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Coal Miners Memorial Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works, Brier Hill, Redstone Twp., Fayette Co., PA

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Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works,
Brier Hill,
Redstone Twp.,
Fayette County,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

A Tribute to the Coal Miners that mined the Bituminous Coal seams of the Brier Hill Mine, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

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

Updated Oct. 13, 2009

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Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works (ca.1903-1946 ? ),
Located on Four Mile Run, on the south side of US. Rt. 40, at Brier Hill, Redstone Twp., Fayette Co., PA
[Brier Hill Coke Works contained 470 coke ovens ca.1916, and was located in the Klondike Region of the Connellsville Coke Region, Fayette Co., PA]
[In ca.1920 no coke ovens in operation are listed for the Brier Hill Mine.]

[The site of the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works was destroyed ca.2008 by new construction.]
Owners: (ca.1903-     ?   ), Brier Hill Steel Company, Brier Hill, OH
              (ca.1905-    ?   ), Brier Hill Coke Company, Uniontown, PA
              (ca.1916-    ?   ), H.C. Frick Coke Company, Scottdale, PA

              (ca.1918-    ?   ), Brier Hill Coke Company, Brier Hill, PA
              (ca.1919-    ?   ), Brier Hill Coke Company, Brier Hill, PA
              (ca.1920-    ?   ), Brier Hill Coke Company, Brier Hill, PA
              (ca.1920's-   ?  ), Buckeye Coal Company, Youngstown, OH
              (ca.1930's-1932), Buckeye Coal Company, Youngstown, OH
              (ca.1942 ? -1946 ?), L. D. Perry Company,

A portion of a ca.1935 Pennsylvania Fayette County Masontown, PA  15 min. Quad. topographical map of the Brier Hill area of Fayette County along the National Pike (PA Route 40), showing the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works, plus the settlement around the mine, as well as the Monongahela Railroad Branch line that served the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works and the other Mines & Coke Works.
(Map courtesy of the U.S.Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.)

Brier Hill Coke Works
Undated photo showing the older type of hand-drawn bee-hive coke ovens in use at the Brier Hill Coke Works, with a part of the coal patch town of Brier Hill in the background.
(Photo courtesy of the USX Resource Management Division, Uniontown, PA, & John K. Gates' book, "The Beehive Coke Years.")

DESCRIPTION:
This description was written ca.1990 for the Industrial Heritage Survey and some of the details may have changed since then.  The Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works retained a few buildings, ca.1990.  The most impressive of which are the boiler-house and power house building and the hoist-house building.

The boiler house and power-house is a tall one-story building, T-shaped, and measures approximately 100 feet x 40 feet.  Its hip roof is composed of riveted steel roof trusses, supporting a tongue-and-grove sheating and asphaltic roofing.  The grey sandstone walls feature segmental sandstone arches spanning the door and window openings.

The hoist house is similarly constructed of grey sandstone and measures 30 feet x 20 feet.

At least three other sandstone buildings with hip roofs stand near the hoist house and power house.

The mine site ca.1990 is heavily overgrown and is replete with some of the largest stands of poison ivy and sumac seen in the area.

Access to the Brier Hill Mine site is limited, it is on private property, currently being redeveloped.  The Brier Hill Coke Works, containing bee-hive coke ovens are believed to be located on the east and west side of Fourmile Run.  The coke oven battery on the east side of the stream just south of the boiler house and power house buildings.  The coke ovens are now completely buried beneath a slate dump.  On the west side of Fourmile Run most of the bee-hive coke ovens are also covered with the slate dump, however, about ten coke ovens are still visible at the southernmost extent of the coke oven battery.

Only about four coal company built patch houses are extant ca.1990, in Brier Hill, a coal company patch town which contained perhaps as many as sixty coal company houses when the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works were in operation.  One of the houses remains on the west side of Fourmile Run and, with the exception of asphaltic siding, is largely unaltered.  It is a two-story wood-frame double house with the steeply pitched gable roof, and a stone foundation.

HISTORY:

Around ca.1903 the Brier Hill Steel Company, of Brier Hill, Ohio, established the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, west of Connellsville, to supply coke for its blast furnaces at Brier Hill, Ohio.


FOUR FOREIGN MINERS DASHED TO DEATH AT BRIAR HILL SHAFT THIS MORNING.

A BUCKET IN WHICH THEY WERE DESCENDING TIPPED OVER AND THEY DROPPED 500 FEET TO THEIR DEATH.

Four foreign miners, or shaft stakers, met instant death this morning at eight o'clock at the new shaft of the Briar Hill Coal & Coke Company in the southern end of Fayette county.

They dropped 500 feet down the shaft and were crushed to a pulp. The men were in the employ of S. J. Harry, of Connellsville, who has the contract for sinking the shaft.

The men started down the shaft this morning about eight o'clock. No cage has been installed in the shaft yet, coal only being struck a short time ago. A bucket which has been in use since the shaft was first started was in operation. The men employed on the work used this in descending and coming up out of the shaft. Four of them could ride in it at once. The four foreigners got in together this morning. They gave the engineer a signal to lower them. He had scarcely started his engine when the men in the bucket made a move that tipped it over and all four of them tumbled out.

They bumped against the sides of the shaft for 500 feet and were likely dead before they struck the bottom. The bodies were simply a bleeding mass of crushed flesh and bones when they were hoisted to the top of the shaft. None of the employes at the bottom of the shaft were injured.

The accident, it is said, was the result of carelessness on the part of the men in the bucket. Coroner A. S. Hagan went to the scene of the accident this morning and is making an investigation. All of the men were young and had no families at Briar Hill.

The names of the dead men furnished this afternoon by Contractor Harry are:
Donald Capoose, unmarried and boarded at Briar Hill, aged about 25 years.
Frank Capoose, brother of Donald Capoose, single and boarded at Briar Hill.
Antonio Mezzo, Italian, single and lived at Briar Hill.
Vino Castino, aged 22, single and boarded at Briar Hill.

In a conversation by long distance telephone this afternoon, Mr. Harry, who is at Briar Hill, said to a reporter for The Courier: "The men were knocked out of the bucket by a dummy cage used to guide the bucket up and down the shaft, getting caught and flipping on them. The bucket did not drop. The men were part of the day shift just going to work to relieve the night men. Coroner HAGAN is here now investigating the accident."
(from "The Courier," Connellsville, PA, Jan. 28, 1904.)

Names of Fatalities (Italian):
Antonia Mazzo.
Dommico Capozza.
Carmino Capozza.
Constantino Bianyo.


Disaster at the Brier Hill Mine
Brownsville, Pennsylvania
Blair Hill Coal & Co
Mine Accident
February 3, 1904

CRUSHED IN A SHAFT.

Pilot Carried Cage and Inmates to Bottom of Shaft.

Four Italians met an awful death at the Blair Hill Coal and Coke Company’s works. Four miles east of Brownsville, Pa.

Antonia Mazzo, Dommico Capozza, Carmino Capozza, and Constantino Bianyo were part of the day shift in the new air shaft and were going to work at 7 a.m. They stepped into the big bucket to be lowered 640 feet, but neglected to see that the pilot, a heavy piece of wood and iron was property released. The pilot weighted 400 pounds and was built to lower with the bucket to keep it steady. The men had gone about 140 feet when the pilot, which sunk in ice, crushed down upon the men, hurling them to the bottom of the shaft and crushing them there into an unrecognizable mass. The men fell 500 feet.
(From: "The Indiana Democrat," Indiana, PA, Feb. 3, 1904.)


The Brier Hill Coke works operated as many as 470 bee-hive coke ovens at the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works location.

By ca.1912 Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works employed 532 men and boys, 130 of whom were engaged in the productin of coke.  In ca.1912 the coke works produced 288,577 tons of coke, most of which was shipped to the Brier Hill Steel Company in Ohio by rail.

The vertical shaft mine hoist system was powered by steam, supplied from its boiler house.  Drivers and horses were used underground, pulling hand-loaded mine cars and at the coke works pulling the coke oven charging larries.

The Buckeye Coal Company, Youngstown, Ohio, a subsidiary of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, succeeded Brier Hill Coal Company in the 1920's.  Under whose ownership the Brier Hill Mine was electrified.  Sometime in the 1920's the Brier Hill Coke Works were abandoned and the area became a slate dump for the mine, with the slate being deposited on top of them.  Buckeye Coal Company continued to ship much of the coal produced to the steel mills in the Cleveland area by rail.

In addition to the Brier Hill Mine, Buckeye Coal Company also operated the Buckeye Mine, on the Monongahela River at Nemacolin, Green County, PA.  About ca.1930 Buckeye Coal Company abandoned the Brier Hill Mine and it remained idle until World War II.

Around ca.1942, L. D. Perry, an engineer from Cornell University, who owned a brick works in New York, acquired the Brier Hill Mine complex and property.  Perry and his wife reopened the Brier Hill Mine, and operated it through the duration of World War II.  L. D. Perry Company employed approxmiately 300 miners at the Brier Hill Mine, working three eight hour shifts at the mine.  Mr. Perry died near the end of the war and was succeeded in the coal business by his wife.  The Brier Hill Mine was closed shortly after the war, the shaft which had reached a depth of about 700 feet, was then sealed.  Mrs. Perry directed the early mine reclamation work.  Although most of the mine buildings were still standing ca.1990, the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works site is heavily overgrown.

(History and description of Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works, adapted with additional data from "Fayette County, Pennsylvania: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, 1990,"  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.)

Below are a series of pictures taken by Luke Rice, of the new construction taking place ca.2008 at  the site of the Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works complex.  The construction company is building a test track for military trailers at the former Brier Hill Mine site.  No archaeological resource survey was done before the site was destroyed. 
Brier Hill Coke Works site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.
Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.
Brier Hill Coke Works site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.
Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.
Brier Hill Coke Works site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Coke Works site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

Brier Hill Mine site ca.2008. Photo by Luke Rice.

"Coal Miners Memorial Brier Hill Mine & Coke Works,
Brier Hill, Redstone Twp., Fayette County, Pennsylvania"

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Want to know more about the women who lived in the coal patch towns?  You need this book.  One of the few studies done on the women of the coal & coke era.
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The Women of the Coal & Coke Era of Southwestern Pennsylvania 1880-1970
Complied, written and edited by: Evelyn A. Hovanec, PhD
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