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Some discoveries in local history

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JONAL ENTRY 1235 | JUNE 23 2012

Paul Simendinger had a few amendments to Wednesday's post about Nanty Glo's first basketball court in the back (or the Shoemaker-Street-facing) Commons Building:

Just a note of correction: the building behind Commons was once the Heisley Company Store. It had a skating rink above it. I was seven years old and used to skate there. Heisley Store then moved to the location on Lloyd Street [now the American Legion club] after Webster [Mine Company Store] vacated [it], and moved across the street. My father was manager of the Webster company store. Mr. Harris (manager of Heisley) at that time and my father had coffee together at Hagans every morning. . . . [T]here was a slaughter house behind the store where turkeys and chickens were prepared for sale. It was also used as an ice storage house. I live[d] on Shoemaker Street most of my time there, except for a short period on Davis Street. Hope this information will help in your history of the town.

The building in question is seen in today's first photo. I had never heard before that this was the original location of Heisley Company Store. Can anyone tell us who owned and/or managed the skating rink and/or the later basketball court? Was it (or were they) part of a Heisley company community service initiative? If so, that may be the key to understanding why the UMWA provided a gym on the second floor of its building.

Today's second and third photos are also part of Nanty Glo's and Cambria County's industrial history. Below is the sign for Bethlehem Mine 31, better known for most of its working life as Heisley Mine.

I was struck, in studying the sign, to notice that it refers to Cambria Division, not "Cambria County" Division. My guess is that this is Bethlehem's way of acknowledging the significance of Cambria Iron Company in the history of the steel industry. Johnstown historians often refer to Cambria Iron as the precursor of Bethlehem Steel, and since Bethlehem's first president was Cambria County resident Charles M. Schwab, I assumed incorrectly that Schwab began his career in Johnstown, gained control of Carnegie's Steel Company in Pittsburgh (later US Steel) and then merged Cambria with Bethlehem to become the larger Bethlehem Steel. That's apparently an oversimplification as, for one thing, there's no reference to Schwab as one of the executives of Cambria Iron before it merged with Bethlehem.

The third photo today is of a plaque on Schwab Hall at Saint Francis University, Loretto, acknowledging his roles in the university's and Bethlehem Steel's histories.

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