|Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co.,
[A coal company patch town in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.]
[Located on the U.S.G.S. 7 1/2min. Quad map: Ernest, PA.]
[UTM: 17 E.655350 - N.4504500.]
[Ernest was formerly called McKee's Mills.]
See: Ernest No. 1 Mine & Coke Works, Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co., PA
Ernest No. 2 Mine, Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co., PA
Ernest No. 3 Mine, Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co., PA
Ernest No. 4 Mine, Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co., PA
Ernest No. 1 Mine & Coke Works
Ernest No. 2 Mine
Ernest No. 3 Mine
Ernest No. 4 Mine
Ernest, formerly called McKee's Mills, is located five miles north of Indiana, PA, on McKee Run. This small incorporated borough was a coal company patch town established by the Jefferson & Clearfield Coal & Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Company, in ca.1902. Although the coal mines are closed and other company vestiges removed, the miners houses erected for the coal miners and coke workers still reflect the town's basic company patch plan.
At least 156 coal company owned houses were erected in the company town of Ernest by the Hyde-Murphy Company of Ridgeway, the general contractors. These were arranged in eight streets (now five) running along the hills north of McKee Run and the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway (later the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, CSXT Railroad, and still later the Norfolk & Southern Railroad). About ca.1906 a number of coal company houses were disassembled and relocated on the railroad to the nearby new coal patch town of Fulton Run, where the Jefferson & Clearfield Coal & Iron Company opened a new mine.
Most of the houses fellow a simple plan. The two-story balloon-frame houses rest on coursed ashlar stone foundations. The shingled houses are topped with front-gable shingle roofs, and had full-length one-story porches across the front, and a smaller corner shed section at the rear. Windows are double hung with 2/2 lights. A plain brick flue penetrates the side slope of the roof near the center of the house. More than one hundred of these houses survive, however, almost all have been altered by the covering of the original clap-board siding with various materials.
Ernest, the first coal company patch town developed by the Jefferson & Clearfield Coal & Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Company, was established in ca.1902 and ca.1903 on the site of he former McKee's Mills. Adrian Iselin, chief stockholder in the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Company, purchased the coal lands in ca.1901; the first settlers, miners and workers arrived from the coal patch town of Falls Creek early in the next year.
The Jefferson & Clearfield Coal & Iron Company also erected a brick plant in Ernest, with a capacity of 30,000 bricks per day at McKee's Mills in ca.1902, and begun construction of a mine complex and accompanying coal patch town. Coal was to be mined from the Freeport Seam. The Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway, Indiana Branch, reached Creekside and the new town site of Ernest from Jefferson County in ca.1903. By May of 1903 the first coal was shipped from the new Ernest Mines. In July, 1903 the U.S. Post Office was opened, and by September of 1903 a new steel tipple at the mines was nearly finished. Construction of the Ernest Coke Works was started in 1903, and by September 274 bee-hive coke ovens were under construction. Alos that same year, the Hyde-Murphy Company of Ridgeway, PA was building 156 frame houses for the miners and coke workers and their families. By December 1903, the new coal patch town was nearly complete, and 684,000 tons of coal had been shipped, more than the entire county had produced a decade earlier. The coal company gave the town the name of Ernest, after Ernest Iselin, a new grandson of one of the major stockholders of the Rochester & Pittsburg Coal & Iron Company.
In the next several years, a total of four drift mines were opened in the Upper Freeport "E" coal seam. In ca.1904 a large mine-mouth electrical generating plant was erected, along with waterworks and repair shops. The Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway tracks were extended to Indiana Borough the same year.
|The mine wagons loaded with coal are being lifted by the chain hoist into the coal tipple at the Ernest Mines, were the coal was dumped into a hopper and then into the railroad hopper cars under the tipple, in this ca.1910 photo.|
|The coal company owned town of Ernest was provided with two churches, a park, community hall, a two-story school house, and company store, the Mahoning Supply Company.|
|The Mahoning Supply Company, the coal company store at Ernest.|
|In ca.1907, a trolley line connected the
young town of Ernest with Indiana, PA, the county seat of Indiana County,
The Ernest Coke Works were completed in ca.1907, and by ca.1909 the coke works had an annual production of 18,000 tons of coke. The coke works shut down for a while about ca.1913, but were reopened about 1915.
|The Coke Works and the railroad loading tracks at the Ernest Mines & Coke Works.|
|The five mines, Ernest No. 1 Mine, Ernest No. 2 Mine,
Ernest No. 3 Mine, Ernest No. 4 Mine, and the nearby Cummings Shaft Mine,
were electritied in ca.1916.
The coal company patch town of Ernest was rather cosmopolitan, as miners of thirteen different nationalities worked at the mines and lived in the company houses. Among the groups represented were English, Scottish, Welsh, Czech, Polish, Lithuanian, Slovanian, Russian and Italian. It ca.1914, 1,123 men and boys were employed at the four Ernest Mines, annual production was nearly 680,000 tons of coal.
(History and description of Ernest Mines, with additional material adapted from "Indiana County, Pennsylvania: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, 1993," 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.)
|A ca.1903 photo of a loaded trip leaving the Ernest No.
1 Mine portal in Ernest, PA. The town of ernest can be seen in the
background, along with the fan house and mule barn.
(Courtesy of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, RG 94: Series III, Box 10 Photographs, P-414, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Special Collections Librery, Indiana, PA.)
|A ca.1906 photo of the Ernest Mine with the town of Ernest
in the background.
(Courtesy of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, RG 94: Series III, Box 10 Photographs, P-476, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Special Collections Librery, Indiana, PA.)
|Today's old photo of the Ernest company store was taken in 1908. The photograph was submitted by Shirley Ann Brown McMillen of North Carolina. Her father was the small boy in the center of the photograph.|
Memorial, Ernest Mines
Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana County, Pennsylvania"
2 Mine Disaster of 1916,
Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana County, Pennsylvania"
Life in a Mining Town,
Ernest, Rayne Twp., Indiana Co., PA
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