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History of the Iselin Mines, Iselin, Young Twp., Indiana Co., PA


Iselin; A Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Co. Town, Iselin, Young Twp., Indiana Co., PA


Coal Miners Memorial Iselin Mines, Iselin, Young Twp., Indiana Co., PA


Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway at the Iselin Mines, Iselin, Young Twp., Indiana Co., PA


Coal Mines of Indiana Co., PA MAIN INDEX
Whiskey Run
(Iselin No. 3 Mine)
Coal Company Patch Town,
Hart Town
(Iselin No. 5 Mine)
Coal Company Patch Town,

By Eileen Mountjoy,

Iselin No. 3 Mine, Whiskey Run,
Iselin No. 4 Mine, Nesbit Run,
Iselin No. 5 Mine, Hart Town,
Young Twp.,
Indiana County,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

A Tribute to the Coal Miners that mined the Bituminous Coal seams of the Iselin Mines, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

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

Updated July 17, 2010

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A portion of the USGS Elders Ridge, PA 15 min Quad Map, ca.1904, showing the location of Iselin, Nesbit Run, Harts Town, and the future site of Whiskey Run coal patch, plus the location of the Big Run Mines.  The railroad spurs up Nesbit Run and Whiskey Run were not yet in place for the Iselin No. 3 Mine, Iselin No. 4 Mine & Iselin No. 5 Mine.
(Courtesy of the United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.)


A platt Map of the West Labanon area dated 1912, showing the Rochester & Pittsburg Coal & Iron Company town of Whiskey Run and the Ridge Branch of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg Railroad serving the area mines.
(Map courtesy of John Clevenger.)

Whiskey Run
Coal Company Patch Town

By Eileen Mountjoy
Formerly a research associate for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA Local History Project financed through a grant from the Rochester & Pittsburg Coal Co.   She holds a master's degree from the IUP history department.

Her research has been primarily concerned with the story of coal minig and mining people in the Indiana County Area.  She has employed oral interview techniques in gathering her stories about coal mining.

[A version of this paper was first published under the authors former married name Eileen Mountjoy Cooper in the "Indiana Evening Gazette," Oct. 18, 1978 and online by the Special Collections Section Indiana University Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.]

Published on "The Old Miner" with the permission of Eileen Mountjoy.


Whiskey Run, Iselin No. 3 Mine
Hart Town, Iselin No. 5 Mine

Undoubtedly, the most colorful and notorious of the early Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Company towns was Whiskey Run. The mines operated at Whiskey Run, which was near West Lebanon, were actually Iselin No. 3 Mine and Iselin No. 5 Mine.  Coal patch mining towns quickly grew up around each mine opening; the main town of Whiskey Run lay at Iselin No. 3 Mine.  This patch contained about 40 miners houses.  

Across a low hill from Whiskey Run, another coal patch village was founded later at Iselin No. 5 Mine.  Locals called this extension of Whiskey Run "Hart Town" to distinguish it from the Whiskey Run Iselin No. 3 Mine.  Hart Town and Iselin No. 5 Mine were built on the site of Joseph Hart's old farm and woolen mill, an early Indiana County landmark.  During the years of World War I, when demand for coal was greatest, Whiskey Run grew quickly.  By 1931, the two sections of the Whiskey Run coal patch together contained a total of over 60 miners houses.  A doctor's office, barber shop and a company store added accoutrements of civilization to the coal patch community. The Hart Town Mine shipped its coal through a mine tunnel connection to the Whiskey Run Tipple.

Whiskey Run, situated in a little valley about 12 miles from Indiana, Pennsylvania, was known at one time as Reed, and allegelly acquired its later name during the days of prohibition.  As was the case in many communities at that time, Reed had in operation quite a thriving bootlegging business.

Perhaps the most in proportion to the town size was that during the first third of the 20th century at the obscure village of Whiskey Run in Indiana County.  Whether the town name, which came from the suitability of the water in the stream contributing greatly to one community enterprise, added to the atmosphere or not, it did create outside publicity that the town received at the time.

One day, word reached the town of Reed that government officials, commonly called "Revenuers," were on their way with lawful intents.  When local bootleggers heard this, they proceeded to dispose of their illegal whiskey brew by dumping it into the creek that ran through the town.  From that time on, Reed was known as "Whiskey Run."

At the time of its founding in 1906, the coal patch at Whiskey Run seemed little different from its parent coal patch town of Iselin, five miles away. Whether the town name, which came from the suitability of the water in the stream contributing greatly to one community enterprise, added to the atmosphere or not, it did create outside publicity that the town received at the time.  Whiskey Run was in a valley through which a stream known for its quality for whiskey making flowed.

Its violent history dates back to its 1906 inception as a coal mining town for Iselin Coal's expansion of two mines, Whiskey Run (Iselin No. 3 Mine) and Hart Town, (Iselin No. 5 Mine). Quick development brought miners and Italian immigrants to hastily erected shanties and an early housing shortage.

Over its brief history, more than 25 of its murders were unsolved, although one was belatedly cleared up in 1941.

But within a few months the town began to attract attention with its own brand of lawlessness.  In an age accustomed to small-town crimes and Saturday-night drinking bouts, this little community soon became a byword for coal town violence.

Beginning with a 1907 Indiana Evening Gazette headline reading "Two Men Fall in a Pistol Duel." Neither was killed, but feelings ran so high they had to be taken to different hospitals.

The town's sinister reputation grew as steadily as its mines.

In 1909, a quarrel after a drinking session resulted in one death, a not infrequent event. Young women were also often involved.

A typical Whiskey Run murder was reported in the Indiana Evening Gazette, February 21, 1921.

One sensational 1910 case involved a dozen "lonely men" boarding at the same house that a young married woman lived in.  A man killed in it confessed on his deathbed that he had precipitated it by "bothering her" while her husband was at work in the Mine.

A 1911 Indiana headline read that "Five Were Killed As Result of Sunday Fights."  Four were the result of a Whiskey Run quarrel over a "pretty Italian girl."   It was the only quadruple murder in county history.

Other examples of the town's violent existence were the murdering of the town's barber in his shop, and two killings as the result of an argument at a baseball game.

By 1920, revenge killings, vendettas, Black Hand action and other elements were involved.

At that time, the town of more than 30 company houses, a company store-post office and mine offices was closemouthed. Killings were often unreported because of a community code of silence. Police and authorities got very little cooperation from residents, who considered the killings appropriate punishment.

By 1926, an estimated 22 unsolved murders, supposedly at the instigation of the infamous "Black Hand Society," took place within the confines of Whiskey Run.

Walter G. Patterson, whose grandfather conducted Methodist Sunday School classes at Whiskey Run, worked the night shift at the Whiskey Run power station after his return from World War I.  Mr. Patterson writes:
"My uncle... never went to work without a revolver that he carried in a shoulder holster.  It was here that the coal miners who had grivances with the Company would sit high on a hill and with high-powered rifles shoot at the men as they entered and left their work.  When trouble started, the Pennsylvania State Police would send an officer to the town.  When the State Police offices rode his horse down the streets of the town, peace would prevail, and the officer was respected and welcomed by both workers and the owners."
In spite of all the activity of a non-mining nature which took place during the early years at Whiskey Run, the mines at the location had a daily capacity of 1,000 tons of coal.

Eventualy the Hart Town Mine connected to Whiskey Run Mine and hauled its coal through the hill to the Iselin No. 3 Mine Tipple.  Ed Batisig is about the only one left who lived in Hart Town, while the guy that lived next to the Postoffice, is the only one around from Whiskey Run.

The mines which operated under the name "Pittsburgh Gas Coal Company," also known as the "Iselin Field," were relatively short-lived operations.  The mines at Iselin No. 3 Mine at Whiskey Run and Iselin No. 5 Mine at Hart Town were closed and the works abandoned in December, 1929.  Whiskey Run gradually became a ghost town.  The small mining town made quite a mark on history with its violence and secrecy, however.  Today, not a single house remains were the town once stood, site of all the violence, and only a green and white township sign reading "Whiskey Run Road," marks the spot for passersby.

Note:  The Town site of Whiskey Run is now ca.2007-8 being stripped mined and will disappear completely as the land is reclaimed. (R.A.W.)

References:
Eileen Mountjoy Cooper

1978  Iselin Part I:  Coal Town a Home for New Americans.  published in "Indiana Evening Gazette," 29 July, 1978.
1978 Iselin Part II: Hardship Fail to Dim Spirit of Townspeople.  published in "Indiana Evening Gazette," 12 August, 1978.
1982  Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company: The First One Hundred Years.  Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company, Indiana, PA
2000 Iselin.  Published in "Coal Dust: The Early Mining Industry of Indiana County." A web based publication. Special Collections & Archives Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
Indiana Evening Gazette
1910  Indiana Evening Gazette, Newspaper, February, 1910. Indiana, PA
1916  Indiana Evening Gazette, Newspaper, February, 1916. Indiana, PA
Pennsylvania Department of Mines
1910  Annual Report of the Secretary of Mines.  Harrisburg, PA
1916  Annual Report of the Secretary of Mines.  Harrisburg, PA

Mr. George, the Taxi Driver, at Whiskey Run, Iselin No. 3 Mine, Young Twp., Indiana Co., PA
(Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Section, IUP Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.   Source Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, MG94: Series III, Box 1 Photographs.)

School House and Whiskey Run, ca.1925.
(Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Section, IUP Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.   Source Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, MG94: Series III, Box 1 Photographs.)

An old chapel was used as Reed No. 3 School house at Whiskey Run, ca.1923.
(Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Section, IUP Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.   Source Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, MG94: Series III, Box 1 Photographs.)

Miss Mary George, school teacher Whiskey Run School.
(Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Section, IUP Library, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.   Source Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company Media Collection, MG94: Series III, Box 1 Photographs.)

from the "Indiana Evening Gazette," Indiana, PA, May 1, 1912
Iselin Italian in Jail Suffers From Gun Wound
William Palmer Gave Suicide as the Cause But Later Changed His Mind
Details are Meagre

Constable Refuses Particulars

William Palmer, an Iselin Italian resident, and of an alleged bad reputation, was brought to the County Jail this (Wednesday) morning suffering from a gun-shot wound in his breast.  Dr. M. M. Davis, the jail physician was called, and after making an examination, stated that while the wound was very serious, it would not have fatal results.

Constable Harry Fulton, who brought Palmer to jail, was very reticent regarding the particulars of the affair and the exact details could not be oblained.  When the prisoner was arrested, he stated that he had shot himself, but after arriving in Indiana, declared that he had been wounded by an unknown foreigner at Nesbit Run.  At present it is impossible to learn which one of his stories is correct.

Palmer has a jail record and the records show that he served a term in the Western Penitentiary.
[from the "Indiana Evening Gazette," Indiana, PA, May 1, 1912.]

from the "Indiana Weekly Messenger," Indiana, PA, Thurs. Oct. 5, 1922
John Wiley, Assistant Mine foreman in the Whiskey Run Mines, near West Lebanon, was fatally injured by a fall of rock on Saturday morning while making a tour of inspection of the mine.  Whe he failed to retur home at the usual hour Saturday evening his wife supposed that he was working an extra shift, but when he was still missing on Sunday morning she became alarmed and a searching party found the body pinned beneath the pile of rock.  He was still conscious when found, but died within ten minutes after being rescued.  The accident occurred ahortly after he entered the mine, and due to fact that he was i a sectio of the mine where no one was working the accident was not discovered.  Held a prisoner beneath the rock he struggled in vain for hours to free himself.  He suffered agonies and although greatly exhausted was able to relate the details of the accident before passing away.  His tragic death was a great shock to that section of the county where he had resided for 12 years and was well and favorably known.  He was a member of the West Lebanon Lodge of Odd Fellows ad was the first member of the organization to die since its organization.  For 20 years he had resided in this country, having come here from Ireland, and his wife, Mildred Heard Wiley, is the only surviving family member.
[from the "Indiana Weekly Messenger," Indiana, PA, Thurs, Oct. 5, 1922.]

For Iselin, not all Iselin mines were equal.  Iselin No. 1 and No. 2 were the main Iselin Mines located below town.

Over the hill from Iselin was "Big Run" which had mines Fritz No. 1 and No. 2. These mines hauled through the Iselin mines to load there coal at the main Iselin tipple.  I think Iselin No. 4 Mine was Nesbit Run - this is right over the hill from the Iselin cemetary - this was a smaller operation with about only 10 houses.

I think Iselin No. 3 Mine was Whiskey Run, which was a seperate town near West Lebanon - it is quite fabled for the various murders that occured there. Iselin No. 5 Mine I believe was Harttown - also near West Lebanon. Whiskey Run was a little bigger (40 houses?? but Harttown was pretty small.) Eventualy Harttown connected to Whiskey Run Mine and hauled its coal through the hill, as I understand it. Ed Batisig is about the only one left who lived in Hart Town while the guy next to the PO whose name I forget is the only one around from Whiskey Run.

REED Post Office established Sept 16, 1907 in company store,

Whiskey Run P.O., Young Twp., Leonard K. Fassett, postmaster; closed nov. 30, 1928. name derived from Reed's Run. Noted on Smith & Crawford map, 1909.

WHISKEY RUN, Young Twp. mining patch, at one time had six small houses and 15 double homes and other features, Founded ca 1906 by R. & P. Coal Co. Notorious for 25 murders in 23 years, none solved. The P.O. was Reed

"Coal Miners Memorial, Iselin Mines
Iselin, Young Twp., Indiana County, Pennsylvania"
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