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PART II. THE ANTHRACITE COAL MINING INDUSTRY IN A REPRESENTATIVE COMMUNITY.
Description of the locality-General industries-Inducements and obstacles to immigration-Local prejudice [Text Tables 54 and 55].
DESCRIPTION OF THE LOCALITY.
The general region about Community A is industrially described as the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. The fields are divided into three districts, known as the Northern, the Middle, and the Southern. All three districts are irregular, elongated areas having the same general direction-from northeast to southwestas the mountain ridges which inclose them. The Northern district lies in the gently undulating Wyoming Valley, whose broad slopes afford ample room for expanding cities and extensive manufacturing plants.
The middle and Southern fields, however, are characterized by quite different physical features. The underlying strata are fluted and twisted, wrinkled by folds and chopped up by faults. The Northern district, with an area of 200 square miles, is practically one long, wide basin, while the Middle district, covering an area of 130 square miles, is broken up into nine basins. All of the latter are held in narrow valleys whose steep walls are cut here and there by small creeks. This irregularity of surface causes the railroad system of the region to appear on the maps like a tangled skein of threads.
It is in this rugged, uneven country of the Middle coal field that Community A is located. Situated in the northern part of Schuylkill County, West Mahanoy Township, it occupies almost the middle point of the chain of ragged coal basins which begins at Upper Lehigh in Luzerne County and swings down through Carbon, Schuylkill, and Columbia counties to Trevorton, in Northumberland County.
The 834 acres covered by the borough lie in a small valley scarcely a mile wide, running from northeast to southwest, the floor of which is about 1,300 feet above sea level. Directly up from the borough's northern boundary to an altitude of 482 feet rises North Mahanoy Mountain. The southern limit of the town is formed by a rounded. hill about 100 feet high, but the residential part extends only to the lowlands of Mahanoy Creek, where the huge heaps of mine refuse take up three-eighths of the width of the valley.
On both the east and the west the borough is hemmed in by collieries, mountainous culm banks, and coal lands which have been
made useless for building purposes through the cave-ins that pit the surface as the result of removing the pillars in the underlying mines.
The climate of this section of Pennsylvania may be described as mildly temperate. West winds prevail throughout the greater part of the year, and as the general trend of the valley is from west to east the hills about Shenandoah do not afford it much protection.
Observations of the rainfall, made for the Weather Bureau at Girardville, which is 44 miles west of Shenandoah, in the same valley, show that the average annual precipitation in the locality reaches 54.67 inches.
In the year 1907 the last killing frost observed during the spring occured on May 12, and the first severe frost of the autumn came on October 2.
During the late summer months of 1908 the whole region was afflicted with a long-continued drought, during which the Shenandoah city drinking-water supply gave out completely. In September and October of 1908 all water for drinking purposes had to be brought from mountain springs, many of them quite distant from the town. The same geological peculiarities which are responsible for the community's poverty in cultivable soil and ground area are, on the other hand, the cause of its extraordinary wealth in anthracite coal beds. The upheavals which wrinkled the terrestrial surface into valleys so steep and narrow that their sides would not hold the soil also folded and piled up the underlying carboniferous strata into valuable deposits of unusual thickness and of comparatively small proportions of unprofitable rock and slate.
In the Northern field the coal measures are broad, thin, numerous, and level; in the Middle and Southern fields they are narrow, thick, few in number, and generally steeply inclined. In the former region the vertical-shaft mine entrance is employed, while in the latter the slope entrance is used.
The principal coal beds underlying the community and their average thickness are shown in the following statement:
In the early workings one vein was encountered in an inverted position, and so doubled upon itself that in some places the coal was 300 feet thick. Another very valuable deposit occurred in an inversion found in the Buck Mountain vein. This displacement was due to a folding over of the strata, which, from a commercial point of view, doubled the value of the coal deposits.
At places the top and bottom splits of the Mammoth vein come together, forming a thickness of from 60 to 70 feet. Usually, however, the thickness of the veins found in the mines are from 40 to 50 feet in thickness and of excellent quality.
These hard-coal deposits of the region brought Community A into existence, and because its restricted ground area has not permitted the establishment of other industries, coal mining is still the main industry of the community and the principal occupation of the inhabitants. Either within the city or on the edge of its boundaries there are seven mining operations, five breakers, and two washeries. These establishments employ nearly 4,000 men and boys, and in 1906 produced 1,301,015 tons of anthracite coal, or nearly 2.2 per cent of the total production of the State of Pennsylvania. In 1907 the local production was 1,617,912 tons, or nearly 2.1 per cent of the total state production.
In neighboring collieries, from a half to 3 miles away, something like 3,000 more residents of the community find employment, so that it may be said that about 85 per cent of the working population of the borough is employed in the hard-coal industry.
The community offers a poor market in which to dispose of products from other localities. Its trade is almost wholly retail, and is without any specialties save perhaps those of mining supplies and overalls. A part of the demand for the latter is supplied by a small local factory.
The wholesale business in the city is practically confined to five distilled liquor firms, two branches of Chicago packing houses, two lumber concerns, and a wholesale bakery, all of which have some. business in neighboring towns.
The farm and garden produce is supplied by a hundred or more farmers who drive in regularly from the surrounding country. Fruits and a few vegetables are also shipped in from Philadelphia.
Community A's great export is of course anthracite coal, large shipments of which are sent to Perth Amboy, Philadelphia, and other tide-water shipping points. The two breweries ship about 50,000 barrels of beer annually to the neighboring towns. A small outside business is also done by a cigar factory, a knitting mill, a slaughterhouse, and a fertilizer company.
Community A, while not located on any of the transcontinental trunk lines, nevertheless enjoys ample railroad facilities by means of branch connections with the following transportation systems which established communication with the borough in the order given: The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The Reading road is used mainly as a carrier for the collieries, while its passenger traffic is very light compared with that which is enjoyed by the two other lines. This is largely due to the roundabout way by which it enters the community.
Nearly all of the travel toward the north and the east takes place over the Lehigh Valley road, which affords connections at Hazleton with the Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton Electric Railway and at Mauch Chunk with through trains for New York City.
The Pennsylvania road is a short spur which runs down to Pottsville and there makes connection with through trains for Philadelphia and other southern points.
The total trackage in the borough belonging to these railroads amounts to 3 miles of single and double track. There are also 27 laterals and sidings, amounting to 1 miles, which supply 7 collieries