Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Closer Look At Donohoe Coke Works

Today I headed back out to Crabtree to test a theory I had come up with. Lately I've been thinking about the ovens on the other side of Kiley Drive from the old Donohoe mine site. I was wondering if these ovens could have actually been part of the Donohoe Coke Works because I couldn't find anything else to put them with. We know that in its heyday Donohoe contained 193 ovens. We know the mine and coke works closed in September 1923 when striking miners sealed the entrance. It was never reopened. As late as 1920 Donohoe is listed as having 193 ovens, although only 110 were in operation. It's safe to assume that between 1920 and 1923 there were no more ovens built and the total would have stood at 193. As a matter of fact, in 1919 there were only 150 ovens in operation so it is possible that production was actually waning.


Back to the experiment. The best way I could come with to test my theory was by counting coke ovens. "So what did you learn?", you undoubtedly are asking as you move closer to the edge of your seat. What I learned is counting coke ovens ain't easy. I did fine on the west side of Kiley Drive and came up with about 76-78 ovens. The reason for the inaccuracy is the give and take of ovens that are no longer there. In this case there are 76 physical ovens and a space where a trail is running over what appears to be the size of two ovens. Now on the other side of Kiley Drive I had all sorts of problems. The northern end of the bank is so overgrown in spots that it's impossible to get through there without a chainsaw. Not having a chainsaw I had to do some estimating. Also, the ovens closest to Kiley are buried so I had to count depressions. The ovens at the further end are also buried. What I counted was 104 physical ovens. So in total there were around 182 ovens which is pretty close to 193 in my book. This doesn't confirm that these two sets of ovens were related but it does make it highly possible. One thing is certain, there is not enough space on the east side of Kiley Drive for 193 ovens on their own. 


This is a diagram I made using the 1939 aerial view of the area.



And this is a terrain view of the area.



Now, this is the current satellite view of the area. The area circled on the east side of Kiley Drive is the overgrown section that was really tricky.

Now it's time for the photos from today. The following are from the west side of Kiley Drive.


This is the beginning of this bank. Visible right from Kiley Drive.

The first oven.

These were actually the first coke ovens I ever explored. It was nice coming back.

This is that trail running over what I counted as two ovens.

Heading back into the ovens.


Looking out at spring trying to arrive.

A nice typical CROWN brick.

Almost buried.

Spring blooms!


I counted them from the top on the way out as well. It was a much clearer path on top of the ovens.

This is the western end of the bank.

Taking a look at the western end ovens.

The Alexandria Branch of The Pennsylvania Railroad is visible toward the middle of the photo.

Right below the end of the ovens is this area where a bridge would have been for the Alexandria Branch.

Looking east on the Alexandria Branch right of way.

A closer look at the end of the western end of the bank.

My counting notebook sitting on the wall.

I just liked the way this tree was laying on this oven.

Another one nearly buried.

These are from the east side of Kiley Drive.



This is the first oven heading east that was not buried.

A really nice sleeper block from the larry track laying in front of the ovens.

The majority of the ovens in this upper section were in this poor condition.

This one was the lone standout.

I heard running water for a while. It took a lot of work to locate it. This is the second oven this month I've found with water running over it.

Rough terrain.

An actual remnant of the oven wall.


This is far as I went with this post. The remaining ovens in the bank can be seen in a previous post here: Donohoe


After this I headed over to the Baltzer Meyer Historical Society for a delicious traditional German meal at a fundraiser they were having. I highly recommend keeping an eye out for the next one and heading over there if you're in the area. There are many, many other events also scheduled at BMHS including a program featuring yours truly on May 3'rd at 2:00. Check out all their other events here: BMHS 

Pay them a visit and check out the extensive library. Many resources and volunteers are available to help you learn the history of your area or help in tracing your genealogy.



To end with here is a bluegrass song based in Crabtree.




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Smithton Coke Ovens/Waverly Coke Works

I am having a difficult time figuring out exactly what these ovens belonged to. The Eureka Coke Works was near here but as far as I can tell they only had 18 ovens. That rules Eureka out. Other suspects are the Smithton Coal and Coke Company who purchased 32 acres of coal lands on the "outskirts of Smithton" in 1905. But not much other information is to be found about them. The biggest bet is the Waverly Coke Company. In an 1897 Engineering and Mining Journal they are listed as having "about" 125 ovens at Smithton. That would fit what we have here. 



  Further research, now in 2017. We are calling these Waverly Coke Works(Smithton No. 2). The following description is from the PA, The Old Miner website:

The second coke works at Smithton stands on the east side of PA SR 3029 (Jacobs Creek Road), approximately one-quarter mile south of Smithton.  This was last operated by L. W. Overly in the 1950's and consists of a battery of bee-hive bank coke ovens along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks.  There as approximately 100 coke ovens standing ca.1994, some of which are in fair condition.  Many, however, are greatly deteriorated.  This coke oven battery is constructed with rubble stone retaining walls with some concrete patching.  The fronts of the ovens are of brick and stone construction.  Present as archaeological remains on the hillside above the coke ovens are concrete foundations that were part of the L. W. Overly Mine. 

Regardless, these ovens are located south of Smithton above the current CSX tracks and along Jacobs Creek Road. There easily could have been 125 ovens here and there are probably close to 100 today. The stone construction appears very old and a lot of the ovens are intact. Above the ovens are a lot of mine ruins including piers and foundations. 


Any information on these would be greatly appreciated. 


Starting off at the old Stoneys brewery.

Most of these ovens are in pretty good shape.

Some of them aren't.

Some intact and unburied floor tile.

The famous Yough crown brick.

Trees doing their thing.

This one's just about buried.

A big pipe.

Almost buried. A mansion for a groundhog.

Nice stone wall.

Looking out at the Youghiogheny and the CSX tracks.

There were a couple of these pipes coming out of the hillside above the ovens. This leads me to believe the ovens were used pretty late. They were probably recycling the heat from these ovens.

CSX train coming up the tracks.

This was great. There was either a spring somewhere behind this oven or some drainage. Regardless it was the first oven waterfall I've ever seen.

Another one of the pipes coming off the hillside.

There was a bed roll in this oven. The one near where the backpack is on the ground.

Another super adaptive tree.

There was coke all over the ground.
A view from the tracks.

Another interesting tree. This is also the only section of intact wharf wall.

These are on the hillside behind the ovens.

This is some sort of ashy concrete.

These were still further up the hill.

Looking down from the highest intact pier.


This foundation was on the top of the hill.

These were located on every corner of the foundation.

A closer look at the foundation.

A couple more shots of the old Stoneys brewery.



A short video of the waterfall oven.