were the Evans, Nichols, Burgett and French families. Of the teachers in these schools Nancy March, who taught where Mr. Koch resides, opposite the Creek school house, Sarah Runk, Sarah McNair, Richard Greenly, Ralph Branch, a Miss Boyle and Mr. McCamant are remembered. The first free school was taught in 1838 or 1839 by Benjamin Jackson, who came from Catawissa. He taught in the old school-house that stood in the borough cemetery. This building was erected for religious meetings. Jackson was followed by John Colburn, Isaac Breach, James Stoker, Esther Evans, Washington H. Lawrence, Benjamin French and William Porter. In the year 1848 a Mrs. Shippen taught in a house which stood on the site of Joseph Townsend's store. P.D. Barnett, contemporary with Porter, taught the first school in the Creek schoolhouse in the following year. Theodore Thompson was an a assistant during 1850, and the next year succeeded Barnett as principal, and continued in that capacity during fourteen years.

The St. Clair post-office was established in 1845. The mail was at first carried by stage to and from Pottsville. The following are the names of the postmasters, in the order of their service: Jacob Metz, Jonathan Johnson, Thomas Irvin, Martin Dormer, James Kelly, James Brown, Edward Richardson, Mrs. M.A.Richardson, Samuel Mateer, and, since the death of her husband, Mrs. M.I. Mateer. There is now a telegraph station in the post-office.


The veins of coal in the north part of the borough have been nearly exhausted; but rich mines are believed to be in the southern portion and its vicinity. Previous to 1830 very little coal had been mined, and no shipments made. John Offerman and a Mr. Wheitroff had opened a drift on crop of the Mammoth vein in 1828. The place took the name High Germany, from the nationality of its operators. On the completion of the Mill Creek railroad, regular coal openings were made and shipments commenced. The following is a brief  history of the different veins in their order from the surface, and the principal collieries operated in them. The operators leased the mines from the land owners, Carey, Lee & Hart. The Orchard vein overlies the others within the borough lim its. It was first operated by John Pinkerton & Co., who in 1830 opened a drift in an apple orchard near the farm house now owned by Samuel Arnaut (Arnout), whence the named "Orchard vein." This drift was the first regular coal opening at St. Clair; and from it the first shipments were made. John Holmes, with others, sunk aslope in the west part of the borough. The vein there is about four feet thick. A drift was also opened on this vein in the east part of the borough, about 1866, but it was abandoned on account of the thinness of the vein there. The Primrose vein was opened by several water level drifts in 1830, near the present site of the railroad depot, by Pinkerton & Co. These drifts were worked by different parties until 1843,when Alfred Lawton became the operator in this vein. He was followed by Frank Parvin, who sunk a slope and mined considerable coal, but he encountered a dirt fault, and abandoned the working. The eland owners, wishing the vein not to lose its reputation, continued work for a time, but finally abandoned it. Griffith Jones, superintendent for the Peach Orchard Coal Company, operated a slope in the east part of the borough from 1866 to 1870. This vein, in some places, was twelve feet thick. Jones, while operating here, tunneled north to the Holmes vein,  and afterward south to the Orchard vein. The Holmes vein received its name from its discoverer, John Holmes, a native of   Dublin, Ireland. This vein was not discovered as soon as the Mammoth vein, but it is the next vein below the Primrose. Mr. Holmes came here in 1841, and commenced proving veins both for himself and William Montelius.   About 1846 he, while operating with others on the Orchard vein, sunk a shaft and struck the vein which afterward fore his name. He also opened adrift on the vein in the east part of the borough. Mr. Holmes superintended for George W. McGinnis on his slope and shaft. After McGinnis sold his colliery, he returned to his former work of prospecting.

In 1872 Adam Jackson reopened the drift in the east part of the borough, and at a cost of $900 built a breaker, with a 10 horse power engine and a daily capacity of 40 tons. The coal is a good quality of red-ash. The drift has been operated since 1878, by Joseph Atkinson, who employs nine men and ships 300 tons per month. It is called the St. Clair Colliery.  In 1870, David Vipen opened a drift a short distance south of Jackson on the south dip of this vein. In 1876 Thomas Bedford and Thomas