26 February 2014

Workday Wednesday: the Coal Mines of Shenandoah

My great-great grandfather, Michael Walsh, immigrated from Ireland. I know nothing of his family or life there. Once here in America, he settled in Shenandoah in Schuylkill County, PA, where he - like many an Irishman - became a coal miner.

Shenandoah is known for its abundance of anthracite coal which lies beneath it. The area was settled farmland by 1835. The Philadelphia Land Company acquired the land by 1850 and banked on the coal mining future of the small town. The Civil War presented a new found need for coal sources. In 1862 the Philadelphia Land Company then surveyed the land and laid out a town.

The town was named Shenandoah, after the nearby creek. The first colliery also opened that year. Just two years later, in 1864, coal was being shipped by rail. The photo at right is one of the Kohinoor Colliery (photo from eBay).

The miners worked long hours for low wages. The immigrants and their families were forced to be crowded into isolated, company-built mill town housing. Not knowing any better, many accepted the circumstances as part of life. Injuries, illnesses and even death were commonplace.

My Walsh Family eventually moved to Phoenixville.

Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.