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Featured Location: Eckley Miners Village

The village of Eckley was actually built by a coal company to provide housing for its workers and their families. In the late 1850s, Sharpe, Leisenring and Company built the homes and other buildings, like the company store and church. By owning the homes and other structures used by the miners, the company had great control over their workers.

As the anthracite mining industry declined, the need for a company owned town like Eckley became unnecessary. The land and buildings were sold to a group of Hazleton business men in the late 1960s, and in turn was deeded to the state for historical preservation in 1971.

The breaker that stands on the grounds today is actually a replica, built for the filming of ‘Molly Maguires’, a film about the famous (or infamous) group of miners who may or may not have conspired to commit crimes in order to focus attention on the plight of the American coal worker. Evidence of who the Molly Maguires actually were and what there purpose was still remains a contested subject.

Today, Eckley serves as a window to the past, showing what it was like for the workers of an anthracite coal mine in Pennsylvania. Along with the village, a museum is also on the site, which shows artifacts and other items relating to the lives of Eckley residents and workers.

Special events, such as Patch Town Days and the Civil War Weekend are also held during the summer months. Patch Town Days will be held June 20th and 21st, 2009. PAontheGo.com will be there, along with a number of other exhibitors and food vendors. So mark your calendar, and come out for some fun, food and heritage!

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.

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When is a City Not a City?

All throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, there are literally thousands of small neighborhoods, villages, hamlets, and municipalities that dot the landscape. Some are marked, some are not… and only the municipalities – the townships, boroughs, and cities – are actually legal designations.

To add to the confusion, names of those municipalities can sometimes be misleading. As an example, Dickson City in Lackawanna County isn’t actually a city. It’s a borough.

Dickson City spans about 4.7 square miles, and is located a few miles north of Scranton. Like many of the small towns in area, Dickson City was a coal town, built on the success of the local anthracite coal mines. With the mining industry long gone, commercial shopping centers, such as the Viewmont Mall, now share the space within the borough with the older Main Street businesses and homes.

Originally known as the village of Dickson, the area was part of Blakely Township. In 1875, the village became its own separate municipality, and the name chosen by the local petitioners was ‘the Borough of Dickson City’.

So, Dickson City isn’t actually a city, but for the people who live, work and visit here, the semantics of it all doesn’t quite matter as much as other issues. But it’s an interesting quirk nonetheless.

 

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



Ghost Town

 

Traveling on PA Routes 54/61 or following PA Route 42 to its terminus in southern Columbia County brings you to the former town of Centralia.

 

Without knowing what it is, you might simply drive through it on your way to another destination. It simply looks like a crossroads of an old town with most of its structures torn down. If you’re not paying much attention, you might miss it altogether.

 

The story of modern day Centralia is one that is actually below ground. A fire rages on in the mines below the former town. One that’s been burning for over 40 years.

 

The history of Centralia stretches back to the mid 1800s, when the area began to be mined. Centralia was incorporated as a borough in 1866. The town continued to thrive into the mid 1900s, when rail and mining operations began to shut down.

 

The exact cause of the fire remains contested. It was a result of a fire in the town’s landfill in the early 1960s, either ignited by hot ash being dumped, or intentionally to burn down the amount of garbage.

 

An exposed coal seam below the landfill became ignited, and the fire began to spread below the area. Several attempts in the following years to extinguish the fire remained unsuccessful.

 

By the early 1980s, the full scale of the problem was realized. Congress appropriated funds to relocate the town’s residents. In the following years, most residents would take the money offered by the government, but some refused. Today, approximately 10 residents remain, which is preventing any further work being done to extinguish the fire.

 

Several structures remain, including a few houses, the municipal building, a church, and the town’s cemeteries. Otherwise, overgrown sidewalks, streets and yards remain as a reminder of the town that once was.

 

Just south of the town, a section of PA Route 61 was forced to be abandoned because of the mine fire. The pavement has been heaved up, and in some places is buckled, exposing cracks where steam and smoke rise.

 

Centralia has been the inspiration for many books, songs, documentaries, and even Hollywood productions, including the recent movie, Silent Hill.

 

Although an interesting place showing the negative effects of underground coal mining, keep in mind this is not a tourist attraction. There is no visitor’s center, no museum, no facilities of any kind. In fact, you may be trespassing to see certain features, and the danger remains from the ground below in the form of the fire burning and gasses escaping. Visit here at your own risk.

 

 

 

For more details on the story of Centralia, you can visit these websites:

 

http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania

 

These sites were used as references for this article.

 

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.

 



The Birth of Anthracite Coal in America

The first known use of anthracite coal dates back 1750 when a native american brought some to a gunsmith in Nazareth, PA whose supply of charcoal had run out.

Sometime between 1750 and 1755, anthracite coal was being used in the Wyoming Valley and during the Revolutionary War it was sent down the Susquehanna River to be used by the arsenal at Carlisle.

Obadiah Gore of Nazareth used anthracite coal in his blacksmith forge as early as 1769.

There is also record of soldiers stationed at Fort Augusta using it at a source of heat according to the fort’s garrison Ensign Holler. He said in a letter dated the winter of 1758 that a wagon load of stone coal, brought in some six leagues from Fort Augusta, was shipped down river from around Nanticoke.

Three discoverers of anthracite in Pennsylvania were made by Nicho Allen in Pottsville, Philip Ginter near Mauch Chunk and Isaac Tomlinson at Shamokin. What is more remarkable, all these discoveries were made about the same time. and yet it is a fact that coal was mined in the Wyoming Valley nearly a quarter century before these “discoveries.”

The use of anthracite for domestic purposes appears to have been discovered by Judge Jesse Fell, of Wilkes-Barre. Fell wrote on February 11, 1808 that he had “made the experiment of burning the common stone coal of the valley in a grate, in a common fireplace in my house, and found it will answer the purpose of fuel, making a clearer and better fire, at less expense, than burning wood in the common way.”

News of this successful experiment soon spread through the town and country, and people were going to witness the discovery. Grates like the one Judge Fell used were soon in use by his neighbors, and in a short time were in being used throughout the valley.

In the spring of that same year, John and Abijah Smith loaded two arks with anthracite coal at Ransoms Creek, in Plymouth, and took it down the Susquehanna River to Columbia; but on offering it for sale, noone could be persuaded to purchase any. They left the black stones behind them unsold, and returned to their homes.
 
The next year the Smiths, not least bit discouraged, took two arks of coal and a grate back to Columbia. The grate was put up, and the coals were burned in it, thus proving the practicability of using coal as a fuel. They sold their coal, and thus began the initiative of the immense anthracite coal trade of Pennsylvania.
Today, the original grate Judge Jesse Fell used is on display at the Luzerne county Historical Society museum in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA.
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