“This is a thriving little village” – Williamstown in 1871

“This is a thriving little village,” wrote a newspaper correspondent from the newly established Coal Region community of Williamstown.

This short piece originally comes from the Pottsville Miners’ Journal, but was copied in the pages of the Harrisburg Telegraph on September 15, 1871.

The story details the successes of a community on the rise and its accomplishments in the anthracite coal trade. This community had less than 100 people in 1860, but by 1871 had more than 2,500 residents. Much of this is credit due to the Summit Branch Railroad Company which opened the mines in Williamstown in 1863. Construction on the town proper begin in earnest in 1864-65.

There are lots of great detail here, and an interesting, if slightly baffling, tidbit about what may have been some terrible food being served in the town’s hotels:

A correspondent of the Miners’ Journal published at Pottsville, writes of Williamstown, this county, as follows:

This is a thriving little village of about 2,500 of a population, with every prospect of becoming one of the largest towns in Dauphin, the only drawback now visible being that the railroad connections are very poor, having no communication with the market nearer than Tower City or Lykens, each five miles distant.

This town is located on the side of a mountain, and the plan on which it is built is a very neat one, which in every way corresponds with the tastes of its inhabitants. Their dwelling houses are built after the very latest and most improved style and with the addition of pavements would make as fine an appearance as any town in the State.

They have several churches, schoolhouses, etc., some very fine hotels – two in particular – the Mansion House, kept by Mr. Coath, and the Williamstown Hotel, by Mr. Noviock. The latter is built in the style of a French cottage, and commands the entrance to the town from the Tower City side. On this road is located the residence of your townsman, Major Anthony, who holds a very responsible position under the Williamstown Coal Company.This coal company, I dare say, have the largest breaker in the State. They employ, I should judge, about 500 or 600 hands, and use a small locomotive for hauling the coal out of the tunnel. They ship from 200 to 250 cars per day.

Your old Minersville correspondent is employed at this colliery, where he holds a good position. They are driving a tunnel through the mountain with the intention of digging coal on the other side, and hauling it through this tunnel, break it in the large breaker now standing there. If they succeed (which they will) in driving this tunnel through, there is no telling of what Williamstown will become after a few years. In fact the day that the announcement will be made that the Williamstown Tunnel is completed, will be a natal day for the Williamstowners. On that day their properties will advance 25 percent in value and I doubt very much if it can be had such advancement, there will be such a rush made by the citizens of other districts.

There is a good opening for a butcher in Williamstown, I should think, for the simple reason that I drank more water during my short stay there than I did in a week at any other period of the year. I need not mention what made me so extremely thirsty, as it might cast some discredit on the hotel keepers, but it is not their fault I suppose. This is intended for some farseeing and sharp butcher. Let him make the best of it.

Featured Image: A shot of “downtown” Williamstown in the early 1870s. The photograph was taken on East Market Street. (Williamstown – My Hometown)

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