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When coal was king

When coal was king: State records indicate that Cambria and Somerset County mines employed 21,300 workers in 1950, compared with only 1,280 in 2000. Cambria County in 2000 produced 2.3 million tons of coal, of which all but 56,590 tons came from surface or “strip” mines. In the heyday of coal mining in the area, almost all that was produced was converted to coke to fuel steel furnaces in Johnstown and Buffalo, New York, plants. Now, most of the coal produced is used to produce electricity. There are no longer any major steel factories in the area.

Mines in what is now Nanty Glo and their starting dates included Lincoln (1900); Springfield, owned by the Peale, Peacock and Kerr Company (1907); Emma Coal Company (1909); Heisley (1915, see below for details), and Webster, later owned by the Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Company, Ivory Hill, and the Warren Colliery. “House coal” mines on a much smaller scale (selling coal by the truckload directly to homeowners for house heating) included Lorraine, Bech, Johnson, Cornely, Dorsch, Yobbagy, and Ebandjieff

The photo above developed from a 35mm slide that belongs to Bonnie Adams, whose late husband, Clayton Adams, is the younger man in the center, with his thumbs in his pockets.

Several readers have sent names of others shown, though not all the identifications match from one source to the next. As best we can tell thus far, in the back row, are William Adams (Clayton’s brother), left; Everett Wilson, Roy Findley, Blaine Teeter, Carl Teeter, and –?– McDermott. In the first row, left to right: Bert Teeter; –?–, Clair Wilson (in bib overalls), Russ Teeter (–or Pete Miller?), Sam Eppolito(?), and, standing against the wall, –?–. The older man near the center in light blue shirt and suspenders is John B. Stager. The group is the outside shop crew at Heisley (later Bethlehem Mine 31), Nanty Glo. The photo is believed to have been taken in the late 1940s-early ’50s.

The photo above includes several other faces, including, kneeling from left to right:—Harold Holsopple, Bill Adams, and Everett Wilson. On the top row: Lawrence Teeter third from left and Sam Eppolito, fourth from left. Thanks to Lou Stager, George Dilling, Barbara Teeter, and Barbara Hakanen for supplying names to match faces on the photos. Names of any of the other men that can be provided will be added as received.

Heisley Mine (1915) Was by far the largest, most profitable, and longest-lived Nanty Glo mine. It was originally owned and operated by Coleman-Weaver Company as Heisley Mine No. 3 until 1922 when Coleman-Weaver dissolved and partner John Heisley Weaver, a Philadelphia industrialist, acquired sole ownership.

Heisley mine entrance in Nanty Glo

Colman-Weaver Company also originally owned the mines in Revloc and Colver and launched the Cambria and Indiana Railroad (C&I), which served most Cambria County mines through most of the 20th century and has been described as one of the most profitable mines in the nation during its peak years. Weaver also owned the mines in Heilwood, Indiana County, which was renamed from Possum Glory to Heilwood after Weaver’s nickname, “Heil,” from Heisley. Weaver died in 1934 and his company sold Heisley Mine to Bethlehem Mines in 1948. Bethlehem renamed the mine Monroe Mine No. 131 and later renamed it Bethlehem Mine 31 and moved its main entrance from Nanty Glo to Jackson Township (Leidy Portal). The mine closed in the 1980s.

Nanty Glo Mine No. 1
It is better known in the area’s history as the Dunwiddie Mine in a historic postcard.

It is described in the brief history of Nanty Glo by William Martin and Betty Nedrich: “By 1899 the huge coal deposits in the settlement had attracted additional settlers and the Pennsylvania Railroad installed a line through the community that year. Commercial mining was initiated in 1896 by Dr. James W. Dunwiddie of Pine Flats, Indiana County, who opened up what was then called Nanty Glo No. 1.” The site of the mine entrance in the photo, from the postcard collection of William Martin, was near the spot at which the final photo at the bottom of this page, of Webster and Heisley Mines, was taken some years later.

The photos below were sent by Hobe Rose, a 1950 graduate of Nanty Glo High School and a longtime employee of Nanty Glo’s Heisley Mine, later known as Bethlehem Mine #31, now retired and residing in Revloc.

Heisley mine

The photo below shows the area where the underground shop was to be built, before construction. The dark area in the bottom is the coal seam, which was about 48″ high. Multiplying the coal seam a few times provides an approximation of how high the ceiling was and the other measurements in the photo. There are some stairs in the rear of the cave/room that led to an upper room that contained vents with fans that carried away foul and gaseous air.

webster rockdump

Far below the “mountain” of the Heisley Mine rock dump dominating the right side of this photo is the only photograph known to your webmaster of the Webster Mine rock dump, which used to block direct access to and egress from Nanty Glo by way of Pergrim Hill. It appears that the removal of that relatively minor mountain of coal rock was already underway when this photo was taken, probably the early-to-mid-1960s. Lloyd Street is plainly seen to the left of the Webster rock dump. It appears that the building that now houses the Foodland Market (Gold Crown) was already constructed at the time of this photo.

Finally, the picture below was taken “many years ago” highlights two of Nanty Glo’s mines from the borough’s boom days as an industrial center. In the center-right is some outside works of Heisley Mine, later known as Bethlehem Mine #31. In the foreground is Webster Mine. In the far background is the location of the Springfield Mine.


Thanks to Lou Stager who sent the photo and wrote: “The mine in the foreground is Webster. My dad worked there as a blacksmith for several years. His work area was the building with the dark front near the bottom of the photo. He spent the rest of his working life as a blacksmith for the Heisley mine. His work area there was in the building just to the left of the Webster Mine tipple. You can barely make out the Springfield mine area in the background. The light area on the left side is the ball field where Nanty Glo High played football games and the field was also used for baseball games. The smokestack and the building with the light roof was Heisley’s power plant. If I’m not mistaken, that is where Tom Hawksworth worked with his father. I figured that the photo was taken on the hillside above Lloyd Street. Don’t know what year it was, and the notation on the back says, ‘Here is an old picture of the mines.’