Chapter XXXI
Railroads and Coal 

The Allegheny Valley Railroad - Bonds of Jefferson County - Building of Low Grade Division - History of the Road in the County - Statement of Business for 1886 - The Rochester and Pittsburgh Road - The Toby Branch - The Reynoldsville and Falls Creek Road - Coal Production in Jefferson County - The Wallston Mines - The Clarion Mines - The Beechtree Mines - Statistics of the Coal Trade.


In 1853 Jefferson county subscribed, ninety thousand dollars to the stock of the Allegheny Valley Railroad. To enable them to pay this money the commissioners of the county issued bonds of one thousand dollars each, for stock in said road, payable in thirty years from date. These bonds read as follows:
     "Know all men by these presents, that the county of Jefferson, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is indebted, to the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company in the full and just sum of one thousand dollars, which sum of money, the said county agrees and promises to pay, thirty years after the date hereof, to the said Allegheny Valley Railroad Company, or bearer, with interest, at the rate of six per centum per annum, payable semi-annually on the first Monday of May and November, at the office of the said railroad company, in the city of New York, upon the delivery of the coupons severally, hereto annexed, for which payments of principal and interest will, and truly, be made. The faith, credit and property of said county of Jefferson are hereby solemnly pledged, under the authority of an act of Assembly of this Commonwealth, entitled a further supplement to an act entitled an act for the incorporation of the Pittsburgh, Kittanning and Warren Railroad Company, approved the fourth day of April, A.D. eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, and the supplement, which became a law on the fourteenth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and fifty- two.
     "In testimony whereof and pursuant to said act and supplement of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and resolutions of the county commissioners, in their official capacity, passed the fifteenth day of September, 1852, the commissioners of said county have signed, and the clerk of said commissioners has countersigned these presents, and have hereto caused the seal of said county to be affixed, this thirteenth day of June, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three.
                                                                                                 "THOMAS HALL,
                                                                                                 "J.S. STECK,
                                                                                   "Commissioners of Jefferson county.

"JOHN J.Y. THOMPSON, Clerk of Commissioners."

To each of these bonds was attached sixty coupons, the first one of which, attached to bond No. seven, reads as follows:

"County of Jefferson.

"Warrant No. 60 for thirty dollars. Being for six months interest on bond No. 7, payable ,on the first Monday of May, 1883, at the office of the Allegheny Railroad Company, in the city of New York.

"$30. JOHN J.Y. THOMPSON, Clerk."

The road not being finished in the time specified, the bonds were not paid, but were still held by the railroad company until 1869, when a compromise was effected between the commissioners of the county and the officers of the road, whereby the former paid to the latter the sum of forty- five thousand dollars, in lieu of the aforesaid bonds, the railroad company agreeing to run their road through the limits of the borough of Brookville.

"By an act of the Legislature the commissioners of Jefferson county were authorized to borrow any sum or sums of money not exceeding forty-five thousand dollars, and to issue the bonds of said county, with or without coupons, or other evidences of indebtedness therefor, at a rate not exceeding eight per cent. per annum; and the said bonds or other indebtedness shall be exempted from taxation, provided that the money arising from the negotiation or sale of said or other evidences of indebtedness, shall be appropriated to the payment of certain articles of settlement and compromise made by and between the county of Jefferson and the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company, dated July 29, 1869, for the redemption of ninety thousand dollars, bonds of said county issued to the said railroad company on the 24th day of June, 1853."

This act was approved February 19, 1870.

The Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad was opened eastward from Redbank to New Bethlehem, a distance of twenty-one miles, on the 6th of May, 1873. On the 23d of June trains commenced running regularly to Brookville, a distance of forty miles from Redbank, and on November 5 a further section of sixteen miles was opened, extending to Reynoldsville, fifty-six miles from Redbank. On the eastern end of the road a section of nineteen miles from Driftwood to Barr’s Station was thrown open for business on August 4, and on May 4, 1874, the entire Low Grade Division, from Redbank to Driftwood, was open through for business.

The Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad enters Jefferson county twenty-eight miles westward from its junction with the main line at the mouth of Redbank Creek, and continues in the same county for a distance of thirty-four and a half miles, leaving Jefferson county and entering Clearfield county at a point immediately westward of the station called Falls Creek.

The principal stations located in this county are Summerville, Brookville, and Reynoldsville, with fourteen other stations of minor importance.

The annexed statement shows the freight received and forwarded at stations in Jefferson county for the year ending December 31, 1886, which will give an idea of the business done by the Allegheny Valley Railroad in the county.

There was received at stations 25,302 tons of freight, and forwarded from stations 108,894 tons of freight. As the statement will show the principal articles shipped were lumber, and products of the forest, which alone amount to 89,930 tons.

William M. Phillips, esq., was the first assistant superintendent of the Low Grade Road. He resigned in 1875 to accept the appointment of supervisor of the Middle Division of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad. Mr. Phillips was succeeded by Dr. A.A. Jackson, who continued in charge of the road until April, 1887, when he resigned to accept the appointment of general superintendent of the New York and New England Railroad, with his headquarters at Boston. This is one of the most important roads in New England, and is six hundred and fifty miles in length.

Mr. Jackson had, by his faithfulness to the trust imposed upon him, and his genial, urbane manner, won the confidence of the company he represented, and the respect of the citizens of Jefferson county, and the employees of the road lost in him a faithful friend and adviser. Mr. Jackson took with him some of the oldest and ablest employees of the Low Grade, notably among whom was Mr. R.E. Everson, who had been connected with the road since its completion, in the capacity of dispatcher and passenger conductor. He is now superintendent of a division of the road under Mr. Jackson’s management.

S.B. Rumsey, formerly special agent of the Allegheny. Valley Railroad at Oil City, succeeded Dr. Jackson as assistant superintendent of the Low Grade Division. The other officers of the road in Jefferson county are G.E. Armor, dispatcher, and M.D. Dean, assistant. The offices of the Low Grade road were moved from Brookville to Reynoldsville in May, 1885. The passenger and freight agents in the county are: Patton’s Station, Walker Smith; Heathville, L.G. Guthrie; Summerville, J.H. Haven; Brookville, L.S. Hooper; Fuller, J.S. McMasters; Reynoldsville, M.D. Farrell; Falls Creek, F.E. Dixon.

The first agent at Brookville was Daniel Smith, who was succeeded by H.C. Watson in March, 1875, who was in turn succeeded by Robert V. McBain in April, 1886, and June, 1887, L.S. Hooper, the present agent took his place, Mr. McBain going with Mr. Jackson to the New York and New England road.

L.C. Smith has been baggage agent at the Brookville Station ever since the road was completed, and received and put on train, the first pieces of baggage brought or dispatched by rail in Jefferson county. He has been "slinging baggage" for fourteen years.

Other Railroads. - The next road of importance is the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburg Railroad, which was completed to Punxsutawney in 1883. It enters the county at the Snyder township line from Elk county, and runs via Du Bois, in Clearfield county, through Punxsutawney to Clayville, which is its present terminus. This is one of the most important coal roads in the country, and also does a large passenger business.

Almost paralleling the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Road is the Ridgway and Clearfield Railroad, which runs from Ridgway, in Elk county, to Falls Creek, in Clearfield county; it is also a coal road. Both the latter roads run through Brockwayville.

The Toby Branch of the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad Company extends from Dagas Mines, Elk county, to Brockwayville, Jefferson county, a distance of twelve miles. It enters Jefferson county on the eastern side at Snyder township, and runs southwestward through Crenshaw to Brockwayville, a distance of three miles.

The statement of coal, lumber, and bark shipped over this road, and received at Brockwayville during the month of March, 1887, is as follows: Coal, 39,300 tons; lumber, 825,000 feet (board measure); bark, 1,200 cords.

The Reynoldsville and Falls Creek Railroad is owned by Bell, Lewis & Yates, who are the owners and operators of the mines in the Reynoldsville coal basin. It is seven miles in length and runs from Rathmel to Falls Creek, where it connects with the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley road. About one hundred cars of coal are shipped over this road daily.

In the year 1836 an act was passed for the extension and improvement of the State by railroads and canals. The ninth section of this act, which was approved February 18, 1836, provided for the "survey of a route for canal and slackwater navigation from the head of the West Branch Division to the Allegheny River."

In accordance with this act a survey was made from the mouth of Redbank to the headwaters of the Sinnamahoning for this canal, over the same route that was adopted some thirty-five years alter by the engineers who located the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad. As a feeder for this canal the engineers advised the construction of an immense reservoir on the same spot where the big dam at the Summit Tunnel has since been built.

It is alleged that the field notes taken by the engineers making this survey show that indications of the existence of petroleum on Wolf Run were discovered by them.


The first discovery of coal in Jefferson county by some is said to have been in Pine Creek townships by a colored man named Douglass. Others claim that it was first dug out of the bed of Sandy Lick at Reynoldsville. Be this as it may, from that small beginning has sprung up the greatest industry of the age in Jefferson county, one that has taken the place of the declining lumber trade.

Almost ever since the first coal was discovered there has been enough mined in all parts of the county to supply the home demand; but it was not until the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad was finished through the county, in 1873, that an outlet was made for shipment, and then the hidden wealth began to be developed. According to the geological survey the following coal beds are found in the county:

"The Freeport upper coal bed, which, though nearly always present wherever the land is high enough to include it, is not a reliable seam for mining purposes in Jefferson county.

* "The Freeport lower coal bed not only gives its great value to the Reynoldsville basin, but is the main seam of Jefferson county, wherever the hills are high enough to include it. Although this coal bed is one of the most uncertain of the lower productive series, it is everywhere workable in Jefferson county, but not equally good in all of the county, nor is its thickness uniform. It is thickest and best in the Reynoldsville basin, in which is included the Punxsutawney region. There are also extensive fields along Soldier Run, Mix Run, at Brockwayville, and along Rattlesnake Run.

"The Kittanning upper coal bed nowhere exceeds three feet in thickness, and seldom more than half of that.

"The Kittanning middle coal bed acquires some prominence in Knox and McCalmont townships, because of its thickness there, but not because of its purity. It is at its best in Union township, supplying that region with nearly all the coal required for local use. Elsewhere in the county the bed is small.

"The Kittanning lower coal bed is a regular and persistent feature of the series throughout Jefferson county, but the seam is mainly small and poor. At no place does it yield marketable fuel. Its out-crop being conveniently near that of the ferriferous limestone, it supplies fuel for the lime-kilns wherever the latter is quarried. On this account the coal bed has received considerable attention from the farmers.

"The Clarion coal bed is the least important of the series, being often a mere dark streak in the rock.

"The Brookville coal bed is nearly always impure, but mostly of workable dimensions. Its greatest development is in Beaver township, where it is the main source of local coal supply."

Mr. S.W. Smith, of Brookville, who has given more time to the study of the geology of the county than any other of its citizens, and has made personal tests of the coals and ores found within its borders, does not agree with Mr. Platt in his estimate of the Brookville coal,. but claims that it is the best coal that he has tried for smelting iron, and that it has been pronounced in New York to be the best also for generating steam. In an article on "Pennsylvania Coal Lands,"** the writer, in giving the result of a geological trip to the Karthaus coal basin in Clearfield county, says:

"In the fall of last year (1885) a map of the country we had long before traveled over was shown us, and at the same time we were told that many coal beds had been lately opened in that part of the country. In the hills on both sides of Groves’ Run five workable beds had been proved by shafts and drifts overlying, each other in successive order. This information excited our curiosity, and to be convinced of its truth we traveled, at our own expense, to Lock Haven, and there found a person, an old acquaintance, who knew all about the country we desired to explore. He consented to go with us, and also induced the person who superintended the recently made explorations to join company. On the following morning we three landed at Keating Station, at the confluence of the Sinnemahoning with the west branch of the Susquehanna, and proceeded up the newly-made Sinnemahoning and Clearfield Railroad to Groves’ Run, four miles from Keating Station. We then traveled up this run, and at about a mile from the river and railroad found the conglomerate measures crossing the ravine into the hills on both sides of Groves’ Run. There we found the smut of an interconglomerate coal bed. This we did not consider of any commercial value, but the fact of its position at the base of the lower productive coal measures was, in a geological sense, of some importance to us. Further up the run and higher in the measures we found an exposure of fire-clay - the same as the fire-clay bed extensively worked in different parts of Clearfield and Clinton counties, for manufacturing fire-brick and other articles of value, as resisting the action of fire. On the eastern hill-side, and at a few feet above the run and overlying the fire-clay bed, we examined an excavation exposing coal bed ‘A’ of the improved nomenclature, otherwise known as ‘Brookville’ coal bed. The coal exposed measured four feet two inches in thickness. It was a rich-looking coal of the coking variety. Overlying this bed and further up the hill-side we found a second coal opening. The measured section of this bed was top coal, nine inches; then slate, one half inch; then coal, one foot eight inches; slate parting, three-quarter inches; coal, one foot two and a half inches, resting on a fire clay floor. This bed A is the equivalent with the ‘Clarion’ coal bed mined in Clarion county."

The Brookville coal is found principally in Oliver, Beaver, Clover, Rose, Pine Creek, Warsaw and Polk, where it averages from three to six feet thick. Except for local supply it has been but very little investigated; but if all that is claimed for it is true, it may yet become of value as an article of commerce; but this will hardly be until the vast beds of the Freeport lower coal is exhausted, or until a railroad is brought into the region, where the Brookville coal is principally to be found.

The principal coal mines of the county are located at Walston and Adrian in Young township, about, two miles from Punxsutawney, operated by the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company; the Reynoldsville mines, formerly operated by Powers, Brown & Co., and others, now all owned by Bell, Lewis & Yates; the Beechtree mines in Washington township, also operated by the Rochester and Pittsburgh Company, and the Clarion mines in Snyder township, operated by the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company. All these mines are working the Lower Freeport bed, which, at all these places, averages about six feet in thickness. The coal and coke produced has no superior in the markets of the country. The production, etc., of each mine, as far as we were able to get statistics, is as follows:


"The Beechtree mines of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company were opened in 1882, and the Walston mines in 1883, the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad having been completed to Walston during the summer of 1883. The Adrian mines of the company were opened for shipment in January, 1887.

"Walston mines, now (April, 1887) have 500 coke ovens running and 300 building, making 800 in all.

"Adrian mines now have 700 coke ovens building. The company will have 1,500 coke ovens running by the close of this year.

"The Jefferson county production of steam and coking coal has shown a percentage of increase that is very unusual. In 1881 the county shipped to market only a few hundred thousand tons of coal, and the region was unnoticed as a coal producer, and only locally known.

"Now, in coal production it is second to Cumberland and Clearfield, and if its present rate of increase holds will in a few years pass them.

"In the coke production the change is even more striking. A few years ago the region shipped no coke, or almost none, and that of inferior quality.

"Now the Walston coke of this company is quoted and sold alongside of Connellsville coke in all the great markets, and the reputation and use of the coke spread steadily. There is a great future for the coke trade of Jefferson county.

"All of the coal mined for market at the Beechtree mines, on the Rattlesnake Creek, at the Du Bois and the Reynoldsville mines of Bell, Lewis & Yates, and at the Adrian and Walston mines of this company, near Punxsutawney, comes from one coal bed, the Lower Freeport Coal Bed of the Geological Survey Reports. So far we have found no other coal bed in the lower productive coal measures to be of any commercial value.

"In the Du Bois and Reynoldsville region, and at the Walston and Adrian mines, the Lower Freeport coal is large and good, ranging from five to seven feet and averaging about six feet in thickness. It is of first-rate quality and lies well for mining.

"At the Walston and Adrian mines it is of superior quality for coking. Taking together the size of the coal bed, six feet in thickness, the facility of mining, the unusually good coking character at Walston and Adrian, and the nearness to market, and you have the combination necessary to make a great producing region. It will not be many years before Jefferson county coals and cokes will be as widely known as the coal of Cumberland and Clearfield, or the coke of Connellsville."

The Beechtree Mines of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company are located in Washington township, on the line of the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad. The company own about 4,000 acres of coal land, and commenced operations in January, 1882. The daily capacity of the mines is now (July, 1887) 1,000 tons of coal; but this will soon be increased to 1,500 tons, or more.

The vein operated is over four feet, and the coal is first-class steam coal. The company at Beechtree is now employing 325 men, but expect soon to increase their force to at least 400. They have their own store, offices, physicians, etc. The coal bed upon which these mines are located it is expected will not be exhausted for from twenty-five to thirty years to come. John H. Bell is the superintendent of the Beechtree mines, and B.W. Watson, auditor of the company.

The Clarion Mines are situated in Snyder township, two miles east of Brockwayville, on the Toby Branch of the New York, Lake Erie and Western Coal and Railroad Company. The mines were opened in July, 1885, on what is known as the "Sibley Farm," and are operated by the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company. The daily capacity of the mines, one year after operations were commenced, was seven hundred tons of coal, employing about three hundred miners and outside hands. During the year 1886 one hundred and eleven thousand six hundred and fifty-seven tons were shipped to end of November month; the daily capacity being one thousand tons or sixty cars. The seam of coal, which is known as the Lower Freeport, runs from three and a half to six feet thick, and the workings are somewhat irregular. The coal is a good quality of steam coal, and is mostly consumed on railroad locomotives. During the year the company has erected over fifty dwellings for employees, and a number of stores, etc., have been built by others in the vicinity, making quite a town at Crenshaw, where a year ago there was but one house.

The company owns about four thousand acres of coal land in the immediate vicinity, and another opening called "Clear Run Mines," is being made about a mile from Clarion Mines, and close on the county line of Elk. These mines at the close of the year 1887 will have about the same capacity as the Clarion Mines, and there will therefore be about one thousand to one thousand two hundred tons of coal going out daily from this territory. The miners at both these mines are paid at the rate of forty and fifty cents per ton, according to the height of the coal mined.

They use a fan for ventilation in one drift, and a furnace in the other two. They have one locomotive, and one stationary engine, and make all sizes of coal, but have no coke ovens. The officers of the company are Samuel Himes, president; D. Robertson, superintendent; Russell Wentworth, engineer; and Ira Smith, clerk. The company’s store is under the management of Stull & Co.

The company also operates the Toby Mines on the same railroad about ten miles east in Elk county. This coal to the amount of about twelve hundred tons daily, passes through Brockwayville, making the latter place quite a coal shipping point.

* Report H. 6 Geological Survey of Jefferson County. - W.G. Platt.
** W.F.B. in Philadelphia Times of October 9, 1886.
*** Prepared by Franklin Platt, president and general manager Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and iron Company.

Source:  Page(s) 404-413, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

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