Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
A special Jonal: A review of
|John Heisley Weaver|
The two entrepreneurs, who both sat on the board of directors of the Baldwin Locomotive works in Philadelphia, also founded and ran one of the most successful railroads in Pennsylvania history, the C&I or Cambria and Indiana Railroad, which is also covered in Hill's history. Colver's mine was its first industrial client and the town its first home, before it moved to the Eleanor Yard just outside Nanty Glo. They had acquired an earlier, unsuccessful railroad, the Yellow Creek and Black Lick, to provide the C&I its first rights of way, rails, and rolling stock. Presumably, Yellow Creek is the main waterway in central Indiana County and the Blacklick Creek the main one in central Cambria, so the renaming was not a great stretch. One wonders why they didn't name it the C&W Railroad.
Colver reached a population estimated at 4,000 at its peak, and, like most Pennsylvania coal towns of the era, it supplied, through the provision of its founder and owner Coleman (who eventually went independent of Weaver) everything needed for life in the town: housing, stores, an entertainment center, a park, a dairy, schools, and churches. But the conveniences came at the price of personal liberty, as the company-paid police force also kept the town's residents in check.
This very attractive book contains dozens of historical photographs and reproductions of artifacts from coalmining history and includes details on the 1922 strike in the coalfields that eventually led to the acceptance of the United Mine Workers union for the industry. Labelled by the U.S. Department of Labor the country's most dangerous industry, mining needed the safety check of an organized workforce. Hill's own father died in a mine accident in Colver Mine in 1952. During the 1922 strike, Colver and many other Pennsylvania coal towns were occupied by the Pennsylvania Militia, which was sent in by the governor to protect the mine properties from its striking employees. Though I wondered if Jack Hill was inspired to use the subtitle "Mr. Coleman's Town" after the example of Denise Weber in her book on Vintondale, Delano's Domain, that description of Colver actually appears in dispatches a member of that Militia sent back to his hometown newspaper in New Castle.
There are lots of fascinating details about the Blacklick Valley mines and towns of Nanty Glo and Vintondale in this very readable book; it would be a great Christmas present for anyone with an interest in Pennsylvania mining history and lore.
Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.
C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963), on Christmas (paraphrasing the early church father, Athanasius, c. 293 373)
Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to
C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications.
From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were
articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book.
for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is
available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also
available on Amazon.
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