ELLSWORTH, PA


A few miles from Cokeburg lies it's sister patch, Ellsworth. This was a big mine and coke yard that opened in 1899. Lackawanna Steel Company later operated it, and a current resident of Ellsworth told me that he thought mining continued into the 1980s. Too bad somebody thought they would be cute and tore down the tipple, instead of leaving it up for all of us to enjoy. But these shop buildings are still standing at Ellsworth. (May 2003 image by author)


These brick coal patch houses in Ellsworth differ from most other patch housing. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


More common 2 family coal miners homes at Ellsworth. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


The "Lithuanian Club" in Ellsworth, like all the Polish, Italian, and Slovak social clubs in Western Pennsylvania, is a reminder of the enormous number of European immigrants that filled the coal and steel towns of Western Pennsylvania a century ago. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


These buildings used to function as part of the Ellsworth mine complex, but have been recycled to serve contemporary needs. This is why preparation plants and tipples don't survive - they can't be converted into anything else. (May 2003 image by author)


Robert took this picture of the remaining coke ovens at Ellsworth and writes, "I found the coke ovens for Ellsworth. They were built in 1905 and produced coke from 1906 - 1922." (Image courtesy of Robert Deavers)


Detail of a coke oven at Ellsworth. (Image courtesy of Robert Deavers)


Aerial photo of Ellsworth showing part of the patch in the lower part of the picture, a reclaimed slate dump in the upper left, and some of the remaining mine buildins in the upper right. (Image taken from a plane by Chris H.)


Jerry writes, "...I was born and raised in Ellsworth Pa. ...I moved in 1979 but Momma said they closed the mines in 1982. I was born there in 1944 and for as long as I ever knew they were owned by Bethlehem Steel and were known as Bethlehem Mines Corp. Grandpa was nicknamed Cap and he was a general mine foreman. My grandpa, my daddy, and Uncle Jim started when they were still using picks shovels and ponies to get the coal out. If you looked across the valley from G row you saw a huge "gob" pile. What are known as gob piles were known then for what they really are: slate dumps. They were also our playgrounds and occasionally our death traps due to sink holes. In any case the huge slate dump across the valley had two large towers on top of them and cables attached to them. Their purpose was: in the valley was the coal washer, and slate was sent by tram cars up to a transfer station, then into 2 huge buckets that rode the cables up toward the towers and at a given point the bottom opened and the slate fell out. As one was dumping the other was loading. The mine ran 350 feet below our house and if you put your ear to the basement floor you could hear the shuttle cars in the mine. After TV came to our homes the miners in the mines were using two way radios and unfortunately for our parents there were times when the slate dump towers acted like broadcast towers. This resulted in the Howdy Doody show occasionally being peppered with some rather, shall we say, "colorful" language. Ellsworth division had Not only Ellsworth but Mine 60 in Somerset township, and Marianna mine as well.

The mine offices were in Ellsworth. The post office was a huge brick building with the front porch supported by southern mansion style white pillars. Sharing that building along its left side were a shoe repair shop and a barber shop and, at the rear, was a bathroom. Next to that was a 2 story red brick building that housed the company store. When you needed something you went to the company store and got it and they docked you daddy's pay check for it. There was another grocery store in town for those lucky enough to be able to pay cash. It was housed in a building that became the local fire hall. A family named Pinkney ran it. Across from the company store was a small red brick building that was the doctor's office. Your medical care was handled here since the doctor was also a Bethlehem mines employee. We had a company doctor, old Doc Ellis, who brought me into the world, and then Doc Braun, who we affectionately called Dr. Feelgood (the reasons why we won't go there). Anyway it was nothing to go to the doctor and there would be the body of a dead miner in the back room. I am sorry to say it was a fact of life you dealt with if you grew up in coal towns. Next to the doctor's office was a 4 story red brick building was division headquarters for Bethlehem mines. Ellsworth at one time even had it's own bank with it's own Bank of Ellsworth currency. I don't remember that as I am only 60 but Grandpa did. (He died, by the way, at 99 which is rare for coal miners. Daddy made it to 70 when black lung got him.) The picture you show of the brick homes was known as G row. It is known now as North Pine Street but at the time I was growing up all the streets were assigned letters of the alphabet. All company owned buildings in this complex were red brick. All their trucks were what was called Omaha Orange. Speaking of brick, the houses in your photo of G row are double brick; a brick house basically built over a brick house. when The company built F row they were running short of brick so they went to single brick then to wooden clapboards. Ellsworth homes all had indoor plumbing at least from 1944 when I was born. The houses in Ellsworth were miner-owned as long as I can remember, so the renting had to have stopped pre-1944. Life in Ellsworth was basically set up on an unofficial ethnic economic status system. Those at the top... lived on what was known as the heights. The Italians lived in J row the Eastern Europeans (Romanians, Poles, etc.) lived in C row and D row, and the English, Germans, etc. were in the neighborhood of G row F row etc. That is a small sample of course but you get the idea. I have to be careful because even though mine towns were close knit we did have an area that had what was considered less than desirable to put it rather gently. Considering that some of those folks still live there and some of them are really good people who just happened to be on the lower end of the pay scale I won't really go there. There were buildings housing the electric transformers for the mine, the bath house at the shaft head and the garages that handled the Company vehicles including a company owned and operated tan Cadillac ambulance. All these buildings were made of the ever popular red brick. Basically if you lived in a coal mine town the company pretty much owned you. My daddy ended up as an electrician and he worked out of the shops in what is still known as the junction. The shop had a long sloped shaft that allowed them to extract and insert equipment into and out of the mine. It also served as an escape hatch. Most of Ellsworth coal was shipped out by rail to Shire Oaks rail yard, and from there to Sparrows Point near Baltimore to Bethlehem's steel mill there.

I remember when the first diesel locomotive came to Ellsworth in the early 50's. It was about midnight and when you grow up hearing steam engines then all of a sudden this strange sound hits your ears it caused quite a stir among the populous. Bentleyville was a mile away and any time we kids had to go to the movies or whatever the trains were our taxi. We would go down to the tracks at the end of C row and wait for a coal train going our way then hop it and ride between the coal cars till it got to the crossing near Orsattis grocery store then bail off and when we were ready to come home, a little ways up the track at the end of the drug store parking lot there was a maintainance shed and we would wait till the diesel passed and then hop it for the ride back to C row. The slate dumps at the towers were on formed a barrier for a huge lake that we called Big Dam. Chippawa golf course bordered 1 side of it. It was actually a valley that had filled with water. it was so deep I'm not sure anyone ever did figure it out but back then the technology did not exist in Ellsworth to measure it because when they got to 150 feet the pressure was too much. I heard estimates as high as 600 feet but all we cared about was the swimming and fishing near the pump house. There was a ledge about 5 feet out from shore that you could stand on but step off that and it went straight down. Life in Ellsworth was not exactly ideal but it wasn't exactly Hells Kitchen either. We used to have rock battles on the slate dumps (yes I said rock battles, throwing real rocks), but the main crime wave was garden raids. All we had to do was ask for grapes, sunflower seeds, and tomatoes, but it was more exciting stealing them from neighborhood gardens. I remember the Marianna mine explosion well. My daddy was in that mine for three days straight without coming home rigging electric wiring so they could conduct recovery operations. I do remember The union giving out turkeys at Christmas and passing food out during strikes. Speaking of strikes they would do that at the drop of a hat. If a man got a cut finger there better be a doctor and ambulance waiting at the tipple when he came up. They struck for 10 days in the 50's for just that reason. The UMW built a clinic in Centerville for members and their families and I believe it is still running. If you ever have to hire anybody hire a coal miners kid. A work ethic of almost biblical proportions is instilled into miners' kids almost from birth. I had my first job putting in twelve hours a day on a milk truck from 4 pm till 4 am for 5 bucks a week and a quart of milk a day when I was 9 years old. Coal miners are a hard living, hard working lot that keep the 2 separate. They play hard, but when that hard hat and pitbelt go on they are all business because they know that down there your fellow miners are all that stand between you and a body bag."



From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 3, 1983:

Bethlehem To Consolidate Two Mines Near Ellsworth

After decades of leap-frogging from portal to portal in search of dwindling coal reserves, Bethlehem Mines officials are closing Mine 51 near Ellsworth. But the story doesn't end there. The gradual phasing out of operations at Mine 51 is making way for the expansion of the adjoining property, known as Mine 60. "Fifty-one has been working out its last reserves for several years now," said Phillip Williams, Bethlehem spokesman. "Once the reserves were completely gone, we knew we'd either begin a whole new mine somewhere else or merge these two. Merging will be beneficial to both management and labor."

In January Mine 60 will acquire much of Mine 51's machinery, equipment and employees to form the Mine Eighty-Four Complex. "It's not a one-day type of turnover," said Thomas Mucho, superintendent at Mine 60. "We've been working on this for several years now." Mucho said the consolidation process was stepped up when the two United Mine Workers locals - No. 1197 at Mine 60 and No. 1190 at Mine 51 - merged April 1. By consolidating the two mines, Bethlehem hopes to retain all of its employees - including 575 miners from Mine 60 and nearly 600 from Mine 51 ...


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