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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Early History of Coal Mining in Steubenville

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 22, 2005

All of the library's local history files have been shipped to a digitizing company where they will be scanned and converted to into electronic format to be added to our Digital Shoebox Project. The loose files, sometimes called Vertical Files in library lingo, consist of a little of this, and a little of that.

Librarians are pack rats, and just can't resist gathering dabs of information that might be useful to future seekers using the library. Local history files are particularly useful, as the information is generally not available in one source. When placed into the Digital Shoebox where it can be used from any location with a computer, and keyword indexed; librarians will smile!

When the items were being sorted, I noticed several pieces relating to coal mining in Steubenville, which I would like to share. A clipping from the February 9, 1859 "Weekly Herald" newspaper states, "one of the proprietors of the Coal Pit on upper Market Street, where coal is being dug by hand, is successful and profitable." "A large amount of coal is raised daily, and disposed of about as rapidly as put upon the platform."  It lists Reynolds, Borland, & Co. as the owners of the operation.

The "1876 Steubenville City Directory" clarifies the history of coal mining in the City.  It states that prior to 1856, coal was dug from surface mines along the hillside west of town, called "drift mines." In that year, Adam Wise was drilling for water to supply industry and at 225 feet he struck a vein of coal some 11 feet thick. Under the same of the Steubenville Coal and Mining Company, a shaft was sunk along Market Street and reached this thick seam of coal. Reynolds and Borland leased the works along with William Averick, making the production successful. In 1871, a second shaft was sunk at Stony Hollow to 187 feet in depth, for a total production of 7,000 bushels of coal per day.

Spaulding and Woodward & Co. operated a coalmine to the west of the Stony Hollow mine, and the Ohio and Pennsylvania Coal Co. works was still further west. Other area mines in 1876 included the Borland Mine, the Jefferson Coal Mine, and the Steubenville Iron and Bolt Mine.

The term "High Shaft" was applied to the Market Street works sometime in the 1880s.  The wooden tipple at the mine was completely destroyed by fire in 1902, requiring a month to rebuild. A 1942 fire damaged the tipple and loading bins requiring 34 days of repair to return to operation. The "High Shaft" mine tipple and operations were a common sight in downtown Steubenville for a century.  It was listed as being located at 8th and Liberty Streets in the Directories of the era.

Mining ended on April 30, 1952 as the structure of the mine could not accommodate modern mining equipment.  The tipple remained in operation to wash and separate coal until 1964. At the time of closing, the mine operations extended over three miles west and north of the Market Street tipple, and south to Slack Street at a depth of 225 feet to 800-900 feet in places. Output in 1952 was listed as 75 tons of coal per day.  An airshaft was located on Wills Creek.

This information is not contained in one source; there is no book that tells the complete story in one binding.  This is why librarians are always searching for the tid-bits of local history; to be sure it is available for tomorrow's information-seekers.