Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Visit With Randy From Nebraska

Back in May, a blogger friend came for a visit.
His name is Randy and I met him at the Bloggerpalooza Gathering in Delaware back in 2014.

L to R back row-Pat, Randy, Ron, Jay
Front row-Java and Sluggy

Anyway, last July, on our way to Idaho, Hubs and I stopped in Nebraska where Randy lives and spent most of a day with him there.

So when Randy said he was coming East for a Ham Radio Convention in PA, I insisted he stop by here!

He arrived early afternoon on a Monday.  Unfortunately all the brew pubs around here are closed on Mondays so I couldn't take him to one.  *sad face*
So we sat around and "some of us" *ahem* had a few drinks and we just had a good chin wag.

I made bbq ribs and pulled pork sandwiches and sides for dinner.
When it got dark we headed outside and had a fire and sat and talked.  It was nice and relaxing.
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures on Monday......but I did on Tuesday.

After I made breakfast for Randy on Tuesday I thought he was going to take off toward Stuebenville OH on his journey home.
But no, he had time to hang around until late afternoon so we came up with something to do.

Now there isn't much in terms of sightseeing around here, unless you want to either A-go down in a coal mine or B-go see old locomotives.
So we settled on something else where we've never been before either, Eckley Miner's Village.
Uh, oh, this is turning into a history lesson now so grab a drink and a chair and sit back for while.  ;-)

This place started out as a quiet small town named Shingletown in the woods of Eastern Pennsylvania.  The name came about because the residents made shingles from the trees in the area.  That was until coal was discovered there in 1853.

Four men formed a company, the Council Ridge Colliery, to mine the area after securing a 20 year lease on the land.  They built a sawmill to began milling lumber for building houses, a company store, offices and a colliery so they could start mining the vein of coal.
This was a "patch town"-a village that grows up around a mining operation where the people who work in the mine live with their families.  The town was called Fillmore after the then outgoing US President Millard Fillmore.

Hubs trying to pick up a massive chunk of coal.

Four years later the town applied for a US post office but the town name of Fillmore was already in use elsewhere in PA where there was a post office.  So the town name was changed to Eckley, named after Eckley Coxe, the son of one of the owners of the mining company, Judge Charles Coxe.

The first residents/workers in Eckley were experienced miners, immigrants from England and Wales.
Once the Potato Famine hit Ireland, Irish arrived and took the low skilled/low paying mining jobs.
By the 1880's/1890's immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in Eckley to take over the low paying jobs there as the Irish and English worked their way up to better mining jobs or gained other skills and moved on.

Some of the clapboard houses still standing there.

One of the multi-family homes.
Most if not all of the 'shacks' of the lowest paid workers are gone.

Many of these immigrants went to the coal fields with the intention of staying a short time, saving money and taking it back to their homelands to live there lives out there in a better condition.
This didn't often happen as mining was tedious, hard labor and didn't pay well.  In addition, the miners relied on the "company store" for all their needs.  The store would advance you credit and inflate prices on basic goods so that it was almost impossible for you to get free and clear of your debt and leave, very much like this old classic standard song.

Over time besides a company store, the workers lodgings and the business buildings and equipment, churches were built and a full time doctor was engaged to see to the medical needs of the patch town residents.

After World War II, as coal mining became not as lucrative, the mines of the Eckley area were sold off and eventually closed.  Most people moved away but I was shocked to find that there are people who still live here!  As we drove around we say that a few of the old houses are still occupied presumably by descendants of people who worked these mines.

The whole town was slated for demolition back in the 1960's but along came a major motion picture called "The Molly Maguires".
More about The Molly Maguires in this History Channel episod...

Based on the group called The Molly Maguires, which was a secret organization of Irish coal miners who fought against the unjust treatment at the hands of the wealthy coal mine owners by sabotaging equipment and mines in the Anthracite coal mine region in PA.  This group began in Ireland and Liverpool England among coal miners there and as these miners immigrated to the PA coal fields their unrest spread to America.  In the 1870's they were most active in this region of PA and in 1877 things came to a head when 10 men accused of terrorist acts and murder carried out by Molly Maguires were hanged, 6 in Pottsville and 4 in Mauch Chunk(now called Jim Thorpe PA).  Over the next year or so another 10 men tried and convicted were hanged in the towns of Mauch Chunk, Pottsville, Bloomsburg and Sunbury as well.

When Paramount Pictures scouted locations for the setting of the Molly Maguires film starring Sean Connery, the obvious choice was Eckley PA since this town still looked like it had stepped out of 1870.
They only had to bury utility lines and removed antennas.
They also built a prop company store and breaker since the originals had long since been torn down.

The coal breaker which is fenced off so you can't get near it.

Neither company store building or the coal breaker have been maintained(other than some paint on the store)but they are still standing 50 years later.

After the movie, the town looked so good historically speaking that instead of demolition it all, it was given to the PA Historical and Museum Commission to operate.

There is a 17 minute film which explains about patch towns and the history of Eckley, as well as a look into the daily live of these mining families.  There is also quite an array of displays and artifacts related to the history and this are of Pennsylvania in the man building, which is located where the school house to educate the miners' children use to be.

Since we visited during a weekday, there were no guided tours offered and most of the buildings which are part of the museum were locked but we could drive around and look at stuff and peek into windows unless it was marked a private residence.

You can see the hierarchy of mine labor-shacks were occupied by unskilled slate pickers, to 2-story clapboard houses housing multiple skilled miner families(and single men miners who had to live with a family), to small single family houses for bosses and overseers.
I didn't think to take any photos of the shacks and clapboard houses.

On the end of the street stands the Gothic Revival-style home built for the mine owner, Richard Sharpe.  It's the grandest building in the town.

The Catholic church stands at the end of the main street through Eckley nearer the shacks as the Irish immigrants were among the lowest paid workers and the Protestant church is closer to the clapboard houses of the English/Welch mine workers.

It was an interesting trip.
More history and information on Eckley Miner's Village HERE.

We headed home and after exchanging gifts of beer, Randy set out for Ohio and eventually home to Nebraska.

It was nice to see you again my friend!



  1. I loved the mine and the trains, but also would love this place. You look good can't wait to see you again.

  2. A week ago last Tuesday at a lunch at our table we had a long discussion about the coal miners in Winston county and especially the company stores. No one could get out of debt. A friend told me long ago his mother said coal miners lived out of a paper bag. They did not or could not can for the winters or when work was scarce.

    I would loved to have seen the shacks and clapboard houses. Next time you go there, maybe we can see those.

    Exbf loves anything trains.

  3. Another great post! My Dad's grandfather lived in a company town near Birmingham, and he talked about visiting them sometimes and being able to go to the company store and buy a coke using scrip instead of cash, since the miners were paid in scrip more often than not. Basically they were kept as indentured servants rather then employees.

  4. Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It's on a entirely different topic but
    it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Outstanding choice of

  5. Enjoyed this very interesting visit with you and Randy. You always seem to find the most unique places to see. Penny S.

  6. Sounds like you had a great time!


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