Robert Ramsay

ROBERT RAMSAY. Among those whose names and deeds form part of the history of Westmoreland county none will be remembered longer or with more respect and affection than Robert Ramsey, for many years an honored citizen of Shafton, and afterward of Latrobe and of Mount Pleasant.

The grandfather of Robert Ramsay was a coal operator, owning mines near Dunfermline, Scotland, in the early clays of the Scotch coal mining industry. William Ramsay (father), a native of Scotland, was a miner, and in 1852 emigrated to the United States, but after remaining here four years returned to the land of his birth. In 1863, however, he came a second time to this country and made his home at Larimer, in this county. His wife was Elizabeth Sharp, also a native of Scotland, and they had a son Robert, mentioned hereafter. The death of Mr. Ramsay occurred April 16, 1885, and that of his widow August 13, 1889. Both are buried in the Union cemetery at Shafton.

Robert Ramsay, son of William and Elizabeth (Sharp) Ramsay, was born October 28, 1840, sixteen miles northwest of Edinburg, near Dunfermline, county of Fife, Scotland. At an early age he gave promise of engineering ability, and embraced every opportunity of fitting himself for that profession. At the age of twenty-three he and his wife came with his parents to the United States, and he worked at the machinist's trade in Pittsburg, afterward being employed in the coal mines on the Monongahela river. In 1865 he went to Shafton, where he became mining engineer for the Shafton Coal Company. His services were so satisfactory that in 1870 he was given general charge of the operations by being advanced to the position of superintendent of the company, which position he held for eleven years. He then became associated with Messrs. Andrew and Thomas M. Carnegie, also natives of Dunfermline, Scotland, by serving as superintendent and engineer at the Monastery mines and coke works of the Carnegie Company until 1883, when he moved to Mount Pleasant to be more centrally located and to take general charge of the mines of the H. C. Frick Coke Company, into which company the Carnegie Company's coal and coke properties had previously been merged. Then followed a long and close connection with Messrs. H. C. Frick and Thomas Lynch in the management of the vast Frick interests. This position he retained until 1888, when he became general consulting engineer of the entire company and superintendent of the Standard mines and coke works, at that time the largest and most complete plant of its kind in the world. He had a very original mind and a strong natural bent toward things mechanical, as is evidenced by the many new mechanical devices which he invented and introduced in and about the mines. In 1886 he built the new Standard shaft, which has held the world's record for large outputs and is considered by the best authorities the finest shaft in the country, his genius being especially manifest in the beauty and simplicity of the design. This plant has been the subject of many articles in technical and scientific journals from mining men the world over. He also engineered and superintended the erection of the Mount Pleasant water works and many other improvements made in the Connellsville coke region by the Carnegie-Frick interests. He and his wife were members of the Presbyterian church. Mr. Ramsay married, January 4, 1861, Janet. daughter of William and Margaret (White) Erskine, of Elgin colliery, near Dunfermline, and they had children: William. Erskine, Robert, Morris R.. John A.. Charles S., Andrew C.. George S., Margaret, Elizabeth, Janet and Mary Stuart. The sons, as they grew up, nave evidence of having inherited their f2ther's tastes with no small portion of his ability. The eldest son William is an engineer on the Pennsylvania railroad. Erskine is a mining and mechanical engineer, banker. coal and coke operator and iron manufacturer at Birmingham Alabama. He was also chief engineer and assistant general manager of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company at Birmingham. Alabama. some fourteen years. Robert is a mining engineer and superintendent for the H. C. Frick Coke Company at United, Pennsylvania. Morris R. is a mining engineer and coal operator at Birmingham, Alabama. John A. is a superintendent for the H. C. Frick Coke Company at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Charles S. has charge of engineering and construction work for his brother, Erskine, at Birmingham, Alabama. Andrew C. is studying mining engineering at Lehigh University. George S. has only recently finished school and is engaged in engineering work. In the spring of 1898 Mr. Ramsay sustained an attack of grip, from which he never fully recovered. In May, 1899, he set out to visit his birthplace in search of health, but before reaching there was prostrated with anemia at East Kilbride, Scotland. His death occurred August ii, 1899, his wife, his daughters, Elizabeth and Janet, and his sons, William and Erskine, being with him at the time. His remains were brought to this country and funeral services were held at his late residence in Mount Pleasant. He was buried in Union cemetery near Shafton, August 26, 1899. Mr. Ramsay was recognized as having no superior as a mining and mechanical engineer in this country. He was a man whose intellectual force, indomitable energy and blameless character have built for him a monument of respect and love in the hearts of all who knew him. It can truly be said of him that his works follow him. The mechanical and mining genius characteristic of Mr. Ramsay was shared by his three brothers. Morris Ramsay, at the time of his death, in 1892, was general manager of the Southwest Coal and Coke Company at Mount Pleasant, and had formerly been chief engineer of the entire H. C. Frick Coke Company. William S. Ramsay is superintendent for the H. C. Frick Coke Company at the Morewood mines near Mount Pleasant. George S. Ramsay is general superintendent and chief engineer of the Shawmut Coal Company at St. Marys, Elk county, Pennsylvania, he having previously held the same position for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, of Colorado. His wife with the children remaining at home now live at Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  

Source: Page(s) 203-205, History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 by Nathan Zipfel for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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