Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 54 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 54 of 193)
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resulted in failure and heavy pecuniary loss.

In 1836, F. H. Oliphant, of Fayette County, used
coke at the Fairchance Furnace in the manufacture
of iron from Blue Lump ore, and samples of the pro-
duct were sent to the Franklin Institute of Philadel-
phia; but the claim which has frequently been made
that this was the first coke iron made as a regular
product in the United States is inadmissible, as will
be seen by reference to the facts and dates given
above, coke iron of good quality having been made.



as shown, several years before Mr. Oliphant ever
claimed its first production, and even then his claim
was merely to have made a few tons.

The Great Western Iron Company built four coke-
furnaces between the years 1840 and 1844 at Brady's
Bend, Pa., and to that company belongs the credit of *
making coke iron as a regular product. Their fur-
naces were built especially for the use of coke, and
they never used any other fuel.

The credit of having been the first to make sue- '
cessful use of coke in the manufacture of iron has ,
been given in some accounts to Graff, Bennett & Co., '
of Pittsburgh, but it will be shown hereafter that they j
did not enter the field until several years after it had '
been used with success at Brady's Bend. j

The Cambria Iron Company built four coke-fur- i
naces in 1853. These furnaces were blown iu on ,
coke, and have continued to use it until the present

The coke used in the furnaces of Western Penn-
sylvania up to and after the commencement of oper-
ations by the Great Western Iron Company at
Brady's Bend was made by a process called " ground '
ricking," the coal being placed on the ground in
long or conical ricks, and then covered (except the
spaces necessary for ventilation) with earth, to smother i
and prevent it from burning up. This process, though
it answered the purpose very well, was slovenly, and I
much less rapid and economical than the present
method, and the coke produced was less uniform in

The earliest date which has been given and per-
fectly authenticated of the use of ovens for the
making of coke, is the year 1841, the facts and ac-
count of which will be given hereafter. But in this
connection it is proper to give (and it would be un-
fair and improper to omit) statements which are made
by men of unquestioned and unquestionable veracity
which indicate an earlier date. Mr. David Trimble,
living at Little Falls, on the Youghiogheny, says
that at a date which cannot be fixed nearer than that
it was not earlier than 18.30, and not later than 1836,
he helped build one or more coke-ovens at or near
the mouth of Furnace Run, and the assumption is
that the coke produced was used at the Franklin Iron-
Works, which were located there and run by F. H.
Oliphant. Mr. Trimble says the idea of building
ovens at that place was suggested by an Englishman
named John Coates, who had seen them in operation
in England. He also says that the coal for these
ovens was brought from mines above East Liberty,
that the coke made from it was used for the " let-out"
fire at the iron-works, and that the supposition then
was that these were the first coke-ovens built in Penn-
sylvania, if not in the United States. Corroborative
(to some extent at least) of this statement is that of
James Cochran ("Little Jim"), who has an indis-
tinct recollection of seeing, before the year 1840,
several coke-ovens standing on the south bank of the

Youghiogheny River, just below the mouth of Fur-
nace Run, and that coal was boated down the river to
them from Col. Hill's lands. This concurrent testi-
mony establishes beyond a doubt the fact that a few
ovens were built and put in use on the south bank of
the Youghiogheny, near the mouth of Furnace Run,
and that they were among the earliest, if not the first,
ever built for that purpose, not only in Fayette County,
but in Pennsylvania. It is true that both gentlemen
named may be mistaken in their recollection of the
date, but as their statements agree (and for other
reasons) this is hardly probable. Accepting then
the fact that there were ovens at that point at about
the time indicated, and that (as both statements
agree) the coal was brought to them from the Con-
nellsville region, some miles above, on the river, it
is diflicult to explain why the ovens were ever built
at that place, unless for the purpose of supplying the
furnace near which they were located. If the object
of their construction had been to produce coke for a
down-river market, or for any other purpose than to
be used in their immediate vicinity, they would never
have been built at the mouth of Furnace Run, but in
the coal-producing region, several miles above, on the
river. And yet it can hardly be regarded as probable
that Mr. Oliphant was the builder of those ovens, or
that the coke made in them was used by him while he
was proprietor of the Franklin Iron- Works. Those
who had conversations with him on the subject of the
use of coke in the manufacture and refining of iron
all agree that he never made claim to having used it
at the Franklin Works, but only to having made
coke iron for a brief period at the Fairchance. If he
had built those pioneer ovens at Furnace Run, and
used their product at the Franklin Iron-Works, he
would certainly have asserted the fact and claimed
the priority. It is, then, and for these reasons, most
probable that the product of those old ovens was used
by Nathaniel Gibson in his Furnace Run Works be-
fore they passed to the jiroprietorship of Mr. Oli-
phant. Whatever may be the fact (which will proba-
bly never be known with absolute certainty), the
above statements are given here, not only because the
sources from which they come are (the treachery of
man's memory as to remote events and circumstances
only excepted) perfectly and entirely reliable, but
because each seems to support and confirm the other.
They are therefore submitted without any attempt to
explain the slight discrepancies contained in them,
with regard to other matters accepted as facts.

In the year 1841, Provance McCormick and James
Campbell started the project of manufacturing coke
on the Youghiogheny, and succeeded in making some
two thousand bushels, which they boated down the
river. It is stated that the idea was suggested to them
by an Englishman who was then stopping for a time
in Connellsville, and who told them that in his native
country, coal was made into coke for the use of foun-
dries and furnaces. Such rich deposits of superior



coal as were t'ound in abundance in the vicinity of
Connellsville would soon be utilized in that way, he
said, if there were Englishmen there to do it. Camp-
bell and McCormick became interested in the story
he told, and having gained from him what informa-
tion he possessed as to the method of making coke,
they resolved to try the experiment, and if successful
in producing the article, to boat the product to Cin-
cinnati, in the expectation of selling it for the use of
the foundries in that city.

Associating with them John Taylor, who was a
stone-mason, and the owner of a farm on the Youghio-
gheny, including a coal-mine, which he operated in
a small way, they commenced operations. Taylor
constructed two ovens on his farm (near what has
been known in later years as Sedgwick Station) and
superintended the coking, the coal being taken from
his mine. Campbell and McCormick, both carpenters
by trade, built the two boats on which the coke was
to be floated down the river. Their operations were
continued durioi: the f-iil of 1841 and the succeeding
winter, and in the s]iriii,- of 1S42, a suflficient quan-
tity of coke bavin- been produced to load the two
boats, they were -iiirted down the river on a high stage
of water. :in^l iin^l. r pilotage of William Turner made
their way in -aleiy tij Cincinnati. On reaching the
city they lound that the demand was not as brisk as j
they had hoped to find it. The new fuel was unknown
there, and foundrymen regarded it with suspicion,
calling it cinders. After a time, however, the owners
of the coke succeeded in disposing of about one-half
their stock, taking in payment coffee and some other
goods,' and then, to close out, bartered the remainder '
for a patent iron grist-mill which was highly recom-
mended. Tlie mill was brought to Connellsville, and
soon after plaeed in ihe steam-flouring establishment
of StrickK-r i>v: Xickel, in New Haven, where it was
put in operation, and found to be. if not wholly, at
least so nearly worthless that it was sold for thirty
dollars, and so ended the coke oiM-rations of JlcCor-
mick and Campbell, though it need not have been so.
The part of their cargoes which had been traded in
Cincinnati for the patent mill was afterwards boated
up on the e:inal to Dayton, Ohio, and there sold to
.Ind-e 0,.].|,aii, wlio bad previon-ly been a resident
o| lavi-tic' fMonly, bnl ibeii bad a Ibundry in opera-
tion in Dayton. There lie used the coke in his estab- {
lishment, and found it so well adapted for his purpose
that he soon after came to Connellsville and pro- ,
posed to McCormick and Campbell to make more, and i
furnish him with all he needed, and at a good price;
but the result of their previous venture in the coke '
trade disinclined them to repeat the experiment.' In

1843 the ovens built by Taylor on the Youghiogheny
were rented to Mordecai, James ("Little Jim") and
Sample Cochran, who put them to use in making
twenty-four-hour coke. When they had coked about
thirteen thousand bushels, it was boated to Cincin-
nati and sold for seven cents per bushel cash to Miles
Greenwood,-' who in the mean time had become fully
informed of the value of coke as a fuel. This is said
to have been the first coke ever taken from Fayette
County and sold for money, and in this view of the
matter the Cochrans and Greenwood must be consid-
ered as the pioneers of the coke business in the Con-
nellsville region.

After this time, and before the year 1850, three or
four ovens were built and put in operation by Stewart
Strickler, the product being sold by him to the Coch-
rans, by whom it was boated down the river and sold
in Cincinnati. About 1860 thirty ovens were built
and put in operation at Sedgwick, called the Fayette
Works. Shoenberger & Co. purchased a one-third
interest in them in 1865. Forty ovens were built on
Hickman Run in 1864 by Cochran & Keister, who
transported their coke on a tramway to the Pittsburgh
and Connellsville Railroad until 1871. Some time
after the building of these works by Cochran & Kies-
ter, the Laughlin ovens were built, also the ovens at
the Jackson Works, above Sedgwick.

The Pittsburgh and Connellsville Gas-Coal and
Coke Company organized about 1860, and built forty
oveus near Connellsville. The number was increased
by John F. Dravo, who took charge in 1868. The

Cormick's c ■
was ped'ilL-ii

down the river) and Kichard Bookens bought coal of Ihomas Gregg, on
the Youghiogheny, near the site of the present Fort Hill Works, and
manufactured coke from it, first by ricking, and afterwards in two or
tliree ovens wliich they built near that place. They boated their coke
down tlie river to Cincinnati, where tliey found the same trouble that
McCormick and Campbell had experienced: no one knew the value of
coke, and no one wanted it. .\t last a foundryman agreed to try a load
of it if they would haul it to his foundry. He tried it, liked it, and
purchased the entire lot. The narrative proceeds that Col. Hill soon
afterwards built four ovens near the place where Turner and Bookens
had made their coke, and later increased the number to twelve. The
statement is given for what it is worth.

■i Miles Greenwood was born March 19, 1S07, in New .lerscy, to which
State his father (Miles Greenwood) had removed from Salem, Mass. He
was of English extr.ictiou on his father's side, and of Huguenot French
and German on his mother's. The family removed to New York in
1808, and to Cincinnati in 1817. Miles in 1S25 worked in the New Har-
mony Community, and two yeai-s later went to Pittsburgh and learned
iron-working. In 1828 he opened an iron-foundry, and later returned
to Cincinnati, working for T. i J. Bevin. After three years he com-
mence,! on his own account, employing ten hands. By 1850 he had
tliree hundred hands under him. In 1.S61 his entire establishment was
turned into a United States arsenal for the manufacture of arms and
implements of war, seven hundred men being employed. He turned
forty thousand Springfield muskets, over two hundred bronze cannon,
hundreds of caissons and gun-carriages, and also a sea-going monitor.
He constructed the Ohio Mechanics' Institute building, and to him the
Cincinnati Fire Department is indebted for its efficient organization.
For twenty years he was president of the Cincinnati Fuel Company. In
l.so9 he was chosen president of the Cincinnati and Covington Bridge
Company, and was also a director of the House of Refuge. In 18C9 lie
was appointed a director of the Cincinnati Southern Eailway. In 1832
lie married a Miss Hills. Two children of this marriage died in infancy,
and their molher also died soon after. In 1S36 he married Miss Plicebe
J. Hopson, by whom he had ten children, seven of whom are living.



Connellsville Gas-Coal Company built their ovens in ,
1866. Watt, Taylor & Co. built forty ovens just be- ;
low Watt's Station in 1869. In the coke-works above '
named were nearly all the ovens in the Connellsville
ciikr region up to 1871, the last two named being all i
that were on the Fayette Branch until 1872, when '
I'auU, Brown & Co. built one hundred ovens on
James Paull's place.

There are some facts connected with the history of
coal and coke production in Pennsylvania that are
curious as well as startling. Virginia produced coal
years before it was mined in Pennsylvania, and the '
latter State received coal from Virginia for manufac-

these figures, startling as they are, and it is only by
another process of thought that it is possible to realize
the vast amount of coke produced in the Connellsville
region. Let us suppose that the entire product of the
region for 1882 could be gathered together and loaded
on railroad cars, all joined together in one immense
train, so that there should be no break in its contin-
uity ; that this train should be put in motion on the
morning of a given day, and should move at the rate
of fourteen miles per hour (which is above the average
speed of freight trains), day and night, without a mo-
ment's stop or the least slacking of speed. A person
living upon the line of the road would see, hour after

turing gas, and even for domestic

late as the : hour and day by day, the interminable line of coke-

year 1850. Yet now, in regard to coal production,
Virginia, as compared with Pennsylvania, sinks into
utter insignificance, and Virginia, though older in
coal-mining by many years than Pennsylvania, pro-
duced no coke until within recent years, while the
making of coke in Pennsylvania dates back almost
three-fourths of a century.

It will be a matter of surprise to many, to learn the
fact that Allegheny County never had a furnace within
its limits from the time when the old Shady Side Fur-

laden cars rattling past his door in endless procession ;
night after night, through all the hours of darkness,
he would hear the ceaseless clank and thunder of the
rushing train, and each morning, on awakening from
his disturbed slumbers, he would look out as before
upon the steel-gray car-loads pursuing each other with
undiminished speed along the railway track ; and not
until after nightfall of the ninth day would he see the
signal-light marking the rear of the train, whose head
would then be more than two thousand eight hundred

nace was abandoned, in 1794, until the year 1859, when j miles away! Through all those days, each hour of

Graft', Bennett & Co. built the Clinton Furnace, which ■'••'■

was blown in on coke on the last Monday in October

of that year. The next two were the Etna, built by

Laughlin & Co. in 1861, and the Superior (two

stacks), erected a year or two later. The Soho, the

Isabella (two stacks), and the Lucy Furnaces were

built in 1872. All these furnaces were constructed

for coke, its superiority as a fuel having already been

fully demonstrated when the Clinton Furnace was

built in 1859.

The business of coke manufacture has been chiefly
built up in the last eight'years. In 1876 the number >
of ovens in operation in the Connellsville region was |
a little more than three thousand, producing nine
hundred thousand tons of coke. In 1879 the number
of ovens had increased to more than four thousand. {
For the present time (April 1, 1882) the accom-
panying map of the Connellsville coke region shows
within that territory the location of about eight thou-
sand four hundred ovens now in operation, and there
are several hundred more scattered along the out-
skirts of the region proper, but not strictly within it
and not indicated by the map and references, bring- ,
ing the whole number in operation considerably )
above nine thousand, having an aggregate capacity
of more than three hundred and fifty thousand tons
per month. This capacity will be fully worked up to,
and, in fact, exceeded in the present year, by reason
of a large number of additional ovens now in con-
templation and to be immediately constructed, making
the coke product for 1882 more than four million two
hundred thousand tons. !

The immense proportions of the coke business can
hardly be comprehended from a mere examination of

the twenty-four would have seen the passage by a
given point of more than twenty thousand tons of
coke, all produced in the Connellsville region, and
the greater part of it in Fayette County.

Though the manufacture of coke has already be-
come an industry so gigantic in its proportions, and
has grown with such remarkable rapidity from 1872
(and more especially from 1879) until the present
time, there seems to be little reason to doubt that the
same or perhaps an even greater ratio of increase will
be sustained in the future for some years, and this is
the view entertained by a majority of operators and
others whose opinions on the subject are entitled to
much weight. A principal object of manufacturing
coke from coal is to furnish a fuel free from sulphur
for use in the reduction of ores and the refining of
iron. The demand from this source must of course
increase with the increase of iron-furnaces and the
growth of iron-making. In the eastern p.trt of Penn-

rokc is used in blast-lurnacrs in rdiiiR'ctiuu witii an-
thracite, and the proportion of coke to tiiat of anthra- .
cite used in this way is being constantly augmented
in favor of the former fuel, which has also almost en-
tirely superseded charcoal for use in the manufacture
of pig iron. Large quantities of coke are sent to the
far West to be used in smelting the ores of the precious
metals, n';;ular shijiments for this purpose being made
to San I'ranci-rii and other points in the gold and
silver .States, Another and still weightier reason for
expecting a very large increase in the demand for
coke is that within the past two years H. C. Frick &
Co. have introduced machinery for crushing, screen-
ing, and sizing coke for domestic purposes in compe-



tition with anthracite coal, and that this process,
which was at first but an experiment, having already
become a successful enterprise, can hardly fail to
cause coke in this form to be extensively used as fuel
in tens of thousands of households which now know
no other than anthracite.

For coking purposes no coal has as yet been dis-
covered which is equal in all respects (and indeed it
may be reasonably claimed in any respect) to that of
the Connellsville basin. PxiiiL' a -:oft and porous coal,
which crumbles in handliiiii. it i> therefore not so well ]
adapted for economical tr:iiis|Hjrtution as the harder
gas-coal which is found west of the "barren meas-
ures," and for this reason the Connellsville coal was, |
until the development of coke production, regarded
as of little value compared with the other, though its
location, which is more remote from navigable waters,
had its effect as a partial cause of this disparaging

But when it became the object of operators to man-
ufacture their coal into coke, then the conditions were
reversed, and the hitherto neglected soft coal became
the more highly valued of the two, because of its
superior ailaiitabilily for coke-making. Its advan-
tages iivii oilici- r,,:iN in tliis manufacture are many.
While the c.i-t nt mining the gas-coal of the Pitts-
burgh bed is seventy-five to ninety cents per ton, the
softer Connellsville coal is rained at about one-third
that expense per ton. When the Connellsville coking-
coal is taken from the mine it is fit for immediate use
in the ovens, and is placed in them without any in-
termediate process of preparation, while with the gas-
coal from the Pittsburgli vein an extra expense of
about fifty cents per t<m is necessarv to crush it by
mechanical means, and to free it from sulphur as far
as practicable by washing: l))!'..!!- I'liaiiriiii; tlie ovens
with it. And finally, when thr rnkin- i- liiiished, the
" desulphurized coke" l as it is termed) prmhieed from
the gas-coal is rated in the market as inferior to coke
made from the soft coal of the Connellsville ha^in.
Therefore, while the latter offers such great advan-
tages in mining and coking, as well as in the superior
quality of its product, it is not probable that attempts
will be made to any great extent to utilize iias-enal
for coking purposes; and so long as the cdal 'le|i.isits
of this basin remain unexhausted (whieli iiiu-t he the
case for many years to come) and no new di^i-.ix "lies
are nuuh' ■.! pure euking-Cfial in other localities, it
seems a reasonable ]irediction that the Connellsville
region must continue to hold a ]>r.ietiral monopoly
of the manufacture of coke. Reiioils aie lre(iuently
circulated from time to time of new ■' lind>" of coking-
coal, represented to be e(|iial, if not superior, to that
of the ConnelKvillr lied; hut no in-iamc ha> yet been
reported (ami antlnaitieated i of any iron manufac-
turer or other .■oiiMinier who ,li.| not in his pnivha-e-
give pref.'rene.' to eoke made from the Connellsville
vein over that prodiued in any other district ; and it
is a fact that tlie coke maile in Favette County and a

comparatively small contiguous region is recognized
and acknowledged, wherever used in any part of the
United States, as superior to any other for smelting,
and for all the processes of iron-making in which
coke is used as a fuel.

In view of the great and ever-increasing magnitude
of the coke traffic of Fayette County, several of the
principal railway lines are making vigorous efforts to
secure as large a share of it as possible. The Balti-
more and Ohio and Pennsylvania Companies are as
yet in possession of a monopoly of this traffic, the
Southwest Pennsylvania division of the latter road
being, on account of its immense coke freights,
more profitable in proportion to its length than any
other part of the company's lines. A new road in the
interest of William H. Vanderbilt's lines is now being
very rapidly constructed along the south bank of the
Youghiogheny, and thence (leaving that river below
Xew Haven) through the central and southwestern
parts of this county, a principal object being to tap
the rich basin of coking-coal over which its route
passes. This, as also the extension of the Pittsburgh,
Virginia and Charleston road from the mouth of
Redstone Creek to the Southwest Pennsylvania road
a little north of Uniontown, and the Brownsville and
New Haven Railroad, soon to be built between those
boroughs, will open a new and extensive territory in
the richest part of the coking -coal region. The open-
ing of the first two named roads (which will be earlier
completed than the other) will be immediately fol-
lowed by establishment of additional coke-works
along their lines, and the erection of a very large
number of ovens, the construction of which has al-
ready been provided for and planned.

Following is a list of the several coke-works in the
Connellsville region of Fayette and Westmoreland
Counties (the greater part, however, being in Fayette),

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 54 of 193)