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Coal Miners Memorial, Isabella Furnace Mine & Coke Works (Cokeville Mine), Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA


Coal Mines of Westmoreland Co., PA MAIN INDEX
Map of Westmoreland Co., PA
Map of H.C.Frick Coke Co. Mines
Isabella Furnace Mine &
Coke Works
(Cokeville Mine & Coke Works)
(Hotham Mine),
Cokeville
(Broad Fording), (Coketown), (Coketon),
Derry Township,
Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

A Tribute to the Coal Miners that mined the Bituminous Coal seams at Cokeville Mine, Derry Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

Raymond A. Washlaski, Historian, Editor,
Ryan P. Washlaski, Technical Editor,

Updated June 23, 2010

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Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
[A Coal Company Patch town in Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania.]
[Cokeville was a town on the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Canal, before the railroads.]
[Cokeville is a Ghost Town within the Corp. of Engineers Conemaugh River Lake area, no buildings remain.]
See: Isabella Furnace Mine & Coke Works, Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
      Cokeville Mine & Coke Works (Isabella Furnace Mine & Coke Works), Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Cokeville Heights, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
See: Cokeville Mine & Coke Works, Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Coketon Coal & Coke Company
See: Coketon Mine & Coke Works, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Coketon Mine & Coke Works (ca.1877- ? ),
Located just below the mouth of McGee Run on the Conemaugh River, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
Owners:
(ca.1877-  ?  ) Coketon Coal & Coke Company

Isabella Furnace Mine & Coke Works
(Cokeville Mine & Coke Works)
(Hotham Mine)
(ca.1872-1903),
Located across the Conemaugh River from Blairsville, Indiana Co., PA, below the mouth of McGee Run, on a spur of the Indiana Branch Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Cokeville, Derry Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
[The Mine was first called Hotham Mine and later Isabella Furnace Mine.]
Owners: (ca.1872-1900), Isabella Furnace Company, Pittsburgh, PA
             (ca.1900-1901), American Steel Hoop Company, Etna, PA
             (ca.1901-1903), H.C. Frick Coke Company, Scottdale, PA
                                       Company Store: Union Supply Company

A portion of the ca.1902 Geological Map of the Greensburg, PA 15 min Quad., showing Cokeville and the Isabella Furnace Mine and Coke Works.  The high trestle from the Isabella Mine entrance across McGee Run carried the mine cars from the mine entrance to the Isabella Coke Works, is also shown. Blairsville, Indiana County is located across the Conemaugh River from Cokeville.  The Village of Cokeville and the roads and bridges that served the village are all now in the flood control area of the Conemaugh River Lake of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On the left is portion of the USGS 15min Latrobe, PA ca.1902, quad map showing Cokeville, the Isabella Mine and Coke Works.  On the Right is the USGS 15 min, New Florence, PA ca.1922 quad map showing Blairsville Junction and the railroad connection to Cokeville.  (Maps courtesy of the US Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.)

DESCRIPTION:
The town of Cokeville is now an archaeological site located on the banks of the Conemaugh River in Derry Township, within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project forming the Conemaugh River Lake.  A bank of bee-hive coke ovens situated on a hillside above the river plain is still extant, and are the only surviving structures associated with the Isabella Furnace Mine & Coke Works.  None of the houses and other buildings that made up the town of Cokeville survive.  Traces of the old Pennsylvania Mainline Canal and towpath, along with the remains of the canal outlet lock into the river, can still be found along the Conemaugh River within the former town site of Cokeville, Derry Township, Westmoreland Co., PA.

HISTORY:
The Isabella Furnace Company of Pittsburgh purchased 900 acres of coal rights and lands in 1871, at the junction of McGee Run and the Conemaugh River, southeast of Blairsville, in Derry Township, Westmoreland County.  Construction of 200 bee-hive coke ovens, a cokeyard, and roadways was initiated in ca.1872.  The Isabella Furnace Company employed 300 men in the spring of 1872, to build the coke ovens, mine trestles and coal crusher plant.

At the Isabella Coke Plant each of the bee-hive coke ovens measured 13-1/2ft. in diameter with a height of 7ft, dimensions fairly typical of the region's bee-hive coke ovens.  The coke works produced coke for the company's Isabella Blast Furnace located in the Etna Section of Pittsburgh, PA.  Water for quenching the coke ovens was pumped from the Conemaugh River to the top of the hill above the town, where a large brick lined reservoir, holding 62,000 gallons of water, had been constructed.

Two hundred bee-hive type coke ovens were built at the Isabella Coke Plant. One hundred sixty of these ovens were placed along the side of an adjacent bend in the Conamaugh River and the other 40 were placed on the further hill across McGee Run. The coke track came across the ravine upon wooden trestles located in front of the coke ovens. A  spur track of the Pennsylvania Railroad was run along the hillside to service the Isabella Coke Works.  A wood trestle and a 36 inch gauge, narrrow-gauge railroad was constructed from the Hotham Mine entries, located east of the coke works across McGee Run.  This narrow gauge railroad delivered the coal to the coke works, a distance of about one mile.  The area in which the mines were located was called Miners Hill. The mine cars holding about 30 bushels of coal, pulled by a narrow-gauge steam locomotive called a dinkey, hauled coal from the mines to the coke works.  The coke company built a large coal crusher between Minerstown Hill and McGee Run, which was used to prepare the coal for the coke ovens.

In 1880, the Isabella Furnace Company's mine at Cokeville produced 96,000 tons of coal.   The company town of Cokeville was incorporated in 1887, providing housing for 300 miners, coke workers, and other personnel.  The company built several other structures including a school house and a post office.

A description of the Cokeville Mines and Coke Works of the Isabella Iron Company at Cokeville, Westmoreland County, appeared in "Seward's Circular" in ca.1875.  Later republished in "History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania," by George Dallas Albert, 1882.

"The extensive coke-works belonging to this company are situated near the eastern terminus of the Western Pennsylvania Railroad, in Westmoreland County, just across the Conemaugh River from Blairsville, Indiana Co., at a distance of sixty miles from the blast furnaces.  At this point over six hundred acres of coal have been purchased, and a considerable extent of surface property.  The number of ovens at present built is two hundred, which are of the ordinary 'bee-hive' type, thirteen and one-half feet in dismeter, and seven feet from hearth to crown, built of fire-brick laid in loam.  One hundred and sixty of these are disposed in a line along the side of anb ancient bank of the river, and are bound together by a stone wall three feet thick, laid in mortar, with openings for the working doors, the sides of which are protected by iron-frames.  The upper surface of this wall is on a level with the top of the ovens.  The side of the hill, which has been cut down vertically in order to prepare the foundation-bed for the ovens, forms this back wall, and all the space around and between them is filled with earth.  When the ovens are working the door is closed with a temporary brick wall.

"The yard in front of the ovens falls two feet in its width of forty feet.  Its lower side is sustained by a retaining-wall two and one-half feet thick, in front of which, and eight feet below its upper surface, run 'the broad-gauge coke tracks, two in number, which connect with the main road.

"An immense amount of excavation and embankment was required in constructing the oven-yard and the roadway for the coke tracks.  It was endeavored, as far as possible, so to locate the line that the former should furnish sufficient material for the latter, and so successfully was this accomplished that no barrow-pits were found necessary.

"Owing to the intersection of the side hill by a ravine it became necessary to separate the remaining forty ovens from the others.  They were therefore placed in a line on the farther side.  The coke track being brought across the ravine upon trestle-work,was continued along in front of the ovens, and to some distance beyond them as a 'spur' track.

"On a terrace above the ovens, at nearly the summit of the bank, is a line of trestle-work, between the consecutive bents of which coal-bins are constructed capabale of holding about one hundred and fifty bushels of coal.  The coal is brought from the mines, about a mile distant, in small mine-cars, holding about thirty bushels apiece, hauled by a light locomotive over a narrow-gauge (thirty-six inches) track, which is continued out over the trestle-work.  the cars discharge their loads at the bottom into the bins, which are provided with doors at the side opposite to the centre of the ovens, from which the coal is let into the opening at the top of the ovens as disired by means of iron chutes.  In this way all unnecessary handling of material is avoided.  The narrow-guage railroad is a model of neatness in construction, and on its way to the mines passes over a bridge and trestle-work nearly forty feet from the ground.

"Upon the top of the hill, above the ovens, is a reservoir built of brick, forty-two feet in diameter and six feet deep, capable of holding sixty-twothousand gallons, which is fille with water from the river by a large Cameron pump.  On the bottom land below the ovens a number of blocks of houses and a large store have been erected for the use of the miners and coke-burners, and already quite a respectable village is springing up in the vicinity.

"The coal seam now worked is the Pittsburgh or Connellsville, which is here over six feet thick, quite pure, and exceedingly soft and bituminous in its nature, containing thirty per cent, of colatile matter and sixty per cent of fixed carbon.  Ot is intersected by two distanct planes of cleavage at right angles to each other, technically termed the line of 'butts' and the line of the 'face.'  The bearing of the latter is here N 72 degrees W, or nearly perpendicular to the line of the upheaval of the Allegheny chain.  It has the same bearing at Connellsville, and at Innis' Station, at the mines of the Pennsylvania Gas Coal Company, bore N. 62 degrees W.

"Each oven is charged with one hundred and twenty-five bushels of coal, and yeilds one hundred and forty to one hundred and fifty bushels of coke, the operation lasting thirty-six hours, one hundred ovens, or half the number, being discharged and recharged everyday.  The coke produced is very hard and compact, and steel-gray in color, containing from teo to fifteen percent of ash, and very closely resembling the Connellsville coke, which has been proved to contain as equal amount of ash.

"About fifteen thousand bushels of coke can be produced per day.  this is brought to the furnace in cars of plate iron and of wood, holding from six hundred to six hundred and fifty bushels apiece.

"Car-loads of this coke have been sent to Omaha and Salt Lake City for use in smelting-works."
(Alberts,1882:413-414) (From the "History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania," by George Dallas Albert)

The condition of the Coketon or Isabella Mine as noted in the 1889 Pa. Report of the Inspectors of Mines, state that the Isabella Mine was kept in very good condition, the Isabella Mine was ventilated by the exhaust steam from the pumps.

In 1890, the Isabella Mine produced 165,000 tons of coal and the coke works, containing 251 bee-hive coke ovens, produced 99,000 tons of coke.  The company employed 211 miners at Cokeville, 100 of which were miners, and forty-one men worked in the coke yards.   W. C. Grist of Blairsville served as superintendent at the company's Cokeville operations through the 1890's.

From "The Indiana Democrat," Indiana, PA, March 26, 1891
Burglars at Cokeville
The residence of George Keslar at Cokeville, was entered by burglers on last Saturday night and George now mourns the loss of $65 in money besides several other articles.  Saturday was pay day at Cokeville and as Mr. Keslar keeps a boarding house, the burglers thought it would be an opportune time to relieve him of part of his income.

The house of George Hill was also entered the same night and some valuable clothing stolen.

There is no clue to the thieves, but it is certain that they were well acquainted with the houses and also know the right day of the month to make a haul.
[from "The Indiana Democrat," Indiana, PA, Thurs., March 26, 1891.]

from "The Indiana Progress," Indiana, PA, Wed., Feb. 24, 1892
Mule Driver escapes from a horrible death
Sherman Ferguson, of Cokeville, who drives mules in the mines there, met with a terrible accident on Saturday afternoon.  He was riding on the front part of one of the coal wagons when he was thrown from his seat and the wagon passed over him, dragging him a considerable distance, until it was finally thrown from the track.  Ferguson was terribly used up.  His eyes were almost driven from their sockets and his head was badly injured.  He is much better at this writing and it is thought he will recover.  His excape from a horrible death is almost miraculose, as the wagon was heavily loaded at the time if the accident.
[from "The Indiana Progress," Indiana, PA, Wed., Feb. 24, 1892.]

An obituary of an accident on the Isabella Mine trestles:
March 25, 1898.  John O'Rouke, an employee of Isabella Coke Works at Cokeville, met with a fatal accident on Friday afternoon which resulted in his death Saturday evening at 8 o'clock.  The unfortunate man was assisting in building a trestle between two lines of coke ovens and in some manner lost his balance and fell to the road below, a distance of about 20 feet, landing on his head and shoulders.  He was picked up and carried to a neighboring house and Drs. Klingensmith and Rutledge of Blairsville were summoned.  Mr. O'Rouke was conscious from the time of the accident and seemed to realize the fact that he was fatally injured. The deceased is survived by two sons and a daughter.
[from the "Blairsville Dispatch," Blairsville, PA.]

Another Accident at Cokeville Mine:
August 4, 1898.  While at work driving a Coke Company team at Cokeville yesterday morning, William Kyle fell from the wagon and received a number of severe bruises on the head and body.  Dr. J.I. Harding attended the injured man and he is getting along as well as could be expected.
[from the "Blairsville Dispatch," Blairsville, PA.]

By ca.1900 the Isabella Mine & Coke Works property has been acquired by the American Steel Hoop Company, which had a steel works located in Etna, Allegheny County.  In ca.1900 Isabella Mine & Coke Works employed 203 miners at its Cokeville Mine, and the Isabella Mine produced 150,632 tons of coal, coke production at the Isabella Coke Works for ca.1900 was 87,419 tons of coke.

In the Bureau of mines report for 1900 the following description of the Isabella Mine is given: Isabella Mine.  This mine was in fairly good condition throughout the year.  A sudden cave-in occurred on December 1st, about 1:30 P.M.  An area of about forty acres, principally old workings, was affected.  Small stumps of coal had been left in this part of the mine to support the surface and prevent a cave-in which proved to be insufficient, but no accident to human life or serious injury to property resulted therefrom.  Explosive gas was discovered in this mine during the year.

from "The Indiana Democrat," Indiana, PA, Oct. 30, 1901
Cokeville to Start
On Saturday J. M. Gallagher, superintendent of the big coke plant of the American Steel Hoop Co., at Cokeville received orders from headquarters to start the plant in full.  The ovens will be fired up at once and the outlook is that the pkant will be run to its full capacity in all departments.  No time will be lost in starting the work and by the end of another week Cokeville will be as busy as it ever was.  The chances are that the plant will now run continuously and that shutdowns will be few and far between.
[from "The Indiana Democrat," Indiana, PA, Oct. 30, 1901.]

Soon after the formation of the United States Steel Corporation in ca.1901, the American Steel Hoop Company property was acquired by the giant steel concern.  The Cokeville Mine & Coke Works came under the control of the H.C. Frick Coke Company in ca.1901, a U.S. Steel Corporation subsidiary.

In ca.1903, in it's last year of operation, the Isabella Furnace Mine was run only twenty-five days.   The mine produced a scant 14,700 tons of coal and the coke works produced 6,900 tons of coke.  The H.C. Frick Coke Company abandoned the Cokeville Mine & Coke Works in ca.1903 and its 220 employees were forced to find work elsewhere.  Private owners subsequently purchased the coal company houses in Cokeville.

Because it was located on the Conemaugh River flood plain, Cokeville was periodically inundated by flood waters.  The town of Cokeville was especially hard-hit by the 1936 flood.  The remaining houses that survived the 1936 flood were demolished or moved to Cokeville Heights during the late 1940's or early 1950's, in the course of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Conemaugh River flood control project that created the Conemaugh River Lake.  The flood control project was one of several built to protect the down river towns and the City of Pittsburgh from future floods.  

The town of Cokeville, Derry Township, Westmoreland Co., PA became another ghost town, created by the Corps of Engineers.  The only remaining town features are a few of the paved streets, a few bridges over the creeks and a few of the old coke ovens on the hillside above the former town. 

(History and description of the Cokeville Mines & Coke Works, with much additional data and pictures adapted from "Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, 1994,"  America's Industrial Heitage Project, National Park Service, Historic American Buildings Survey / Historic American Engineering Record, U.S. Department of the Interior, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

Remains of the bee-hive coke ovens at Cokeville, now in the flood control area of the Conemaugh Dam.
(Photo courtesy of Linda Butler and "Community Express" by Eleanor Thomas, 1990.)
The Walkinshaw's building and the Milliron Store in Cokeville, building was taken by the Corps of Engineers Conemaugh River flood control project and Conemaugh River Lake Dam. The General Store was erected in the 1800's by Richard Hotham and James Repine and later became a grocery store.  Some of the owners of the store were: Gertrude Wilford, Edward Jennings, Mrs. Webster and Mrs. Vernie Milliron.
(Photo courtesy of Martha Bell Kozamchak and "Community Express" by Eleanor Thomas, 1990.)
Cokeville Baseball Team
The first Cokeville Baseball Team from Cokeville was composed of the following players:  Jack Sheapered, Robert Patrick, Charlie Berg, Cok Bradley, Charlie Hotham, John Manns, Harry Cristy, Jack Brown, Saukey Wold and Thomas Brown.  Popey Fumea was manager of the ball team for many years.  Cokeville was once noted as a great Baseball town. The north side of the Cokeville school building was used as a backstop, since there were no windows or doors on that side.  This field was used until dwellings were built near the school, forcing the team to find a new ballfield.  A new ballfield was chosen between the old Whitney Glass Works and the Conemaugh River, on the back side of the Coke Ovens, near the road to Torrence.  This field was used mainly between 1890 and 1903.  When the Cokeville Mines & Coke Works closed down permanently, in ca.1903, the Cokeville Baseball Team was abandoned.

"Coal Miners Memorial, Cokeville Mine & Coke Works,
Cokeville, Derry Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania"
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