As published in “A Lifetime of Memories” publication
Port Carbon Sesquicentennial
From the files of Mr. Burt Bensinger
Keyed by Sandy Palokas
Edited and expanded by Mark T. Major
The founding of what is now Port Carbon is most often credited to Abraham Pott, the son of John Pott for whom the City of Pottsville is named. Early historians note though, that William Morris and Ludwig Stitzel were two of the earliest settlers of the community before Pott acquired a large section of the area from his father.
More important than the argument of who first founded Port Carbon, is the story behind why this site evolved as a community. The early settlers of the town recognized the value of two primary aspects of the town’s location. Inspired by the fact that it was situated near rich anthracite coal deposits and that a navigable stream was formed at this site, the founders easily applied an appropriate name to this pre-boom town community. As a shipping point for anthracite coal, which in chemical composition is almost pure carbon, Port Carbon was a logical name. Other histories note that Middleport and Carbontown were two early names for the town, yet it was Port Carbon that has stood for more than 170 years.
The early history of Port Carbon is veiled in obscurity, but a more definitive account of the first 50 years of the settlement is written by Barbara Bensinger Welch, a Port Carbon native. Tradition declared that the greater part of the site of the town was a vast swamp, fringed with a heavy growth of timber before 1800. This seems to be borne out by the fact that during the 1890s – 1910s, while excavating certain streets for laying water and other pipes, heavy logs, the remains of one-time corduroy roads, were encountered. These timbers were discovered in a fair state of preservation. Evidence of such roads were found on Coal, Jackson, Pike, Market and Pottsville streets, the roads at that time being much lower than at present. With the Schuylkill River and Mill Creek flowing through the borough and with innumerable springs on every side, this swamp notion seems very practicable.
A strong spring located in the playground of the former public elementary school near Pine and North Streets, was referred to as a place where many of the older residents secured their water supply. A stream ran from this spring down across Cherry Street and then the property at 130 Pike Street formerly owned by Asher Stevens and later, Dr Ashelman. This stream crossed Pike Street and emptied into Mill Creek at Canal Street. This swampy section of the town was reclaimed via the building of a sewer, which drained the entire plot.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PORT CARBON
The Earliest Settlers
The name of the first settler in what is now Port Carbon is not definite. Again tradition says before the year 1807 a man named Ludwig Stitzel, a carpenter, emigrated into the Mill Creek Valley and erected a saw mill near where the Yuengling Brewery stands today. He also is credited with erecting a log house near the sawmill, near the northeast corner of Fourth and Market Streets and it is suggested that Stitzel’s Mill was situated along the Mill Creek across from this site. In 1811, tradition has it, there was a maple sugar camp in the Mill Creek Valley, but its exact location is unknown.
Another story is that Shadrock Lord and Philip Faust came to the section about the same time as Mr. Stitzel, and were among the early settlers. Mr. Faust, it is said, was the sawyer at Stitzel’s sawmill, the former being succeeded as sawyer by George Hilbert. Early homes of this character were located in Black Valley and on First Street, opposite the home originally occupied by the Washington Lawrence and the Lawrence Major family at 335 First Street. Other early homes were located near the junction of Jackson and Pottsville Sts., and in the area of the former Mirawal plant a short distance north of the railroad cut through Salem Hill.
Pottsville Founder Owned Port Carbon
In 1821, John Pott, erected a sawmill in the Schuylkill Valley, near where the depot stood on the Tamaqua branch of the Reading Railroad. A log house was also erected near the mill, which was occupied by the sawyer, John Pott at this time seems to have been the sole owner of all the lands now embracing Port Carbon. That there was coal in this section is borne out by records which show that in the above year (1821) Messrs. Thomas S. Ridgway and Clayton Earl purchased an acre of ground from Pott lying along the Schuylkill River for a landing at which to load boats with coal when the canal should be completed to Port Carbon. This plot was just east of where Mill Creek empties into the Schuylkill River and opposite the Miller Playground. As the canal was not opened to Port Carbon until 1828, these two men were convinced the town was destined to some day become an important coal shipping point.
In 1826, several saw mills dotted the settlement, but the village lacked shape or designated streets. Sawed timber and logs cut from the hillside during the winter, were dragged to the riverbank where they were made into rafts to await the spring freshets, and then conducted down the river to Reading and other points. While this rafting was a hazardous undertaking, hardy pioneers were ready to undertake the task.
Wild Beasts Inhabited Hills.
By way of digression from the story of Port Carbon, it is handed down that in the early days of the village, game and wild beasts roamed the mountains. Mrs. Bailey, called “Granny” Bailey, was an early settler near Pottsville and often told interested hearers of a narrow escape she, with her husband and several friends had from being devoured by timber wolves in the Schuylkill Valley.
At the time Mr. and Mrs. Bailey lived in Pottsville. They had several friends living in the vicinity of Tuscarora whom they visited one winter’s day while there was excellent sleighing. The trip to Tuscarora was made without incident, but they were detained in making the homeward trip until after nightfall. They had gone but a few miles when the entire party was horrified to discover they were being followed by a pack of yelping wolves. The driver urged his team to the limit, but the deep snow impeded their speed, and the wolves gained on them. When the latter came within a short distance of the sleigh a bear robe with which the women of the party covered themselves was thrown to the hungry beasts. This checked their speed but momentarily as they fought for fragments of the skin. Soon they were tearing down the road after the now thoroughly frightened and desperate party. One of the women had a baby in her arms and for a brief period those in the sleigh debated whether they should not, to save their own lives, throw the child to the frenzied beasts. This sacrifice was not necessary, however as the sleighing party came to a settler’s home somewhere between New Philadelphia and Cumbola. Having heard the howling beasts and the driver yelling at his horses, the man appeared on the road, and fired a few, well directed shots that scattered the wolves to the mountains. Saved from a most horrible death, the party proceeded on its way home without further molestation or scares. Mrs. Bailey often related this story and the memories of the night’s wild excitement invariably caused the aged lady to shudder.
Son of John Pott Credited as Founder
In those early days, Port Carbon was simply a collection of crude dwellings, yet comfortable and convenient for the hardy pioneers. In 1826, Abraham Pott purchased 630 acres of land from his father, which included the site of Port Carbon and surrounding territory. Abraham erected a frame house on East Washington St.. It was located along the Schuylkill River, along the northbound side of Route 209 leading to Tamaqua. He also erected five tenement houses on the opposite side of the road in the same vicinity. In addition, he erected a sawmill near the centre of the town, along Mill Creek, between what is now Pottsville and Washington streets and Jackson and Pike streets. This made the third saw mill for the settlement. Mr. Pott also began laying out lots and roads, including what are now known as Coal, Pike, Jackson, First and Washington streets, as well as roads one leading over Sharp Mountain, eastward into the Tumbling Run valley.
First Land Sold Cheap
In 1828 Abraham Pott sold to Messrs. Jacob W. Seitzinger and William Wetherill, thirty-four acres of land in Port Carbon for $45 per acre, which the new owners laid out in building lots. This tract was located along both sides of Jackson St., from near Coal St. north. Early in the 1830’s the new owners erected a row of three stone houses on the plot nearly opposite to the Beddall (or recently Steinert’s) mansion on the corner of Jackson and Rose Avenue. In front of this row they also dug a well, the pump in which supplied the immediate neighborhood with water until the Pottsville Water Co, ran its mains into the town. Each of the three houses was provided with a cellar kitchen, and these latter were nearly on the level with the corduroy road which ran along the front now Jackson street. Today the street is fully five feet higher than the entrance to the basements referred to. When water mains were laid along this street the trench diggers were compelled to cut through the logs which comprised the corduroy road. Behind these houses was also at one time a fine spring, which in the early 1880’s was permitted to partly fill up.
First Log Homes Decayed
Almost directly in the rear of the row of dwellings referred to, but on the opposite side of the tracts where the railroad bed runs from the Salem Hill Cut to Jackson Street, Samuel Seitzinger erected in the early 1820’s a frame dwelling house, which is standing today and is still occupied. Samuel Seitzinger was the father of Jeremiah Seitzinger, a blacksmith who for may years was employed at the Franklin Iron Works. The latter was one of the oldest Odd Fellows in Pennsylvania.
Near this frame house stood a log house, spoken of previously and for many years occupied by Jacob Hunt and family. This building has fallen to decay, it having been erected in the early 1820’s. North of this was erected, near the junction of Jackson and Pottsville streets, and close to Salem Hill, about the same time, another log house was for many years occupied by Michael Hinkle and family.
What was known as the brick row, near the railroad bed on Jackson Street, was erected soon after the stone row further south was built. These brick houses were erected by the Kentucky Bank, which for a time conducted a banking and real estate business at the upper end of the house. Lawrence Whitney conducted this bank. Abraham Pott in the later 1800s erected a log house on west side of Coal Street, midway between Krebs Alley and the bend in Coal Street above North.
First Children Born
It may be of interest here to note that the first children born in Port Carbon village were Leah Hilbert and Elizabeth Pott. The former upon reaching womanhood married a Mr. Hess. Upon his death she was united in marriage to a Mr. Newton. To the latter union a daughter, Ella, was born, who became the wife of Edward Wintersteen, who with several others of his crew, among them engineer Joseph Ziegler, was killed in a locomotive boiler explosion just north of St. Clair while going up the Frackville grade.
Elizabeth Pott, the daughter of Abraham Pott, upon reaching womanhood, became the wife of Benjamin Eshelman, who became a coal operator and whose family for a time lived on Pike Street. Some of the descendants of the Abraham Pott family still reside in the county.
Where Villages Got Their Name.
In making the sale of 34 acres to Messrs. Seitzinger and Wetherill, Abraham Pott reserved an acre of ground along the river and creek front for a coal wharf, and back of this proposed wharf there were soon erected a number of dwellings. As this made the second acre reserved along the riverfront for coal wharves, that section of the village became known as Acretown.
Lawtontown, which comprises the northeastern section of Port Carbon, takes its name from William Lawton, who laid out building lots in 1829. Mr. Lawton purchased the tract from the Kentucky Bank, which was a big landowner in that section at the time. Lawton came to Port Carbon early in 1829 and erected an office building on First Street. The building stood at the corner of First and Lyon Streets on what was the Reynolds family property. Lawton had a somewhat crude way of marking off the lots on a map. He had a large map prepared, giving every lot in numbers and those sold he marked in red ink. In one corner of the map he had written: “Every lot marked in red ink has been sold and paid for.” This map he gave to the late Washington H. Lawrence. Unfortunately this map was destroyed by fire in July of 2000.
The section of Port Carbon along Jackson Street near the Mirawal Building was called the Salem Hill Settlement. Later in the 19th Century this section of town earned the name of Mechanicsville owing to the large number of mechanics who lived in that section of town. In January of 1914, Mechanicsville became its own community when residents in that section petitioned the state to become a new borough.
Rhoades Town, or Rhoades addition to Port Carbon was developed beginning in 1829 by Daniel Rhoades. This section of town is roughly the section from Mill Street eastward to the East Norwegian Township border and is bounded to the south by Palo Alto Borough. Irishtown earned its name in the 1840s and 50s due to the heavy concentration of Irish Settlers along Valley Street. The Black Valley was that section which runs from the Schuylkill River northward along Wood Street to Valley Street. This section was developed as an important mining area and the village of Belmont sprung up here in the mid 19th Century. Dutchtown is another name that has faded from usage by Port Carbon residents, but it was a so named because of the large number of Pennsylvania Dutch residents who settled in the area of fourth street between Commerce an Chestnut Streets.
Graytown is that section of the borough that is also a part of East Norwegian Township. This section is located at the lower end of Schoentown along Fifth Street and was named after Robert Gray who laid out the village at the beginning of the 20th Century. Schoentown was named after Phillip Schoen an early resident of Port Carbon. Originally called Schoenville, this section of town evolved as an addition to Port Carbon as early as 1908 and was settled by a large number of Lithuanian Immigrants. Prior to this it was generally known as Dr. George Brown’s farm.
Coal Company Scares Residents
In 1889 quite a scare was caused to a number of Lawtontown residents who had purchased lots from Mr. Lawton. The Alliance Coal Company sent a representative to inform quite a few residents they were squatters on the company’s property the latter having purchased the mineral rights under the lots. As many had failed to have deeds made out or recorded, there was nothing to show – at least at the courthouse—that the lots had been purchased. Finally the old map given to Mr. Lawrence by Mr. Lawton was produced, and the company convinced that it had moved hastily. The map settled all difficulty and deeds were later placed on record.
Among the first houses erected in Lawton’s Addition, and what later was designated by the high sounding name of Quality Hill, was that occupied by the Major family. Strange as it may appear, with timber and saw mills turning out prepared lumber in the vicinity, the timber used in the house referred to was all brought to Port Carbon in a boat from Chester County by Joseph Radcliffe, a boatman, who erected the house. The lumber was all squared and ready to be fitted together when it reached Port Carbon,
Abraham Pott laid out the section of the borough known as Irishtown 1829. He sold half of this tract to Burd Patterson and Joseph Swift. John and Robert Young laid out part of Mechanicsville in 1826 on lands belonging to them.
THE CANAL AND EARLY COAL MINING OPERATIONS
The First Discovery of Coal . . .
. . . in the vicinity of Port Carbon is somewhat obscure. In the 1760s, surveyors discovered anthracite coal in the vicinity of Pottsville and Minersville. The survey team was plotting the course of the King’s Highway from Reading to Sunbury. Local legend also notes that frontiersman Necho Allen discovered Anthracite Coal on Broad Mountain in 1790. Tradition has it that its existence in the Port Carbon area was known previous to 1800. According to some early histories, William Morris, who owned a tract of land in the vicinity of what is now Port Carbon, discovered what was considered a vein of first class coal in 1800. Imbued with the spirit of progress and hoping to successfully introduce the new fuel, he had a lot of it prepared, loaded on a wagon and taken to Phila. He was, however, doomed to disappointment, as his every effort failed to induce the Quaker City residents to give the new fuel a fair and unprejudiced trial.
Canal Carried Coal
As early as 1822, the early pioneers had boated coal down the Schuylkill River to Philadelphia. Among them, were Ridgeway, Earl and Abraham Pott. Some of the earliest coal mined by Pott and shipped down river, came from what was called the Tunnel Vein just south of the hill along the road to Pottsville. The coal was taken by team to Mount Carbon and then placed on flat boats, 12 feet by 20 feet in size.
In the year 1827 the work of extending the Schuylkill canal from Mr. Carbon to Port Carbon was begun and completed the following year. At the time the extension was begun, there was a coal wharf at Mt. Carbon near where the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad sidings are situated, and this was later extended northward toward Pottsville. At Young’s Landing (near the intersection of Route 209 and Anderson Street), another coal wharf was erected later between the highway and the Schuylkill River.
Many Coal Wharves Erected
The canal was opened to a short distance above the bridge spanning the Schuylkill River between Port Carbon and Palo Alto. Just east of the concrete bridge erected by the P & R railway company over the river, and over which the trains passed to St. Clair and beyond, a dam was erected, as well as one at Young’s Landing. The dam above the railroad bridge was provided with locks, and formed a large basin in which boats remained until loaded at Port Carbon. The old stone lock-house is no longer standing, but the remains of the (Thomas) Firth dock can still be seen from Route 209. The erection of coal wharves kept pace with the construction of the canal. One wharf was erected along the Schuylkill River between Coal Street and the River and was extended to the mouth of Mill Creek behind the Heritage Bank Branch on Coal Street. Another landing was also erected west of the bridge connecting Port Carbon and Palo Alto. When the canal was first constructed into Port Carbon, no towpath was provided and boatman were compelled to “pole” their boats between the terminus and Young’s Landing, the towpath being constructed later. The first boats to use the new waterway were of small capacity compared with those of today, their capacity ranging from 20 to 30 and later from 60 to 70 tons. Above the terminus of the canal at Port Carbon along the Route 209 heading to Tamaqua, another dam was built but this was for the purpose of preventing refuse from the river flowing into the canal.
New Canal Main Shipping Point
The opening of the canal to Port Carbon created a new era in the history of the village. While mining and the preparation of coal for market were in a primitive state, the village was a busy place, and was regarded as the main shipping point for anthracite coal. The early coal shipped was dug in what is now known as Black Valley, Bear Ridge, Belmont and other small operations on the outskirts of the village as far east as what was known as Belfast Colliery. Much of this was brought to the Port Carbon wharves in wagons. In 1830 Port Carbon had a population of about 900 souls.
Abraham Pott Constructed First Railroad in 1827
Realizing the need for transporting coal from the mines to the head of navigation, Abraham Pott, built a railroad from the wharves at Port Carbon to Black Valley in 1827. Pott’s railroad was one half mile in length. This was a somewhat primitive structure with rails of heavy timber and strap iron nailed to the top on which the cars ran. The wooden cars held from a ton to a ton and a half, had bottom dumps, and were pulled to and from the mines at Black Valley by horses and mules. In 1829, Mr. Pott erected another railway of the same character from Port Carbon a distance of about four miles up the Mill Creek valley, with small lateral lines to reach the various mine workings. In order to avoid a long detour around the eastern end of Salem Hill, Charles Ellet dug a tunnel through this hill. The entrance from the north was a short distance east of the present cut which was dug when the steam road entered the town. Later all of these primitive rail lines were extended, the one from Black Valley continued as far as Tuscarora.
Salem Hill Mining Operations
In 1829 Abraham Pott opened a drift into Salem Hill, at a point just north of the railroad cut, and worked the same for several years. From this drift, he built a railroad to connect with the coal docks. About six years later, Mr. Pott having abandoned the drift, Messrs. Hewes, Baber & Co—John G. Hewes and Charles Baber being the principal men in the company—began work at the abandoned drift and sank a slope.
In 1834 one of the openings in the Salem Hill was sunk just east of the railroad cut on the southern edge of town. This mine was opened on a 230 acre tract of the Robert McDermott estate. The tunnel was worked for four years. Mr. Charles Ellet opened a slope on the north side of this hill below the water level for a distance of 300 feet using a pump made at the Haywood and Snyder shops in Pottsville. This pump was operated by an engine from the same shops, the engine doing both the hoisting and the pumping, a novelty for those days. Charles Ellet, who later gained fame in the mid west as a suspension bridge designer, also opened a tunnel through the Salem Hill at this point. The railroad cars that were loaded up the Mill Creek Valley, passed through this tunnel in the days before the railroad cut was made.
In those early days of mining the Salem Hill mines, a fair quality of coal was procured and for about sixteen years, or until about 1849, the firm continued working the slope. About this time they began to be hampered with water, which came in faster than the machinery of these days could handle. Seeing no way of taking care of the rapidly accumulating water, the company in 1849 abandoned the workings. In the abandoned slope, fifteen wagons loaded with coal were left behind, so hurriedly was the place closed, and the cars were, in 1914, still buried. The tools and machinery were also abandoned. This was the only colliery opened and successfully operated within the borough limits.
In the late 1890’s James Penman organized a company and opened a slope in Mechanicsville, or at that time, the West Ward of the borough. A breaker was erected and all the necessary modern machinery introduced, but the venture proved a failure. In the early half of the 20th Century, the Salem Hill Breaker was constructed. The Salem Hill area was mined into the early 1960s but again, with a reduced demand for anthracite the operation was forced to close. The Salem Hill Breaker was destroyed by fire in July of 1985. The silt from the Salem Hill operations can still be viewed today as much of the waste from this breaker was used to fill what was once the Schuylkill Canal running westward from the Firth Dock remains. The culm and overburden bank north of Route 209 between Port Carbon and Pottsville stands as a monument to the Salem Hill mine.
Coal Broken at Wharves
In the early days, anthracite was brought to the wharves in large lumps. Here it was broken with sledgehammers and screened through large circular screens turned by hand. This coal was, however, not weighed before being loaded into boats. Receiving their cargo the boats proceeded as far as Mt. Carbon where there was a lock equipped with scales. Here the weight of both boat and cargo were taken and a duplicate of the weight given to the captain of the boat. The latter then proceeded on to Fairmount (Philadelphia) where there was another lock provided with a scale, and the second weighing took place. This second weighing was done as a checking against the captain of the boat selling coal to lock tenders while en-route to Philadelphia and from exchanging fuel with storekeepers for provisions.
Shortage of Coal Discovered
Mr. John H. Lime, who for many years was connected with the shipment of coal at Port Carbon and Schuylkill Haven, told an interesting story of a boatman who invariably reached Fairmount about four tons of coal short of that recorded at Mt. Carbon. The boatman could not explain the shortage beyond blaming the weigh masters. Finally Mr. Lime’s father, who was also connected with coal shipping, accidentally discovered the reason for the invariable shortage. One day, shortly after the boatman in question had left Port Carbon with a cargo while walking along the canal between the head of navigation to Schuylkill Haven, he noted a boat tied up a short distance below Mr. Carbon and also saw a man removing coal with a wheelbarrow and dumping it along the roadside a short distance away. Cautiously approaching the busy worker Mr. Lime was surprised to see the man whose cargo always showed a difference at the two weighing points was the one using the wheelbarrow. Reaching the boat unobserved Mr. Lime waited until the man appeared with a barrow load, and quietly remarked, “Well,” calling the man by his first name, “this is where and how your cargo always loses weight, is it?” Being caught in the act the boatman could do no better than admit Mr. Lime’s question told the truth. It had been the boatman’s custom to unload what he thought was about four tons, some for his own winter use, while the surplus was disposed of to neighbors at considerable below the market price of the fuel. This ended the shortage business for all time, with this one man, at least.
Boats Built and Repaired at Home
With the coming of the canal and the boats came boat yards, where boats were built and repaired. The first to open up such an industry at the head of navigation is not fully known today. A Mr. Shappel, father of the late Wm. Shappel, of Port Carbon, early in the history of the canal, conducted a yard near the John L. Miller Playground, west of the bridge spanning the Schuylkill river at what was then the Franklin Iron Works and is now the former site of J. Robert Bazley’s.
Samuel Gray conducted another yard along the Schuylkill west of the bridge connecting Port Carbon and Palo Alto,. At this yard the two last boats were built at the end of navigation. This was in 1857. Phillip and David Paul were also early canal boat builders in Port Carbon.
Boats Brought Back Supplies
The majority of the boatmen of the early days brought return cargoes back to Port Carbon. These consisted of merchandise and other necessities which the times demanded. In this manner the trip was made doubly remunerative. Merchants at Port Carbon and other points would give boat captains orders for needful supplies when the outward trips were made and the orders would be filled on the return trip.
Boats from the Union canal which branched off from Reading to the west through Berks, Lebanon and Dauphin counties brought cargoes of grain to Port Carbon which were disposed of at a grist mill which stood over the Schuylkill River to the east of Mill Street (hence the street name). Conrad Straub and Lawrence F. Whitney erected this mill in 1838. Later the mill was conducted by Adams & Co. (Daniel and Wm. Adams and C.B. Dietrich). Later the firm was changed to Loose and Adams (Daniel), and the last firm to conduct the mill was Grim and Medlar-Jonathan Grim and George Medlar. Later the property was sold to two gentlemen from Pottsville, who permitted it to lie idle for a time until it was completely destroyed by fire in May 1893.
Modern Sized Coal Produced
The sizes of coal prepared for market at the Port Carbon docks were broken, egg, stove and nut, the latter being the smallest. About sixty, to seventy boats were engaged in coal transportation between Port Carbon and tidewater until 1845-46, when the canal was widened and deepened. This resulted in larger boats, with capacities of from 150 to 175 tons of coal, while the number engaging in the transportation business was also largely increased.
First Iron Bridge Brought from Philadelphia
Reference has previously been made to boats upon their return trip bringing merchandise to Port Carbon. It may be of interest to note that the first iron bridge erected in Port Carbon was brought there by boat from Pencoyd, near Phila., by John P. Bailey. It was erected over Mill Creek at Coal Street in 1836, and did service until the turn of the 20th Century, when it was condemned and replaced by a more substantial and wider structure. The electric railway company and the borough of Port Carbon paid for this bridge. That bridge was replaced in the 1980s.
Heavy Rains Routinely Cause Damage
In 1831 and again in 1841 much damage was done in the village as well as to the canal by heavy freshets. The greater part of the town was inundated and many private properties suffered severe damages. Among the heavy losers then was Abraham Pott, the practical founder of the town. In 1850 the town again suffered heavily from high water, many fences and outbuildings having been washed away and garden plots destroyed. In 1888, 1913 and in 1924 the swollen river flooded the town. In September of 1924 the river washed away the Pottsville Street Bridge along with the Rose Avenue footbridge. Dr. Ashelman’s cellar was flooded on Pike Street. The flood hit in 1936 and again in 1972 with Hurricane Agnes and Port Carbon’s downtown suffered greatly from flood waters.
Of these floods many of this generation’s residents recall the early season Hurricane that wreaked havoc throughout eastern Pennsylvania in June of 1972. After two days of rain, the Mill Creek and Schuylkill River swelled and crested. The floodwaters filled the streets and basements along Jackson, South Coal, Washington, Commerce, Canal and Pottsville Streets. The flood destroyed the footbridge on Rose Avenue while other bridges were threatened with a similar fate. The greatest damage to the borough was via the water filled basements in the flood-ravaged part of town. Heroic members of the Goodwill Fire Company, worked feverishly to help the town recover from Hurricane Agnes, which caused several million dollars in damage locally.
Troubles Experienced in Early Days.
While the coal business constantly increased and the primitive wooden railways were extended and new ones constructed, and new coal measures were opened, Port Carbon was not without its troubles. While there was work for all who wished it about the mines, railroads and the coal wharves, few there were who laid anything aside for the proverbial “rainy day.”
The saloons, with which the town was amply supplied, became the scenes of drinking bouts with not a few fistic encounters, and there were many “bullies” and reputed “bad men”, such as have always infested every new country or mining field, and the older residents tell of some bitter fights among rival factions. In the early days of Schuylkill River navigation, a gang of thieves preyed upon the canal traffic. From Philadelphia to Port Carbon, this criminal gang was known as the Schuylkill Rangers. By the end of the Civil War era, these river pirates were eradicated by a determined citizenry who grew intolerant and more vigilant along the canal towns between here and tidewater in Philadelphia.
In 1850 the canal basin at Port Carbon, extending from the dam-breast running from the ruins at Firth Dock through the Miller Playground to just beyond the Mill Street Bridge, was practically abandoned. This was done because of the expense of keeping the basin clear of debris and coal dirt which in those dams found its way in the river whenever there were heavy rains and freshets. While this end of the canal was abandoned as well as the coal wharves, a few boats continued to come into Port Carbon with merchandise brought from Philadelphia and New York for local merchants. Gradually the basin fell prey to the ravages of time, and the sound of the boatman’s horn in Port Carbon became a memory.
Shortly after the abandonment of the Port Carbon basin new stone coal docks were erected at Palo Alto just west of the present line of the railway leading to Frackville. These docks became very busy marts during the boating season and gave employment a number of men, as there was a constant demand for coal. In 1856 these docks were entirely completed and used as the head of navigation. Below or westward from these stone docks, trestling was erected at which boats were also loaded. These docks and trestling were used in the loading of boats up until the time the canal was abandoned from Schuylkill Haven north, in 1870. By November of 1888, the local newspaper suggested that measures be taken to fill the old canal between Port Carbon and Palo Alto. The filling of the canal occurred slowly over time, but it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the majority of the canal dock near Port Carbon was almost completely filled in. The stone walls of these docks are still discernable from Route 209, and the masonry gives the impression that the Schuylkill Navigation Company was built to survive many generations. A Pennsylvania Historical Marker was erected near this point in 1999, thanks to Bob Bryden, who worked feverishly to clear the dock area of overgrowth and bring recognition to the importance of the Schuylkill Canal at this location.
Some Pioneers of Canal Boats
A complete roster of the boatmen who plied the canal and had their homes in Port Carbon would undoubtedly prove most interesting, but to secure such a list is an impossibility at this late day. Among some, of those mentioned as having boats on the canal are Robert Wheeler, Thos. McGrath, Patrick Cauley, John P. Bailey, John W. Slattery, John P. McCord, Sr., John Dolan, Thomas and Michael Connelly, Patrick Mullen, Edward Mullen, Edward and Peter Blunt, William and Dennis Buckley, Michael and Thomas O’Brien, Edward McDonald, John McDonald, Patrick and Timothy Keough, Dennis and Owen Flannery, Perie Condon, Valentine Hartman, Thos. Burns, Michael Crowley, Maurice Woods, Matthew, Michael and Edward Burke, John Condon, John Carey, Wm. H. Carey, Michael Flannery, James F. Harrison, John Ryan and Robert Gunsel.
PORT CARBON DEVELOPS INTO A BOROUGH
The village of Port Carbon was incorporated into a borough by a special act of the Legislature approved by Governor William Bigler on the 23rd of April, 1852. This Act, after defining the boundary lines of the proposed borough, practically the lines as they were before the withdrawal of Mechanicsville, provided for an election to be held at the public house of George Dougherty on the first Monday of June following the passage of the Act. This election was for the selection of Chief Burgess, nine Councilmen, a Town Clerk, two Justices of the Peace, High Constable, one Assessor and two Assistant Assessors. The Act also provided that annually thereafter on the first Monday of February an election be held to choose a Chief Burgess, three Councilmen, Town Clerk, Assessor and two assistant assessors. Council was further directed, after the first election, to meet on the first Wednesday after said election and divide into three lots of three each, one trio to serve one year, another two years and the third three years.
The Act further provided that any person elected to a borough office and refusing to serve made himself liable to a fine of $10, although no person should be compelled to serve more than one year. The Chief Burgess, president of Council and borough treasurer were by the Act designated as a board of tax appeal. Provision was also made for the election annually of three borough auditors.
In accordance with the above Act the first election was held on June 7, 1852, at the place designated. The election officers were: Judge, Milton Boone; inspector, Leonard Mertz and Geo. D. Lub. The election resulted in the choice of the following:
Chief Burgess, Ross Bull.
Councilmen, T.H. Wintersteen, John E. Wootten, Milton Boone, Daniel Knittle, Philip Steinbach, Obadiah Reed, Jos. Snyder, John Illingsworth and Jacob Lime.
Town Clerk, Henry Shissler
High Constable, Solomon Seligman
Auditors, Jacob Fister, Leonard Mertz and John Groves
Assessor, John C. Lewis
Assistant Assessors, Charles Baber and Adam Herzog
The first meeting of the new council was held in Odd Fellows’ Hall in an upper story of the building once occupied by John C. McKenna, on Coal Street, the election returns received and rules of order for the government of the body adopted. The Burgess at that time acted as president of council.
In the act incorporating the village of Port Carbon into a borough, it was provided the Chief Burgess should serve as president of Borough Council. This practice prevailed until 1872, when a supplemental act was passed by the legislature repealing that section designating the Chief Burgess as council’s presiding officer, and providing that council meet the first Monday after the annual borough election and choose its own presiding officer.
Police Force Organized
That the town felt the need of an ample police force in those early days is shown by the fact that at a meeting of Council held June 16, following organization, the Chief Burgess named the following as a police force: John Hadesty, Joseph Bowe, Wm. Bright, John Glenn, Samuel Bridgehouse, Bryan Mullen, Robert Smith, Jesse Raudenbush, William Wolffinger, William Dicus, Moses Robinson, Jeremiah Foster, Daniel Devine, John Cooper, Wm. Ecker, Johnson Brown, James Hegins, Joshua Siegfried, Eli Shively, Richard Jones, Walter L. Chillson, Daniel Wintersteen, Solomon Seligman, John Groves, Joseph Lawton, Levi Hilbert, Michael Weand, Philip Huber, Wm. Borger, Uriah Gane, Elias Keller and Frank Bachman. This is by far a larger police force than the town has had ever since, but how they governed the welfare of the town is not stated.
Borough Building Constructed
The Council held its meetings following the first, in the schoolhouse, situated on Washington Street, for some time. At a meeting held July 21, 1853, Daniel Knittle, T.H. Wintersteen, John L. Hadesty, Phillip Steinnbach, George H. Fisher and Uriah Gane were named as a committee to secure a site for the erection of a borough building. This committee chose a site fronting on Pike street and extending back along Washington street to Mill Creek as a borough building lot, and on that site a stone borough building was erected, the second story being used as a meeting place for Borough Council up until the erection of the new building at the corner of Pike and Washington streets in 1879. The old borough building was used as a lockup and storehouse for supplies on the first floor. Some of the more mature residents of Port Carbon remember this building as the library and later Girl Scout building, which was demolished in 1968 to make way for a new firehouse.
The new borough building was constructed of brick, and occupied on the first floor by the Good Will Hose Company with their apparatus and as a general meeting room. The second floor was divided off into two large rooms, the front being used as a Borough Council chamber and the rear room as a parlor by the Good Will Hose Co. Contractor John Conrad erected this building using bricks from Asher Stevens’ brickyard near Jackson Street. This building was utilized as Borough Council Chambers until the Presbyterian Church was converted into Borough Hall in the 1970s.
Early Hotels and Saloons
The first hotel opened in Port Carbon village was located at the northeast corner of Pike and Coal streets in 1829 by a man named Barney Taylor, who came to the place as a carpenter. William H. Carey occupied this corner with a general store. Tradition says that the first actual storekeeper in the village was one Samuel Christman who opened a general merchandise business in Acretown, in 1832.
Among the early additional hotels opened was what is now known as the Port Carbon House on Jackson street. A man named Keener, and then Fred Trachte conducted this hotel. Later Michael Weand became proprietor. This hotel was for a long time the stopping place for farmers, who came from the lower end of the county and even from Berks County, with produce. It was the scene also of horse and carrel sales in its early days. Near this hotel at one time in the early days of the town, stood a brick building which was used as a soap factory. On Jackson St. Charles Newton conducted another hotel in the early 1870s, but the building was later converted into dwelling house.
On the corner below Coal and Jackson streets, Owen Eagan for many years conducted a hotel, this being one of the early places of the kind in the town. He also for a long time conducted a bottling establishment at this place and had several teams on the road. Upon his death the property fell to his sister, Mrs. Lamey, who later sold it to the late Frederick Leffler. A Mr. Frederick Leffler bought this property and later tore down the old buildings and built a new hotel, which he operated up until the time of his death, when his son, Albert F. conducted it for a time, later selling out to Charles Diehl. The place was called the Exchange Hotel.
Another of the early hotels was Anthracite Hall, on East Washington St., later known as the George Holder home. It is located on the road leading to Tamaqua and is the last house in Port Carbon, going east. The place was conducted by John Grooves, Mr. Holder’s father-in-law, and was one of the popular places among the boatmen and early miners.
The Mt. Vernon House, at Pike and East Washington St., was another popular place in the early days. The early proprietors were George Dougherty and John Condon. Later Richard Holihan purchased the property, and his widow, Rose later conducted the place.
At the corner of Acre and Laing Streets Mrs. Mary Burke conducted a saloon. This was one of the popular places among the boatmen and miners as there was a handball court connected with it, when many spirited fames were played. This was a prominent meeting place for sports from every section up the Schuylkill Valley. The Cantwell family too, operated a hotel and bar on Pike Street between Coal and Valley Street.
Where Peter Bassler conducted his general store on Coal St., near the Mill Creek Bridge, Bartholomew, better known as “Bart” O’Reagan conducted a wholesale liquor store during the 1860s and 70s. Later he became proprietor of a saloon located in the basement of the brick building erected by Uriah Gane at the corner of Pike and Coal Sts. When the Emerald Hall was erected in 1896, at the corner of Pike and Coal Sts., Andrew Hillard opened a saloon in the building. Joseph Eisenach conducted the Pike Street House for a number of years, and William Spencer conducted the Hotel Spencer.
Fighting Scenes Were Common
As in the great majority of the mining and boating towns of the early days the bar rooms of the Port Carbon hotels were the scenes of many fights. Every section had its champion and when the latter same to town and became slightly “lit up” he was always ready for a scrap and was generally accommodated. These were not “bad men” as they scorned carrying a knife or gun, depending solely upon their brawn and muscle and their knowledge of the science of the manly art to carry them through. They became fighters and heroes in the communities because their friends compelled them to. During the first half of the 20th Century, this art became a regular sport, but bouts involving local “professionals” were held at Charlton’s Hall in Pottsville, at Lakeside and other venues around the county.
Steam Railways Enter Town
In June 1843 the first steam railway was built into the town, being an extension of the Reading lines from Pottsville to Middleport, and known as the Pottsville and Tuscarora railroad. Its advent put new impetus into the coal business in the Schuylkill Valley, as transportation facilities were thus added which far exceeded those provided by the old wooden rail system and horse drawn cars. Shortly after this line was completed a weigh scales for the weighing of coal brought down the valley was erected opposite the Valley Station where the coal was weighed as the cards passed over the scales at a slow speed and the weight recorded in an office on the opposite side of the road from the passenger depot which stood on Commerce Street between Jackson and Pottsville Streets.
First Weigh Master Jesse Turner
Jesse Turner was the first weigh master in the early days of the railroad, a position he held for many years, when he was made tolls collector and was succeeded as weigh master by the late Jacob Wentz who held the position until the scales were abandoned. Mr. Wentz was then made station master and ticket agent at the Valley depot which he held until the time of his retirement.
The later George W, Wintersteen was well known among the coal operators of the Schuylkill Valley at this time, as he was engaged in the business of selling the coal produced by the individual mine operators to the Schuylkill navigation Company. John Lime was also at one time station agent at this point and also held a position as shopper at Tuscarora.
Mill Creek Railway Built
In 1846 a branch of railway line was extended from the line above referred to from what is known as Mill Creek Jet to St. Clair, known as the Mill Creek railway. The most difficult part of the line was the cutting of a roadway through Salem Hill, which in those days was considered quite an undertaking. This line added another feeder to the coal docks at Port Carbon and put new life in the coal mining business in the Mill Creek Valley. Opposite to where the depot stood on Commerce Street, another weigh scales was located where coal coming from the mines farther up was weighed. The weigh master at this point was George Hadesty who held the position until the scales were transferred to St. Clair.
The Saint Clair Railroad Yard / Industrial Park
During the first half of the 20th Century the rail line passing through Port Carbon was one of the busiest branches of the Reading system, as the greater part of the coal mined in the Mahanoy Valley was shipped over the Mahanoy Plane, down the Frackville grade into the Saint Clair yard. The Saint Clair yard became the largest and most important rail yard in the country when it was developed in the 1910s. This yard employed scores of Port Carbon residents, including Emmanuel Templin, who was appointed as one of its earliest yardmasters. The Saint Clair Railroad yard, complete with a modern roundhouse and turntable, replaced the Reading’s Palo Alto Yard as the primary transshipment point for the region’s anthracite coal wealth.
The Saint Clair yard served the region until the early 1960s when a drop in the demand for anthracite forced the company to reduce and later close its operations. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Reading’s Saint Clair Yard, with support buildings, several miles of track and roundhouse were demolished to make way for a new industrial development park. Today this park employs a new generation of Port Carbonites as the Borough moves into the 21st Century. The industrial park, with its newest tenant, the Yuengling Brewery, signals the return of the railroad.
Post Office Opened
In 1829 the first post office was established in the village, but its exact location is somewhat vague. Mails at that time came to the village but twice a week. The first postmaster was a man named Elisha Warne. At a later date, the Dr. Gwinner residence on Pike Street served as a drug store and post office in the first few decades of the 20th Century. The present Post Office was constructed in the 1950s adjacent to Mill Creek on Washington Street.
Electric Railway Entered Town
On February 25, 1891, the borough council passed an ordinance granting the then Pottsville Electric Railway Co. the right of way to enter the borough. During the following summer the line was build from Palo Alto into the town by way of Coal St., to Pike, thence north on Pike to H.E. Paul’s marble yard, at Pike and Market Sts., which for several years was the terminus. Later council granted the right of way for an extension of this line north on Market St., to the borough limits and thence on to St. Clair. After this line was completed another ordinance was passed granting the right of way on Pike and East Washington streets, for the construction of the Tamaqua division. In all these grants, the borough was most liberal, the residents anxious to secure all transportation facilities possible. In the early days of the trolley era, the horses of town were often troubled by the new mode of transportation. On one occasion that first year, a horse standing in front of James Connor’s Hotel, became frightened by the electric car and broke a pair of hitching shafts. In a few years, the trolley and later the automobile, encouraged the eventual disappearance of horses from the streets of town.
Ordinances were later introduced asking the right of way on Pottsville Street through Mechanicsville and into Pottsville, and also for a line on First and other streets to run also over what is known as Belmont Hill into Five Points. These later proposals never did transpire, since the borough already developed ample traveling facilities in almost every direction.
The Trolley remained a popular means of transportation up into the 1920s. Unfortunately for trolley fans, their popularity was replaced by another means of mass transportation when jitneys and bus service replaced the trolley across Schuylkill County. The trolley company ended service in Schuylkill County in 1931. For many years afterward, the trolley rails could be seen along Coal and Pike Streets in the Borough, but layers of macadam and asphalt have covered these vestiges of an earlier era. The East Penn Transportation Company and later the Schuylkill Transportation System replaced the trolley with bus service through Port Carbon.
Dr. Brown’s Farm
In the latter half of the 19th Century, one of the show places about Port Carbon, was Dr. George W. Brown’s farm, to the northeast of the borough where Schoentown is today. Dr. Brown came to Port Carbon in 1844, from White Creek Valley, and soon established a large practice, having for a number of years been the doctor for the Reading Railway Co. He always took a keen delight in agriculture and high bred horses and cows. He established the farm and conducted it successfully, placing the soil in the most productive condition possible and raising most bounteous crops. He was an ardent admirer of Jersey cattle and was the first to introduce that breed in this section. He purchased some of the finest pedigree stock, and erected a large new barn on the farm for housing his fancy cattle. He spared neither money nor labor in securing the best results, and paid what was at the time considered fabulous price for pedigreed sires for his herd. The farm was kept in the best of condition, all stables scrupulously clean and healthy, and milk form the Brown dairy was always in demand. The farm and stables were one of the show places about the town and were visited by hundreds of people annually. As the years of a most active practice began to demand a slow own in his physical activities Dr. Brown gradually turned the management of his farm over to others and later it passed into other hands.
Dr. Brown built his mansion at the northwest corner of Jackson and Washington Streets in the summer of 1847. In August 1882 a large barn, which stood in the rear of the doctor’s home, was destroyed by fire. The barn had just been filled with a new crop of hay, and the cause of the fire has always remained a mystery, although some attributed it to the heating of the new crops. All the crops in the barn at the time were destroyed, as were also about eighteen hogs, which were housed in the rear of the main building. Several fire companies from Pottsville came over to Port Caron to assist in quenching the flames but little or nothing could be done, as by the time the firemen reached the scene the entire structure was in flames. The horses in the barn at the time were all saved, as was the harness and several wagons.
Dr. Brown died in 1890, honored and regretted by a wide circle of friends, especially among the medical fraternity. Dr. Brown laid out what was known as Midvale, or Brown’s cemetery, on the northeast outskirts of the borough in Schoentown. In those days the site was considered an ideal plot and many lots were been disposed of and burials made in the place. Brown also laid out a road leading northeast through what is now Schoentown, toward Tamaqua. Along this road in a hollow a short distance beyond Schoentown was a stone bridge of crude structure. This became known as Peddler’s bridge, tradition having it that a wandering peddler was murdered here in the early days of the highway, his body being found lying along the road. The perpetrator of the crime was never apprehended.
Good Will Fire Company
The Good Will Fire Company was organized in 1879, although previous to this date there was a company in existence known as the Rough and Ready Fire Company. Its apparatus was an old style hand pump which the present organization very much regrets was not preserved as a relic of early days. The Good Will organized by electing William McQuade, President, Michael Fitzpatrick, Vice President, Thomas Beddall Secretary, George Medlar corresponding secretary, Thomas Garis Treasurer. One of the first acts of the Hose Company was the purchase of what was then considered the most modern and up to date fire equipment, a four wheeled crab, at a total cost of $1,000. Upon the presentation of the hose carriage on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1879, the firemen held their first parade. George Dougherty was the first foreman of the company.
In 1888, a new firehouse was constructed at the corner of Washington and Pike Streets in the Borough. This building was used for both the firehouse and Borough Council Chambers. During that same year, on August 29th, the fire company was incorporated. But it wasn’t until 1934 that the company’s name was officially changed to the goodwill Fire Company No. 1 In 1916, the fire company purchased their first Waterous Pumper at a cost of $6,500. Two years later in 1918, the first siren was installed on the roof of the firehouse.
Over the years, the Good Will Hose Company continued to make improvements in terms of modernizing their fire fighting ability. In 1922 the first chemical truck was purchased at a cost of $2,300. This truck was replaced with a new chemical truck in 1934 at a cost of $1,140 and the trade-in. In 1937 and again in 1952 additional equipment upgrades were made.
During the 1950s, fire companies from across the county recognized the value of creating an association of firefighters, and it was then that the Schuylkill County Volunteer Firemen’s Association was formed. Goodwill Fire Company joined this organization in 1955. Another development in the 1950s was the formation of a Ladies Auxiliary. This organization was formed on November 5, 1959 and the first officers were, Ethel DeLong, President, Edna Miles, Vice President, Marian Krater, Secretary, and Alma Mohl Treasurer.
The need for expanded facility for the company’s fire trucks emerged during the 1960s and as a result, a new engine house was built adjacent to the firehouse in the summer of 1969. The new engine room provided three bays for the company’s trucks. This building was expanded in 1975 with the addition of a social room on the second floor. On the anniversary of the Company’s 100th year, Goodwill hosted the 25th Annual Schuylkill County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Mention has been previously made of the early sawmills erected in the town, and of their work. In the early days of Port Carbon, Abraham Pott erected a steam sawmill in Black Valley to cut the timber, which grew in abundance in that section. Pott is also credited with having been the first steam engine set up and used north of Reading. With this engine and boiler Mr. Pott experimented for a time with coal as fuel. While failure greeted his efforts he was not dismayed. The difficulty seemed to devise some means of getting air through the mass of coal in the boiler and caring for the ashes. After repeated experiments Mr. Pott succeeded in devising a grate, which brought the desired results, and from then on coal was the fuel used here, and through his experiments and success others began to utilize coal for heating and steam purposes.
First Brickyard Opened
In 1831 Mr. Pott opened a brickyard on the plot lying between Mill Creek and Salem Hill, which was conducted by him for a number of years. W.E.Womelsdorf also conducted a brickyard near the junction of Jackson and Coal streets, while to the east of this Jos. H. Beir and Charles Baber conduct another yard.
Mr. Asher Stevens operated the last brick yard in the borough. This yard was located between Jackson Street and Salem Hill. Here many thousands of bricks were burned, but as new machinery was demanded in the advance in brick making and as Mr. Stevens felt that increasing age demanded a slow down in his activities, he returned from brick manufacturing and erected a large ice house close to Salem Hill and alongside a dam (known later as Steven’s or Stevie’s Dam) formed by the removal of clay. Here he conducted the ice business for a number of years, and upon his retirement, his two sons, James E. and Oliver succeeded to the business, which they conducted until the ice house was destroyed by fire.
Blacksmiths, Foundries and Industry
Benjamin Haywood, about 1832, erected a blacksmith shop in the vicinity of where the Franklin Iron Works and later James Robert Bazley’s operation stood on Mill Street, and equipped it with lathes and other machinery for the turning of axles for the wooden mine cars then used in the transportation of coal from the mines to the Port Carbon docks.
Tobias Wintersteen, about 1839 erected a foundry and machine shop between what was the Franklin Iron Works and the Schuylkill Valley railroad. Mr. Wintersteen conducted this foundry successfully for a number of years. Mr. Wintersteen, owing to business reverses later, returned, and in the late 1870’s the building was torn down.
Another foundry and machine shop was established by Alfred brook in 1842. This shop was burned down and after it was rebuilt in 1863 by Robert Allison and Francis Bannan. This foundry was named the Franklin Iron Works and covered four acres operated by Allison. His sons Charles and Frank took over this business from their father. The Franklin Iron Works manufactured pumps, mining drills, iron castings, grates and operated a general machine manufacturing business.
From 1900-1913, John Cathers owned and operated the business, which was purchased by the Coxe Traveling Grate Company. The site of the Franklin Iron Works changed hands several times until J. Robert Bazley purchased the site in 1931. From there Bazely formed one of the region’s most notable construction firms in eastern Pennsylvania. Bazley is noted for a his work on a number of highway projects most notably the laying of what is now Route 61 from Port Clinton to Pottsville, and also sections of the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike in Carbon County and Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County. The Bazley Shops along Mill and Main Streets stand as a landmark along the Schuylkill River on the eastern edge of the Borough.
Mills Added Gradually
In 1860 Charles Baber established a saw and planning mill for the manufacture of doors, window sashes and general building material, on a site a short distance west of where the Schuylkill Valley station stood near Main Street. This he conducted for some years and the plan was a busy one the year through. Later Mr. Baber retired and disposed of the business to Messrs. Weed & Colborn, who conducted the plant for a time, when it was abandoned and permitted to fall to decay.
In 1865 Zaccur Boyer of Pottsville erected a rolling mill on a plot along Main Street near where Liberty Oil is today, and along the Schuylkill Valley railroad. Later Mr. Boyer added an iron furnace and successfully conducted both until about 1878 when the Reading Coal and Iron Co. purchased the two plants, which were for a short time were conducted by the Atkins Brothers of Pottsville. The latter soon retired when the P. & R. Co. had the furnace remodeled, a man named Bennett introducing several late patents for the manufacture of pig iron. Another planning mill, saw mill and general carpenter ship was also conducted by the late Peter J. O’Neil.
Another of the early industries was the coach-making and general wheel-wright shop conducted by Garrett A. Burke, on Coal street near Jackson.
Brewery, Marble Yard, Brass Foundry and Newspaper Among Early Industries
While not within the borough limits at the time, as the borough was not organized until 1852, it may be of interest to state that in 1831 a man named A.Y. Moore erected and conducted a beer brewery along the road to Pottsville, between Young’s Landing and the present site of Port Carbon. How long this place was conducted no one can tell.
In 1885 H.E. Paul opened the first marble yard in Port Carbon, it being located on Pottsville St., along Mill Creek, at the western end of the bridge spanning that stream. In 1893 Mr. Paul moved to the junction of Pike and Market streets, where he and his son Harry operated the business. The Paul family marble work can best be viewed in the cemeteries of town.
Among the first stores in Port Carbon was Gwinner’s Bakery Shop, which was located at the corner of Pike and Coal Streets where Mulhall’s garage stood. On the corner of Pike and Psecond Streets at the site recently known as Brown and Dowling’s, Ross Bull owned a shoe shop. Bull also served as an amateur dentist, though he merely pulled teeth, he did not fill them or manufacture new ones.
Daniel Knittle had a furniture store on South Coal Street and in a small room in the back of the shop he made chairs. For a brief time in the 1830s and around the turn of the 20th Century newspapers were published in Port Carbon, but only for a very short period. On Coal Street near its intersection with Jackson, E. W. DeWitt operated a brass foundry near the beginning of the 20th Century.
Robert Allison and the First Car Purchased in the United States
During a visit to Cleveland Ohio, Robert Allison of Port Carbon accompanied Alexander Winton on a drive through that city in one of Winton’s horseless carriages. Allison, an English born industrialist from Port Carbon, decided that he would purchase one of these contraptions, which in fact help to save Winton from declaring bankruptcy and saving America’s fledgling automobile industry in its earliest of days. This famous automobile was manufactured by the Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Allison bought the car for $1000 and in March of 1898, Winton’s famous car arrived by rail in Pottsville. After great effort, the car was started and Allison drove the car down Coal Street in Pottsville to Mauch Chunk and then to Port Carbon. History notes that Robert Allison of Port Carbon Pennsylvania purchased the first commercially produced automobile in the United States, thus garnering him a place in American history forever. Over the years, Allison purchased additional Wintons from the Cleveland manufacturer. He is also credited with having made the first auto trade-in in history. The first car purchased by Allison is now on display at the Crawford Auto – Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
Henry L. Miller and the Textiles Industry
Of most recent memory, the most recognizable local industry during the 20th Century, was textile manufacturing. Upon locating at Port Carbon in 1904, Henry L. Miller opened an underwear manufacturing business in Port Carbon. Up until 1914, Miller operated his knitting mill on First Street near Grand, but soon after constructed a new brick factory style building on South Coal Street. This business grew over the century and reached its peak during the 1940s and 1950s when all of the country’s industrial might was tested by the rigors of World War. Henry Miller died in 1936 and John J. Miller succeeded his father in the running of the family business, and when the men returned from the war only to find fewer coal mining jobs, it was the textiles, the Miller family business that provided labor and jobs to the families of Port Carbon and surrounding communities. During the 1950s unemployment exceeded 20%, yet the majority of jobs were found by mostly the women who worked not only at H. L. Miller and Son’s plant, but also at a number of other textile mills in Schuylkill County.
The Miller family operated the business in Port Carbon for more than 90 years and contributed generously to the livelihood of its residents. Unfortunately a number of factors forced the family to close the plants in Port Carbon and later Schuylkill Haven. Changes in Environmental Protection laws during the 1970s forced expenditures aimed toward reducing the pollution of the Schuylkill River. The struggle of Union Labor in the garment industry too, caused increased overhead via higher wages thereby reducing the company’s competitive edge against foreign made clothing. But the killing blow for local textiles manufacturing came with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which facilitated free trade with Canada and Mexico. NAFTA led to the movement of the American textiles industry overseas and across the border where workers could manufacture clothing at a reduced cost to business owners in under developed countries of Central America. The Miller Group could no longer afford to pay decent wages AND remain competitive in the garment industry and they were forced to close their doors, thereby putting an end to an industry, which helped clothe the soldiers of World War II and Korea.
The D.G. Yuengling and Sons Brewery
In the 1830s a small brewing operation was conducted in what is now the Borough limits of Port Carbon somewhere along Route 209 between here and Pottsville. With the exception of a brief mention in the history books, there is little information on Port Carbon’s first brewery. In 1998, Richard Yuengling Jr. announced plans to construct a new brewery in what was once the lower Saint Clair rail yard on the northwestern border of the borough with East Norwegian Township. In 2001 the new Yuengling Brewery brewed its first barrel of the popular Yuengling Lager, marking the opening of a new industry for Port Carbon that, based on past reputation, will surely last well into the 21st Century.
Water Introduced Into Borough
The Yuengling Brewery of course could not make beer without water. And fortunately for the Yuengling family, Schuylkill County possesses some of the world’s best water. The same water that will be used to blend with the hops, grains and barleys of the brew master’s craft, has been drawn from the same aquifers that have supplied the residents of Port Carbon with water since the earliest days of the community.
Previous to 1880 the borough depended upon wells and springs for its water supply. In that year the Pottsville Water Company extended its lines into the town through an arrangement with the Borough council whereby the borough should have charge of the so-called water works, collect all water rents, make all repairs and extensions and pay the company so much annually. This plan was continued until about the year 1904, when the water company became dissatisfied with the local management, and took back the so-called works, paying the borough for whatever improvements and extensions it had made during the life of agreement. Today the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority has charge of water service for the borough and draws the community’s water from a number of dams situated north of Saint Clair on Broad Mountain.
Wanted Their Own Water Works
Previous to the introduction of the water from Pottsville the Port Carbon borough council had discussed the establishment of its own water works,. Dr. George W. Brown, a member of the borough council was an ardent advocate of this plan. He conducted what was called Brown’s farm and on this land, in what is Schoentown, were a number of never failing springs of pure water. The plan advocated was for the borough to secure possession of these springs and erect a dam in the valley just below, or south of what was called Peddler’s Bridge. This plan would have provided an ample supply for the borough for years to come, the greater part of the town lying in such a position that the water could have been supplied by gravity, while pumping would have been necessary for but a very small portion.
While Dr. Brown urged this plan upon the borough, his fellow councilmen balked at the first expense, but there were confident folk who thought that had his plan been adopted, the borough would have derived a nice revenue from its water works.
About 1906 in the same valley, but a considerable distance below where Dr. Brown proposed to erect his dam, the later Father Joseph J. O’Connell, then priest at St. Stephen’s Catholic church, built a swimming pool for the boys of Port Carbon. He bore every expense and the youth of town, as well as the older generation, were provided with a bathing place supplied with clean and health giving water, and at a point removed from the gaze of passers-by. This pool was kept up until Father O’Connell was transferred to Bethlehem, since which time the dam breast has been partly washed away and the remainder is falling to decay. During the summer seasons, hundreds visited the place to take a swim and Father O’Connell say to it that the best order always prevailed and that none entered into danger.
Eight Bridges in Borough
The long bridge which spanned the Schuylkill Valley railroad and the Schuylkill River between Palo Alto and Port Carbon, and which the electric railway crossed to enter the latter borough was first erected in 1872. This bridge stood until some time in the late 90’s when a more modern structure was erected, the old bridge having been declared unsafe for the heavy traffic. This was a county bridge, although the railway company exercised supervision over that part spanning its tracks. When the bridge was first erected a vast amount of filling in was necessary at the Port Carbon end, and the high embankment required many car loads of material to bring it to the proper level. Previous to this bridge being erected, the one at the Franklin Iron Works on Mill Street was the only means of communication between the two boroughs. Port Carbon had earned the reputation for being a borough of bridges, there being eight (two pedestrian) within the borough spanning Mill Creek and the Schuylkill river. In the 1910s five of those bridges were iron structures.
SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF PORT CARBON
Social Halls of the Borough
The two leading halls in the borough were the Odd Fellows’ at First and Washington streets and E.B.A. hall at Coal and Pike Streets, the latter building having been erected by the Emerald Beneficial Association in 1896. While the latter was under construction and the framework had been partly completed, a tornado passed through the borough late one night, and leveled the structure to the ground. This misfortune proved of considerable loss to the contractor. The EBA Hall was soon after rebuilt but was again destroyed, this time by fire on January 11th, 1919. This fire destroyed many of the nearby structures as well. This hall served the community as a meeting place, saloon and for entertainment as basketball games were played there in the 1910s.
Odd Fellows’ Hall, which stood at the northwest corner of Cherry and Washington Streets was formerly known as Citizens’ Hall. The building was originally a schoolhouse, but when the new school building was erected near North and Pine Street, it was abandoned and purchased by the late Geo. W. Wintersteen. In 1872 the Citizens’ Hall Association was organized as a stock company, its capital stock being $600. The shares were sold among private individuals and the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows’ lodges. Later this association purchased the school building from Mr. Wintersteen, and tore down the building to the basement floor. On this foundation the association erected a two-story frame structure, including an auditorium on the first floor. The basement was fitted up as a living room for the janitor. This venture never proved very profitable although at first small dividends were paid, but in later years the association barely met expenses. About 1904, Schuylkill Lodge No, 27, I.O.F. which was a heavy stockholder, purchased the hall.
Upon securing control the Odd Fellows at once began making a number of improvements to both the lodge room and the main auditorium, as well as the basement in which was installed a reading and pool room for the Three Link Club. A kitchen with everything necessary for holding a banquet was also installed a new entrance opened at the eastern end leading directly to the stairway running to the lodge room. Other improvements were also made making it one of the most convenient halls in the smaller boroughs of the county.
The Odd Fellows Association eventually merged with other local lodges and the ownership of the building changed hands several times during the 20th Century. In the 1920s, a Movie Theatre was opened in the ground floor of this building. The Ritz Theater operated up until the 1950s. In the 1960s this building was converted into a textiles manufacturing operation and was used in that capacity until the building was destroyed by fire in the evening of February 24th 1974. At the time of the fire, the building was operated as Angela Sportswear, and it is believed that an act of arson led to this historic building’s destruction.
In the earlier days there were other fraternal and civic halls in the town, one on the third floor of the Gane building, which stood at Coal and Pike streets.
Lodges of Port Carbon
One of the oldest lodges in Port Carbon is Schuylkill Lodge No. 27, I.O.O.F. At a very early period a lodge of this order was organized in the town, but after several reverses it forfeited its charter. The original Schuylkill Lodge was instituted in June 1836. The first officers were: N.G., Isaac Holden; V.G. Abraham Pott; secretary, Edward H. Hancock; assistant secretary, James H. Holden; treasurer, John C. Flanagan,. This lodge for a time was successful but early in 1844 reverses again came and in June of that year the charter was again surrendered. Two years later, on September 14, 1846, the charter was again restored, the lodge reopened. The officers chosen at the second restoration were: N.G. Joseph Snyder; V.G., Daniel Hillegas; secretary, Lewis Heilner, assistant secretary, Nathan Strause; treasurer, Samuel Seligman. While the lodge had its reverses it maintained its existence and in 1914 had a membership of 199 in good standing and a large list of Past Grands. The first meeting place was in a room in the building owned by John C. McKenna, on Coal St. Later the lodge secured stock in Citizens’ Hall as is discussed earlier.
Knights of Pythias
In 1868 Golden Rule Lodge No. 43, Knights of Pythias, was instituted in Port Carbon, with thirteen charter members. The lodge for a time met with success, and at one time had fair membership. Its first officers were: V/P/. Jacob Wentz; W.C. Isaiah Cartwright; V.P. , Wm. H. Fry; R.S., Wm. D Dresher; F.S. Wm. B. Kane; W.B. Jeremiah Seitzinger; G. , Emanuel Templin; I.S., Banks Bowe; A.S.. A/. Morgan. Its first meeting place was in Gane’s Hall, Coal and Pike Sts., but in 1873, having secured an interest in Citizens’ Hall the meeting place was changed. The lodge moved along until late in the 1902 when interest in it began to lag, the older members died off and little effort was made to secure new members. Later the charter was surrendered and Isaiah Cartwright was named to wind up the affairs of the organization.
Temperance Division Organized
Port Carbon’s earlier residents always took an interest in temperance and as early as 1846 a division of the Sons of Temperance was instituted in the town. The division at one time had a good size membership and accomplished a good service. In the 70’s interest in the organization began to lag and in 1877 it was disbanded. The Ross Bull and Daniel Wintersteen were leading exponents of the temperance cause.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
The Ancient Order of Hibernians was organized in Port Carbon initially in the late 1860s. The local AOH was made up of Irish Americans from the Port Carbon and Palo Alto vicinity and met at a number of places locally including at Condon’s Saloon which was located on the corner of East Washington and Main Street, where a bar has been operated for as long as most Port Carbon residents can remember. This original organization was disbanded in 1875 when the Roman Catholic Church and public pressure forced the repeal of the charters for AOH Divisions in Schuylkill and Carbon Counties. This repeal of charters was directly related to the activities of the noted Molly Maguires who were reportedly members of the AOH and who were bent on revenge toward the coal companies, the police and harsh mine bosses during the 1860s and 1870s. The AOH reorganized in Port Carbon in the 1880s once the furor of the Molly Maguire era had subsided. In Port Carbon the AOH remained active well into the 1920s, but because of reduced numbers in membership the local Division ceased to exist. Local A.O.H. members belong to the John F. Kennedy Division AOH headquartered in Pottsville.
Port Carbon Rotary
On February 18, 1947, the Port Carbon Rotary was organized when the first meeting was held at the H.L. Miller Cafeteria. Present at that first meeting, Henry R. Konrad, Townsend Minier, James Powers, Carl J. Weigand, Chester Cooper, Adam Polcrack, John Miller, Robert Rowland. Admitted during the first month of the organization were Harry Cooley, Kenneth Reynolds, Arthur R. Klinger, Arthur W. Wilkinson, Harold Bensinger, Martin Peelman, Stewart Schradley, George W. Bensinger, Edward J. Donahue, James M. Kirk, Clarence Morgan, Allan Simpson, Edward B. DeWitt and John Mattis. Rotary International issued the charter on April 23, 1947 and Silver Creek Rotary of New Philadelphia sponsored the club.
The first officers of the club were: President: Konrad, Vice President: Minier, Secretary: Powers, Treasurer: Weigand, Sergeant at Arms: Cooper and Directors: John Miller, Rev. Adam Polcrack and Robert Rowland. Weekly meetings were scheduled for Tuesdays, 6:15 p.m. at the H.L. Miller Cafeteria. Meetings were later held at the Port Carbon Legion, Longo’s Restaurant, Pine View Acres and the Port Carbon Banquet Hall.
The organization sponsored a “Rotary Anns” organization in 1965 when Ralph “Jim” Reynolds served as president. At that time, women were not permitted in the Rotary Club. The Rotary-Anns assisted in the success of the club and held their meetings regularly as luncheons at the homes of members. Today, women are welcomed into the Rotary organization and are a vital part of the group.
For more than fifty years, Port Carbon Rotary compiled an enviable record of achievement and has been active in every phase of community betterment. Port Carbon Rotary’s participation has touched the lives of many. In the 1950’s, club members erected a band shell at the Miller Playground. In addition to the band shell, the club supported the Citizens Committee, which opened the concession stand at the playground and sponsors the annual Fourth of July Baby Parade. Members also worked to build a picnic pavilion at the playground. In 1966, the Port Carbon Rotary worked to restore the Soldiers Memorial on Monument Hill. A re-dedication service was held as part of the annual Fourth of July festivities that same year.
Many Rotarians served on Port Carbon Borough Council, and when funds were scarce in the 1950’s, they refused their salary so that it could be put to “better use.” Members played a significant role in getting free home delivery of mail, securing a doctor for the town and protecting our school children. In the early 1980s, the club purchased 6 headphones/tape recorders for use at the Port Carbon Library and held a Bike-a-thon to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Girl Scout troops and little league teams receive the support of the Port Carbon Rotary. In recent years, the club addressed drug awareness through baseball clinics by the Reading Phillies. And every year, the club awards prizes for best Christmas lighted houses in Port Carbon, Palo Alto and Mechanicsville. In the spring, the club sponsors an Easter Egg Hunt for the children. Port Carbon Rotary assists in promoting community drives, the ambulance, the American Red Cross and the distribution of food baskets for the needy. To raise funds for charities and projects, Port Carbon Rotary hosted “A Night at the Races” events, Antique Car Shows and community “Block Parties”.
The Port Carbon Rotary established a program to recognize outstanding scholarship in the community. Essay contests were sponsored in the past, and during the school year, seniors at Pottsville Area High School and Nativity B.V.M. are invited to weekly meetings as student guests and honored for academic achievement. Annually, the Club presents a scholarship to a deserving graduate from the Port Carbon/Palo Alto area.
The Port Carbon Rotary Club actively serves its community. Rotarians from diverse professions regularly gather together, enjoying fellowship and exploring additional ways to improve the community. For more than half a century, this Club has dedicated itself to the motto of Rotary International — “Service Above Self” — and will be guided by that principle as it begins the Twenty-First century.
Abraham Pott built the first schoolhouse erected in Port Carbon, as previously stated in what is now the center of the Lutheran Church Cemetery. Christopher Young taught in this the first school in 1829. In 1838 a school was built on what was the site of the Odd Fellows Hall on Washington Street. This school was used up until the erection of a three-story structure, with six rooms in 1870. This structure stood in what was the playground of the former Elementary School (now an apartment complex fronting on Cherry Street). In the 1840s, Dr. Brown established a private school for his children of several other people in town. This school was located on the present site of the Goodwill Fire Company Parking lot on Washington Street.
Among some of the old teachers who taught in the old hall building were a Mr. Rossiter, Mr. Dimmick, Mr. Orlando Tiffany, Miss Phoebe Heebner, Jesse Newlin and Miss Robinson, who later became the wife of the late Joseph H. Beir. Miss Robinson came to Pottsville from Milton and for a time attended the Pottsville Academy when she was elected a teacher at Port Carbon, being the first woman teacher elected in the town.
That school building erected in 1870, cost $17,000. On this site, Jeremiah Boone, in 1844 opened a large lumberyard, which covered the school lot and also that occupied by the residence erected by the late Jesse Newlin, for a number of years county superintendent. Mr. Boone, and his son Thomas, conducted this yard for a number of years, until shortly before the school district purchased the site. Messrs. Buechley and Philip Steinbach were the contractors who put up the building. All the lumber used in the structure was cut in the forest near Brockton, up the Schuylkill Valley, and the logs hauled down on trucks to the Charles Baber saw and planing mill, where it was fashioned into window and door frames and other building material.
First School Principal
The first principal of the new building was the late George W. Weiss, who held that position until 1877, when he was elected County Superintendent, succeeding the late Jesse Newlin. The succeeding principals in the first 40 years were: Jacob H. Major, whose descendants still reside in Port Carbon and environs, H.H. Brownmiller, of Orwigsburg; Charles Moyer also formerly of Orwigsburg; Geo. W. Channell, and M.E. Stein. The schools of the borough were always maintained at a high standard and occupied a prominent place in the county’s educational system.
A New School for the 20th Century
The 1870 school building had served its purpose for more than 40 years when the citizens of Port Carbon determined to build a new schoolhouse. One of the problems cited with the old school was that the very narrow staircase was viewed as a fire hazard. In 1915 the school was replaced by a more modern structure complete with thirteen class rooms, a library, gymnasium, lavatories, a dispensary, store room, clock tower and classroom space for the elementary grades. With the consolidation of the school districts in and around Pottsville, the utility of this school was reduced. By 1970, only grades Kindergarten through fourth grades attended school here while the older students were bused to Pottsville. One of the fond memories of the older boys who attended Port Carbon Elementary School in those latter years, was the ringing of the bell marking the time for the opening of school or to signal the end of recess. The access to the bell tower was found on the second floor classroom facing Pine Street. This building served as the Elementary School until the Pottsville Area School District consolidated all elementary schools at the John S. Clarke Elementary School in Pottsville on January 4th, 1982. The school was converted into an apartment building in the 1980s.
Port Carbon High School
Soldiers Memorial High School was constructed in 1931 on Cherry Street adjacent to the elementary school. In June of 1932, the first senior class graduated in Port Carbon. Prior to this, the students went to Port Carbon for three years and finished their final year at Pottsville High School. The Port Carbon high school featured a library, principal’s office, auditorium, girls and boy’s locker room, health room, a laboratory and seven classrooms.
For many years, Port Carbon High School boasted of a number of popular and successful sports teams specifically in basketball and to a lesser degree, baseball. These sports teams were for the most part coached by Tabby Howells, a popular schoolteacher in the Port Carbon School district. The Port Carbon High School served the community for 24 years, until the Port Carbon School Board agreed to make the move toward jointure, or the consolidation of small community school districts. The P.C.H.S. Class of 1955 was the last of the graduating classes wholly from Port Carbon public school. The trend begun with the high school ended in 1982 when, with the opening of John S. Clarke Elementary School in Pottsville, all of the public school age children attended classes in Pottsville instead of their hometown.
Port Carbon Library
The first Port Carbon Library was organized in 1941 in the former borough jail located on Washington Street. The library operated here for several years until it was relocated in the Port Carbon Elementary School on the first floor facing Pine Street. From here it was moved to the other end of the school with its entrance on Cherry Street near Washington. The Library was finally reorganized at its present location in (YEAR????) in the former Dewitt’s Hardware Store on Pike Street between Pine and Coal.
St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and Parochial School
This church was organized as a mission about 1840, and remained as such until 1847, being supplied with pastors from St. Patrick’s Church, Pottsville. Saint Stephen’s Parish was established July 17th, 1847 by Bishop, now Saint John Neuman. The parish at that time consisted of Port Carbon, much of Palo Alto, Lower Mill Creek, part of Upper Mill Creek, Belmont, Bear Ridge, Eagle Hill, Cumbola, New Philadelphia, Silver Creek, Middleport and a number of coal mining villages in between. The first priest stationed at the church was Rev. Daniel Magorian, who came to Port Carbon in 1847.
The church building is greatly due to the voluntary labor of its older members, who gave their efforts free of cost in order to have a place of worship. It was erected about 1847. Later a stone dwelling house adjoining the church on the west was purchased as a residence for the priest and was first occupied by Father Magorian. Father Magorian was a well known figure about town in the earlier days, being an exceedingly large man and generally using a one horse gig in making his visits to his parishioners in the parish.
The original cemetery stood on the site next to the original Mission House. One of the first things Father Magorian did, was buy land for a cemetery at the eastern end of Coal Street. At that time the early burials were removed to the new cemetery between Coal and First Streets. Father Magorian was pastor of the church until 1877, when on account of age, he was succeeded by Rev. J.C. McEnroe. Father Magorian came to Port Carbon from Milton and spent his remaining days there, being buried in the old cemetery. Following Father McEnroe came Father O’Rouke, who was succeeded by Father Moran.
Father Moran made many improvements to the church property. In 1886, with the assistance of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he established the parochial school of the parish, erecting a fine new and commodious building adjoining the early parochial residence. With the establishment of the parochial school a home was necessary for the teachers. Under Father Moran’s pastorate a new parochial residence was erected. Ignatius Knowles erected the residence.
Following Father Moran came Father McGovern. During Father O’Connell’s pastorate, many improvements were made to the church property, including the installation of the stained glass windows in 1901. Father O’Connell was responsible for the construction of a new four room school building which was expanded in later years. He also purchased the land and laid out the new cemetery, just east of the original plot.
Father O’ Connell was one of the prime movers in the erection of the soldiers’ monument on Monument Hill.
Father O’Connell was followed in the pastorate by Father Joseph Whitaker, Rev. Msgr. Charles Kavanaugh, and Father Daniel Daly. Father Daly continued to add classrooms to the school in 1920 and a few years later, had expanded the facilities into a high school.
Father Bernard Farley and Father Joseph Herley succeeded Father Daly in the pastorate. And during Father Farley’s time, Saint Stephens Celebrated its 100th Anniversary in Port Carbon. Father John McNamara, became the Pastor in 1964 and since that time has made a number of improvements to the church and the school.
As early as 1836 the residents of Port Carbon who had previously affiliated with the Methodist denomination organized a class. This met at the home of the late Daniel Wintersteen, on Valley St., whose daughter, Delila, became an active member. In 1844, Rev. J.C. Thomas organized the first congregation. The records show that among the organizers were Ross Bull, Tobias H. Wintersteen, David Oliver, Wm. Berger, Jos. Burnham, Jos. H. Beir, Daniel Oliver, James Buery, Robert Jackson, Joseph Thomas, Wm. Sims, John Sims, David J. Myers, and John Headley together with their wives. Previous to the organization the class also met at various homes of members and were occasionally supplied by ministers from Pottsville. A Sunday school was also organized the same year as the congregation, the first superintendent having been David Oliver. The late Ross Bull was also for a long time superintendent, as well as class leader and director of the choir. The present superintendent is Ambrose Stevens. The first church building was erected at the corner of Pike and Washington Sts. In 1845 and was dedicated a year later. This was a stone structure and served until 1869, when it was ton down and the present brick structure erected. Many able pastors have served the congregation, which today is prosperous and has a large Sunday school and an able choir, of which Wm. H. Garis is the director. The present pastor is the Rev. J.L. Guernsey (1914-1916).
Grace United Evangelical Church
What is now called Grace United Evangelical church, the house of worship being located on Pike St., near Market, sprung from a class of that denomination, a man named Philip Dreher being the class leader. Meetings were held at the homes of the members when there was occasional preaching by visiting preachers. In 1848 the Rev. John Neitz organized the first congregation, which for a time worshipped in a hall used by the Odd Fellows, in the McKenna building on Coal St. A Sunday school was also organized a year later John Medlar being the first superintendent. Among the members at the organization were Mr. and Mrs. Obadiah Reed, Mr. and Mrs. Philip May., Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Knittle, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Dreher, Mr. and Mrs. John Medlar, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Hoover and others. The first church erected was a wooden structure at the junction of Washington and First streets. The building contacted an auditorium and a basement in which the Sunday school held its sessions. The congregation moved along successfully and peaceably until the memorable split in the Evangelical Association between the Dubs and the Esher factions. With three exceptions the Port Carbon congregation cast its lot with the Dubs faction. The exceptions were Obadiah Reed, Daniel Knittle and Solomon Hertzog, now all deceased. The church property at that time was deeded to the local congregation—that is, the deed the church held so read. Finally the question of which faction was entitled to hold possession of the church property got into the courts and the Esherites won title to the Port Carbon property. The Dubs faction, however, was not dismayed, but determined to maintain an organization. Rev. I. Max Longsdorf was at that time pastor of the Port Carbon congregation and remained with it during the ensuing struggle.
What is today known as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, located on Coal St. was organized in 1840 as New Jerusalem church, by members of the Lutheran and Reformed denominations, later becoming known as St. Paul’s Lutheran and Reformed church.
Previous to the organization, Messrs. Pott, Swift, and Patterson of Pottsville, dedicated a plot of ground to the citizens of Port Carbon for a public school site and graveyard. This plot consisted of what is now the old section of the burying ground. The citizens not accepting the school plot, Mr. Pott secured sole control of the grant and at his own expense erected a school building. This structure was located in the center of the cemetery beyond the site where the steps lead up to where the third church building stood until 1929. The Lutherans and Reformed congregations purchased the original building and adjoining land the year they organized, and dedicated it to Christian worship. Rev. William G. Mennig was the first Lutheran pastor and Rev. David Hassinger the first Reformed pastor.
As the town’s population grew and the church membership increased, a new church building became necessary, and on October 5, 1851, the cornerstone of a second church building was laid facing onto Coal Street opposite Apple Alley, the first building being later torn down. This second building was dedicated in 1853. the plot dedicated as a burying ground filling up, the two congregations in 1863 purchased additional ground from Mr. Pott for burial purposes.
In 1875 the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations separated into two congregations, the Reformed membership disposing of all their interests in the property to the Lutheran congregation.. The first Lutheran pastor after the separation was Rev. Mr. Singmaster.
In 1892 the Lutheran congregation withdrew from the East Pennsylvania Synod and united with the General Lutheran Conference. The first pastor under the new allegiance was Rev. Geo. M. Brock, who assumed the pastorate in 1892, remaining until the latter part of 1893. The second pastor was Rev. Mr. Becker, and in June 1895, Rev. Charles W. Eberwein assumed the pastorate.
Rev. Mr. Eberwein rapidly increased the membership, had a number of improvements made to the graveyard and in 1898 the third church edifice was erected. Under the pastorate of Rev. Eberwein a handsome parsonage was erected on Coal Street. The congregation under Pastor Eberwein outgrew its house of worship on North Coal Street and purchased a large lot on Coal St., near Pike and Cherry where the present church was built in 1928-1929. The present church was dedicated on April 27th, 1930 with Pastor Charles Eberwein presiding. In 1940, the Henry L. Miller Family donated the funds for the Carollonic Bells which were installed in the Bell Tower. After the passing of Pastor Eberwein, Pastor Adam Polcrack served the congregation for more than 20 years. Pastor Polcrack was followed by Rev. Carl Borger, who became the Pastor of Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1966. Pastor Borger served St. Paul’s for 26 years, retiring in 1992.
The Presbyterian congregation of Port Carbon was organized on August 7, 1833, by the adoption of a constitution and the election of a board of trustees. This board was composed of Jesse Turner, William Bosbyshell, Abraham Heebner, James Lime, Lawrence Whitney, George Hadesty, Henry Porter, E.S. Warner and Nathaniel Davis. The church building at the corner of First and Grand Sts., was erected in 1834, a stone structure, which was later weather boarded and painted white, a color it has retained to the present. The first elders were E.S. Warne, Henry Foster and J.J. Foster. The cemetery adjoining the church was established in 1833.
The first pastor was Rev. Sylvanus Haight, who filed the pulpit two years. In 1836 Rev. W. Sellers assumed the pastorate, he being followed by Rev. Robert McCartee, who remained until 1849. During the following year several pastors served the congregation. In 1850 Rev. T.H. Wardlaw was chosen to the pulpit, he being followed by Rev. A.M. Lowrey. From 1853 until 1877 Rev. Silas A. Davenport occupied the pulpit. He was followed in 1878 by Rev. S. Henry Bell, who served until 1882,. Rev. J.P.McCaskie came next. Rev. Archie A. Murphy was next chosen pastor and served until 1890. Rev. Henry Tolsin followed and remained until 1893. In 1894 Rev. James W. Boal succeeded to the pulpit remaining until 1904, when owing to ill health, he resigned, Rev. Henry C. Sperbeck was next chosen and remained until 1908 when he was followed by Rev. Dr. Stone.
During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Bell an annex was erected to the rear of the church and a pipe organ installed. During Dr. Boal’s pastorate the interior of the church was completely remodeled. The old gallery was torn out, the entrances to the main auditorium changed, new pews installed, walls and ceiling frescoed and new lights installed. The expense of the latter repairs was all met the Sunday the remodeled church was dedicated. The Presbyterian parsonage, a three-story brick structure standing on the eastern end of the church lot, was erected in 1854-55.
Some of the most active and prominent men in the building of Port Carbon were ardent supporters of the church. Among them were Dr. George W. Brown, Jesse Turner, Geo W. Heebner, Henry R. Heebner, Frank Turner, John M. Oren and others. This church served Port Carbon’s Presbyterians until 1965, when the congregation became too small to maintain a physical church in the town. The church closed and was later converted into the Port Carbon Borough Hall and Police Station. The parsonage became a private residence.
Mountain View Baptist Church
Located on Pottsville Street near the boundary with Mechanicsville, the congregation of the Mountain View Baptist Church has been worshiping in Port Carbon since 1998. This congregation has been a welcome addition to our community.
PORT CARBON’S MILITARY HERITAGE
There are few communities in the country that boast a more patriotic heritage than Port Carbon. Port Carbon has never failed to respond when the nation needed men and women for the defense of freedom. And from its infamous service record in the Civil War, to the present day when the town claims Navy Rear Admiral Nancy Lescavage, Port Carbon has always stood proud with its military service record.
In the Lutheran Cemetery on Coal Street, Revolutionary War Veteran Samuel Boyer rests beneath the sod in the town where he died in the 1830s. Other veterans of the War of 1812 and Mexican War are also buried in this and the old Presbyterian Cemetery. French born Francis Marcus Berdanier served in Napoleon’s army during the early 1800s. Berdanier emigrated from France in the 1820s and settled in Port Carbon. His remains also lie in the Lutheran Cemetery not too far from the East Street boundary of the graveyard. Over 400 war veterans are buried in community cemeteries.
From the early days, Port Carbon residents served in the local militia companies of Pottsville and surrounding towns. In the early 1850’s a military organization existed in the town. This company of militia was fortunate enough to possess a brass cannon. This organization held an annual drill where salutes were fired from the cannon and the men put through maneuvers. About 1859 the cannon was stolen, and while every effort was made to locate it, no clue to its whereabouts or the identity of the thieves was ever unearthed.
Port Carbon in the Civil War
When the Civil War broke out, Port Carbon demonstrated its true patriotism and its readiness to aid in defending the Union. At that time the borough had a population of about 1,500 men women and children, and of this number a reported 515 marched to war. Several of these men never returned. This proportion of soldiers when compared to the borough’s population, was exceeded by only one other town in the Union.
The town contributed several men to that immortal band, the First Defenders who were of the first military companies to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers for the defense of the nation’s capital. Thomas Bull, son of the town’s first Chief Burgess Ross Bull, gained notoriety as one of those First Defenders. Upon the arrival of those first volunteers in the Capitol building, President Lincoln made a personal visit to shake the hands of these brave defenders of the Union. Thomas Bull was the first to shake the President’s hand.
Two days after the First Defenders left for the front, the Marion Rifles, under the command of then Captain Joshua K. Siegfried, left Port Carbon for the front. The Marion Rifles left town on a Sunday morning, marching to the Schuylkill Valley station, where they met the Wynkoop Artillery of Silver Creek, under command of Captain William Winlack, and together these two commands started for the seat of war. Captain Siegfried served throughout the entire Rebellion and returned from the conflict with the title of Major General, having earned promotions through meritorious service. Siegfried was Port Carbon’s first General Officer.
Another company recruited in Port Carbon was the Keystone Rifles led by Captain Matthew Byrnes. Many residents of the town enlisted in other commands, during the progress of the war. During the Rebellion Port Carbon was practically a deserted town. In order that none of the families of those who went to the front should suffer want or need, the Borough Council appropriated $1,000 for the purchase of necessities for those who had been deprived of the wage earning men.
When Lee’s Army threatened an invasion of Pennsylvania in September of 1862, a company of volunteers was organized and sent to the front. Their service lasted but two weeks, but within a year they would be called on again to defend the state. In June of 1863 when General Lee marched toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Emergency Regiments were called to the volunteer to defend the state. One Company of men primarily from the Port Carbon area was formed by Captain Robert Allison and pushed toward Gettysburg in the first week of July 1863. Because of the Union Army’s victory at Gettysburg, and the subsequent retreat from Pennsylvania by the Confederate army, these men saw no action on in the field, but returned home within a month of their departure.
Hundreds of Port Carbon men fought in the War of the Rebellion, and several of those paid the ultimate sacrifice during that four-year struggle. Francis Reed, serving with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry lost his life in a Cavalry charge in Tennessee in June of 1863. A few days later, Harrison Smith was killed on Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. George R. Lawrence, who lived on First Street, contracted dysentery while serving in Virginia during the summer of 1864, and died at his home. The story of Port Carbon in the Civil War though, would be incomplete without recognizing the loss suffered by Mrs. Agnes Allison.
The Allison Brothers of Port Carbon
Before 1850, Agnes Allison emigrated from Scotland and settled with her family in Port Carbon. She would raise six sons to adulthood, namely, James, George, Andrew, David, Alexander and John. Of these sons of Agnes Allison, four would serve in the war. But to Mrs. Allison’s sorrow, all four would give their lives for the cause of preserving the Union of these United States. The first to give his life was also her youngest son, John who was killed on May 3rd, 1863 during a fight in the wooded area around Salem Church, a few miles west of Fredricksburg, Virginia. With John Allison on that day, was his brother Alexander, newly appointed Lieutenant in Company C, 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Alexander, who survived a wound at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap just eight months prior was again wounded in battle. His wounds were mortal, being shot in the abdomen, and he died two days later on May the 5th.
Two of her children had been lost in matter of days and within two months, another son, George would return to Pennsylvania to defend the state from invasion. George Allison fortunately escaped the Battle of Gettysburg without serious injury. In the spring of 1864, the Union Army had taken on a new commander in General Ulysses Grant. Grant’s plan for that spring was simple, to drive southward and destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee. By April, Grant’s Army was pushing southward toward Richmond. In the early days of May, these armies met in the Wilderness north of Spottsylvania Court House. After three days of difficult fighting and heavy casualties Grant pushed his army further south and again, near Spottsylvania Court House the bloodiest fighting of the war would ensue. George Allison, a Sergeant in Company K, 56th Pennsylvania Infantry, suffered a wound which would send him to the field hospital, and later to a hospital in Washington DC. George Allison however, did not recover and died in the hospital on May 23rd of 1864.
Sergeant Allison’s body was returned to Port Carbon, where on June 3rd 1864, he was laid to his final rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery on First Street. And while the Allison family bid farewell to its third fallen soldier, June 3rd would find the fourth of Agnes Allison’s sons in harm’s way as General Grant pushed his army on toward Richmond. James Allison served three enlistments during the Civil War. And while during his first two enlistments he saw little action, his third enlistment with the 48th Pennsylvania proved more demanding. He served with the 48th through the Wilderness and Spottsylvania where his regiment was heavily engaged and suffered terribly. By early June, Grant had swung his army eastward in an attempt to flank the Confederate Army near Richmond. During this action, one of the bloodiest battles on the 1864 campaign was fought near Cold Harbor Virginia.. On June 3rd, tens of thousands of Union Soldiers would assault the Confederate lines. Many of these men wore their names and home towns on the backs of their uniforms as many knew that it would be their last battle. The 48th Pennsylvania served as an anchor at the very northern end of the Federal position, and in the assault, they were heavily engaged. The 48th suffered dozens of casualties in killed and wounded. And on the day on which his brother George was being placed into the ground, James Allison was killed in battle near Bethesda Church a dozen miles from Richmond.
Agnes Allison sacrificed four of her sons during the war to preserve the Union. Only George Allison’s body was returned to Port Carbon for burial. Alexander is buried in the national cemetery at Fredricksburg Va., while his younger brother John’s grave is unknown, but probably among the unidentified soldiers buried in that same cemetery in Fredricksburg. James Allison was buried on the field and later interred in the National Cemetery outside of Richmond. After the Civil War had ended, the returned veterans named their local Grand Army of the Republic Post in honor of the Allison boys. This veterans’ organization survived into the early 20th Century, but it is most known for its efforts aimed at honoring the community’s fallen comrades during the Civil War. The Allison Post GAR played an important role in the erection of the Soldier’s Monument on Monument Hill and later the Mother Allison Memorial in the Presbyterian Cemetery on First Street.
Spanish American War Service was Limited
The Spanish-American War claimed two of Port Carbon’s sons. Joseph Wolf fought in the Philippines and later in the Chinese Boxer uprising. He completed his enlistment and was on the verge of returning home by way of Europe, in order to circumnavigate the globe, when he was taken ill with a fever, which terminated fatally. Later his body was shipped to his widowed mother in Port Carbon, and interred in the Lutheran cemetery with military honors. Howard Templin of Port Carbon also served during this time period and died in the Phillipines on April 29th, 1900. His body was returned home the following year and buried in the Lutheran Cemetery. Others also from Port Carbon served in the campaign, but all returned home safely.
The Monumental Association
The Port Carbon Monumental Association, an organization formed for the purpose of perpetuating the memory of the 515 men who responded to the call for troops during the Civil War, was organized August 19, 1891, and was composed of representatives of all societies of town. The first officers chosen were: President, Daniel Paul; vice president, Wm. H. Carey, corresponding secretary, Isaiah Cartwright; the latter serving in the capacity until Dec. 11, 1905, when Jos. A. Beir was chosen to fill the position.
About the year 1905 the question of erecting a monument to the memory of the heroes of “61-“65 began to be agitated in earnest. Funds were in the hands of the treasurer sufficient to erect a monument, and the proper place for such a memorial became the subject of discussion. Some wanted it erected on the triangular lot in front of Odd Fellows’ Hall at the corner of First and Washington Street. Others favored Pike St. Finally “Goat Hill” was chosen as the new Monument Hill, and eventually all agreed this was the wisest selection.
Erection of Monument
The plot selected for the monument required considerable preparation, but willing hands soon completed this part of the work. In preparing the plot and in the erection of the monument the services of the late Rev. Joseph O’Connell, of St. Stephen’s church were invaluable. He gave time, labor and means to make the project a success and not a day passed he did not visit the site and make suggestions or aid those at work.
Gradually the monument arose on the hill, where it can be seen for miles around, and on July 4th, 1906, it was formally dedicated. On this occasion Port Carbon entertained one of the largest crowds in its history. Members of the National Guard, societies and orders of every class, including several organizations of foreigners, turned out in parade, which included nearly every street in the town. Few houses there were that did not display the National colors and the spirit of “61 was revived. The orators on this occasion were A.H. Wintersteen, Hon. C.A. Snyder, Hon. James B. Reilly, and John L. Grim, of Philadelphia, the latter, having been the principal speaker.
To the great credit of the Monumental Association, and to all those interested in the project, the monument was dedicated free of debt, every penny of the $3,285.57 expenses incurred having been paid before the veering was released from the imposing shaft. The Association also erected a suitable fence about the plot.
World War I
From 1917-1918, 159 citizens of Port Carbon answered the call to arms to fight in the Great European War. Of that number, six men paid the supreme sacrifice during this war. Those men giving their lives during World War I were: John Bohannon, J. Harry Bowe (the first casualty from Port Carbon), William Cliff, Pius Gumauski, Sylvester Hoy and Harry C. Meyers. The Port Carbon American Legion Post was formed shortly after the war on September 28th, 1919. While the last of the World War One veterans passed away in the 1990s, the J. Harry Bowe Post continued with a number of veterans from the second World War. The Post is still in existence today, but with few members.
World War II
Again in 1941, Port Carbon answered the call for volunteers to fight in the war against fascism and imperialism in the far east. Even before the attack on Pearl Harbon on Decemeber 7th, 1941, Port Carbon men and women had been serving in a variety of capacities in the United States military. From 1941 – 1945, 479 men and women served in the United States military. From Pearl Harbor, to Guadelcanal, to Iwo Jima and from the shores of northern Africa, to the Italian Peninsula and to Normandy in France, the Ardennes in Belgium and bridges over the Rhine in Germany, Port Carbon men served the Allied forces well. From the Navy, the Army Air Corps, the Marines, the Merchant Marine and the United States Army, Port Carbon was represented across the globe. And during those five years of struggle, ten of Port Carbon’s men paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those who gave their lives during this time were ( – ) *** Need a list of those killed here ***
Korean Conflict, Vietnam and Desert Storm
During the Korean Conflict from 1950-1953 another 35 men from Port Carbon served their country overseas. Again during the Vietnam Conflict Port Carbon sent 46 of her sons to fight in that war. Of those men, William McNeely was killed in battle in Vietnam. His name is one of the tens of thousands that adorn the Vietnam Veterans Monument in Washington DC. In 1991 the United States military was again called into action in Kuwait and Iraq. During this period another 9 Port Carbon residents served in the US Military.
Veterans Memorial Park Dedication
On September 5th, 1999, the residents of Port Carbon dedicated a park to honor the veterans of Port Carbon. The park is today located at the corner of Pine and Pike Streets in the Borough. At that ceremony, all of the veterans of Port Carbon were honored. Today this park is the source of great community pride and features elements of our unique community heritage.
NOTEWORTHY EARLY RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSMEN OF PORT CARBON
Leaving the history of canal, mining, railroads, business and the military, let us delve back and examine the early business men, industrialists and artisans of Port Carbon. According to written history, William Harris was the first blacksmith to locate in the village. Where he came from none can tell, or where his shop was located is a doubtful guess. Others in the same trade who early located in the village were Thomas Millington, John Illingsworth, and Joseph H. Beir. Mr. Millington, established a shop on Pike St. between Coal and Laing Streets, where his son, Edward later conducted the business. Mr. Illingsworth opened a shop on Pike Street, and when he retired from the business, his son, John, continued the business for a time. Here also Henry Krebs, one of the pioneer settlers in Port Carbon, conducted a wheelwright and wagon building ship. This building was destroyed by fire and Mr. Krebs opened up for business on Coal St., where E. DeWitt operated a brass foundry.
Pioneer Blacksmith Joseph Beir Got Big Contract
Another of the pioneer blacksmiths to settle in the village was Joseph H. Beir. He opened a shop on what is now designated as Commerce St., and conducted a most successful business. Mr. Beir made a specialty of building mine cars and doing work for the Schuylkill Navigation Company, and for a long time had six fires going. When the canal was widened and deepened he was awarded the contract for all the iron work necessary at every lock between Port Carbon and Reading, a contract in those days of some proportions, and which kept his six fires going busily for some time.
After Mr. Beir and the late Charles Baber opened a brick yard, on the Frackville branch of the Reading, which they pushed to capacity during the summer months, and during the winters Mr. Beir looked after his blacksmith business. The latter conducted these two businesses up until 1870 when he and Mr. Baber bought out the general mercantile business of Mattson & Baber on South Coal Street. Here they remained until 1879 when the co-partnership was dissolved and the business closed out.
Mr. Beir was one of the men who aided in constructing the breast for the big dam at Silver Creek, the dam being designed to furnish the water for the canal. While working here he received fifty cents per day for his labor, regarded as fair pay then. In his later days, he returned from active business pursuit and was elected borough treasurer. This position Mr. Beir filled up until the time of his death, May 23, 1902. Mr. Beir and his wife, a Miss Robinson, were two of the organizers of the Methodist church and were both active in its welfare until their deaths. Mr. Beir also served as mail carrier between the post office and the P. & R. station. He was one of the first members of Schuylkill Lodge No, 27, I.O.O.F. of Port Carbon. Today he has a number of descendants in Port Carbon as the late Harold Bensinger was a grandson.
Other Early Citizens
Obadiah Reed was another artisan who settled in the village in its early days. He was a pattern maker by trade, but latter took up carpenter jobbing. He erected a home on Jackson St., which is still standing, and on the rear of the lot, built a shop. His wife Catherine was killed by being struck by an engine, while crossing the railroad in the rear of her home. Mr. and Mrs. Reed were devout and active members of the Evangelical church, which they aided in organizing. Mr. Reed was a resident of Port Carbon for over half a century. He died in Allentown in 1904, at the age of 94 years.
Isaiah Aregood Lived 93 Years
Another early well known resident was Isaiah Aregood, who was born in 1810. In his younger days he opened a tailor shop in Port Carbon. Later he entered the carpentering business which he followed for some time, and later opened a tinsmithing shop which he conducted up to the time of his death in 1893, at the age of 93 years.
Ross Bull: A Busy Shoemaker
Ross Bull was another early settler and tradesman who helped to make Port Carbon. Born in Chester county, he came to the village in 1832 when the town was in its infancy. He opened a shoemaker shop and general shoe store at Second and Market Sts., which in its early days was a busy place, as he employed as high as six and eight shoemakers at one time.. Bull’s shop became and for many years was the Mecca for all Port Carbon. With wooden plans erected as seats on both sides of the outside of the building, it became the lounging place of old and young. Here national, state and local political and other questions of moment were discussed and determined, Mr. Bull being acceded as the final word in all discussions. Here the cricket club met to discuss games and plays, and every question of importance to the town was thoroughly threshed out at this shop.
Mr. Bull was a man of religious turn of mind and was a consistent member and one of the organizers of the Methodist church of Port Carbon. He was a man of firm conviction and having once fully debated a question in his own mind and having reached a conclusion, he was immovable. He was also very methodical in his every day life and for many years kept a diary of events in the town. These diaries, had they been properly preserved, would today prove a valuable link between the past of the town and up to the date of his death. One particular feature of this diary is recalled. A son in law of his, James Hess, while out gunning one Sunday, was accidentally shot and killed. This fact was noted in a diary and was bordered by heavy black lines, while below was added the words—“The result of desecrating the Sabbath.”
During the war Mr. Bull was a most staunch supporter of the Union and never lost faith in the ultimate triumph of the Union army. When the village was incorporated into a borough, Mr. Bull was elected the first Chief Burgess, a position he held, with the exception of the year 1855, when Henry Guiterman was elected up to the time if his death. He decided many disputes while Justice of the Peace, and in every case used his best endeavors to bring the disputants together without sending the case to court. He was a man honored and respected by all for his integrity and straightforwardness. He detested sham and had no time for the man who regarded religion or law lightly. He died in 1892, revered by all who knew him, at the ripe age of 84 years. William “Slug” Thomas, residing on Third Street, is a great-great grandson of Ross Bull.
In this connection it may be mentioned Mr. Bull had one honor conferred upon him no other Schuylkill countian ever had. His name was presented before a Republican National Convention as a candidate for President. This nomination was made by the late W.J. Whitehouse, Esq.,, at the Chicago convention when Garfield was made the nominee. Whitehouse became disgusted at the course pursued by the late Senator M.S. Quay, and in a fir of resentment nominated “Hon. Ross Bull of Port Carbon.”
Early Pike Street Businesses
Emil Strauss conducted a grocery and dry goods store where the Cantwell family conducted a saloon, the place being known as the Pike Street House. In the rear of the place, Strauss conducted a lumberyard. Later this property was purchased by the late Joseph Eisenach, who for a number of years conducted a hotel, bowling alley and green grocery at the place. Wm. H. Spencer, a son in law, later became proprietor of the hotel and ran it until 1906, when the property was purchased by John Cantwell, Mr. Spencer a year later opening up a hotel in the Heebner property, corner Pike and Coal Streets under the name of Hotel Spencer.
Site Passed Various Owners
John Conrad & Son’s lumberyard and feed house were operated on Washington St., south of Jackson. Before Conrad’s, a large limekiln was conducted by a Michael Burke. Later the site was occupied by the late John W. Slattery as a Coal yard. One the same plot Jacob Bachman at one time conducted a boiler ship, with Joseph Kepley as his superintendent. This plant for a time did quite a large business. In the year 1900 John Conrad purchased the property and with his son Harry started a lumberyard and feed business, which they conducted into the mid 20th Century. Mr. Conrad was a wheelwright and carpenter by trade and for sometime was engaged in the contracting business.
Great Checker Players
Another of the early shoemakers to locate in the town was the late James Gibson, who conducted a shop on Coal St., in the vicinity where John B. Fayhey conducted a furniture store and later funeral parlor. Mr. Gibson was a great lover of music and never missed an opportunity to join in song, and at his work was almost invariably humming some favorite tune. He also loved the fame of checkers and many was the fame played in his shop, he and Dr. Brown having engaged in many contests, and these two gentlemen were regarded as the most expert players in the town.
Other shoemakers to settle early in the town were the late Frederick Marquardt and Nicholas Kleinschmidt, both of whom conducted shops on Acre St. Both were well known and popular and took an active interest in the development of the town. A son of the former was for a number of years, tax collector in the borough. Mr. Bayster was the last to operate a shoe store in the borough up until the 1980s when his health forced him to retire.
First Butcher Shop Established
Among the first butchers to locate in the town was a German named Louis Hertig, who conducted a meat market on Acre Street. Mr. Hertig did a large trade. He killed all his own cattle, sheep and swine, and at times had from three to five butchers in his employ. He did a large business up the Schuylkill Valley and up the Mill Creek Valley toward St. Clair. His death occurred in the early 80’s. George Gwinner, another butcher of the earlier period, conducted a meat market on Jackson St., for many years.
John Marquardt Operated Feed and Grain Business
John B. Marquardt, father of the late Louis Marquardt, who was the well known goods merchant at Market and Second Sts., Pottsville came to Port Carbon in 1848, and for a number of years engaged in the grain and feed business there.
Mattson and Baber Prominent Firm
Among the earlier business firms of the town was that of Levi Mattson and Charles Baber. They conducted a general store in a large stone building on Coal St., which stood in the vicinity where Henry Miller erected a handsome brick residence (just south of the Bank). This stone building was one of the early structures of the town. It abutted on the canal or basin. It was a large building and so constructed, that a channel from the canal ran under it which boats used in discharging cargoes of merchandise brought on return trips from New York, Philadelphia and other points. On each side of the channel was a wharf or dock, where boats unloaded merchandise and grain, while the building, although having undergone a number of repairs up until 1914, is no longer standing. On the third floor was a hall, which was used for general purposes. Later Leonard Mertz conducted a stove business here and from 1870 to 1879 Messrs. Beir and Baber had charge. The late Joseph Simpson also conducted for some time. The place became a grocery store operated by William Bassler, who purchased the property in the early 1900s.
Last Boat Abandoned to the Elements
When Messrs.. Matson & Baber abandoned the stone store referred to, the late Daniel Knittle occupied it for some time as a furniture store and under taking establishment. Later he returned from business, and the building, beginning to show the ravishes of time was torn down and the stone used in other buildings. Buried in the channel which ran under this building lay the remains of the last boat that served the store. It was an old graft at that time and its owners abandoned it to the elements.
Lawn the Pride of the Town
Mr. Mattson, during his long business career, was one of the leading men of the town. He erected a handsome home at First and Grand Sts., which he occupied for a number of years, in later years only as a summer home, as he spend the winters in Philadelphia. This home had a large lawn and garden adjoining it on the east in which Mr. Matson took great pride and had always kept in first class condition. This structure still stands as a double home on First Street, opposite from Borough Hall.
Heebner Family Businesses
Another leading business firm in the town was Heebner Brothers, namely George W. and Henry R. Heebner, who conducted a general store for many years at Coal and Pike Streets, later occupied by Wm. H. Spencer. The Heebners did a large business and were active factors in the building of the town. Both were prominently identified with the Presbyterian church. Henry R. served for many years as borough treasurer, while George W. served as Councilman, school director and held other municipal offices. The latter built a large three-story residence on Pike St. now occupied by Dr. Gwinner with a drug store and in which the post office is also located. Henry R. lived in the last house on the right hand side of Market St. going toward St. Clair, now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. William Guiterman. Both brothers were identified with every movement which meant Port Carbon’s progress, and were also prominently identified with several financial institutions in Pottsville. Charles Heebner, leading counsel for the P. & R. R.R. Co. in Phila., was a son of Henry R. Heebner, while Dr. Thomas F. Heebner, medical examiner for the P. & R. at Pottsville, was a son of George W. Heebner.
Popular Early Business Men
Other early business men were Wm. H. Carey, who conducted a general store at Pike and Coal Sts.; Henry Shissler, and later his son, John, conducted a hardware and drug store on Pike St., south of Coal; John Moody, conducted a grocery store where William E. Wilson conducted the same business; Daniel Paul, conducted a shoe store on Pike St.; Wm Bolten, conducted a bakery on Pike St.; Jos. Aregood, conducted a tinware business on Coal St., near Pike; Frank Knittle, who in 1867 opened up a general store; John Dolan, opened a grocery store at Pike and Laing Sts., and later moved to Valley St. There were also a number of smaller stores where cigars and confections were sold.
Another early settler was William H. Robinson, who for some years conducted a boot and shoe store where H.E. Paul’s marble yard is now located. On the corner of Coal and Acre Sts, Charles Smith & Sons conducted a tinsmith shop. Another early settler was Christian Fricke, who conducted a carpet weaving shop on Acre St., in a brick building at the southern end of the bridge crossing mill creek.
Among the men of the earlier days of Port Carbon, who did much for the advancement of the town was Joshua K. Sigfried. Born in Orwigsburg and early being deprived of his father by death, he was compelled to encounter the knocks of the world at a tender age. When about 20 years ago he came to Port Carbon and opened a flour and feed store, which he successfully conducted for nearly two years, when he disposed of the business and entered the business of coal shipper. This was during the early days of his married life. He first shipped coal for the firm of Bacon, Price & Co., early miners, which position he resigned to accept a position as clerk and general bookkeeper for the late Tobias H. Wintersteen, who conducted a foundry and machine shop in Port Carbon. Later again he entered the coal shipping business of Silliman & Meyers and for George H. Potts & Co., at Port Carbon and after the canal was abandoned to Schuylkill Haven, he acted as shipper at the latter point for Lewis Audenried & Co., and George H. Potts & Co.
Noted for Accuracy
Isaiah Cartwright was for many years prominently identified with the early history of Port Carbon. For some years he was employed by the Schuylkill Navigation Co., as a clerk and a shipper. Later he entered the employ of the P. & R. Co. as storehouse keeper at Palo Alto, a position he held for many years. He was one of the most accurate of men in his work, and his books and records were pointed to as models of accuracy and neatness. He served the borough well and faithfully as a school director and councilman and was an advocate of progress. He was a Civil War veteran and an active member of the Port Carbon Grand Army Post in which he always took the keenest interest. For many years he kept a daily diary of local events and it is greatly to be regretted these records were not preserved, as they would have furnished much enlightenment as to the early history of the town. As an evidence of his accuracy and methodical manner, he frequently boasted he had a record of every penny he ever earned and of every penny he spent and for what it was expended, and he could produce the books to prove his assertion. When electric lights were first introduced into Port Carbon, Mr. Cartwright was the first collector and never were bills more closely or accurately collected for any corporations.
John Crane Prominent Citizen
John Crane did much for the betterment of Port Carbon. He came here from Nova Scotia in the early days, and entered the employ of the P. & R. Railway. Co. He was made assistant foreman at the Palo Alto car shops, which position he occupied for many years. Later he was transferred to St. Clair shops where he was made foreman, holding that position up until he was retired under the age limit. Mr. Crane served both as a councilman and school director, and was a main of rather pronounced views. He was a great lover of vocal music and was for many years an active member of the choir of the Presbyterian church.
Served as P. &. R. Yardmaster
Charles D. Lurwick, another early settler in Port Carbon always took an active interest in the town’s affairs. He served for many years as High Constable and did general hauling for a livelihood. He was a man of quiet disposition, but never failed to perform his every duty. One of his sons, Jacob, served a term as postmaster in the borough, and at the time of his death was P. & R. yardmaster at St. Clair. The Lurwick family descendants in Port Carbon are many.
Interested in Educational Line
John Ramsey was for many years actively connected with the affairs of Port Carbon, in fact up to the time of his death. He was especially interested in the educational advancement of the town, and served several terms as a school director. He was employed as chief clerk at the St. Clair Coal Scales, and was an active and influential member of the Methodist Church, serving as superintendent of the Sunday school for a long time.
Cigar Makers Originated Here
Two men who occupied prominent positions in the business world spent their boyhood days in Port Carbon were Jacob and Philip Schoen. In the early 80’s Jacob opened a barber shop in Port Carbon in a building which stood on the site of the present Abdo’s Furniture Store. Taking a fancy to the tobacco business, Mr. Schoen began selling cigars in his barber shop, and later after his brother Philip learned the barber trade, the latter took charge of the shop, while Jacob went on the road as a cigar agent, in which line he became eminently successful. In 1894 Jacob began the manufacture of cigars. He soon built up a large trade and as his business increased the need of more room became a necessity. Philip in the meantime disposed of the barber business to Malachai Ryan, and also began the sale of cigars and tobacco on the road. In 1901 he established a cigar factory in Lancaster County. This he conducted for a year, when the two brothers consolidated their factories and began business on South Centre St. Pottsville. This partnership lasted until 1906, when Philip retired to enter the real estate business, Jacob continuing the factory. Both have been successful in their business ventures. They are sons of the late Adam Schoen, who for may years lived in Port Carbon and acted as gardener for several families. Jacob also owned real estate in Port Carbon.
Held Several Public Offices
The late John W. Slattery was another Port Carbon resident who did much for the borough. In his early days he followed boating on the Schuylkill canal, but quit the canal to become a coal dealer and general contractor. He made a specialty of taking contracts for the erection of stone walls and building foundation, and some of the finest and most substantial mason work to be found in this section was erected under his supervision notably the high retaining wall at St. Stephen’s church, Port Carbon. Mr. Slattery served Port Carbon in a number of capacities, namely as Councilman, Chief Burgess and Health Officer. When Port Carbon council in the late 90’s determined to straighten and clean Mill Creek between Coal and Pottsville Streets, Mr. Slattery was selected to superintend the work. Upon his death his son, John R. succeeded to the father’s business.
Conducted Boating Business
The late Wm. H. Carey was also active in the building of Port Carbon. He was engaged in boating, which he relinquished to enter the general store business at the corner of Pike and Coal streets, which he conducted until the time of his death. Mr. Carey served as a councilman and always endorsed every progressive move.
Stone Mason For Navigation Co.
Two brothers, Daniel and Jacob Hoehn, long deceased, were early settlers in Port Carbon. The former lived on Pike St., and the latter on Market Street. Daniel was a carpenter and for many years worked for the Schuylkill Navigation Co., most of his work being done about the coal wharves in Port Carbon and down the canal. Jacob was a stone mason, and also did much work for the Navigation Co., in the way of erecting piers and retaining walls along the coal docks.
Almshouse Keeper for Term
Brittman Culver was another carpenter and an early settler in Port Carbon. He aided in the erection of many dwellings in the borough and for a time worked for the P. & R. Railway Co. and one of his sons, James, served a term as postmaster at Port Carbon. He also held a position as keeper at the County almshouse for a time. Another son, George, held a position as paster and folder at Harrisburg during a session of the Legislature. Later he removed to Reading, where for a time he was engaged in the hotel business.
Carpenters of Early Days
John Runkle was another early settler who also followed carpentering and aided in erecting many homes in Port Carbon. He was a veteran of the Civil War who fought with the famous Schoolteacher’s Regiment at Gettysburg, and a member of the local Grand Army Post. His death occurred in July of 1913, just a few weeks after he attended the 50th Anniversary Civil War encampment at Gettysburg. His two sons, Charles and George resided in Port Carbon. The former a contractor and builder, while the latter embarked in the grocery business having bought the stand conducted by William Bassler, on Coal St. The elder Mr. Runkle always was active in borough affairs, as were his sons, Charles having served as a school director and councilman, while George served for a number of years as secretary of the Board of Health.
Lindley Rossiter, was another carpenter and early settler in Port Carbon. He was a man of very quiet disposition but always took an active interest in the town, and while frequently urged to accept borough office he invariably declined. His home was situated on First St.
Active Woman Druggist
In naming those who became well known in Port Carbon many residents would declare the list incomplete unless the name of one woman was mentioned. While she never held public office she nevertheless was by many regarded as a benefactress in the community. That was the late Miss M. Lillie Lawrence, familiarly known to all as “Lilly.” For many years she was drug clerk in Dr. Brown’s drug store on Coal St. She was the first woman druggist in Pennsylvania and the first woman to be granted a druggist State certificate when the new law became operative. Her father, Washington H. Lawrence, was a druggist, and employed by Dr. Brown. When Lillie was 12 years old, she became her father’s companion at the drug store, took deep interest in the compounding of medicines and drugs, and became acquainted with the medical terms used and with drugs. As age brought feebleness upon her father, she gradually assumed his duties and in time became the clerk, a position she held up to the time of her death about 1897. Daily, in all kinds of weather, she made the trip from her home to the store and remained until closing time at night. Everyone in the town knew her, even the children for she had a kind and encouraging word for all. Everyone had the utmost confidence in her ability, and may were the persons who called upon her and begged her to prescribe for some ailment, a request she invariably declined to accede to unless a physician’s prescription was presented. She was most faithful in her duties and it is said took but one vacation in all her years as a drug clerk. Her death was mourned by many , for her acquaintances extended to every hamlet and town in the Schuylkill Valley.
A Prominent Figure
Uriah Gane was a prominent figure in Port Carbon during the Civil War. He was one of the town’s early settlers and did much towards its progress. For a number of ears he was engaged in the brick making business at Mill Creek, but retired when Simpson & Gane conducted the business. The co-partnership lasted but a short time, when the elder Mr. Gane bought out Mr. Simpson and with his son, under the firm name of Gane & Son conducted the business for 12 years, when the yards were abandoned. Mr. Gane was also engaged in the boot, shoe and cap business for a long time on Coal St. and later at the corner of Pike and Coal Streets for forty years. At that spot he erected a large three story brick building, the third floor being a hall or lodge room, the first of its kind in the town. This building was destroyed by fire on April 21, 1886. The fire was supposed to have been of incendiary origin as a tramp who had applied at the Gane home for supper having been refused, threatened to get even, and after the fire started a small can half filled with coal oil was found near the building.
Served as Constable
Previous to the Civil War, Mr. Gane was elected to the office of constable much against his will. He, however, accepted the position. While holding this office Mr. Gane had a somewhat exciting experience with a then noted character name Pat Hester, having quite a reputation as a fighter. He worked at a small colliery up the Schuylkill Valley near Windy Harbor. Becoming dissatisfied at the pay, Hester, it seems determined the colliery should be closed down. One morning he stationed himself at the boiler house at the mine and being armed refused to permit the firemen to get up steam. This he kept up for several days, the colliery in the meantime, of course being idle.
Finally the owners of the colliery, Pottsville residents, swore out a warrant before Squire Morgan Reed, of that town, for Hester’s arrest on the charge of obstructing work at the mines. Knowing the man’s reputation as a fighter not a constable in Pottsville could be induced to serve the warrant. Squire Reed sent for Mr. Gane and requested him to serve the warrant. As the warrant had been issued outside of his bailiwick, Gane at first declined to have anything to do with the case. After much persuasion on the part of Squire Reed and the owners of the colliery, and being offered $150 if he made the arrest Mr. Gane undertook the task. Accompanied by the late Brittman Culver, Mr. Gane visited the colliery. He met Hester seated on a log near the boiler house and told him he was under arrest, and that any attempt at resistance or escape would result seriously. Hester, a powerfully built man, arose, and after a few words, made a break up the path into the forest on the mountainside. Gane followed, and pulling his revolver fired three shots after the fleeing man, but not with the intention of hitting him. At the third shot, Hester fell. Gane soon reached his side when the fallen man declared he had been shot. An examination disclosed no wounds, although Hester was completely cowed and willingly consented to accompany the constable, and two hours later was delivered to Squire Reed.
Appointed Provost Marshal
During the Civil War, Charlemagne Tower was named as Provost Marshal for Eastern Pennsylvania. He immediately tendered Mr. Gane the position of Deputy Provost Marshal for Schuylkill county. The latter was at that time postmaster of Port Carbon, and knowing it would be unlawful for him to hold two Federal positions at the same time, Mr. Gane declined the deputy-ship. Mr. Tower, however was insistent, and going to Washington he conferred with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, with the result that it was agreed to permit Mr. Gane to serve in the two capacities which he did for two years.
During his incumbency in the office of Deputy Provost Marshal, Mr. Gane had several novel experiences. One occasion while retuning home from church on a Sunday morning he noticed a stranger of unprepossessing appearance sitting along the street near the corner of Pike and Coal Streets. Suspecting the man had no good intentions Mr. Gane arrested him on suspicion of being a rebel spy. Handcuffing the man, he was searched and a loaded revolved and a large knife found upon his person. He was taken to the Provost Marshal’s office at Pottsville where a further search disclosed wrapped about the man’s body a number of maps and drawings of buildings, collieries and highways of Schuylkill county, in the lot being a drawing of Mr. Gane’s house. These it was at the time though, had been prepared for General Lee, who had he been successful at Gettysburg, had intended a raid through this section and destroy the collieries, thus shutting off the coal supply in the North. The man arrested was sent to Philadelphia for trial. Uriah Gane died on May 5, 1890, having been stricken while making a speech before the Borough Council, of which he was a member at the time.
Thomas Beddall Family
Thomas Beddall emigrated to the United States in the 1837 from Staffordshire England with his wife the former Maria Shakespeare a distant relative of the noted William Shakepeare. Beddall immediately involved himself in the developing coal mining industry. Operating his earliest mines near Belmont and Eagle Ridge near present day Cumbola, Beddall saw some early successes. Thomas Beddall’s labors and investments paid off over time as he delved heavily in the coal mining trade locally. He and his wife Maria had 14 children between 1837 and 1861. After moving around the different coal mining patches in the Schuylkill Valley, the family finally moved to Port Carbon where in 1869, Thomas Beddall built the family home, which is today situated at the northwest corner of Rose Avenue and Jackson Street. Many of the Beddall children became prominent citizens in Pottsville, Shenandoah, Mahanoy City and Tamaqua. Thomas Beddall died during a visit to his home in England in 1889 and was returned to Pottsville for burial in Odd Fellows Cemetery. His wife Maria survived him until June of 1896.
NOTABLE 20TH CENTURY BUSINESSES AND BUSINESS PEOPLE
H. L. Miller and Sons in conjunction with the Pottsville Bleach and Dying operation were probably the most important business operating in Port Carbon during the 20th century. The Miller Group played a vital role in the maintenance of a strong local economy, providing hundreds of jobs to local Port carbonites.
Bensinger and Sons Plumbing and Heating have operated in Port Carbon for three generations operating here since 1917. Harold Bensinger established the business in that year and since that time, his sons became directly involved in the plumbing and heating needs of Port carbon and surrounding communities. Bensinger and Sons is presently the longest operating business in Port Carbon.
Mirawal Aluminum, which had changed its name a number of times from the 1950s to the 1970s, was an important employer in the town. Mirawal Aluminum was involved in aluminum product manufacture for many years. It provided aluminum sheets and other product to customers across the United States and around the world. During the 1960s, Mirawal manufactured aluminum housing components for South American hosuing developments. In the mid 1970s, Mirawal Aluminum manufactured thousands of aluminum tiles and panels for the construction of the New York Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey.
Other prominent manufacturers and businesses in Port Carbon included Bazely Construction Company, Liberty Oil Company, Penn Equipment, John L. Conrad and Sons Lumber, Lynn Construction Company, Angela Sportswear Company and Port Carbon Machine Works.
Local Businessmen of note include the late George Bensinger who operated a Coal and Ice Hauling Business in Port Carbon. Mr. Bensinger, a World War One Veteran was also active in the Port Carbon Legion, served on the Port carbon School Board, and operated the Bingo Hall in the former Legion Home on North Street from the late 1940s until 1964. The Stevens and Templin Family operated a painting and paper hanging business during the first half of the century. This business was popular in Port Carbon and Palo Alto for much of the wall paper hanging that is found beneath the many layers of paper and paint in many of the local homes. A funeral home seems to have always been located at the northwest corner of Jackson and Coal Streets.
Originally the Carlin family and later John B. Fayhey operated the funeral home here. Today this is now the Robert Evans Funeral home. Chester Cooper established a contracting business in Port Carbon in the 1920s. The Cooper family have since then been identified with construction jobs throughout the town and in neighboring communities. Kent Cooper continues in the construction business today. Burton Cooper on Coal Street also conducted a construction business for many years. Out on Valley Street, Lewis Miller established a popular greenhouse and florist business. This business was operated by two generations of the Miller Family, but have not operated in several years.
PORT CARBON AT PLAY
Since the middle of the 19th century it seems the residents of Port Carbon have been busy developing recreational opportunities for its inhabitants. As early as the 1850s Port Carbon featured a Cricket Team, which played against other teams in Pottsville, Saint Clair and other towns. Cricket Matches in those days were played on a green located between Coal and Pine Streets adjacent to the Mill Creek. Over time Cricket became as thing of the past, while baseball emerged as the most popular sport toward the end of the 19th Century.
In addition to sporting activities, Port Carbon residents found recreation at the Tumbling Run Reservoir area just over the hill from Palo Alto. Tumbling Run became the weekend recreational spot for many in Port Carbon who could easily ride the trolley there for a fare. By the 1910s, moving pictures became a popular activity and it wasn’t until the 1910s that a man named Kerrigan opened a Moving Picture House on Pike Street in the Borough. The location of this theater has not yet been learned. In later years though, the Ritz Theater, located at the corner of Cherry and Washington, became the popular place for movies, news reels and Saturday matinees. The Ritz Theater closed its doors for good in the late 1950s.
The oldest residents of Port Carbon remember what was called Schuylkill Park or also Dream City Park. Dream City is affectionately remembered as an amusement park, which was situated just to the east of the borough limits in East Norwegian Township near Five Points. There is nothing left of what was Dream City, but the photographs and memories of the roller coaster, swimming pool, dance hall and related dance marathons speak volumes of the popularity of this local resort. Dream City was located on the north side of Route 209 in the clearing within a mile beyond the borough limits. Schuylkill Park or Dream City was a popular destination during the 1920s and 1930s.
Speaking of community parks, Salem Hill Park developed over time as a baseball field where Mirawal Playground is today. Salem Hill Park also hosted the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus during the 1940s and 1950s. Today Mirawal Playground belongs to the Borough of Port Carbon thanks to D.G. Yuengling and Sons who purchased it as part of their expansion. Mirawal has been a popular playground, which features stationary kiddie rides and baseball field. Mirawal playground is oftentimes used for community events including Block Parties, Craft Shows and Classic Car Shows.
On the other side of town, the John L. Miller Playground was developed beginning in the late 1940s as a community park. In the mid 1950s a band shell, concession stand, tennis courts and basketball courts were developed at this site. Many remember that Lloyd Kindig was very much involved in the operations of the playground. A little league baseball field and teener league baseball field were included in this playground. Originally the playground included a small wading pool in the center of the play area. During the 1960s, the Miller Playground evolved as the site for annual Memorial Day exercises and in 1964 a monument to the veterans was dedicated there. The Miller Playground was popular for outdoor dances and the showing of movies in the summer. Band concerts, community festivals and patriotic events were popular at the miller Playground for several decades. 100 years ago this area was an industrial site where the Franklin Iron Works operated. Before that the area was used for coal loading operations on the Schuylkill Canal.
Little League Baseball was organized in Port Carbon in the late 1950s and has operated ever since. Today Port Carbon Little League games are played at the Schoentown Little League Field. Biddy Basketball was also organized in Port Carbon during the 1960s and operated up until the late 1980s. Basketball games were played in the old High School Gymnasium on Cherry Street.
During the heyday of Port Carbon’s High School years, Mr. Dewitt operated a soda shop of sorts on Pine Street between Cherry and Pike. This became a popular hang out for the youth of Port Carbon, specifically during the 1930s and 40s. Music and song were a popular sound emanating from this place during the big band era. Other popular businesses for all of Port Carbon were Rothermel’s on Coal Street, where Ice Cream was popular and Peelman’s Bakery on Pike.
Popular Bars and Saloons of Port Carbon during the mid 20th Century included Cantwells, The Mayfaire Grille, Shipes Inn, Steinerts, Lewellis’s, Lurwicks Café, Fabians Café, Little Mary’s Bar, Connors Cafe and Helen’s Tavern. Today many of these have either closed or experienced a number of business name changes.
Not so long ago, Port Carbon also had a Gun Club and a popular fishing hole. The Port Carbon Gun Club was located atop the hill where Saint Casimer’s Cemetery is located on the northern edge of town. The gunclub became a popular target shooting spot during the 1920s and was used as late as the early 1970s for target shooting. Belmont Minnow Lake was developed during the 1950s just outside of town near Schoentown as a popular fishing hole. The Belmont Fishing association operated this lake for many years until the pond became polluted by the runoff from the nearby Anthracite Raceway near Schoentown. The environmental impact on this fishing hole made the area unsafe for fishing and the site was eventually abandoned in the early 1970s. Belmont remained popular as a swimming hole for many Port Carbon youth well into the 1970s.