Friday, October 31, 2008

A Horse Named.."OLD BILLY" From Mahanoy City

I found this story in the Pottsville Chronicle. And being a horse and mule lover this story was great. What a great old horse!

I found this old photo in my collection of mining pic's, all it said on the back was Mahanoy City 1892..Maybe one of these guy's is Old Billy".. Although the mountains in the background look a little strange? ....Oh well!

May 18, 1880
Pottsville Evening Chronicle

Old Billy
A Horse Who Has A History

In 1864 Old Billy horse the subject of this article was condemned by the Government of the United States as being unfit for service, and was branded on the shoulder with the condemned brand. Upon his being condemned a butcher named Kroll, of Pottsville purchased him from the government for $21 and afterwards sold him to Mr. Joe Enich, of this place. (Mahanoy City) who in the fore part of 1865 sold him to Mr. Sibb, who was then in the livery business in Mahanoy city. In August, 1865 Mr. J.D. Lutz bought out Mr. Sibb and Billy was one of the horses he bought. Since that time to the present he has been in the possession of Mr. Lutz, and has proved himself a very valuable animal. At the time that Mr. Lutz got him he was beyond telling his age, and consequently he is at least over 25 years of age. If we would count only an average of 12 miles a day since Mr. Lutz has owned him he would have travelled 63,540 miles, not counting what he travelled before Mr. Lutz procured him, and, as Joseph says, many and many a day that horse has made 60 and 65 miles, and very few are the days that he has lain idle in the stable. He is as gentle as a child and as intelligent as some human beings. When Professor Gleason travelled through this district he remarked that he could take Old Billy and after one day’s rehearsal make him perform on the stage. Mr. Lutz never ties him in the sable, and if the cows get loose and Mr. Lutz wants them put out of the stable, all he has to do is go and open Old Billy’s box stall and tell him what is wanted of him, and he will chase them out and will not attempt to harm them. If Mr. Lutz wants to harness him up he gets the harness ready and calls Billy and he immediately comes and places his head in the collar. During the time that Mr. Lutz has had him he has never missed a meal from sickness or from being disabled. Above all he is trustworthy and honest and is a perfect pet with all those who congregate around the stable, knowing as well, as some of them often remark, just what they are saying about him as they do themselves. He is without doubt the oldest horse in this town, and, old as he is, there are but very few better ones in the town to day than Old Billy, and he has many friends as any person in Mahanoy City.
Mahanoy Tribune Newspaper.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Faces From the Past

Working men

Over the years I have collected hundreds of photographs and CDV's of soldiers , civilians and workingmen. I just find the faces and look of theses people fascinating.. Here are a few photos from different era's most are from the coal region.

What A ball team the top photo,
and unloading coal from a railroad car.

Friday, October 17, 2008


An 1875 List of Union Officials Of The M&L.W.B.A In July 1875 Schuylkill County Area
It is interesting to note the names of the men in these different districts. As a historian I have always tried to disprove the theory that the Irish hated the Welsh, and the Welsh hated the Irish. As evidence you can see the different names of the officers both Irish and Welsh serving together in the same offices.



Did you know the first miners union was formed in Schuylkill County? the first miners union, actually possibly the first trade union in the United States was organized in 1849 at a colliery in St. Clair, Schuylkill County, by an Englishman named John Bates, and is known as Bates’ Union. It hardly got on its feet when it went on strike for more wages. But within three weeks the strikers returned to their working places, beaten, and the union died within a few months. Others said that Bates ran off with their dues and money paid in?
In 1868 the anthracite miners once again found strength and united. The Workmen’s Benevolent Association, got its start this year in St. Clair, which gave birth to the Bates Union. John Siney became a labor leader of national reputation was its organizer. The W.B.A. as the old miners referred to it, lived a brief seven years, and they were about the fattest the mine workers saw in the whole country.
The W.B.A. grew stronger and bolder each succeeding month as it reached out to all parts of the anthracite region, and John Siney and his apostles talked of spreading the gospel among the great mass of miners in the western Bituminous fields. Meanwhile, there came from the operators insistent demands for reductions in wages which the union was able to resist in most instances until 1975.
What had worked to the advantage of the W.B.A. up to 1875 was the difficulty of the operators to unite against them owing to fierce competition for markets. Most of the strikes until then had been sectional affairs; when the miners suffered losses in a striking area they drew courage from their fellow unionists in sections where peace existed.
Parenthetically, this period marks the rise of that double headed dragon kind of corporation which brought vast coal properties under the control of a handful of railroad companies. The most powerful of these corporations was the Philadelphia Reading Coal and Iron Company incorporated in 1872. Under the Presidency of Franklin B. Gowen, the greatest industrialist in he region. The “Company” exerted a dominant influence over the destinies of thousands of its workers while its power was felt all over the region.
In 1874 Gowen induced the operators to band together in to the Anthracite Board of trade, for the purpose of stabilizing the market, by controlling the production, and tonnage quotas. In December 1874 came the ultimation of the united operators….wages must come down! It was left to the operators; it ranged from 10 to 20 percent. The Showdown had come at last.
When it began the strike of 1875 forever known as “The Long Strike”, it was region wide. But soon the miners in the northern fields accepted a cut in wages and returned to work. Though disturbed over this defection, the strikers in the southern and middle coal fields carried on. Acute suffering was being felt by the miners and their families causing some of the weaker brethren to submit to “blacklegging”. As the weeks wore on, suffering became more sharp and at one time the leaders were willing to accept a reduction provided their Union the Miners and Laborers Benevolent Association would have a voice in the settlement. Though some independents were willing to agree to this, the great corporations, determined to crush the Union and ruin it. They refused to have anything to do with the union. The strike dragged itself out to the middle of June, when the men, their families starving, submitted. They returned to work humbled in pride, and broken hearted. Gone was the union, and lacking any protection they entered upon a condition of existence that was altogether tragic. The union went to its grave because the great operators abetted by a coal and iron police recently established, and by a resort to the blacklist, willed it so. So ended the M&L.B.A.

A Meeting was called to re-organize the union
Interesting bi-laws!


Poloticians will be poloticians no matter what era.

Thursday, October 16, 2008





Few people outside of those who work in and about the mines are aware of the workings of such industries and the manner in which the employees are rewarded after spending their whole life in the work.
Briefly, it follows; First, the boy of eight or ten years of age is sent to the breaker to pick the slate and other impurities from the coal which has been brought up from the mine. From there he is promoted and becomes a door boy, working in the mine.
As he grows older and stronger he is advanced to the position and given the pay of a Driver boy, the boy who takes care of the mules and works with them throughout the whole shift. He will groom, feed and drive the mules. Next job is the laborer. There he gains the experience which secures him a place as a miners helper, and he acquires skill and strength he become, when in the height of his manhood and vigor, a full fledged miner.
If he is fortunate enough to escape the falls of rock and coal he may retain this position as a miner for a number of years. But as age creeps on and he is attacked by some of the many diseases incident to working in the mines, he makes his way for those of the younger and more vigorous following him up the ladder whose summit he has reached.
He then starts the descent, going back to become a miner’s helper, then a mine laborer, now a gain a door boy, and when old and decrepit he finally returns to the breaker where he started as a child, earning the same wages he as he received by as a boy. So is the average miner’s life. He cannot reach places of eminence and wealth. Only one in five hundred can even be given place as foreman or superintendent, and these are positions which few miners care to hold.

Written to the Pottsville Journal, January 4, 1902.

Editors note:
And you know as hard a life as these men, our ancestors had, I never heard a word of complaint, only pride in what they did. We owe so much to the miners of the anthracite region for they supplied the power and heat for the USA. For well over a century. And I am proud to say my family worked the mines.

The Black Maria...Coal Region Ambulance




An aged and esteemed resident of Mahanoy Plane, follows closely in the wake of a member of the family that met a sad end.

Mrs. Mary Joyce, the widowed mother of James Joyce, the young man who was killed the day before Christmas by a heavy timber falling on him at the Draper Colliery, died at her home in Mahanoy Plane of illness super induced by the shock at the terrible news of her son’s tragic death.
Deceased was 59 years of age and was believed and esteemed by a wide circle of friends. She had been a resident of that place for many years. A family of six children, three sons and three daughters survive. They are almost distracted with grief over their bereavement, in which they have sympathy of everyone.
Her funeral occurred on Wednesday morning and was largely attended. A Requiem High Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Rosary.

Pottsville Journal January 4, 1902

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This is really cool!

Tag Photo to enlarge........


The largest blast that ever occurred in the anthracite region took place at the Cranberry Strippings, Hazelton Pa. Owned by the Lehigh, Coal & Navigation Co.

The operator was J. Robert Bazley.

133 six inch holes were drilled to an average depth of 76 feet.

84,000 lbs of Dynamite

16, 200 lbs of Blasting Powder

13,000 feet of Cordeau Fuse.

Unfortunately I don't know what the date is. If anybody knows please email me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Ghost Hanging around the Charles Baber Cemetery

Here is another Ghost story from the miners Journal in 1865. The cemetery is Charles Baber on Market St. Pottsville.
Pottsville Miners Journal
December 2, 1865

A Ghost

The upper section of Market St. has been somewhat excited lately, by the alleged appearance between the hours of 11 and 1 o’clock at night, of a white moving figure. Persons, who say they have seen it, assert most positively that it has followed them up the road which runs by the cemetery as far as the gate. To one who saw it in a hollow just west of the forks of the road, it bowed its head repeatedly with the stately dignity and solemnity of the shade of Hamlet’s father. Another attempt to grasp it, as it appeared at his side, and it disappeared. Pistol balls and stones it is said, have no effect on whatever upon it. Anxious to verify the fact of the existence of this perambulating, perturbed spirit, we visited the spot on Tuesday night at 12 o’clock. It might have been that the moon was shinning to brightly for the ghostly visitor, or that from skepticism we were deemed unworthy to hold communion with it, at any rate it did not walk that night. In the old coach shop on Market St., recently two workmen were employed with coal oil lamps. They. (the lamps) were full of oil and the wicks well primed. One of the workers was up the other down stairs. Suddenly without apparent cause, both lamps were extinguished precisely at the same moment. This we have from the lips of one of the workmen. As this is the same distance from the spot where the ghost is seen to walk, we can only attribute this mysterious cocushop business to the fact that there must be a nest of ghosts up Market Street. With interests, we await further developments in this grave matter.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Schuylkill County's Last Duel?
Actually not this sofisticated

Pennsylvania’s last duel fought
Schuylkill County.

The last duel fought in the State of Pennsylvania was actually fought in Schuylkill County. Yep ! that’s the story, the last all out duel was fought or I should say shot out in an old fashioned running duel up in good old Mahanoy City on March 26, 1931.
Dueling had been forbidden in Pennsylvania since 1794, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, and loss of citizenship for seven years. An unconverted public sentiment, however, still approved of this long lost code of honor.
The story has it that on the evening of Thursday March 26, 1931 two Montenegrin mineworkers who immigrated to the region several years before and lived in an old shack, fought a duel for personal honor. Both men were hired by a rock contractor to work with the driving of gangways in the local mines.
Savo Raicevich, 42 and Risto Evo Brankovich, 48 were the duelists. The so called duel was arraigned according to the customs of their native Montenegrin hill people.
Both of the men had been born and raised together ion the same village in Montenegro, according to the story Raicevich, had returned to his native country to visit his family, and on the return made some nasty remarks defaming the virtue and character of the wife of Brankovich , who still lived in Montenegro.
Both men resided in an old shack erected by their contractor on the south side of the Mahanoy City Delano highway, below the old Primrose Colliery office on the hill which rose directly behind the cabin. The duel or shootout took place on the North Eight St, dumping grounds. The duel consisted of revolvers, while the men ran and hid behind the rocks and debris of the dumping area. In the course of this so called (duel) …..Gun Fight? they fired more than thirty shots at each other.
Both men were wounded, Raicevich’s injuries proving fatal. He died a few hours after the (Duel-Gunfight) at the Locust Mountain Hospital.
Brankovich was brought to trial on June 19, 1931, and two days later the jury returned a verdict of “Not Guilty)! On June 23, he was taken before Judge Richard Koch who fixed bail at $3,000 with the charges of “Dueling”. While sitting in jail and very depressed over his actions of killing his friend and countryman , Brankovich attempted to take his own life. He failed, but two years later following an attack of appendicitis he died.

A little side bar to this story: Me and my butty and fellow actor Tommy Symons were asked to re enact this historical program for the Mahanoy City Historical Society during their Halloween programs a couple of years ago. We had so much fun doing this program. We actually used a few of my old pistols loaded with black powder. I think we actually scared a few people when the flames and roar of the guns went off.. but it was fun.