History of Northern Cambria County, Pa.
From: History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania
By: John E. Gable
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis, 1926


The history of northern Cambria County, as written and published by numerous authors and as revised and expanded in recent times because of a notable revival of local interest in many communities, is the history of the settlement at Clearfields and founding of Loretto by Capt. Michael McGuire and the building up of that community by the Russian prince priest, Demetrius Augustin Gallitzin; the breaking away of part of the Loretto flock to settle Munster; the advance of the Catholic Church from the Loretto settlement under Father P. H. Lemcke to lay new foundations at Carroiltown, so named in honor of Bishop Carroll of Baltimore; the history of the advance, first of pioneer canoe traffic and later of woodsmen and settlers to the region of Cherrytree; the cutting of timber and the gradual expansion of farming communities, with little towns here and there, churches, stores and taverns.

There was no iron industry in the north of the county to speed its early development industrially. Steam railroads were slow to tap that out of the way field. Places like Chest Springs, St. Boniface and St. Augustine were church centers. Others were what remained of towns which had sprung up during the boom times of Susquehanna lumbering. About the closest relations the north had with the Johnstown section were political, and these were not always cordial. Iron and steel brought many immigrants from many countries to Johnstown, causing great changes, while the north held steadfastly to its ancient mixture of Rhineland German and Swiss, pioneer Irish and Welsh, and to their strongly agricultural and communal ways of living, brought with them from Europe and instilled into them by Prince Gallitzin and others.

The Portage Canal and the Pennsylvania Railroad came through from the east, bringing new life and new peoples to Gallitzin, Cresson, South Fork, Wilmore, Summerhill, Lilly and other places, but having little immediate effect upon the territory to the south of the line, which remained a wilderness, or to the north, which remained almost a place apart, with the courthouse at Ebensburg as about the only point of contact with the south.

Not for the purpose of stressing the materialistic rather than the human side of the story of Cambria County, but because we know of no better way to give a birdseye view of the county, with an exposition of the fact that Cambria County values are largely coal values, let us show another set of figures, taken from the 1920 report on productive industries published by the Department of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, James F. Woodward, secretary, and M. Hoke Gottschall, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Information.

It is to be remembered, of course, that many persons residing outside of Johnstown earn their livings in the city and that Cambria steel and other Johnstown industries extend beyond the city limits. Also that the manufacturing plants of the city, making steel and finished steel products, represent a higher investment value in proportion to production values than do the coal mines of the county. But with all due adjustments and allowances; the figures will show that there is a great deal to Cambria County outside of Johnstown. The "big town idea," wherever there is a big town, is that all the world outside the town is relatively small and unimportant, or at least dependent. A good many intelligent and progressive Philadelphians in many ways indicate their conviction that the western boundary of the State of Pennsylvania is somewhere between the Schuylkill and the Susquehanna. Politically it is necessary sometimes for Philadelphia to see some strange men from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, hardly ever talks Pennsylvania at all, except in political fights. Its language is of Western Pennsylvania, with parts of West Virginia and Eastern Ohio thrown in to make up a super state of Allegheny. To be polite about it, the State of Allegheny in turn means Pittsburgh and its suburbs. The State of Allegheny, until the recent discovery by automobile tourists and salesmen of Ligonier, Somerset, Bedford, Cumberland, Punxsutawney, Indiana, and even Johnstown, was bounded on the extreme east by Greensburg. Other manifestations of this "big town" idea might be mentioned to illustrate what had been taking place, to some extent, in Johnstown.

One modern manifestation, in many places, but not in Johnstown, was in road building. Good roads ran from the courthouse or from the principal business block in the big town radially in all directions for longer or shorter distances, the distant end making a jumping off place into seas of mud or oceans of dust. Roads were politically designed only to run "to," and the place they ran to was the big town. But, the figures: There are, first of all, some comparative statistics on values of production in Cambria. County for the five years 1916 to 1920, covering the war period, with the 1919 slump and the 1920 effort to recover and maintaine the war time volume and value of industry's output. These figures are:

1916 .... $248,820,600
1917 .... $326,380,300
1918 .... $319,607,800
1919 .... $189,370,400
1920 .... $267,681,200

Except for the conversion of some steel works departments from peace to war products, and the opening of new coal mines, there were no added war time industries which came into existence and died out again after the armistice. The 1917 gain over 1916 was $78,000,000, with a still further gain of $7,000,000 in 1918. The falling off in 1919 was $120,000,000, a tumble of $10,000,000 a month. As there were about 40,000 workers, the loss in average production values per worker was $3,000 for the year.

The number of plants operated in the county grew in five years from 335 to 448, and the number of industries represented from 78 to 94. The average number of employes was 37,772 in 1916, and 41,545 in 1920, about half of whom were American whites. Only 871 of the army of employed workers were women, and only 96 were boys and 47 girls under 16 years of age. Total wages paid, by years were $33,442,200, $47,403,000, $59,986,100, $50,482,800, $77,301,900.

The county outside of Johnstown had 65.8 per cent of the number of plants operated, 57.2 per cent of the average number of employes, 54.2 per cent of total wages paid, 43.3 per cent of capital investment, and 32.5 per cent of the value of production.

Since the early nineties there has been a remarkable change in northern Cambria, including the Spangler, Barnesboro, Hastings and Patton sections, relatively old Carrolltown, in the valley of the Blacklick, where Nanty Glob and Vintondale have become the centers of great coal operations, and in Colver and Revioc, modern coal towns which approached close to yet remained independent of Ebensburg, where stands the courthouse in a cultured town which is only just beginning to show that it hopes also to become a business and industrial center, no longer content with bench and bar and an ivy clad county jail.

Underground, Conemaugh Valley mines have been worked northward almost to meet the burrowings southward of the Blacklick Valley miners. In a few years it may be possible to traverse Cambria County, from Scalp Level almost to Cherrytree, beneath the surface of the ground, at places only a few feet from sunlight, at other places 600 feet or more below the top. Coal is the common bond by which all communities in the county are held together, but the county was long to discover this and the development of the north came about almost as an invasion from counties farther north, and almost independently of the thoughts or efforts of the people in the Johnstown section.

Even the North was divided into clearly distinct sections, with the northeast most completely isolated, and Glasgow, Mountaindale and Blandburg perched high on the Allegheny Mountain, looking to Altoona for news, recreation and shopping facilities rather than toward Johnstown. Down in the valley of Clearfield Creek, Van Ormer, Fallen Timber and other communities were a little closer to Johnstown and to Ebensburg, but for months at a time communication by road with the county seat or with Johnstown was almost or quite impossible.

The first great factor in the unification of the county was the railroad, branch lines of the Pennsylvania system pushing northward from Cresson and southward from South Fork and making possible the opening of thousands of acres of coal which had been locked up by lack of transportation facilities. Then came several lines of street railways, between Johnstown, South Fork, Nanty Glo and Ebensburg, and between Patton, Carrolltown, Spangler and Barnesboro. And after that came modern improved highways - primary state highways, secondary state highways, state aid roads, county roads, township roads, county township and county borough roads and state-county-township roads. It was the fight to secure roads, the organized effort to finance roads and the wider outlook which roads gave to communities that did more to make Cambria County in fact one solid municipal subdivision of the state than anything else in the history of the county.

It was the good roads campaign reiteration that more than 40,000 busy and prosperous people were in the Barnesboro-Spangler-Carrolltown-Batton section that aroused the voters in the Johnstown section to support enormous state and county bond issues for roads even though they knew that Johnstown would pay a large part of the cost of the roads but receive no mileage of good roads within the city limits. It was the proof that the south would "go along" with the north in an agreed road program that aroused the north to vote with Johnstown. The communities most in need of roads, generally, were the ones where the opposition was greatest, and those who would pay the least toward construction and maintenance of roads objected most strenuously to road debts.

The story of roads, however, is another chapter. The task here is the difficult one of presenting in a few pages an adequate record of how northern Cambria was transformed from a farming and mountain section into a region of coal mines and coal towns from the crest of the Allegheny Mountain almost to the top of Chestnut Ridge, enriching agriculture by bringing to its farms, gardens and orchards a splendid market at all seasons and building up financial institutions, schools, churches and communities without a mblance of the disorder or lawlessness of the boom towns of other swift developments of lumbering, mining or agriculture.

It would be impossible to tell the story of the coal development of northern Cambria County, of the leadership of men like Rembrandt Peale, T. H. Watkins, J. H. Weaver, B. Dawson Coleman and others, without beginning with the group of "outlanders" which came, like the old lumbermen, from lower Susquehanna reaches into Cambria County under the field generalship of Col. Jackson L. Spangler. Their greatest task was to catch and tame a railroad and lead it into northern Cambria to haul out coal.

Jackson Levi Spangler was born September 27, 1849, in Adamsburg, Snyder County, eldest son of John Spangler and Annie Berger. When the boy was 11 years old the family removed to Center County, where the father became prominent in county affairs, being elected sheriff in 1877. Jackson L. Spangler attended the common schools and Dickinson Seminary, at Williamsport, from which he was graduated with honor in June, 1871, when he began the study of law in the office of Orvis & Alexander. He was admitted to the bar of Center County in January, 1874, and in the summer of the same year was nominated for the office of district attorney of Center County and elected by a large majority. At the end of his three year term he would undoubtedly have been renominated and re-elected but for the fact that he declined to run because his father was a candidate for sheriff in that year. On his own account, and as a member of the law firm of Spangler & Hewes, he became a highly successful lawyer, but he retained his interest in politics and was soon recognized as one of the most influential Democrats of his section of the state.

At the time of the great railroad riots in 1877, General Beaver, then in command of the Fifth Division of the National Guard, accepted young Spangler as a volunteer aide. Later General Beaver induced General Hartranft, then governor, to appoint the young lawyer as an aide on the governor's staff, with rank of major. Immediately after the flood at Johnstown in May, 1889, Colonel Spangler, who was in the vicinity, hurried to the stricken town, accompanied by Gen. Daniel II. Hastings. Colonel Spangler organized the commissary department for the state troops and for the suffering public. General Beaver, then governor, promoted him to be assistant commissary general, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Twice he had earned commendation for emergency service.

Two years before the flood Colonel Spangler had become associated with others who held options on virgin coal lands in Cambria County. It was not difficult to secure options from land owners, especially the farmers, who clung to the surface soil but had little hope of large profits out of minerals while the railroad, like General Sheridan, was "forty miles away." From Colonel Spangler's efforts, the Blubaker Coal Company became the owner of about 12,000 acres of the best coal lands in the north of the county. This connection also led to his identification with the Sterling Coal Company, of which he was general manager. Colonel Spangler also became treasurer and a trustee of the Spangler Improvement Company and is interested in the Hastings Improvement Company. Later, Colonel Spangler became president of the Blubaker Coal Company. He was also president of the First National Bank of Spangler from its organization in the spring of 1904 until the annual meeting of the stockholders in January, 1925, having tendered his resignation on account of failing health. He remained as chairman of the board of directors and was succeeded in the presidency by James A. McClain, who had been the cashier throughout the presidency of Colonel Spangler. Colonel Spangler was treasurer of the Northern Cambria Water Company.

Berwind-White Coal Mining Company, which had very close relations with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and was exploring the bituminous fields with great care in the effort to locate operations where large production would be possible for long periods of time. Berwind-White passed over the northern Cambria field, but approved a vast acreage south of the Conemaugh River and extending far into Somerset County. The Windber boom was a black eye for the north Cambria field. It brought about the extension of the Pennsylvania Railroad system to the Windber field, with the probability that the railroad, leaving Windber, would follow the water levels of Shade Creek southward and eastward to the top of the mountain, and thence, perhaps into Bedford County and across it to connect with one of its other branches, thus giving an outlet from the new Windber field to the eastern market and tidewater without hauling the coal back to the main line at South Fork and over the steep grades of the main line to Altoona. At any rate, Windber had the call and Windber was opened up.

But north Cambria's prophets were undismayed. They had their coal options, a little cash and much faith. They kept right after the main object, a coal hauling railroad. And they got it. The Pennsylvania was placed in a position where it was necessary to promise an extension or permit some one else to enter the field. Since that first battle the New York Central Lines have been pushed down deep into Cambria County, and the northern Cambria coal field has two outlets by main trunk lines.

James A. McClain of Spangler, merchant, banker, and a notable figure in the good roads movement, hospitals, schools, the Cambria County Fair and many other business, industrial and civic projects, came into Northern Cambria with the pioneer movement from Center and Clearfield counties in the virgin coal of that section. From the wealth of material at his command we make the following sketch of the story which transformed Northern Cambria from an eara of scattered agricultural districts and small towns to district of substantial coal towns surrounded by a richer agricultural population. Mr. McClain has long tried to induce Col. Spangler to write his memoirs of this movement, which was at least "highly speculative" when begun, but created great wealth because the leaders put tremendous bluffs and untold energy behind their "shoestrings."

Mr. McClain divided these pioneers into three classes: Those who came to purchase coal lands as an investment; those who were seeking either investment to develop their lands personally or by lease to operators; and those who came in to operate under lease when railroad facilities afforded the opportunity. He found that the movement from Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming and Center counties included a large number of strong men.

From Clearfield came the Bigler Brothers, Weaver & Betts, William Emery of Williamsport, Gen. John Patton and Al Reed.

From Center County, Thomas Barnes, General James A. Beaver, General Daniel H. Hastings, Colonel J. L. Spangler, Beverly Tucker of Philadelpdia, James H. Allport and C. S. d'Invillers.

The Bigler Brothers, William D., Edwin A. and Harry Fred, with their associates, W. W. Betts, John F. Weaver, Al Reed and William Emery, were first to choose coal lands as such. They recorded the deed of John F. Sherry and wife, dated Aug. 7, 1883 and immediately after that purchased a large acreage in Barr and Susquehanna townships, much of which was later leased to the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Corp. and others. The lands taken up by the Biglers were subsequently conveyed to the Walnut Run Coal Company and to Clearfield Bituminous.

Contemporaneously with the Biglers, General John Patton of Clearfield County purchased a large body of coal lands along Chest Creek, (Patton field). Neither the Biglers nor the Pattons were operators and apparently made their purchase of coal lands as an investment and waited the coming of the railroads to make possible leases on a royalty basis. General Patton was a banker and a man of wealth and large business experience. It is said that he became interested in the Chest Creek lands through the failure of owners who became involved in lumber operations and that the lands had to be taken to protect loans made to the lumbermen.

The gentlemen who afterwards incorporated under the title of the Blubaker Coal Co., consisting of General Beaver, General Hastings, Colonel Spangler, all of Bellefonte, and Robert Coleman of Lebanon, made their invasion of Northern Cambria early in the year 1887 and bought up some 14,000 acres of coal lands in Elder, Susquehanna, Barr and Carroll townships. They were a formidable group, politically, if not financially. General Beaver was then the Governor of Pennsylvania, and General Hastings was his Adjutant General and later also Governor. Colonel Spangler was a member of the Governor's military staff. Mr. Coleman was at that time the outstanding member of the Coleman and Freeman families who had inherited the rich iron ore deposits and the historic furnaces at Cornwall, Lebanon County and was reputed a very wealthy man. His interest in the Blubaker Coal Co. was of large benefit to the towns of Hastings and Spangler in financing the large undertakings of the company. By various means this group carried its big block of Cambria County coal to the stage where they were able to get a mortgage loan of $250,000 for a long period of years from the Pennsylvania Trust Company of Reading, Pa. This obligation was discharged finally in 1902. At that time a quarter of a million dollars was a large amount of money.

"Bobby" Coleman meanwhile had been lured to the South. He pioneered there in East Coast Florida railroads, a quarter of a century ahead of the modern boom, became involved financially and failed magnificently, for the benefit of those who came later and found greater wealth in Florida than even Coleman had suspected.

General Hastings and Colonel Spangler were the active promoters of Northern Cambria coal, with Mr. Coleman assisting financially and with the state administration of Governor Beaver serving to give them prestige with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, of which George B. Roberts was then president. Mr. Roberts finally agreed to open up the Northern Cambria field, first by building a line up from La Jose to Hastings, then in 1892 by extending from Kaylor Junction, (now Ebensburg Junction) to Spangler and later to Cherrytree, and from Junction to Garway.

When the Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., engineers had failed to approve Northern Cambria for development, the fact had great weight with the Pennsylvania Railroad officials and the transportation facilities necessary to give coal holdings there more than a nominal value seemed utterly remote. But General "Dan" Hastings and Col. Spangler had not played out their string. They convinced the Pennsylvania Railroad that notwithstanding the Berwind-White attitude, if the Pennsylvania did not come into the territory, someone else would. They made two clever moves.

To get the railroad from La Jose to Hastings the Blubaker Coal Co. entered into a contract with Edward McHugh by which McHugh, under a lease dated November 21, 1887 for 900 acres of coal at Hastings at a royalty rate of 10 cents per gross ton, was to produce a minimum of 200,000 gross tons a year. Mr. McClain says this was a purely fictitious lease. Mr. McHugh was acting as superintendent for the Blubaker Company. But the lease brought the railroad from LaJose to Hastings, and once the rails were laid, Hastings coal soon was going to market.

The second move was more venturesome. They took out a charter for a railroad from Ebensburg Junction to Cherrytree, following the river route. Mr. Roberts gravely noted the gesture of the Bellefonte men. He sent for General Hastings and Colonel Spangler and requested them to desitst from further activities hi the railroad building line. Mr. Roberts said his company would construct the necessary mileage of roadway to enable the Blubaker Coal Company to develop its coal lands. General Hastings replied that if negotiations with "certain capitalists" had gone too far, he would be glad to consider the proposal of Mr. Roberts. Mr. Roberts suggested that he would be willing to take care of any expense so far incurred. General Hastings and Colonel Spangler departed. Later they reported to Mr. Roberts that they had succeeded in being released by their capitalist friends and would be glad to turn the whole matter over to Mr. Roberts. The result was that the Pennsylvania Railroad immediately re constructed its line from Ebensburg Junction to Cresson and from the Junction down through Spangler to Cherrytree, and from Bradley Junction through Patton to Garway Junction. This gave Hastings much better transportation facilities than by way of La Jose and the owners of coal lands were enabled to effect leases with operators at Bakerton, Spangler, Barnesboro and Patton.

The second lease by the Blubaker Coal Co. at Hastings was with the Laurel Hill Coal & Coke Company, May 12, 1888 and was on a 10 cent royalty basis for a 30,000 ton minimum production. The third lease was with the Chest Creek Coal & Coke Company, September 29, 1888, for 798 acres of coal on a 9 cent royalty per net ton and a minimum of 150,000 tons a year.

J. L. Mitchell was the head of Chest Creek Coal & Coke Company, which was succeeded by Webster Coal & Coke Company and in 1903 was purchased by T. H. Watkins, Berwind-White interests and others who organized the Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Company, later the Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Corporation.

Chest Creek Coal & Coke Corporation shipped the first car of coal from Hastings in July, 1888.

Carbon Coal Company and Benton Coal Company were organized by D. W. Halt, Mr. Thompson and James H. Aliport. Mr. Ailport came to Cambria County from Philipsburg, April 1, 1889 and was engaged in the location work of the Pennsylvania Railroad in this section. He made his home at Hastings and finally was the successor to D. W. Halt in Benton Nos. 1 and 2 and the Ailport mines. He claims to have shipped the first car of coal from the river field in December, 1892, but Elmora Coal Company says it made shipments from Bakerton, December 1892. Bakerton had railroad facilities sooner than Aliport at Benton No. 2, Spangler.

Dr. J. W. Dunwiddie and James Campbell shipped the first car of coal December 15, 1888 from the mine now owned by the Vandusen and Lloyd interests under charter as The Oak Ridge Coal & Coke Company.

Spangler operations were those of the Summit Coal Company, the Bigler Brothers, Betts & Weaver, and others; Benton Coal Company No. 2. D. W. Halt and James H. Allport.

In the Barnesboro field Barnes & Tucker have been leaders. Thomas Barnes of Philipsburg and Beverly Tucker of Philadelphia operated in and about Philipsburg for some time before developing the Barnesboro field. Mr. Barnes and his brother John worked the Derby mine in Clearfield County as early as 1877. In 1879 Thomas Barnes and his associates leased Lancashire No. 2 and in 1887 developed Staffordshire Nos. 1, 2, and 3, Baltic Nos. 1, 2, and 3 and Yorkshire No. 1 at Ramey.

Mr. Barnes in 1889 commenced purchasing coal in Cambria County, developing Lancashire Nos. 3 and 4 in the fall of 1892 and shipping the first car of coal March 9, 1893. Then followed the development of Lancashire Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14.

Mr. Barnes moved to Barnesboro in February, 1899 and lived there until his death in January, 1911.

Mr. C. S. De Invillers of Philipsburg was associated with Mr. Barnes in the purchase of several tracts of coal in the Barnesboro field which were operated under lease by Barnes & Tucker. Thomas Barnes commenced his career as a poor man but a practical miner. Mr. Tucker was a man of large means and highly successful in selling the output of the mines in the East. The properties of Barnes & Tucker and the Porter Coal Company, since the death of Thomas Barnes, have been managed by his son, John Barnes, of Philadelphia, and are probably the largest producers of coal in Northern Cambria.

Lawrence L. Brown and Elmer C. Brown, as the Delta Coal Company, opened their mine in 1892. Lawrence Brown was the active man in this operation. He came to Cambria from Bellefonte in 1892.

Cambria Coal Company was organized by G. Brinton Roberts, J. M. company has successively operated the "E," "D" and "B" seam sof coal. purchased in September, 1891, and coal was shipped a year later. The company has successively operated the "E," "D" and "B" seams of coal.

Elrnora Coal Mining Company was chartered in 1892 and began shipments in December 1 of that year. Members of the firm were W. W. Reed, John B. Reed, Robert Harve Powell and Harry Boring Powell. John H. Reed, the general superintendent, came into Cambria from Bedford County in the spring of 1892. This company was succeeded by the Bakerton Coal Mining Company in 1900. The personnel was Gen. Daniel H. Hastings, John C. Bradley, Col. R. B. Baker and DeVoe Powell and John B. and E. P. Reed, with John B. Reed as general manager. Two years later the name was changed to Sterling Coal Company, John C. Bradley, president, Gen. Daniel H. Hastings, Col. J. L. Spangler, Gen. James A. Beaver, John S. W. Holton and Col. R. B. Baker, with John B. Reed as general manager.

Development by these successive companies was at Bakerton, the first opening, (drift) being on the "D" seam and later on the "B," at No. 6 mine, Elmora. There are now a number of openings on the high grade "B" seam.

General Patton acquired his coal lands in the Patton field about April 1, 1892 and the town was launched and mine development started, leases being made with the Patton Coal Company, the Peale interests, E. P. McCormick, McGee & Lingle and the Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Company, whose successor, Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Corporation, now operates all of the mines in the Patton field. The Hon James Kerr and the Hon. Alexander Patton, with George Good, were the active spirits in the development of the town of Patton and the organization of the First National Bank of Patton. Mr. Good and his associates established the Patton Clay Manufacturing Co., a concern which has been, as Mr. McClain says, of incalculable benefit to the people of that vicinity. There is still a large area of coal unmined in the Patton field.

Mr. McClain comments on the fact that of the pioneers in the North Cambria coal field, whose first activities seem so recent, all have passed away but Colonel Spangler, Rembrandt Peale, James H. Allport, E. P. Reed and T. H. Watkins. All of these, and Mr. Harry F. Bigler and others, always supported their associates and their agents in public welfare work. Mr. McClain himself came to Cambria County on Decoration Day of 1892, from Bellfonte, Center County, engaging in the mecantile business, as manager of the Spangler Water Company and the Spangler Improvement Company and as a banker at Spangler and at Bakerton. He has dabbled in coal only incidentally, but has been in intimate touch with all of the Northern Cambria developments for a third of a century. Mr. McClain is one of the many who believes that the splendid coal towns of Northern Cambria face almost complete ruin unless the coal industry of the Central Pennsylvania field is given a favorable adjustment of freight rates.

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