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Coal Miners Memorial Lackawanna Mines, Wehrum, Buffington Twp., Indiana Co., PA

Coal Mines of Indiana Co., PA MAIN INDEX
Lackawanna No. 3 Mine,
Lackawanna No. 4 Mine,

Lcakawanna No. 3 & Wehrum,
Buffington Twp.,
Indiana County,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

A Tribute to the Coal Miners that mined the Bituminous Coal seams of the Lackawanna No. 4 Mine, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

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

Updated Feb. 12, 2010

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Lackawanna No. 4 Mine (ca.1899-1929),
Located on the Ebensburg & Blacklick Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, one mile west of Vintondale, on the north bank of Blacklick Creek, Wehrum, Buffington Twp., Indiana Co., PA
[The town of Wehrum has totally disappeared and is now a Ghost Town, nothing of the town remains except for foundation holes and the Wehrum Russian Cemetery.]
[Wehrum is located along the Ghost Town Trail, Indiana Co., PA.]
[Located on the U.S.G.S. 7 1/2 min.Vintondale, PA Quad Map.]
[UTM: E. 17 E.673950 - N.4482175]
Owners: (ca.1899-1923), Lackawanna Coal & Coke Company, Wehrum, PA
              (ca.1923-1930), Bethlehem Mines Corp.

A portion of the ca.1907 Topographic Map of the Wehrum area of Buffington Twp., Indiana County.  Map is a section of the 15 min. Topographic Map Johnstown Quad, Pennsylvania.
(Map from the 15 min. Johnstown, PA Quad. map, courtesy of the U.S.G.S., Washington, D.C.)

Wehrum, once a model coal company patch town in southeastern Indiana County, Pennsylvania has largely vanished from the landscape.  The immense coal mining and processing plant has been entirely dismantled, and only one house remains of the 240 single-family houses which were once located in the town.

The surviving Wehrum house has been substantially altered.  The two-story weatherboarded frame structure was built on a stone foundation and topped by a side-gable slate roof.  The two bay front had a one-story shed porch supported by chamfered posts with brackets at the center of the front, and a smaller shed porch at the rear.  Windows were double-hung with 4/4 lights.  A simple brick flue pierced the roof ridge at the center.

In the woods north of the house is a small, two-person jail building.  This brick structure has a concrete front-gable roof, small high windows with iron bars, and a replacement single-leaf metal door at the front.  Also in the woods, across the highway, which was once called broadway, in the concrete vault from the old town bank.  Numerous stone foundations and celler holes from many of the other houses are scattered in the woods, and the arrangement of the original streets can still be discerned throughout the wooded area.

On the hill, overlooking the Wehrum town site is the Sts. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church Cemetery.  The cemetery, which had become overgrown was recently, ca.2004, cleared of brush and trees.

Wehrum, on the eastern edge of Indiana County, in Buffington Township, was established in ca.1901 by the Lackawanna Coal & Coke Company, a subsidiary of the Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company of Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.  The town was named for Henry Wehrum, a Lackawanna Coal Company official.  Lackawanna Coal & Coke Company purchased the Vinton Colliery's Company mines at nearby Vintondale, in Cambria County.  The company also purchased large amount of coal land belonging to the Blacklick Land and Improvement Company located down the Blacklick Creek in Indiana County early in ca.1901.  In ca.1903 the Pennsylvania Railroad extended its Ebensburg & Blacklick Branch line southwest from Vintondale through Wehrum and down the Blacklick Creek Valley.

The Busy Blacklick Valley
A Section of Earth Whose Industries Are Bound to Cut a Considerable Figure

The following extract is taken from an article that appeared in the January 29, 1904 issue of "The Weekly Tribune," Johnstown, Pa.
by Charles Hasson, Weekly Tribune Staff Correspondent

The next town along the route of the railroad is Vintondale, and as so much has been written of this prosperous place, the writer will pass it by, merely stating that here the Vinton Colliery Company operates one mine, a drift, and the Lackawanna Coal Company operates two mines, known as No.1 and No.2, from which much coal is taken and which adds considerable to the prosperity of the town.

Modest “No. 3.”

Continuing down the valley for a distance of about a mile and a half, the traveler comes to another extensive coal operation of the Lackawanna Company, known as “No.3.” Although lacking a more pretentious name, this point is one of the most hustling and important along the route. With its splendid brick engine houses, machine shops, and boiler house, one is led to the belief that it was very modest in its selection of a name. On the side of the hill just north of the works, standing like sentinels over the operation, are long rows of houses which are inhabited by the employees of the busy village. Now and then a long train of cars emerges from the mines loaded with the mineral wealth of the valley. Later this coal will be hauled from the mines into an immense coal crusher and washer, now in course of construction, where it will be crushed to the required size and later washed free of sulphur and other objectionable substances, fitting it for coking, and transported to market.

The Jewel of the Valley.

From “No.3,” passing down the valley another mile and a half, Wehrum, the jewel of the Blacklick Valley, is laid before the visitor in all its splendor. This model town is the pet and ideal of the Lackawanna Coal Company. And before continuing with our description of the town, it may be well to remind the visitor that every foot of ground in and about Wehrum is the property of the Lackawanna Coal Company, and the Superintendent Mr. Claghorn is, like Robinson Crusoe of old, “monarch of all he surveys.” There is not a man in the neighborhood who does not, directly or indirectly, owe fealty to Mr. Claghorn for the position he holds to-day. The only hotel, the only bank, the only store, the only meat market, and the only blacksmith shop in the town are owned by the company and managed by Mr. Claghorn. No other enterprises can locate here without the consent of Mr. Claghorn for the company owns all the ground. No dictator of ancient Rome, no Czar of all the Russias, was clothed with more authority than Mr. Claghorn in his own little principality. His authority is absolute - there is no appeal. But, although an autocrat in his way, it is but just to say of him that he exercises his authority for the good of the community and its people, and it is largely through his benefactions that the valley is a Mecca for thousands of contented workmen and their families.

Country’s Biggest Coal Crushers.

The great coal crusher and washer at Wehrum is the center of attraction. It stands like a mighty tower a short distance above the Pennsylvania Tracks. In height the washer is 113 ½ feet and when running in its full capacity 3,000 tons of coal pass through its maws each day. This crusher and washer, together with two others of the same type, located at “No.3? and at Claghorn, are the largest in the United States.

The mine at Wehrum is a slope and is operated jointly by a shaft and a slope. At what is known as “No.4? a large shaft with two large buckets attached to a cable, is operated in bringing coal to the surface. When a loaded bucket comes up the shaft an empty bucket passes down.

Another point of interest to the visitor is the fine brick plant operated a short distance above the washer. This plant makes what is known as “wire-cut” brick, turning out many thousands each day, all of which are consumed by the Lackawanna Company in its building operations at different points along the creek. An immense battery of boilers, encased in brick, also attracts the sightseer and is awe-inspiring in its effect. All boilers used by the company are of the very latest upright type, and each boiler is a great machine in itself. All are of large horsepower, and many of them reared up together is not an uncommon spectacle. A big engine house is another attraction worth looking at. In it are housed the engines used to operate the plant. Shooting in and out, and winding all around the mammoth works laden with cars of supplies are a number of dinkey engines.

A Model Narrow Gauge.

And right here it may be in order to call the attention of the reader to the narrow-gauge railway that the company operated between upper Vintondale and a point west of Wehrum. Some think that this road is a makeshift for the present only, but after walking over it one is impressed with its solidity and the high class of construction. No section of the Pennsylvania Railroad is better ballasted and kept than the Lackawanna narrow gauge. A force of men is continually kept at work repairing and bettering the road. At Vintondale its path is up high on the side of the mountain, many feet above the creek, and it winds in and out, passing through the works at “No. 3?, until the big Wehrum plant is reached. Later all coal from the Vintondale plant will be hauled to either “No.3? or Wehrum, to be run through a crusher and washer before it is shipped to its final destination at Buffalo to the plant of Lackawanna Steel Company, of which the Lackawanna Coal Company is a constituent part. The narrow-gauge road is also used to carry supplies of all kinds to the different operations, such as mine props, machinery, brick, etc. Each morning and evening a regular passenger train runs over the route to carry the employees to and from their work. Many of the latter who work for the company at the “No. 3? and Wehrum plants live in Vintondale, and the company provides them with free transportation.

Wehrum a Substantial Town.

Wehrum now has some very pretty residences, one beautiful hotel structure, and a substantial brick bank. The principal street in the town is Broadway, and along it the finest buildings are erected. Supt. Claghorn lives in a palatial residence on the cap of the mountain on the opposite side of the creek from Wehrum, which to reach one passes over a footbridge swung across the creek near the works and by a series of steps and paths winds around the mountain until the top is reached. Mr. Claghorn travels about Wehrum either in his automobile or a carriage drawn by a handsome team of coach horses.

After leaving Wehrum the next village along the route is Buffington, just two miles below. And three miles below Buffington we come to Dilltown, the point from which the last extension to the Pennsylvania Railroad is started. Buffington and Dilltown are each little country settlements, and their importance consists principally in the beauty and rustic elegance of their surroundings. The country about each place is calculated to cause the traveler to pause and view its acres in admiration. Dilltown is the more important of the two places, and will doubtless yet see the day when its population and importance will increase many fold with the development of its hidden mineral treasures. A standard coal operation has been put in by Irish Brothers, the well-known Eastern coal operators. The operation, tipple, and all equipment are now in readiness, awaiting the day when the railroad company will put a draft of cars on their siding to be filled. The operation will remain closed until the railroad company is ready for business.

Lackawanna No. 4 Mine, a shaft mine,  was opened in ca.1902, at the site of the new coal company patch town of Wehrum.  Lackawanna No. 3 Mine was opened a short distance east of Wehrum, at the small settlement of Lackawanna No. 3.

Jan. 19, 1903. Ebensburg & Black Lick Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was extended from Vintondale to Wehrum, Pa., with passenger service.

The Lackawanna No. 3 & No. 4 Mines used steam for haulage, and were ventilated by a Capell fan.  The coal mined at the Lackawanna No. 3 & No. 4 Mines was intended for use in making coke for use at Lackawanna Steel's plant in Buffalo, New York.  The coal proved to be too dirty for use untreated, so the company planned a huge coal washer plant at Wehrum.  The company invested more than a million dollars in the Wehrum operation, and the town quickly boomed, with two mines operating in the town.

No sooner than the two mines began operations than setbacks begun.  A gas explosion in ca.1904 killed four miners in the mines.  In the spring of 1906, the mines were only operating two or three days a week, and the coal washer plant of Lackawanna No. 4 Mine at Wehrum burned in August of 1906.  The decreased activity was associated with a slump in steel making at the Lackawanna Steel plants, the primary user of the coal mined at the Lackawanna No. 3 & No. 4 Mines.

A new coal washer plant, with a daily capacity of 2,000 tons was built at the Lackawanna No. 4 Mine ar Wehrum in 1907, and mining operations continued.

A big year at the Lackawanna No. 3 & No. 4 Mines was 1907, with over 262,000 tons of coal being mined by 364 men and boys.

Mining activity dropped off in ca.1908, with the Lackawanna No. 4 Mine producing only 61,000 tons of coal.  The mine worked only ninety-five days in 1908, and only 153 men and boys were employed.

(History and description of Lackawanna Mines, 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.)

June 23, 1909,
Lackawanna No. 4 Mine,
Wehrum, PA,
21 Miners Killed.

From the Federal Geological Survey Report, by J.W. Paul, 1909.
The explosion occurred about 7:40 A.M. resulting in the deaths of 21 men and the injury of 12 others.  Seven died from burns or injuries and 14 from afterdamp.  The explosion area was limited due to the wet conditions in other sections.  All bodies were recovered by 7:30 P.M.

On the previous night a charge of powder in the bottom coal at the face of an air course blew out.  The following morning the miner put two sticks of dynamite in the same hole and fired them without using any tamping.  The shot ignited the coal dust in the working place. The miner who fired the shot survived the explosion.
(Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C. & The U.S. Bureau of Mines Report, Beaver, WV)

From the "Nanty-Glo Journal News," Nanty-Glo, PA
Once Busy Town With 300 Families Now Almost Deserted
Big School Building Lacks Pupils
Wehrum, the former busy coal town in Buffington Township, about ten miles below Nanty-Glo, during its prosperous days boasted of not less than 300 families residing within its limits. The town was established by the Lackawanna Coal & Coke Company and was later acquired by the Bethlehem Steel Company. The mining of coal was discontinued at Wehrum by the latter, due to the fact that the steel interests were able to secure coal near its furnaces at much less cost than it could be mined and shipped from the Wehrum plant. When operations ceased at Wehrum, the miners were compelled to seek work elsewhere and the company has disposed of many of the houses which have been torn down and moved by the purchasers to other locations. The bank and store were discontinued when the mines were closed, a big hotel is empty, but Wehrum has a modern 16 room grade school building of brick and cement construction, erected five years ago at considerable cost to Buffington Township. Owing to lack of pupils in the district, only three rooms of the building will be used during the coming school term. The once happy village presents a deserted and pathetic appearance today.

(Courtesy of the Nant-Y-Glo Tri-Area Museum and Historical Society, Nanty-Glo, PA.)

"Coal Miners Memorial, Lackawanna No. 4 Mine,
Wehrum, Buffington Twp., Indiana County, Pennsylvania"

A very Special Thanks to Denise Dusza Weber, Indiana, PA, Author of "Delano's Domain," and the extensive research she has done on the mines in the Vintondale area for much of the information on the miners of Vintondale, PA  The book "Delano's Domain," contains an extensive history of Vintondale, PA and the mines there.  

The book and another book on Vintondale, PA "Images of America 'Vintondale" is available from the Author, Denise Weber, Indiana, PA.  They are also available from, the Indiana County Genealogical & Historical Society, Indiana, PA.

Delano's Domain, A History of Warren Delano's Mining Towns of Vintondale, Wehrem and Claghorn, the 450-page volume of Vintondale's history from 1789 to 1930, has been reprinted and is available from the author, historian Denise Dusza Weber.

The format has been changed for the second printing to provide better durability than the previous printing. The price is $25 per book, plus $5 shipping and handling. Pennsylvania residents should add 6 percent sales tax. Checks should be sent to Denise Weber, 291 Olive Street, Indiana, PA 15701

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