MUSE, PA


A Muse coal miner and his dinner bucket on his way to or from work. (1940's image from "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry" via the National Archives)


This coal patch is Muse, Pennsylvania, with the company store in the lower right corner of the picture. (May 2003 image by author)


Ruins of the coal mining complex at Muse. According to the now defunct webpage "Muse Slate Dump," Muse was built in 1923 and operated by H.C. Frick Coke Co. That would make this one of the last, if not the last, coal company towns built or acquired by Frick. (May 2003 image by author)


Remnants of the Muse tipple. There are also many gob piles around these ruins. (May 2003 image by author)


Most of the coal company housing at Muse is the typical Pennsylvania coal miner's two family housing shown here. Note the houses with different colors on each side of the house. That is because each side has a different owner with different tastes. I have not seen this anywhere outside of Pennsylvania. (May 2003 image by author)


Photo of a patch house kitchen at Muse in the circa 1946 shows the decent standard of living at this coal mining town. (1940's image from "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry" via the National Archives)


A coal miner and his family on the back stoop of their company house at Muse. The family and homes look healthy and clean, and thus counter-argue the image that all coal company towns were filthy and squalid. Of course Muse wasn't that far away from Pittsburgh, either. (1940's image from "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry" via the National Archives)


The former company store at Muse is located right in the middle of the patch. (May 2003 image by author)


This photo from the heyday of Muse shows a crowd gathered on the steps of the Union Supply Company store. Union Supply Co. was the retail company for all H.C. Frick Coal & Coke Co's. stores. Company stores not only sold groceries, clothes, and sometimes nearly everything else, but they also served as central gathering places for the patch communities. (1940's image from "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry" via the National Archives)


A view inside the Muse company store. The old coal company stores were not supermarkets with aisles to browse. Rather the customer stood at the counter and the store employees brought the items to the customer. (1940's image from "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry" via the National Archives)


The Muse Italian Club is a reminder of the large number of Italian immigrants that came to Washington County to work in the coal mines, coke works, and steel and iron mills. Note the sign for "Fridays - Fried Fish & Shrimp," even though this photo was taken in the month of May, after Lent was over. I guess some people are comforted by clinging to the old ways, like having meatless Fridays all year, as was required pre-Vatican II. (May 2003 image by author)


Perhaps your grandfather or grandmother went to the Muse Public School, which is still used as an elementary school. (May 2003 image by author)

One of the readers of this website was kind enough to make a copy for me of "My Hometown Muse" by James McCauslin. I would like to share some excerpts from the book:

"Little did I realize, when I was a young boy in the early 1930s, what a unique little village I was living in. It was a coal mining community called Muse, located in Washington County about twenty five miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The town was built from scratch by the National Mining Company, a subsidiary of U S Steel Corporation, in the early 1920s, on what was formerly the Weaver, Hall, and White farms. It was named after Charles A. Muse, then Superintendent of coal shipments for H.C. Frick Coke Company. In the coal mining industry around Pittsburgh, Muse was called National Number 3...

"Smack in the middle of town was a large baseball field which was always well maintained by the coal mining company ... In the summer, the baseball games were the big event in town, and in the fall it was soccer. All the small mining towns in that part of Western Pennsylvania had their own baseball and soccer teams, and the competition was very intense. [We all know that the people of Western PA are intensely passionate about sports to the point of religious fervor - CTD] The players were young men who worked in the mine. If you were a good ball player, you could get a job in any mine you wanted. There was no charge to watch the game and, except for the pitcher, the players were not paid. The only money involved was when a hat was passed around for contributions to buy equipment...

"The alleys behind the houses were a busy place, used by the milk man who delivered fresh milk to the homes, hucksters selling fruits and vegetables, the "rag man" collecting any old discarded items, garbage trucks (which were not common in coal mining towns, and other service trucks for ashes and coal. When a few tons of coal were delivered to a home, they were dumped in the alley, and the people had to haul it in to their basement of store it in the shed in their backyard ...

"Between 1921 and 1926 the National Mining Company built three hundred two story houses in the village, with a front and back porch, and a neatly fenced-in yard. Most of the houses were duplexes with a few single homes. Initially most of the duplex homes had a coal burning stove (called 'heatrola' then) in the living room. A hole was made in the ceiling to heat the upstairs. With the burning of coal, it meant that the ashes had to be hauled out of the house. Many of the miners had gardens in their yards, and the ashes were spread around as fertilizer, or dumped beside the alley. When the pile of ashes got too high in the alley, a company truck would haul them away ...

"The H.C. Frick Coke Company, a subsidiary of U S Steel, owned all of the houses, and had a full time staff of carpenters and repair men to service them. Exterior painting, repairs, etc. were all taken care of by the company. The carpenter shop was a busy place in those days ...

"The National Number 3 Mine at Muse began operation in 1922, using all of the latest technology at the time. It was located just outside the town at the top of one of the hills to the west. The mine was underground, with two vertical shafts several hundred yards apart and approximately 365 feet deep. One shaft was used to lower men and materials (man shaft), and the other shaft was used to bring the coal to the surface (coal shaft).

"In the actual mining operation, cutting machines with a long blade like a chain saw would cut into the surface of the coal and isolate a large section. Then some blasting powder would be used to break the coal loose ...

"In the middle 1940s electric driven coal loading machines were introducted into the Muse mine. This replaced many of the men, and increased the output, but also produced a lot of problems and a lot more slate in the coal. To combat this the mining company installed equipment, called a washer, at the tipple to remove the slate from the coal just before the coal was loaded into railroad cars ...

"Operating a large coal mine like Muse required a lot of technical support. Forced ventilation in the mine with a network of trap doors to direct the air was very important. Underground transportation for the men, coal, slate, and supplies was an ongoing challenge. A large electrical distribution system was required also as the mine used a lot of electric power. There was 600 volts DC distributed throughout the mine on exposed cable for the machinery. It was a dangerous condition and the miners had to be careful not to come in contact with the cable ...

"Frequently there were veins of impurities mixed in with the coal. This was called slate, and the miners would have to load this slate into separate cars to get at the coal. However, they did not get paid for the cars loaded with slate. It was not unheard of to load a car with slate and top it off with coal. It goes without saying that this was forbidden and the offenders, when caught, would be reprimanded in some manner.

"The slate would be hauled to the surface through the man shaft and dumped in a huge pile near the mine. After many yers of creating this large, ugly slate dump over a hundred feet high and covering many acres, it would catch on fire from spontaneous combustion of the coal that was left with the slate. With the westerly winds, there would be a continous flow of somke over the town for several years until the dump burned out ...

"The slate dump was not all that bad for the local residents. The children of many of the miners would pick the coal that was mixed in with the slage, and haul it home in sacks. A lorry car on tracks would haul the slate away from the mine shaft and empty the load on the dump during the day shift. After three o'clock in the afternoon the mine would cease dumping. The kids would then storm the dump to find the most coal. No picking was permitted before three o'clock. This permitted many families to store enough coal in their back yards in the summer to get them through the entire Winter. One of the young boys in Muse slept one night by the dump to keep warm when it was smoldering. He was found dead the next morning from carbon monoxice poisoning ...

As a young boy I remember the United Mine Workers union forming a large parade and marching through Muse in order to organize the miners. They were not allowed to step off the cement highway because all of the property was owned by the mining company. There were a lot of state police around to keep order. During this period, there were men on horseback hired by the company to patrol the streets in town. Some of the old time miners still recall how the 'Coal Iron Cops,' as they were called, used some rough house tactics to break up their meetings when they were trying to organize their union. Eventually the Muse miners joined the union ...

"In 1954 there were approximately 500 men employed when the mine was shut down. I'm not sure of all the reasons, but I remember hearing the word 'cost' being mentioned, which must have been a factor. There was still a big demand for coal then, and my dad said there was still a lot of coal in the Muse mine. None of the coal had been removed underneath Muse. However, the cost of mining it was probably too high compared to other mines the company owned. The tipples with the hoists were torn down, and the shafts filled with dirt, which sealed the fate of hundreds of rats trapped in the mine."


WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA COALFIELDS

APPALACHIAN COALFIELDS HOME

History of coal mining. History of Pennsylvania. History of Greene County Pennsylvania. History of Fayette County Pennsylvania. History of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania. History of Washington County Pennsylvania. History of Allegheny County Pennsylvania. History of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Coal Seam. Historic Pictures. Historic Photographs. Historic books. Historic Maps. Pittsburgh history publications. History. Pennsylvania Polish immigrants. Pennsylvania Slovak immigrants. Pennsylvania Italian immigrants. Pittsburgh immigrants. Pittsburgh polka music. Pennsylvania polka music. Pittsburgh culture. Pittsburgh foot. Pennsylvania pieroige. Historic architecture. Historic buildings. Historic towns. Organized labor. Unions. United Mine workers. Archives. Monongahela River. Allegheny River. River tourism. Pittsburgh tourism.