(This Page Still Underconstruction)
|Boswell, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co.,
[A Coal Company Patch Town in Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., Pennsylvania.]
[Located on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Johnstown Branch.]
See: Allen Coal Company, Boswell, PA
Allen No. 1 Mine, Boswell, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Hiyasota No. 2 Mine, Boswell, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Iver Thomas Coal Company, Boswell,PA
Merchants No. 3 Mine, near Boswell, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda Mine, near Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda No. 2 Mine, near Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda No. 3 Mine, near Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda No. 4 Mine, near Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda No. 5 Mine, near Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Randolph No. 1 Mine, near Boswell, Randolph, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Randolph No. 2 Mine, near Boswell, Randolph, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Standard Quemahoning Coal Company, Boswell, PA
Orenda Mine, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., PA
Orenda Mine (ca.1906- ?
Orenda No. 2 Mine (ca. ?
Orenda No. 3 Mine (ca. ?
Orenda No. 4 Mine (ca. ?
Orenda No. 5 Mine (ca. ?
|A portion of the USGS 15 min. Somerset, PA Quad. map showing
the location of the Orenda Mine, Boswell, Orenda Mine, Jenner Township, north
of Somerset, PA
(Map courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.
|Sanborn Map of the coal patch town of Boswell, PA
(Courtesy of the Sanborn Map Company, New York, NY.)
Boswell was settled in 1901 and incorporated as a borough on February 22, 1904. The community's founder was Thomas Taylor Boswell, the first president and supervisor of the Merchants Coal Company. Mr. Boswell's company purchased 14,000 acres (57 km²) of mineral rights under local farmland and laid out 1,600 lots for coal company houses to house the miners for its new deep coal mine just to the north. Merchants Coal, and the related Orenda Coal, were subsidiaries of Hillman Coal and Coke Company of Pittsburgh, the same firm that built the neighboring town of Jerome, Pennsylvania.
Merchants Coal attempted to build Boswell to be a notch above surrounding coal company towns in that plans included a central business district, a high school, and homes constructed from brick, as opposed to the wood used elsewhere. This also helped to prevent the spread of fire, in the event that one would break out. Many of the original brick homes are still standing, with much of their original integrity. A branch of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad served Boswell and its coal mine. At its economic peak shortly after World War II, Boswell boasted two movie theatres, three department stores, a bank, several jewelry stores, a druggist, two funeral homes, three grocery stores, nearly a dozen restaurants and taverns, a lumber yard, and a weekly newspaper. Earlier, pre-Prohibition, Boswell also boasted its own brewery.
Boswell's streets generally run perpendicular to its avenues, in a grid. Many of the avenues in Boswell are named after coal company officials. For example:
Hower Avenue, after Charles E. Hower, a Surveyor from Johnstown.
Morris Avenue, after W.H. Morris, a known builder from Johnstown
Atkinson Way, after W.G. Atkinson, the Vice President of Merchants Coal Company.
At the same time, the borough's street names can provide a geography lesson, following the flow of water from Boswell to the seas, with two exceptions made for streets in the central business district. Street names from north to south are: Quemahoning, Stonycreek, Center (in place of "Conemaugh" for the Conemaugh River), Main (in place of "Kiskiminetas" for the Kiskiminetas River), Allegheny, Ohio, Mississippi, Mexico (for the Gulf of Mexico), Atlantic and Pacific.
The mine, Orenda No.1 Mine, extracted high quality, semi-bituminous coal. A steam engine hoisted the coal to the surface. The hoist pulled the coal cars up a tipple that was 1,080 feet long, 92 feet high, and 60 feet wide. In 1920, this was the largest coal tipple in the world. At its prime, 900 men were employed and over 3,000 tons of coal were mined daily. The company was eventually re-named to the United Coal Company and in 1918 it became the Davis Coal Company.
For most of its history, the mine at Boswell operated without union representation. An early attempt to unionize workers led to an armed riot on January 17, 1904. Seven were wounded and 20 arrested in the melee. A prolonged struggle for unionization, which began at Jerome and Windber in northern Somerset County in early April, 1922, extended to Boswell on April 17. By April 24, 1922, miners at Acosta, Gray, Ralphton, Randolph and Jenners also joined the strike, which was to last sixteen months.
Mining at Boswell was a problem-plagued effort, according to discussions with local residents from the era. While much archival research remains to be done corroborate these details, it seems apparent that Merchants Coal, and its parent which was eventually known as Hillman Coal & Coke, miscalculated in the siting of Boswell and its mine. Given the size of Merchant's capital outlayincluding construction in Boswell of the world's largest tipple, a central business district and a high schoolthe company planned big things for Boswell. The town of Jerome appears to have been built as a satellite town, soon to be linked with Boswell, both underground in coal production and on the surface in social and cultural life (the right-of-way for a street car line was acquired between Jerome and Boswell, for instance). However, local miners tell of the "Stone Wall," an unexpected and virtually insurmountable underground geological fault hit midway between Jerome and Boswell that prevented the linking of the two mines at a reasonable cost. Evidence of this fault can be seen on the land surface near Route 601 about two miles (3 km) south of Jerome. (Indeed, when mechanized deep-mining resumed in this area for a time in the late 20th century, the entry shaft was sunk adjacent to this fault, presumably so access could be had to the entire field.) It can be speculated that Hillman had planned to use Boswell as its primary processing facility after the link-up, thus the huge tipple. Hillman also likely planned to make Boswell the center of operations and community life (of evidence, the high school). But the two mines never came together; in fact, Boswell's mine proved to be significantly less productive than Jerome's, as shown by documented production figures from 1927, for example. In that year, Boswell produced 204,592 tons of coal, while Jerome produced 816,568 tons, four times as much.
The Boswell mine closed on March 29, 1939 due to the excessive cost of transporting coal to the surface [the Jerome mine worked until 1954]. The Boswell tipple was dismantled in 1940, though some of the tipple's abutments still stand today. After the mine closed a slow economic decline set in. However, many businesses survived well into the 1960s and early 1970s. Railroad freight service to Boswell stopped in the early 1970s. Boswell today is primarily a bedroom community.
In 1970, the high school was rechristened as North Star High School. It is the successor from the earlier Boswell, Jenner Boswell, Jenner-Boswell-Jennerstown, and Forbes High Schools. The high school is approaching its centenary and currently serves the two surrounding townships [Jenner and Quemahoning] and three boroughs [Jennerstown, Stoystown and Hooversville] in addition to Boswell residents.
Orenda Park, a community forest and picnic area, has been established at the site of the former coal tipple. The park is maintained by the Boswell Area Historical Society. Boswell was designated as a National Historic District in 1994.
The Indianna Democrat (Indianna, Pa) Feb 3, 1909
FIVE KNOWN DEAD IN BOSWELL MINE
Fatal Explosions in Pennsylvania Colliery
From present indications the death list in the Merchants Mine of the United Coal Company at Boswell, Somerset Co., where an explosion and fire occured, will be five, all Americans. State inspector Louther said that he had explored practically all of the workings and that he was confident there were no more bodies in the mine, although debris hinders investigations in some of the passages.
THE KNOWN DEAD
MORE BODIES MAY BE IN MINE
Several crews of men are still at work penetrating the workings as far as possible.
A thorough investigation will be necessary to ascertain the real value of the explosions, for it is now known that there were three of them.At present, no cause can be assigned other than that a pocket of gas, exposed by a shot fired just before the day shift finished work, was ignited by the shot itself. What caused the two subsequent explosions is a mystery, buried, it is supposed, with Superintendent Logan, who sacrificed his life for his employees.
There were three different explosions - the first at 4:30 o'clock, the second at about 8 o'clock. The first shift of between 300 and 400 miners quit work, and no one was injured.
Fireboss George Hartshorn, so it is said, entered the mine
soon afterward and emerged some time later with the assurance that everything
was all right so far as he could ascertain. Superintendent Logan was not
so sure, however, and with Assistant Superintendant George Morris and foreman
John Cole, went in to investigate., They refused admission to the mine of
any of the night shift, although a number of foreigners it is reported, would
not listen, and entered.
Explosion of gas at Orenda No. 2 Mine Jan. 25, 1909
On January 25 at 8 o'clock in the evening, an explosion of
gas occured at the Orenda No. 2 mine of the Merchants Coal Company, located
at Boswell by which J. G. Logan, the Superintendant, George Morris, the Assistant
Superintendant, John Cole, Mine Foreman, Andrew Stulock and John Stulock,
Miners, were killed. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the day of the explosion
a trackman passing down the first south dip heading between Nos. 3 and 5,
ignited some gas. He reported it to the fire boss. A little later the same
trackman again ignited the gas in about the same place; and two miners going
out at quitting time also ignited the gas in about the same place. They then
returned down the heading and went out by another road. The mine foreman
hearing of the gas being ignited in No. 1 dip off No. 7 Right, proceeded
to make an investigation of the place, and in company with the Superintendant
and the Assistant Superintendant entered the mine. The electric current was
cut off from the mine and instructions were sent out to stop any person from
entering the mine. The fan was working as a force fan and the slope serving
as a return airway. About 8 o'clock the explosion occured. The body of Logan
was found at Sixth right level. The bodies of Morris and Cole were found
at a point in No. 7 right level beyond the return current from No. 1 dip.
No other persons were known to be in the vicinity at the time of the explosion.
The bodies of Andrew and John Stulock, German miners, were found in No. 2
South of No. 8 Left. After a very thorough investigation of the place, in
No. 1 dip between Rooms No. 3 and 5, the conclusion was reached that the
cause of the disaster was an explosion of the gas given off by the falls
in the pillar workings in the No. 1 dip heading, ignited by a feed of gas
left burning from the previous ignition about 6:40 P.M.
Somerset Smokeless Coal Company
Orenda Mine, Boswell, PA
About 8 a.m. a local explosion blew down four doors, a few
stoppings, and some curtains along 8 dip. The coal dust did not become
involved other than for slight charring in rooms near the origin.
Afterdamp from the exploded section passed directly into the main return
and did not enter other sections of the mine. Seventeen men were killed,
and 10 others were overcome. They were rescued by the foreman and others
without the aid of breathing apparatus, but 2 died afterwards. All
bodies were recovered within 13 hours. Gas had been reported in the
section, and when a door was opened some of it was pulled out onto the 8
dip roadway where it was ignited by sparks from the trolley wheel of a locomotive
bringing in a trip of cars.
A speical thanks to Bill Cole, for furnishing the new papers accounts on the Orenda Mine disasters.
|To Select another Index
to Somerset County Coal Mines
Click on the Larry cars for Index Page
or on a Letter below
|Select another Index to Coal Mines of
Somerset County, Pennsylvania
[Click on a letter to take you to that Index]
|Return to the Main County Index for Southwest Pennsylvania Coal Mines|
Links to other coal mining sites
|Reference Sources for Southwestern Pennsylvania Coal Mines||The New Message Boards have not worked, Use our guestbook. Email the Editor.||Have information to
add on Somerset County Coal Mines?
E-Mail the Editor
|Let the Old Miner know you've been here.
FastCounter by LinkExchange
If you have additional information or pictures on the Coal
Mines of Somerset County, PA
Contact: Ray Washlaski, Editor
Copyright 2005 All rights reserved, by Raymond A. Washlaski, Ryan P. Washlaski & The 20th Century Society of Western Pennsylvania.
Web site Design by "Mercers, an Undertakers" Web Design Company