Friday, April 18, 2014

Massacre At Morewood

  This was planned as an update to the Mt. Pleasant article. It made more sense to do a separate Post as there is a fair amount of material already there and some photos here. So, it deserved a separate page. This is about what happened in Morewood in the Connellsville Coke Region' in the year 1891.

            Basic Story

  The story behind the Morewood Mines and the Coke Works in the far southwestern part of East Huntingdon Township, in Westmoreland County partly depends on which side was paid the most attention to. This area is/was near to modern Route 119, on Rt. 981, which has been fleshed out partly through courtesy of the Mt. Pleasant Historical Society and a few other organizations, and some more information comes from the U. S. Geological Survey map of 1902, along with George Dallas Albert's early 1880's era,"History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania."

  This was a fairly typical coal patch town served by the Southwest branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, back around the turn of the century and eventually owned, by... you probably guessed it, H. C. Frick, through the early twentieth century. Carnegie, by then, his partner, reluctantly approved his decisions from distant Scotland, where he went to get away for a while.

   The area was experiencing various strikes from the miners and the wage agreement had ended and there were rumors that the workers were to demand a shorter work day and higher wages. Regular clashes with mine bosses wasn't something new. It had been ongoing from the 1840's and was widespread. Also, the talk was mine and coke oven operators were going to insist on a wage cut as the demand for coke, which was used to fire the iron furnaces, was reduced at this time.

  A lockout was threatened, so the workers walked out on Feb. 9th temporarily shutting down the mines. The situation was becoming desperate with the stress of the miners being evicted. This was happening in different degrees all over the region and other states, and things really deteriorated rapidly from there.

a mined out valley at Morewood

  It is really hard to picture this desolate place with the burnt looking fields in a long, quiet valley as ever being else but what you see here now. It really struck me how the Massacre and the aftermath must of played out here. Just about everything appears reclaimed from the old village and the location of most else is largely a matter of conjecture, if not, completely forgotten.

The fact is, there were over 600 beehive ovens operating and many hundreds of people lived here also in their huts and company housing. This was a mining community alright. "The one thousand tons manufactured here daily mean, therefore, sixteen hundred tons of coal mined in the same time. Rogers estimates that one pound of coal applied to the production of mechanical power through the agency of steam will exert a power equal to that obtained from ten hours' continuous labor of a strong man on a tread-mill".


             Disaster  Strikes

   Between the pricing and wage situation with the coal strike, resentment toward non-english speaking workers fresh from eastern Europe, and their unexpected violent reaction in return; added to this, along with Frick's apparent philosophy of production regardless of circumstances, it brewed ill for the miners, in more ways than one:

  The mine bosses worried over the newly formed United Mine Workers Union and were determined not to allow their influence to be brought to bear too strongly on the situation. By March 29, "a detective who had concealed himself in a house...overheard a plot being formulated by some Hungarian strikers to raid the Morewood Coke Works owned and operated by the H. C. Frick Coke Company, and to murder Robert Ramsay, one of the Frick company superindendents,(sic), and to burn his residence..." So, they were out to destroy the Main boss! This led to the general altercation, on April 3rd. "On the morning of the 30th 0f March, shortly after midnight, fully twelve hundred men made an attack upon the Morewood was made by four divisions or separate bodies  of the strikers, each headed by a band of music. Starting out from Alice, Standard, Bridgeport and Bessemer respectively, which were mining villages near Morewood." There was also said to be 150 from Donnelly and Stonerville, maybe part of the force already reported. These works, which were the objective point, lie in a valley. "The men advanced and completely surrounded them and by their shouts and imprecations struck terror to the watching body of deputy sherrifs, for they realized that their smaller force of twenty men, although heavily armed, would be able to make but a feeble resistance..." Regardless, the strikers would not be denied their revenge and commenced to destroying the company's property, attacking whatever was in their path, doors, fences, wheelbarrows, tools, you name it.

  Word had been sent to the Governor at Harrisburg  and there were also Pinkerton detectives brought to bear. This was later criticized as causing a lot of the problem, as it was felt in many quarters, they overreacted. Then the National Guard were sworn in as deputies, maybe not the wisest idea, by one Sherriff Dawson, so that it would seem the force was actually about 50 men, all totaled. Sometimes it appears that no one really knew who should be in charge or take the ultimate responsibility and that could be said for the uprising and insurrection as well.
  "Here a surprise awaited them in the shape of Deputy Sheriff McConnell and Captain Loar..."a great many of whom afterwards declared that they were forced from their beds and compelled to join their ranks...the cry arose, "To Morewood! To Morewood!"
   They first cut the telegraph wires leading out of Standard so that no warning would come ahead of them. It was stated in, 'The Riot In the Coke Region' of the New York Times, no less, that the lines were quickly repaired and the warning did get through.
  The claim was made that some of the rioters fired weapons toward the guards, almost assuring a like response. They felt their numbers would bring success. They ignored warnings to halt and continued to shout threats.
   The result was that rounds were fire into the mob and six were killed and three more were wounded, fatally so. It was claimed that upwards of 40 were wounded.

So that, though the main group was, on the 2nd of April 1891 over 400 miners from round about here that began marching, mostly from the Standard Shaft area up town and out toward Morewood, there were many more from other mines as well. In confronting the Mine leaders and Pinkerton Agents and special police, the results were in seven of them being gunned down and more wounded. This may of became an even worse scenario if it would of gotten further out of hand. They were buried in St. John's Cemetery in Scottdale. There were many mourners in the rainy crowds that day. Frick's policy was to consider it something that would have 'a good effect' ! This was a rough time for people with troubles concerning the unions and workers in different places as is well known. Many of the public in the nearby towns were actually said not to be very sympathetic to the violence began by the strikers either.

 The court decision was, "Captain Loar and the deputy sheriffs who had been indicted for shooting the rioters at Morewood, were tried at the May term", and, convicted? sentenced? warned and fined maybe? Not so, " the May term of the Westmoreland county courts and acquitted. Some fifteen of the rioters were tried at the same term of court and convicted...the deputy sheriffs were tried ...and were acquitted..and thus ended the strike in the Connellsville coke region." Captain Loar himself vanished fast from the area, knowing full well the danger he was now in. Sheriff McConnel, stated that it was Loar, not himself that gave the order to fire, no one obviously willing to take responsibility, of course.


Morewood Memorial

      The after effects were still felt and retaliation from more miners was dreaded through the small towns nearby. "The opinion of the operators seemed to be that the withdrawal of the troops would tend to prolong the strike...meanwhile the evictions were steadily going on, which led to considerable rioting, owing to the strong resistance made by the Huns and Poles who were forced to leave the companies' the troops were kept on duty at the Mt. Pleasant Armory just in case of another violent episode occurred.
  Just to give an idea of the panic that still ensued..." the water-tank at the Kyle works was blown up this morning. At Leith today a striker who was arrested, was rescued by from the deputies by a crowd of about two hundred and fifty strikers... and the statement by a disillusioned sheriff was added too, "At Leisenring today, my deputies were driven off by a mob, and the men who were at work were driven off by the strikers, and, owing to the dangerous and turbulent character of the rioters, I am unable to secure a posse adequate to the exigencies of the moment, (suppose this is one way to put it),  and I consider the power of the county exhausted." Well there you have it. Then the Governor caused General Wm. McCelland to contact the captain of Company C, 10th regiment at Uniontown to, "immediately put his command under arms and report with it to the sheriff, which was promptly done."

     By all means, the troubles were not over, and this was a condition of a larger sphere, as Morewood was a microcosm in the whole crisis that was coming about with out any easy answers.
    "At the close of the week ending April 18, there were 3,600 coke ovens operating in the district, and it was estimated that there were 2,500 men at work, but the strikers who wished to hold out were trying by every means in their power to intimidate the men who were willing to work and to keep them from working", it goes on almost relentlessly, "on the night of April 17, a number of dynamite bombs were exploded in close proximity to the Scottdale works..." Apparently they also 'feared' that they were bringing in Italian workers into the region to take their place. You might surmise that a new form of racism was growing out of this and was complicating the situation, on top of everything else.

  Well, the report does go on to admit, "The operators themselves were not blameless in this matter. Desire for cheap labor seems to  has influenced them in employing men utterly unacquainted with our laws or customs," but it goes on to say, " unfitted in many respects to be associates of the better class of citizens, and, who, in time, acquired a knowledge that led them to be breeders of discontent and trouble...this affair clearly shows that there are considerations besides cheapness of labor in employing men-the peace of society, the safety of human life and property, which cannot easily be overlooked." It does seem there were points on both sides of the issue and the 'foreign laborers' didn't feel they had much to lose under the circumstances.

    Here's a 1939 overhead photo from close to the area, of the NE division of the Dept. Of Agriculture:

courtesy of Penn Pilot

     Furthermore, from a Tribune Review article, dated Sept. 28, 2000, a Memorial was also dedicated for the deceased miners in St. John's Cemetery and at Morewood, by the Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission.

    This was preceded by the huge tragedy of another type with the Mammoth Mine explosion on Jan. 27, 1891 where 109 miners lost their lives.

     Thanks for reading through the article. I especially appreciate those of you that keep watch for updates.

 Quotes from, 'Report by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Industrial Statistics', pages, 2, 5-7, 9-12. Courtesy, Google Books.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Heady Days In Hammondville

   I expect everyone bared with me last month. The two earlier posts were actually a glimpse at the inside of things and I really wanted to give a more personal idea of what local history blogging has meant to me. Over all, it is a rewarding subject and experience, and it is nice to be able to state there are few complaints forthcoming from me. I have a love of everything 'old', and, as they use to say, IF  there be any thorns, the roses always smell better!

  Now, let's return to yesteryear with coverage of a more traditional story with this particular blog post. Here we have one of those smaller places, unless you were to live nearby, there are probably few aware of. Those people have probably heard something of it, at least. I've been fairly brief, and freely concede there may be more information that I don't have direct or definite knowledge of. This is what I can relate to you.

  A Word About Braddock's Road and Jacob's Cabin

  This rural area of few people, beyond some local Indians, would have seen a colorful and exciting sight when it was once visited, after the last encampment of the Narrow's area past Stewart's Crossing at Connellsville. On July the 1st and 2nd of 1755, the place saw the weary, and mostly Virginian army of Major General Braddock all decked out in red, white and black, with thier muskets and scabbards, as he had his famous twelve foot wide road built through the area, and, at times,  accompanying him was the soon to be, most famous American in history, one George Washington, a Colonel and by then, promoted to Major. Down Main Street of Hammonsville proper and on the left, or north, is some of the remains of the old swampy area they had to deal with. Back southward on the dam side of Fairview Church is where the Braddock Road is seen coming out of the Greenlick Dam, the "Great Swamp" area of the 1700's, and from a bit further south, up where the army camped on the hill west of Gimlet Road.

   The tale of 'Jacob's Cabin' near here is said to be questionable, since the traditional place is up past Mt. Pleasant on, or a ways past Sand Hill Road. A swamp near Tarrs and Ruffsdale was a patented tract referring to Jacob's swamp. I plan to research this more deeply in the future and Captain Jacob's relationship to the creek using his name and give a report on it. There is a remote possibility of some other landmark here that muddied the waters and made it easier to confuse the issue. On the other hand, the crossing of 'Jacob's Creek' past Hammondville and the swamp may of had much to do with it.

 A leisurely way to arrive at Hammondville is to come in from the four lane of Rt. 119, or from Rt. 31, taking Route 982 through Bullskin. You can turn on to Mudd School Road, past Jacob's Creek Park and the "New' Dam area. When you take a right at the old German influenced, Fairview Church  where a fair amount of the old residents are buried, you are then well within your target.

  I haven't said enough about the  Coal and Coke Trail, so look for it right after the main article and I hope to give you a feel for it too.

     Big Plans

   This basic area is mostly long gone now, except for maybe a few roads somewhat hidden close by, snuggled right between the Fayette/Westmoreland county line. What's interesting is the main street and a few other roads at Hammondville are still there, basically at the same place as Pershing.

   James Hammond was an old pioneer that settled in this place. It's doubtful he could of foreseen what his early tract of modest land almost became.

    But, there were very big plans for Hammondville and Pershing well over one hundred years ago. In the late 1890's, to be exact.

only quiet fields here now

       The Pershings


 The local history begins back toward when the Pershing's, of German stock, built farms from their tracts around here in Bullskin Township, Fayette County. There were a few houses near Jacob's Creek close to the Westmoreland side as well.

  Abraham Pershing, from 10-21-1796 to 7-21-1880, was from Derry Township and a member of the Mount Pleasant Rifles, with his son Daniel H, who lived from 5-25-1832 to 4-4-1903. This was said to be the very first militia formed in these border counties from 1855 to 1860. Some were listed under this regimental unit as fighting for the Confederacy. They were a very religious family, as well. According to the 'Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Vol.2', by James Hadden, pg. 578, concerning Reverend Daniel Pershing connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church, "He always travelled on horseback, with saddle bags in which he carried religious books for sale, and always carried a rifle, that being as much a part of these itinerant circuit riding ministerial heroes as their Bibles...", and he even forbid whistling on the Sabbath day!

   It is likely, though speculative, that these Pershing's were directly related to one Frederick Pershing, who was recorded as one of the first settlers of Youngstown, named for Alexander Young in 1815, earlier called Martinsburg in 1769 in Westmoreland County further northeast on Rt. 982.

  Originally owning 80 acres of land near Iron Bridge, Isaac Pershing also lived here early on, and they bought well over 300 acres, starting around 1828 further into Bullskin, which were used for farming the land. The foundation lots were drawn from their holdings for Hammondville's beginnings more along the Jacob Creek, which would likely of led to the construction of a fair size town with all that goes with it. In need of a police force, much development, stores, mills, transportation, maybe a Mayor and a council! This was, however, not to be. The village circles around the Pershing Avenue and the Main Street which will take you into Bridgeport, or angling past Federal Street, Fraser Ave., and on easterly back to Hammondville Street again toward what was South Bridgeport and then you can head back in the opposite direction past the old church to Gimlet Hill.

   Again, this is the place given with reference to Jacob's Cabin and on better footing and on less 'murky waters' of the famous Braddock's crossing of the 'Great Swamp' as the British troops then made their journey north up to Mt. Pleasant and Union Springs after a more than probable encampment and on toward a fateful encounter with the French at Braddock's Field.

Hammondville area

   The Build up and Subsequent Bust

   There was also the 'Buckeye Works' with a mine and coke ovens near here and a Pershing schoolhouse in the olden days. I believe there was also a Post Office.
   Well, there were great big plans in store and some things were more successful in Bridgeport also, in the 1890's and beyond. But, most of them, eventually, came to naught.

   What might have been? In this, we are, of course, basically speculating, but, as a Steel and Iron Mill were actually planned, lots for housing the workers were laid out and building was in the making. The Smith Company developed and had begun a glass factory near Pershing Street that became an outlet of the Bryce Brothers. What was called the Narrow Gauge Railway was to haul iron ore and the B. & O. Railroad with a station close to Bridgeport and a Post Office. You probably wouldn't notice this approaching Pershing, there isn't much left but empty fields to the east to show for all the enterprising actions. Still, people lived here and in after times made this a home for themselves, adjusting to the situation they found themselves in the best they could.

   As one travels among these neglected places and coal patch towns, most appearing as little more than just dots on a map, you can sometimes almost notice an aura of dampening gloom, creating a need to shake off the feeling a bit. This isn't, by far, the only place of this type, they dot the landscape all around not only in our local region, but Hammondville is a most obvious example. Though, it would rarely approach anything of real tragedy, it is an old story indeed. It had to be a huge disappointment and a struggle as they fell back on the danger of coal mining jobs. Our forefathers, (and foremothers), dealt with two World Wars, and many changes. Long distances on rough road surfaces, the tough everyday things we would take for granted in the ease of accomplishing; the sickness, lack of medical help and child deaths were ever present, among lesser things. All very real parts of their lives. It is little wonder how earnestly they celebrated the milestones. And here, a lonely notion of old prosperity and high spirits turned away and lost on the wind, soon forgotten like an old fancy wedding dress in a dusty basement, in so many years. They had to keep up with the hustle and bustle that was so tangible, yet so quickly gone. It is hard to grasp what it was like in isolated places of such quietude.

    You could imagine, though the dreams may have lingered, and jobs somewhat re-routed. And when the glass factory was moved into Mount Pleasant and partly connected early in proximity to where Lennox Crystal would eventually be established, ending up at Depot Street, as the prosperity bug dwindled swiftly away from here as it did more slowly in any number of the little patch towns with adjacent coke ovens and early mills, as if it had never really been. They went on with their lives, sending the kids to the little schoolhouses, going to quilting bees, canning fruit and vegetables, hunting and fishing, and going to church. Praying for a better life to come. In some ways maybe we aren't all that different, are we? The traditions were all the more respected and cherished and I feel, our modern culture is losing that too and thereby, some of it's identity.
   No, the exciting plans so carefully laid out in Hammondville, sadly, did not come to fruition.

   So this chapter of our local history has arrived at an end.
   If you find something to add to this, please feel free to comment.

     Coal and Coke Trail In Brief

   Maybe something good has a way of growing out of these things.
   Keep in mind, the Coal and Coke Trail, of 5 to 6 mile length, runs through here. A nice, intimate walkthrough, with general half mile markers to help keep your bearings. The trail is, of course, following much of the old Pennsylvania railroad system from Mt. Pleasant at Main and Center going south near the soccer field, and east a ways behind buildings, over a bridge and entering and leaving the woods; it is a bit marshy in spots. Then, bearing roughly to the southwest and through some forest areas all along the trail. Keep an eye out for occasional wildlife, (not just the locals!), as there are some. A scenic route through Bridgeport where you can see the Reservoir, and on toward the old Iron Bridge, (a small place for another upcoming post, though the iron is long gone now), this has the distinction of being at the meeting ground of the 2 counties as well as three townships, Mt. Pleasant, west, Upper Tyrone, to the north and Bullskin, toward the southeast.

  Do be aware there are a few construction sites that can be a little jarring to pass by, especially near the 119 overpass. Wending on into Scottdale, Pa heading to Kendi Park by way of Mildred Street near Dexter and Overton Way, the tour is completed. Remember, there are lots of other paths and logging roads, though watch for those pesky 'No Trespassing' signs. They are there for a reason.

   More info for the Bulskin and Woodale area can be found here, here, and here.

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