Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jimtown (Sterling Coke Works) and Spring Grove Coke Works

These ovens represent two of the earliest successes in the Connellsville coke district, as well as two of the earliest coke works. The first reliably recorded ovens were built during the summer of 1841 when two local carpenters, Provance McCormick and James Campbell, decided to build a coke plant. With William Turner and John Taylor, a local farmer and stone mason, they built two small ovens on Taylor's land.

By spring of 1842, they had made enough coke to load close to 10.5 tons onto two boats and travel by river to Cincinnati to try to unload their product. The product was unfavorably received. They eventually unloaded it to a Cincinnati foundryman but the trip was hardly successful. 

Later, in autumn 1842, the ovens were fired again. This time by the Cochran brothers, Mordecai, James, and Sample. The brothers made the Cincinnati trip again. They sold again to  the foundryman, who by this time had recognized its value in foundry work. 

By the mid 1840's, Stewart Strickler, long experienced in boating agricultural produce down river to Pittsburgh, built six ovens at Jimtown (named after James Cochran). The output of these ovens were marketed by the Cochran brothers. 

In 1855, at a time when there were only 25 ovens in the region, a rail connector was constructed between Connellsville and West Newton. Strickler bought eighty acres of coal land near his Jimtown ovens and two years later opened the Sterling coke works, which would total 303 ovens by 1882. This plant was operated by the J. M. Schoonmaker Company. 

By 1860, with railroad and coke plant expansion, there were still only about 70 ovens in the region. Ten years later would see at least 550, and by 1873 there were more than 3,600 ovens.  

In 1864, the Cochran and Keister Company opened the 100 oven plant at Spring Grove.

Both of these coke plants are located along Hickman Run on the Hickman Run Branch of the B&O Railroad.


The ovens circled in red are the Jimtown/Sterling coke works. The ones in blue are the Spring Grove.




This is the first section you come across coming up Jimtown Road.

Not a whole lot left in this area.

 Bits and pieces here and there.

This is looking south along the completely deteriorated bank.

When you get up the road a bit they start getting a little better in spots.

Still in pretty bad shape though.

Completely visible from the road but, you would never see these in the summer.

A little better.

From the road.

This is either a pile of railroad ties or a collapsed structure of some sort.

Then further up the road you come across this. I wasn't expecting it. They are very small ovens though.

Doorways are thinner than normal.

Spring Grove

These ovens definitely show their age.

1864. These ovens were going during the Civil War.


They're big ovens.

Tile floor tiles are still partially intact in this one.

It might not look like it, but this hill was a nasty climb after a rainy night and morning.

From the road.

This one kept it's wall.

Probably the best preserved of the bank.

A lot of rubble but the oven itself is in pretty good shape.

A brick I couldn't get to. Sometimes an object can be just four feet away but completely impossible to get to.

The upper end is in better condition.

This one's pretty nice.

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