History

Eckley Miners’ Village, Weatherly, Luzerne County


Recently I did one thing that I have not achieved shortly. As I discussed final week, the PHMC held a free admission day this previous Saturday at the entire historic websites they personally superintend. Well, it occurred to work out that no person was obtainable to go along with me for one motive or one other, so I ended up going all on my own to my vacation spot of alternative up in Luzerne County. I do not usually go on quests alone, principally for well being causes, however I had an incredible day with lovely climate and was even in a position to make a pair facet quests to gather extra markers.

My major goal was to pay a go to to Eckley Miners’ Village Museum, which I’ve lengthy needed to see; and after rigorously navigating some hairpin turns up into the mountains, I reached my vacation spot in time to affix the 11 a.m. strolling tour. Our tour information was a beautiful retired miner who has been doing analysis concerning the area for greater than fifty years. He was beautiful (I remorse not getting his identify) and I discovered loads from him. I apologize to my cell readers, as a result of I took so many footage in Eckley that this put up has greater than the same old quantity.

The marker sits within the parking zone of the guests heart
at 2 Eckley Main Street, Weatherly

Eckley was, initially, a tiny settlement referred to as Shingletown, as a result of the residents made roof shingles from the wooden of the numerous timber. It was half of a big tract of land owned by Tench Coxe, who had been a delegate to the Continental Congress. When a bunch of prospectors visited the realm in 1853, they found that the Tench Coxe Estate included a substantial deposit of coal, and the 4 males – Asa Lansford Foster, John Leisenring, Richard Sharpe, and Francis Weiss – fashioned an organization (first Sharpe, Leisenring and Co., later Sharpe, Weiss and Co.) to mine it. They made preparations with the Tench Coxe Estate to lease the land for 20 years and to ascertain and run a colliery on the location. Within a yr the undertaking had begun. 

Shingletown was changed with a small village of purple and black homes the place the mine staff would stay. (Why purple and black? Because they have been the most affordable paint colours obtainable.) The mining firm dubbed their little neighborhood Fillmore, however after they utilized for a put up workplace in 1857, they discovered that there already was a Fillmore out in Centre County. So as a substitute they named the city Eckley, after Tench Coxe’s teenage grandson. Eckley Coxe later turned an engineer and was closely concerned within the city’s operations. His namesake is a few mile lengthy and mainly consists of 1 road, which is not paved, though there’s a type of again road the place the slate pickers’ shack is positioned; my tour did not go there. 

If you have ever heard about somebody coming from “the fallacious facet of the tracks,” that is actually true in a patch city like Eckley. Railroad tracks divide the city roughly in half, and to the east is the poorer finish of city and to the west is the comparatively wealthier finish. On the poorer finish are double homes, just like the one at left, which have been mainly occupied by Irish immigrants; the wealthier facet, with single-family houses, tended to belong to the Welsh, German, and English staff. They have been Protestant, whereas the Irish have been Catholic, so there was a whole lot of ethnic and non secular divide with the tracks within the center. There have been additionally, later, immigrants from japanese European nations akin to Poland, and these have been often given the lowest-paying jobs as a result of they did not communicate English. 

The tour begins on the poor finish of city, close to the guests heart, the place the Irish got permission to erect a Catholic church and rectory, seen at proper. It was actually solely the Irish who worshiped within the Church of the Immaculate Conception, as a result of whereas lots of the japanese European immigrants have been additionally Catholic, they most well-liked to stroll the three miles to close by Freeland with the intention to attend Orthodox companies in their very own languages. Today, the rectory serves because the present store for the museum, and is a very lovely constructing; it nonetheless has the unique flooring and stained glass across the door, and the lady working there advised me that when the priest was not in residence, the home was utilized by a household with 17 youngsters. The church, in the meantime, was closed within the Fifties as a result of the dwindling congregation may not assist it. The constructing was desanctified and the whole lot was eliminated apart from the altar; this and a portray of the Virgin Mary on the ceiling are the one issues inside that are authentic to the 1862 building. Normally, there are substitute statuary and different decorations donated by a church in Berwick, all of which date to the Nineteen Twenties, however throughout my tour the church was present process a ceiling renovation so these things had been positioned in storage.

From the church we moved farther down the road and have been proven the inside of one of many double homes. While residents of Eckley definitely had tough lives, they have been handled just a little higher than the residents of many patch cities owned by different mining corporations. Miners elsewhere have been usually paid in scrip, a type of distinctive foreign money which was solely good on the firm retailer; I discussed this again in my put up concerning the Molly Maguires. Eckley residents have been paid in precise United States {dollars} – they nonetheless suffered backlash for not purchasing on the firm retailer, however that they had the means to avoid wasting their cash, and lots of of them did. Families took in boarders, did laundry, offered baked items or eggs, and located different methods to complement their mining earnings. This enabled them to later lease a greater home from the corporate, or to even purchase a chunk of land elsewhere and transfer out of Eckley fully. So one facet of the double home (seen at left) confirmed what the dwelling situations have been like for a more recent household – sparse, with whitewashed partitions, no curtains, steel dinnerware, wooden range, and so forth. 

The different facet was the house of a mining household that had been in a position to enhance their state of affairs – blue painted partitions, curtains, actual dishes, frames on their paintings, even a treadle stitching machine. The information advised us {that a} miner’s spouse often had two desires, to personal a coal range (uncommon as a result of coal was a lot dearer than wooden) and to have her personal actual dishes. Later of their operations, the mining firm took much less curiosity in sustaining the residences, so the individuals who lived there have been answerable for the maintenance. Some of them constructed summer season kitchens behind their homes, the place they cooked and did laundry in the summertime to cut back the warmth in the principle home.

The railroad tracks which divide the city result in the breaker, a part of the mining operations. The breaker seen at proper shouldn’t be actual; the true one was a lot larger, and did not stand fairly so near the city. This one is definitely a prop, left over from the filming of the film The Molly Maguires. I discussed it briefly in my put up concerning the Carbon County marker, however within the Nineteen Sixties, Paramount Pictures rented the village of Eckley to function a set for his or her film concerning the ill-fated miners; the breaker was a part of the film. The firm retailer sitting in the course of Eckley at present can be a leftover prop, as the true retailer was torn down way back. Also within the film is a location known as the Emerald Saloon, which did not actually exist; the constructing used for that’s the Eckley social membership, which was erected within the early twentieth century as a gesture of appreciation to the miners coming back from serving within the World Wars. It’s nonetheless a social membership at present.

Oh yeah, that was – to me – probably the most stunning reality about Eckley. People nonetheless stay there. The complete village is a museum, nevertheless it’s a dwelling museum and a number of the houses are nonetheless occupied, usually by descendants of the unique residents. The PHMC now owns the property, because it has achieved since not too lengthy after filming wrapped on The Molly Maguires, and the residents lease their houses from the group. Despite the look of the place, they’ve all the trendy facilities one can anticipate, like indoor plumbing and electrical energy; issues like fireplace hydrants and cable containers have been rigorously hid, in order to not disrupt the aesthetic of the village. If you go to Eckley, you may see a number of the residents sitting on their porches or mowing their lawns. The rule of thumb is that if a home has a mailbox in entrance of it, somebody lives there, so do not attempt to open the door or peer via the home windows. Houses with out mailboxes are unoccupied, though as of this writing just one is out there for guests to enter. (That will likely be altering… maintain studying.)

Walking previous the breaker results in the wealthier finish of city. There have been as soon as two church buildings there, St. James’s Episcopal and a Presbyterian church, the latter of which was relocated to Freeland within the Nineteen Thirties. The plot the place it stood is now a inexperienced house for the unique use of residents and museum workers. St. James’s additionally not stands, however has been changed with St. Paul’s, which was introduced over from the city of White Haven; it was constructed on the identical plan as St. James, at across the similar time, and was even served by the identical rector, Rev. Peter Russell. He and his spouse are memorialized in two of the stained glass home windows. All of the woodwork and furnishings are authentic, and the wooden is English walnut, which provides an thought of how rich the congregation will need to have been. No one makes use of it for worship anymore, however our information advised us that the church organ will get performed at Christmas, and sometimes individuals lease the church for weddings. 

The mule barn and the true firm retailer have been additionally on this a part of the village, however each have lengthy since been torn down; a duplicate mule barn stands close to the corporate retailer prop. At the intense western finish of Eckley are the house and workplace of the corporate physician, which is at present being renovated and will likely be open for excursions sooner or later, and the houses which belonged to mine homeowners Asa Lansford Foster and Richard Sharpe. Sharpe’s mansion is seen at proper. Foster’s home is about to endure a whole lot of adjustments as a part of a revitalization undertaking, turning into a analysis facility for persevering with exploration of this time interval. Other features of this undertaking, that are detailed within the PHMC article linked beneath, will finally embrace renovating a number of the houses to permit individuals to truly keep in a single day in Eckley and expertise the situations firsthand.

The village is the massive attract Eckley, however under no circumstances the one one. Inside the guests heart is a small museum crammed with artifacts from and details about every day life in Eckley. There can be extra details about the mining firm and the boys who operated the neighborhood, notably Eckley Coxe and his spouse Sophia. The image of her at left hangs within the museum. Strong believers in an informed work pressure, the Coxes established the Institute of Miners and Mechanics, which nonetheless operates at present because the MMI Preparatory School, and Eckley was additionally concerned within the founding of Lehigh University alongside Asa Packer. Although he was militantly anti-union, he was kinder to the residents of Eckley than many mine homeowners; he refused to permit any of his tenants to be evicted throughout the winter months. If a miner was killed, as a substitute of evicting the widow (as many different mine homeowners did), he would enable her to stay for a number of months and supply a small pension on which she may assist her household whereas she discovered what to do. Sophia, based on our tour information, was referred to as “the Angel of the Anthracite” for a way a lot curiosity she took within the welfare of the miners’ wives and kids. In specific, yearly she would personally finance a big Christmas occasion for the miners’ youngsters, and offered them with two items every – one sensible (gloves, socks, or one thing like that) and one private (one thing enjoyable like a sled or a doll).

Eckley is the biggest and best-preserved anthracite mining neighborhood in the whole United States. Walking via the village is free and may be achieved year-round, though guided excursions are solely obtainable from Memorial Day via Labor Day – or on particular occasion days, akin to after I was there. The museum within the guests heart has a small charge, and you can too inquire on the desk a few self-guided cellphone tour of the village. (Do needless to say the one public restrooms are contained in the guests heart, so take note of their hours of operation!) With the dynamic adjustments which are deliberate to unfold within the subsequent few years, it’ll be an thrilling time to go to and uncover.


Sources and Further Reading:

Lowery, Andrea. “Coal Patch, Take Two: The Preservation of Eckley Miners’ Village.” Pennsylvania Heritage journal, Spring 2016.

Blatz, Perry, and Craig A. Benner. Eckley Miners’ Village: Pennsylvania Trails of History Guides. Stackpole Books, June 2003.

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Except the place indicated, all writing and images on this weblog is the mental property of Laura Klotz. This weblog is written with permission of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. I’m not employed by the PHMC. All rights reserved.



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