Column #372 – January 14, 2006
Off New Year With Answers For Readers
When is a crane not a crane? Answer: When it is a dragline.
In last month’s Reader Roundtable column, reader Emmett Frisbee of Pittsburgh wrote to ask, “Do you have any information on the crane along Route 51 between Perryopolis and Uniontown? I am doing informal research on it.” Emmett added, “The crane or shovel is a relic of our not-too-distant past. It is not just an industrial relic; it is symbolic of lifestyles now fading. I’m curious not just about the specs of the crane, but also about people’s memories or impressions of it.”
Several readers responded to Emmett’s inquiry. That piece of equipment is called a dragline and was used in a strip mining operation. Bob Robinson of Elizabeth, head coal clerk at Clairton for many years, called to say, “There was a law on the books (and there may still be one) that whenever strip mining is complete, the land has to be reclaimed. However, as long as machinery remains on the property, reclamation is not required.”
Apparently the lawmakers had assumed that the presence of equipment on the site was an indication that the strip mining was not complete, since no one would leave expensive equipment sitting idle for a long period of time. Would they?
Readers Leroy Bryan of Frogtown Road (near Penn-Craft) and Jay Smith of Baldwin agree with Bob Robinson that yes, indeed, they would.
“As long as there is machinery on the property,” Leroy told me over the phone, “you don’t have to backfill the site.”
“Your article last week asked if anybody knew anything about the old shovel along Route 51,” Jay Smith emailed. “I once wondered about it and asked some questions and was told that it was used in a strip mining operation behind the hills near where it is parked. When laws were passed requiring mining companies to restore the lands when they were finished mining, the question arose as to when it could be concluded that the companies were finished. The answer, I was told, is that the law defined the completion of mining activities as the time when the last piece of company-owned heavy equipment was removed from the site. I was told that many mining companies skirted the costly reclamation requirements by just abandoning some piece of equipment that was at or near the end of its useful life. I don't know for sure that this is correct, but this is the information I was told.”
Rosalie Coughenour of Hopwood added, “Many companies left an old piece of equipment on the property to avoid the cost of restoring the land. I believe if you check out other such properties, you will find the same thing.”
A couple of sharp-eyed readers also reported that the dragline along Route 51 still moves occasionally.
“I drive by there frequently,” Bob Robinson observed, “and it is moved just slightly on occasion, or the arm may be raised or lowered a bit.”
Shannon Hickle Rockwell of Smithfield added, “I always look for the ‘crane,’ since I think of it as a landmark because it has been there as long as I remember. It is been painted numerous times to cover the graffiti. The graffiti is back, although not as bad as before. It seems to have some movement these days, more than I have ever seen before. Someone seems to be putting it in different positions.”
Any reader wishing to further discuss their impressions of this unusual industrial “landmark” with Emmett Frisbee is invited to email him at [email protected] or visit his web site at www.emmettfrisbee.com.
In the same Roundtable article, Edgar Wright of Brownsville requested assistance in locating a historic church in this area. An author named Paul Garrett of Barberton, Ohio, is writing a book about early churches. Mr. Garrett wrote a letter to Edgar’s church (Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church of Brownsville) requesting information about a Baptist church originally known as the Philadelphia church. Mr. Garrett believes that the church was located somewhere in the Brownsville area and was established in 1791. He optimistically sent a map on which he hoped someone at Edgar’s church could mark its location.
The Roundtable has produced the information Edgar sought, thanks to reader Earl Whetsel of Uniontown. Earl emailed, “The church in question was actually located in what is now Smock. I have researched the church and have some additional information, including a picture that I could share with Mr. Garrett. Although it is now a private residence, the church is still standing.”
Earl referred me to Franklin Ellis’ History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (Page 559), which stated (in the Franklin township section), “The church at Big Redstone, called Philadelphia, was constituted May 1, 1791, by Rev. David Loofborrow.” After providing a lengthy membership list, Ellis wrote that “preaching was doubtless held at odd places, and perhaps chiefly in a log school-house, until 1800, for it does not appear that a house of worship was erected before that date, although the statement may be a mistaken one, as the early records of the church scarcely refer to the subject of a meeting-house.”
“This  church,” Ellis continued, “was a log building . . . The present house of worship was erected in 1845.” By 1882, the year of publication of Ellis’ book, Ellis wrote that the church membership had plummeted to only seventeen, and “preaching is supplied once a month.” It appears that the 1845 structure is the church that Mr. Garrett is seeking and that Earl Whetsel identified as currently being a private residence.
Are there any members of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, among our readership? If so, Earl Whetsel added an intriguing sidelight that involves the formation of your denomination.
“The church and surrounding property hold an additional international significance,” Earl informed me. “On this site in 1809, during a regional meeting of the Redstone Association of Baptist Churches, the Rev. Thomas Campbell mounted a rock outside the doors of the church and seceded from the Baptist denomination. Taking with him significant numbers of Baptists, he and his son, Alexander Campbell, formed the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ denomination. He soon went on to form Bethany College in West Virginia.”
I have contacted Edgar Wright, and we will put Paul Garrett in touch with Earl Whetsel. Having satisfied Edgar’s inquiry, Earl Whetsel then asked a question of his own.
“I am trying to locate the ‘Regular Baptist Church,’” Earl told me, “founded about 1849. It was supposedly located along Redstone Creek between Brownsville and Grindstone. Are any of your readers familiar with that one? I am also interested in any information about the Methodist cemetery in Brownsville.”
Any reader who can help Earl find that information is requested to contact me.
Our publication last month of a half-century old photograph prompted several of our readers to contact me to identify one or more individuals in the photograph. The photo, estimated to have been taken around 1953, is a picture of the staff of the Junior Brownie, a student publication that was produced at Brownsville Junior High School.
For their help in identification, I extend my thanks to readers Mary Ann Mowder Lister (Brownsville), Sam Loy (Mesa, Arizona), Lori Hosler (Brownsville), David Snyder (South Union township), Phyllis Barreca Grossi (Schwenksville, Pennsylvania), Larry Klingensmith (Tom’s River, New Jersey), Mary Dalson Wenick (Belle Vernon), Nancy Stuart Sealy (Brownsville), Barbara Marcus Sprafkin (Baldwinsville, New York), and Joe Cesarone (Parma Heights, Ohio). Combining the information these readers have provided, the following key to the photograph represents their consensus identifications:
First row (left to right): Bruce
Ulery, Warren Richards, Pat Hosler, Bob Hanula, not identified
Second row: Loretta McIntosh Filchock, Nancy Vasiloff Knight, Maxine Karpus, Donna Lochinger, Nancy Horton Parella, Juanita Dimperio
Third row: Don Tharpe, Dennis Matteucci, Dolly Greenfield, Sam Loy, Mike Skovran
Fourth row: Office secretary Bertha Kirlik, Betty Matta, Barbara Hout, Mary Jane Biddle, Joanne Boyle, Susan Winans, Faculty adviser Jeanne Henck
Fifth row: Not
identified, Sally Thornton, Doreen Hersh, Principal Sam Francis, Beverly
Eastwood Ryan, Mary Ann Petrick.
In last month’s Roundtable article, Brownsville’s Jean Blystone sought information about “first day covers.” A first day cover is a plain or decorated envelope affixed with a new stamp which is cancelled on the day the stamp is initially placed on sale by the post office. Jean recently discovered several of them among some documents in her possession. She wrote, “I would like to find someone from whom I can learn more about them.”
Chuck Thornton of Cape Coral, Florida has responded to Jean’s request. “I am a stamp collector,” Chuck wrote. “I have a large collection of covers, and if Jean Bright has questions, perhaps I can answer them.” I have put Jean in touch with Chuck so that she may have her questions about first day covers answered.
My thanks to the Reader Roundtable for its excellent response to the first challenges of the new year.
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