“The Coal Trade At This Place Was Never Brisker Than At Present” – Williams Valley in 1865

In the fall of 1865, the miners and laborers in Wiconisco Township were back to work.

The American Civil War was over. Volunteer soldiers were returning to their pre-war work at the collieries of the Short Mountain and Franklin Coal Company in Bear Gap, above the twin settlements of Lykens and Wiconisco. Further up Williams Valley, the Summit Branch Railroad Company had opened its workings above a new village called “Williamstown.”

The Upper Dauphin Register, a new paper being published out of Lykens, published this report on the work at the collieries. Describing the operations, Editor G.W. Fenn presents statistics demonstrating that the collieries were producing more than ever and that the systems that had been created by the companies were ready to ramp up production.

In 1865, the “inexhaustible mines” employed thousands and the future seemed ripe for expansion and growth. Williams Valley was set to become a boom-town through the rest of the 19th Century.


The Lykens Valley Coal Trade

The coal trade at this place was never brisker than at present. The shipments by the Short Mountain Company last week exceeded any ever yet made, the total for the week being 4,141 tons and, and as none was shipped the corresponding week last year, it leaves the clear gain of 6,740 tons, including the Franklin Coal Company’s operations.

The total shipments last year between the 1st of October and [the] 5th of November amounted to but 131 tons, on account of a strike among the miners.

That small shipment will allow a fair margin to make up on the decrease in the total that has existed this year in consequence of there being no demand for coal the first four months, and shortly before any demand began the freshet broke the canals and impeded navigation, so that shipping coal this year was not fairly commenced until about the middle of July.

The totals of last week will be about the average until navigation closes, when the amount shipped will be considerably decreased, as the railway communications will then be the only outlet. There is no sign of any decrease in the trade until then, but all the indications are quite to the contrary. In the meantime, we advise our readers to lay in their winter stock.

The management of our coal operations has become so well systematized, and such able officers are at the head of the branches of the work, that these successful operations could not well be otherwise. Mr. D. A. Caldwell, the General Superintendent of the entire business is an energetic, capable officer, thoroughly conversant with his duties, and directs them with a vigor worthy of commendation.

The same may be said of Mr. John L. Foster, the Superintendent of the Lykens Valley Railroad, through whose hands the coal shipments pass, and who is untiring in his efforts to forward the coal over his road, and get the cars back to the mines for reloading. The shipping agent for the companies at Millersburg, Mr. James Richardson, is a gentleman who has had considerable experience in the responsible and arduous duties of his position. The fidelity with which he transacts his business, and the universal satisfaction he renders the companies and the dealers are his be encomiums.

A tunnel and a slope at the Franklin Coal Company (Author’s collection)

The coal contained in the long trains almost hourly arriving at Millersburg is shipped by being loaded into boats, as well as a portion by rail; each dealer desires to be the first one served, and each boatman asks to be loaded first. But Mr. Richardson pursues a straightforward course with all parties, and thereby all are served in time, and none can complain.

We congratulate the companies on having, as we believe, faithful and capable agents at their posts, and we sincerely wish and predict a long future of successful operations at their inexhaustible mines near this place.

P.S. – The above was written on Monday; on Tuesday morning the miners decided not to go to work until they held a meeting to discuss the propriety of striking for more wages. A meeting was held, and upon the promises of Mr. Caldwell that these companies would advance as per other leading companies, the men went quietly to work yesterday morning. It affords us great pleasure to announce that both parties are satisfied.

Featured Image: The mining operation at Bear Gap in Wiconisco Township, ca. 1860s.

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