Fire On the Mountain – The Brookside Colliery Fire of November 1869

On the evening of November 20, 1869, residents of Lykens looked eastward at an unnatural glow coming from farther up the Williams Valley.

The Harrisburg Telegraph recorded the story a week later in its weekly “Upper End Affairs” section detailing life in the Lykens-Williams Valley region.

Fire at a Colliery –

An unusually bright light was observed by citizens of this place [Lykens] between 10 and 11 o’clock on Saturday night last [November 20, 1869], in an easterly direction, which was thought to be a fire, as the night was cloudy, and it could not be attributed to any other cause. Early Sunday morning it was ascertained to have proceeded from the Brookside Colliery of Messrs. Savage, Brother, & Kaufman, about three miles east of Williamstown, where a serious conflagration had taken place. The fire caught from the boiler, destroying the engine house, slope house, and two lengths of the dump schute. We learn that the machinery was not injured, and that necessary repairs will be made to enable the firm to resume operations in about two weeks.

Our neighbors have but recently commenced to ship coal, having experienced unlooked for difficulties and bad luck in the development of their mine, and the loss and delay occasioned by this accident comes upon them at a very inopportune time.

We are glad to learn that the buildings destroyed, which were new and well constructed, were insured.

 The company Savage, Brothers, and Kaufman had bought into the anthracite mining business in 1867, leasing a tract of coal land from the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company in extreme western Schuylkill County. Their colliery and mines helped to establish the communities of Porter Township and Tower City.

Three men started the venture, each with a history in business in the Williams Valley region. Colonel Edward G. Savage worked as an engineer at the Lykens Valley Coal Company/Short Mountain Coal Company workings in Wiconisco Townhip prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. He served as an officer with the 10th Pennsylvania Infantry in 1861 and later with the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry through the rest of the war. Upon his return, he worked with his brother, James Savage, and Benjamin Kaufman to open the mines of the Savage, Brother, and Kaufman Company.

The trio later sold their holdings to Reppelier and Co. of Pottsville in 1872. Their Brookside Colliery expanded to cover the entirety of Big Lick Mountain north of Tower City by the end of the century.

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