Coal ...Hard Lives
anthracite coal mining industry dominated the lives hundereds
of thousnads of people, mostly poor immigrants for well over
one hundred fifty years. Under only eight counties of north-east
Pennsylvania lay fields of densely packed anthracite coal.
Found almost nowhere else in the world. Anthracite coal burns
the hottest and cleanest of all grades of coal and contains
90 percent carbon. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries,
anthracite coal supplied the eastern seaboard’s fuel
and heating needs. In the late 20th century sharp rises in
the costs to mine underground coal gave way to strip mining
as a cheaper alternative. Yet anthracite coalmining continued.
mining rose out of the Great Depression when workers laid
off from the large coal companies poached coal from the mines
by digging their own little mine on the company property.
Prosecutions were common but finally mine owners worked out
leasing arrnagments with many of the so-called “bootleggers”.
Thus generations of families sustained themselves and the
region with “Mom and Pop” styled operations where
the sonswould follow in their father’s footsteps.
until the mid-1990’s hundreds of small independently
owned mines flourished in the southern coal fields of Schuykill
County. Now, only a handful of independent mines still operate.
A few hearty families still cling to the only way of life
they have ever known. A myriad of reasons are to blame for
the demise of so many independent mines. One reason can be
attributed to today’s youth who see a brighter future
and more lucarative opportunities by furtherng their educations
rather than going into the mines.