CASSELMAN COALFIELD

The Casselman Coal Field (sometimes called "Castleman") is one of the more obscure and insignificant coalfields that I have ever visited. However, a report on this coalfield estimated that approximately 1,360,000 tons of coal were mined before 1948. Evidently the Upper Freeport seam, also called the Grantsville seam locally, outcrops along the Casselman River. The Harlem, Upper Kittanning and Lower Bakerstown (locally named "Honeycomb") coal seams (or coal beds, or coal veins) are also present. There has been mining of coal on both sides of the river, including mostly "country bank" mines, but also a few commercial shipping coal mines. Most of these were underground "drift" mines, but there have also been surface mines, like the strip mines in the 1930's and 40's on Meadow Mountain mining Middle Kittannig coal. This field did contain a railroad - the Castleman (sic) River Railroad (which connected with the B&O in Penna.) and some coal was probably shipped to market on it. However, it was abandoned in the late 1950s, and has since been removed. I am not aware of any coal company towns in the Casselman Coalfield. There was one named Niverton in Pennsylvania just a few miles north of Grantsville, which is the largest town in the coalfield. Another historic town, Jennings, was the location of several coal mines, but was actually a lumber town.

I don't believe that there has been any mining in the Casselman Coalfield in a long time. When I explored the area and inquired about the coal industry, the locals were friendly but perplexed as to why I cared. They were almost unaware, or indifferent, that there had ever been coal mines in their area, or that medium volatile, low sulfur coal reserves still existed under their feet. Some of these reserves have been reported to be of metallurgical quality, and, with Appalachian coking coal prices reaching $250-$300 per ton during the late part of the 2000-2010 coal boom, one would have thought that would have made coal mining in the Casselman Field economically possible again. The coal could have been trucked to a rail loadout within a 25 mile radius and shipped to market. However, that coal boom has came and gone, and could have been the last chance to open a coal mine in the Grantsville-Bittinger area.


One can look out across the Casselman Valley from almost any point and not see any evidence of past coal mining.


Vintage picture of one of the few large mines in this coalfield - Allegheny Coal Corporation's Louis Mine, also known as the Morgart Mine, near Jennings, MD. Louis Mine was in the Lower Bakerstown coal seam, and produced 16,647 tons in 1948. (Image courtesy of Bureau of Mines and USGS)


At the southern edge of the field the remains of a "country bank" coal mine has been restored. This was the Brant Mine, a small family operation started by Delphia Brant in the early 1920s. A few years of mining in the 24-inch seam of coal caused Mr. Brant's death from silicosis. After his death in 1926 the mine probably was abandoned.


Although this car dump is more than likely recreated, it is possible that the staff of Deep creek State Park used some of the original hardware. The rails that have been arranged between the mine and the tipping dump are probably original as well. During the mine's operation the underground coal car probably dumped the coal through a chute into a wagon or truck to be taken down the dirt road to a shipping point. The coal could have been sold to nearby customers as house coal.


This ancient image shows a more complex version of a car dump that was manufactured by the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Ohio.


On a more authentic note here are the remains of an underground coal car that is probably still sitting just where Delphia Brant left it when he quit working his mine.


A 1922 report by the Maryland Geological Survey did not list any major shipping coal mines in the Casselman Coalfield. However, they did list the following small "country bank" or "farmer mines" (coal mines that were worked by a small crew that produced a small amount of coal for local use):

Beachy Mine (Upper Freeport coal)

Beitzel Mine

Bittinger Mine

Butter's Mine

Clatters Mine

Hackman Mine

Jennings Brothers Mine

Kinsinger Mine

Legeer's Mine

McKenzie Mine

Shaw Mine

Earl Stanton Mine (Upper Freeport coal)

U.M. Stanton Mine

Wisseman Mine

Yoder Mine.

Note the Germanic names like Yoder, Kinsinger, Bittinger, and Beitzel. This is probably the southern fringe of the range of German farm families from Pennsylvania across Ohio to Indiana. These are often some of the most hardworking people you will ever meet. They can't get enough of staying active and performing work. I think their hobby is staying busy and doing "chores." So it is no suprise that these energetic, enterprising families would also work coal mines on their land in addition to agricultural activities, or in the "off" season.



From a May 1974 AP article titled "Modest Mining Boom Taking Shape In Western Maryland:"

GRANTSVILLE, Md. - A modest mining boom is taking shape among the high ridges and bold hillsides of Western Maryland's coal region. Mounting demand for coal in an energy-hungry market has pushed up prices and caused miners to renew their interest in removing the crumbly, bituminous coal characteristic of Allegany and Garrett counties. "It's phenomenal, what's happening. There are seams of coal being mined right now that you couldn't give away (in the past)," remarked Robert Creter...

By industry standards, Maryland's coal reserves are minor. In the anthracite fields of neighboring Pennsylvania or West Virginia, for example, "one large field will produce as much coal as all of Maryland in a year," says Harry Buckley ... Maryland coal mining has been sluggish in recent years. Last year's production was about 1.7 million tons, compared with 13 million tons of bituminous coal mined nationally in the last 12 months. But the number of working mines in Maryland is on the increase, officials note. "We probably had an average of 20 to 30 operators over the past six or seven years," says Dr. Kenneth Weaver ... "In the last six months, a half dozen new companies are operating." Weaver estimates Maryland coal production will climb at least 10-15 per cent a year over the next few years, because "the price has practically doubled in the last two years." ...

Virtually all Maryland coal currently is strip mined. Costly in terms of the severity and amount of land disturbed, stripping began in the region in the 1940s, and no state law governed that type of operation until 1955. Until legislators strengthened Maryland's mining laws in the late 1960s, strip mine operators commonly withdrew their bulldozers when a seam was exhausted, forfeiting a reclamation bond instead of restoring the scarred hillsides. Times have changed, however, according to state officials, and industry spokesmen. "Operators can really make some money these days and afford the reclamation," says Weaver. "Strip mine operators - most of them employing less than 10 persons - must post a state bond of about $525 per acre ...

Only one deep mine is currently operating in the state. Franklin Polce, 37, who with his father, 58-year old Americo Polce, heads a deep mine operation at Loch Lynn in Garrett County, expects to continue to mine "for the next eight to 10 years" despite stringent federal regulations governing deep mine safety and operations ...

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