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Coal Miners Memorial, Penn Gas No. 3 Mine & Coke Works (Marchand Mine), Lowber, Sewickley Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA


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Penn Gas No. 3 Mine &
Coke Works,
(Lowber No. 3 Mine),
(Marchand Mine),

Lowber (Blackburn),
Sewickley Township,
Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania


A Tribute to the Coal Miners that mined the Bituminous Coal seams at the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine (Lowber Mine), (Marchand Mine), Lowber (Blackburn), Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

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

Updated Sept. 20, 2008

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Penn Gas No. 3 Mine & Coke Works
(Lowber No. 3 Mine)
(Marchand Mine)
(ca.1870's-1880's) (ca.1902-1938),
Located on the Youghiogheny Railroad, of the Pennsylvania Railroad, at Marchand Station, on SR 3016, along Sewickley Creek at Lowber (Blackburn), east of Sutersville, Sewickley Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA
[Lowber No. 3 Mine was renamed Penn Gas No. 3 Mine, it was then renamed Marchand Mine in 1918 when it was purchased by Westmoreland Coal Company.]
Owners:  (ca.1870's-1918) Penn Gas Coal Company, Philadelphia, PA, & Irwin, PA
               [Original Lowber Shaft Mine was idle for approx. 20 years from 1880's to 1902., then rebuilt in 1902 as a slope mine and renamed Penn Gas No. 3 Mine.]
               (ca.1918-1938) Westmoreland Coal Company, Irwin, PA

ca.1895 Railroad Map of Western Pennsylvania
A portion of a ca.1895 Railroad Map of Western Pennsylvania, Showing the location of Marchands. Marchands  Station was the location of the later town of Lowber, and the Penn Gas Coal Company's Penn Gas No. 3 Mine, which later became the Marchand Mine, after purchase by the Westmoreland Coal Company.
(Print courtesy of the Prints and Photo Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

DESCRIPTION:
The mining complex at Lowber contained a coke works and a lamp house ca.1994.  The coke works was located north of the town on the Lowber-Herminie Road (PA SR 3016); extant were approximately twenty-five brick bee-hive coke ovens with stone retaining walls patched with concrete.  These ovens were in fair to moderately deteriorated condition. The lamp house was located at the end of Neff's Lane and north of the coke ovens;  it was a common-bond red-brick building with a hipped roof and cupola. The building rests on a concrete foundation.  It originally featured eight-over-eight-light double-hung sash windows and wood paneled door.  The lamp house is abandoned but in good condition, ca.1994.  A coal tipple, several mining buildings and two shaft openings were recently demolished by the S. and U. Coal Company.  They were located .6 miles south of the town on the Lowber-Herminie Road.
The Marchand Mine at Lowber
The Marchand Mine at Lowber, showing the tipple, power house, and slope mine entry.
(Photo courtesy of John Brundage, and John J. Wilson 's "History of Sewickley Township", ca.1962.)
The town of Lowber (the town was first called Blackburn) is located on a terrace above Sewickley Creek north of its confluence with the Youghiogheny River.  The town consists of a church, school, and four sections of company-built houses.  Most of the houses are between First and Fourth streets;  This includes fourteen double houses along a V-shaped section of the street and approximately sixteen double houses along three parallel streets.  They are two-story wood-frame dwellings with gable roofs and double brick chimneys.  Along Steadman Street is a row of ten single-family houses. These are two-story wood-frame dwellings with the gable end facing the street.

Boss's row is on Neff Street.  This street was named after one of the coal company's superintendents, and is located north of the town and the coke works.  Along this street are four two-story wood-frame houses.  Three have shed-roof extensions off the rear facade and central brick chimneys.

The layout of the town indicates that the houses were built during at least two periods.  The earliest buildings, single two-story dwellings with gable facades, were constructed at about the time when the school and church were built.  The double houses between First and Fourth streets were constructed later.  The school and church are both abandoned.

Lowber School House No. 1 Old No. 1 School House
School House No. 1, the building was located where the road going from Gratztown, passes Cool Springs, and meets the old LR.64226 above Lowber.  It was on the old Marchand farm.  Mrs. John VanKirk lived in the house ca.1962.  It was a one room school house built ca.1861.  The school was also called Point Pleasant School.
( Photo and history courtesy of John J. Wilson's "History of Sewickley Township", 1962.)

The town's church stands at the corner of Steadman and Bowers streets; it is a tall one-story building, with horizontal wood siding, a gable roof, and a wood turret with louvered windows.  It features decorative woodwork at the gable ends and rest on a rubble-stone foundation.  The windows have been boarded over.  The school is on the corner of Steadman and Bowland streets and is also a wood-frame building with horizontal wood siding and decorative woodwork around the windows, the tall one-story building is unpainted and contains a sloping shed roof, the building is in poor condition.

Lowber M.E. Church
Lowber Methodist Episcopal Church.
The "Mother" church of the Lowber M. E. Church was a stone church built ca.1833 near McGrew's on the Scott Haven Road. According to Mrs. Alta McGrew the first meeting house was the "Old Stone House."  This building stood on the hill, one mile north of Blackburn (Lowber) on the farm of A.B.McGrew. It was built ca.1833 and used for both school and church purposes until 1861. It was abandoned for school purposes but the church remained there until ca.1879 or ca.1880.
(Photo and history courtesy of John J. Wilson's "History of Sewickley Township", ca.1962.)

In ca.1882 the name was changed from the "Old Stone House School Church" to the Blackburn Methodist Episcopal Church.  By 1880 the "Old Stone House" building become so dilapidated by age and use it was necessary to erect a new building.  The new house of worship was erected on the land of W. Page Blackburn heirs, high up on the right bank of the Big Sewickley Creek.  There were two lots given for the sum of $3.00.  The building was dedicated Feb. 13, 1881.  The church meetings were held in the "Oil House" of the Penn Gas Coal Company while the church was being erected.  About 1895 the vestibule was added to the church.

When the church was dedicated Feb. 13, 1881, the Rev. Blackburn said in part:  "We used to look across the landscape and see the resemblance of a fort thought to have been used against the Indians.  We have built this church and I hope it will be used against the enemy of souls".

The parsonage was built and on September 15, 1903 it was first used.  The parsonage was sold in ca.1940.  In ca.1910 the name was changed from the Blackburn M. E. Church to the Lowber M. E. Church.

Lowber School
The old School House in Lowber.  When the Lowber Fire Company was first organized in 1941, the meetings were held in the old school house.
(Photo courtesy of John J. Wilson's "History of Sewickley Township" 1962.)

HISTORY:
Simon Gratz, from whom Gratztown was named, owned the land that the Blackburns bought around ca.1811. Blackburns owned the farm until Jas. N. White bought it in the 1930's.

The town of Lowber was first called Blackburn.  The name was changed to Lowber in ca.1910. The Pennsylvania Railroad had purchased the Youghiogheny Railroad from the Penn Gas Coal Company around the turn of the century. The Pennsylvania R.R. had a station named Blackburn in the Vicinity of Trafford, in Westmoreland County.  There was too much confusion, especially during the 1910 Coal Strike, between the two Blackburns, so the name Lowber was chosen because it was the name of one of the Westmoreland Coal Company's directors; John Welsh Lowber.  The Westmoreland Coal Company and Penn Gas Coal Company were owned by the same people except for one of the stockholders who owned Penn Gas Stock.  He refused to sell his stock.  A few years ago, from his estate, his sister gave Perryopolis one million dollars.

In ca.1900 the Penn Gas Coal Company improved a number of its properties in the Irwin gas coal basin and included its Lowber No. 3 Mine, the mine name was changed to Penn Gas No. 3 Mine, along the Sewickley Creek at Lowber, east of Sutersville.  This mine was originally opened in the 1870's as a shaft entry mine.  It had been closed for over twenty years until the coal company refurbished the mine in ca.1902, constructing a new slope entry 200 feet long. In addition Penn Gas Coal Company built a steam generating plant with three 100 horsepower boilers and a compressed air plant with two Hall Compressors powering the newly installed Jeffrey Mining machines in the mine. The Penn Gas No. 3 Mine was served by the Youghiogheny Railroad, owned by the Penn Gas Coal Company, later the railroad became a subsidiary and branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Situated on the 78 inch thick Pittsburgh Coal Seam the mine operation also included a small coke works with 100 bee-hive coke ovens. In ca.1904 the Penn Gas No. 3 Coke Works produced 3,396 tons of coke. (Very little coke was produced at the Penn Gas No 3 Mine Coke Works at Lowber; most of the coal was shipped to market for gas, steam, and lighting.)  The mine soon employed over 400 persons and was producing over 320,000 tons of coal each year.  Joseph Rymer served as the first superintendent at Lowber, a position he held for many years.

The condition of the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine, as noted in the Department of Mines Report for 1909 was:  Sixty-two permanent stoppings and fourteen brick overcasts were built;  also replaced a number of wooden stoppings with brick.  Motor road extended 800 feet.

In ca.1910 employees of the Penn Gas Coal Company attempted to organize a union with the United Mine Workers of America.  This move was met with strong resistance by the anti union Penn Gas Coal Company officials and a bitter coal miners strike commenced. Although the strike lasted more than a year, Penn Gas Coal Company continued to operate its mines, bringing in scab workers from Europe and other parts of the United States.  The strike breakers (scabs) imported by the Penn Gas Coal Company in the 1910 strike were white miners.  Those coal miners that went on strike, along with their families were evicted from their coal company owned houses by the Penn Gas Coal Company's "Coal and Iron Police" working as a private police force for the coal company.  The miners and their families that were evicted from the coal company owned houses lived in tents provided by the United Mine Workers of America, which were pitched in front of Joe Prinsi's Store.  It was a tent city.

In ca.1910 Penn Gas Coal Company operated the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine for 179 days and its 279 scab workers produced nearly 169,000 tons of coal.  In July, 1911 the miners strike ended in defeat for the coal miners at Penn Gas Coal Company, and the coal company broke the United Mine Workers of America efforts to organize the miners with its scab workers in the mines.

Though the company was based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, its field offices were in Irwin, Pennsylvania, where A. P. Cameron served as general superintendent of the Penn Gas Mines.  Soon after the 1910 strike ended the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine at Lowber became the company's largest producer.  The company electrified most of its mining operations in the early 1900's and at Lowber the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine used three electric locomotives and one steam locomotive to haul the mine wagons of coal from the underground working.  Miners used twelve electric-powered coal cutting machines and eight compressed-air machines for extracting coal. In ca.1913 the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine produced nearly 508,000 tons of coal. The Lowber mine employed about 350 persons.

The electricity used by the town of Lowber and the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine was generated at the Penn Gas No. 2 Mine (Adams Mine) at Hahntown, Westmoreland County and transmitted to Lowber via a transmission line from Rillton.

In ca.1918 the Westmoreland Coal Company acquired the Penn Gas Coal Company and renamed the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine, the Marchand Mine.  This was the name of the railroad station on the Youghiogheny Railroad and Marchand Station was the name of the vicinity named after the Marchand family that lived on the hill.  When the Youghiogheny Railroad was operated by the Penn Gas Coal Company, the steam engine would push the empty railroad coal hopper cars to the tunnel at Chambers Station and let them drift down hill all the way to the Lowber Mine with only a brakeman on the railroad cars.

During the 1920's W. L. Neff served as superintendent at Lowber and the Marchand Mine employed about 270 persons.  It produced over 250,000 tons of coal each year.

A swinging bridge spanned the Sewickley Creek between the town of Lowber and the Marchand Mine.  In the 1922 coal strike the Westmoreland Coal Company built striker shanties on their side of the creek for its scab workers.  The coal company imported negroe miners as strike breakers (scabs).  The scabs would leave every saturday for Pittsburgh and return on Sunday night.  They walked up to Lowber from Gratztown Station and no one bothered them.  The Sewickley Creek  once got so high that it flooded the mine.  The mine was drained by the Pittsburgh Coal Company thru its slope mine near West Newton.

There was at least one person killed during the 1922 coal strike when a gun battle took place between the Westmoreland Coal Company's "Coal & Iron Police" and a white man.  The police had previously taken the man's gun.  Then when it was given back to him, he started shooting when he was outside the building.  He was shot by the Coal Company's "Coal & Iron Police" and killed.

The Westmoreland Coal Company operated the Marchand Mine until 1938, when the mine was closed and abandoned.

(History and description of the Penn Gas No. 3 Mine (Marchand Mine) (Lowber No. 3 Mine), Lowber, Sewickley Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA with 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. and John J. Wilson's "History of Sewickley Township" 1962.)

Lowber Mine Site Reclaimed

The Lowber project involved the design, permitting, and construction of a large system of ponds and wetlands that passively treats a large discharge from the Marchand Mine. The system is located in the outskirts of the small town of Lowber in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, PA. The site is a former slope entry, coal processing and railroad tipple facility that operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The mine was closed in the 1930s and in 1942 a large discharge of acid mine drainage began flowing from the mine portal. For the next 64 years, the discharge polluted Sewickley Creek with more than one ton per day of iron contamination. With completion of this project, this major source of pollution to Sewickley Creek has been eliminated.

Marchand Mine Discharge Characteristics
The mine discharge is a result of a connection made between the abandoned Marchand Mine and the Ocean Mines in ca.1942. The connection into the Marchand Mine occurs through two 10 inch boreholes. The size and condition of these holes likely limits the flow that can pass into the Marchand Mine and, ultimately, out the discharge point.

The Lowber Mine site is the first site in Pennsylvania (and likely in the world) where a resource has been recovered from polluted mine drainage and sold as a product . The Marchand deep mine discharges 1500 gpm of water contaminated with 70 mg/L iron at the Lowber site. Over the last 50 years it has polluted Sewickley Creek and left deposits of iron sludge on this abandoned coal mining and processing facility. Iron recovery projects by Hedin Environmental and Iron Oxide Recovery, Inc. in 2001, 2002 and 2003 removed 1,500 tons of waste iron sludge from the site. The iron product was processed and sold to a pigment producer in Virginia, who refined the product and sells it as a finished earth-tone pigment to concrete, paint, and stain manufacturers. Iron Oxide Recovery, Inc. holds a patent on the production of pigment-quality iron oxide from coal mine drainage. In 2002 the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association received a grant from the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Program to support the design and construction of a passive mine water system that is designed to optimize the production of recoverable, saleable iron oxide. The system, designed by IOR, is under construction. When completed, the system will passively precipitate and collect 750,000 lb per year of iron solids in a series of ponds and constructed wetlands. The iron will be recovered every 5-10 years. The proceeds from future iron sales will offset the long-term maintenance costs of the system. The Lowber system will be the world’s first self-sustaining mine drainage treatment system.

(Information on the Lowber Mine reclaimation project courtesy of HEDIN ENVIRONMENTAL, 195 Castle Shannon Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15228.)

Coal Miners Memorial, Penn Gas No. 3 Mine (Lowber Mine) (Marchand Mine), Lowber, Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania "
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