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Life in Washington Co., PA "Little Washington" 
1700s to Present


Town-Talk about Towns in Washington County PA


Genealogy and family history research in the area of
Little Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania from 1700 to present.

Nearest cities: Deemston, PA (4.6 miles ), Clarksville, PA (5.3 miles ), Cokeburg, PA (6.7 miles ), Beallsville, PA (6.8 miles ), Jefferson, PA (6.9 miles ), Fredericktown-Millsboro, PA (7.8 miles ), Ellsworth, PA (8.8 miles ), Morrisville, PA (9.0 miles ).  Latitude: 40.02 N, Longitude: 80.11 W

Continuing On After Disaster: the Town of Marianna

by Judith Florian

Probably one of the most sought-after --and hard to find -- books about Marianna is A Bicentennial History of West Bethlehem Township and Marianna Borough 1776-1976, compiled by Lillian Potisek and Singadine Muchant, approximately 56pp.  The reader is treated liberally to page after page of photos with several maps of the early townships, including West Bethlehem Twp., which in part was taken from Amwell Twp.

Located north east of the National Pike, this area is known as Ten Mile, after the creek of the same name which was once called Cusuthee by the Indians who lived here even after settlers began to come.  The groups attempted to live in harmony, but there were uprisings and Indian raids periodically.  For this reason, the settlers built stockade forts that were easily accessible by those living nearby.  West Bethlehem had at least three forts: Enoch's Fort (built ca. 1770 by Enoch Enoch) 1 mile from Lone Pine (northern section); McFarland's Fort (later the George Earnest farm); Milliken's Fort (built ca. 1772 near the Amwell Twp. line.  Additionally, there was an Indian Fort at Zollarsville behind Ulery's Mill, which overlooked Ten Mile Creek.  This creek was named, as others were of the same name in other states, because it was 10 miles from the mouth of a major river, in this case 10 miles from the Monongahela River.  [Later, the channel of the Ten Mile was "moved" 100 yards to the south near the Marianna Mine, to accommodate the railroad coming through the area.  The former channel still shows an area known as the "Dead Pond."]

Early settlers included Scots, English, and Germans, who traveled one of the Trails by foot, horse, or wagon from eastern PA, or came from Virginia and Maryland by foot, horse, wagon, or along the Monongahela River.  The largest community in West Bethlehem Township was Zollarsville, until 1908.  Daniel Zollars, the town's namesake, had built the first house there.  Jacob Ulery built a water-powered grist mill in 1835 at Zollarsville; Stephen Ulery later operated it by steam.  Stephen Ulery built a brick home from which he ran the "White Pine" Hotel.  By 1856, he had laid out the village of Zollarsville.

From thick forested lands of the 1700s where Indians had settled, the Ten Mile area of Amwell and West Bethlehem townships became tomahawked small settlements of the mid-1700s, quickly transforming into farms of 300 to 400 acres (mostly) showing the building of homes and outbuildings for animals, the tilling of fields, and the building of both roads primary roads and small lanes into and out of owned lands.  These early settlers relied on their one commodity, that which could be grown on or by the land.  These men never dreamed that by the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, they would receive offers of $10 up to $150 per acre for the commodity that lay under their fields: coal.  Of a 13,000 acre area of the famous Pittsburgh Coal Seam that lies, in part, under West Bethlehem Township, it is estimated that the coal rights under about 12,000 acres of tracts were sold by the farmers to the coal companies; the Buffalo-Pittsburg firm owned 6,000 acres in Marianna by 1910, with further purchases later.  Like oil in other areas of Washington County during the late 1800s to early 1900s, the initial sale of the underground rights made some families some quick and large sums of money (other farmers did not benefit, however).  This included farmers in the earlier built towns of Fairfield (laid out by Bill Horne from land of the Ulery Estate) and West Zollarsville (laid out by Howkins and Hoskinson of Waynesburg, 1906).

In the midst of these new towns and the purchase of coal rights, the town of Marianna was established.  It was named after Mary Ann Feehan Jones, who was the wife of David G. Jones, secretary and treasurer of the Pittsburg-Buffalo Company [Note: Pittsburg at the time had no 'h'.]  This coal company was owned by the Jones brothers, John H., William I. (d. 1905), Thomas P., David J. and Harry P.  These men were sons of James Jones, founder of the "James Jones and Sons" company (founded 1896).  After this firm was incorporated in 1903 into the "Pittsburg-Buffalo Company" was headed by its president, John H. Jones.  The Jones brothers had also owned the Johnetta Foundry and Machine Company near Pittsburgh. [Note: Feehan was a name associated with unionization of coal miners in SW PA in the early 1900s.]  After the mines opened at Marianna, the Jones' sold the Johnetta works.  Near the Rachel mine, they built the state of the art 2-story "Rachel Plant" which was furnished with all the finest heavy-duty equipment for any/all repairs to railroad cars, mining and other machinery.

May 7, 1906, the Jones brothers made contracts to sink two shafts on the Shidler (see Brethren section of this website) and Fulton farms.  This was followed by the Rachel Mine [No. 1] in 1908, just north of the original two shafts.  All the new equipment, from the steel tipples, double hoisting cages, cars, tracks, to the switches had been made at the Johnetta plant before its sale.  The newly built Rachel Plant had a 1100 pound steam hammer, a 400 ton wheel press, a 72 inch boring machine, and overhead moving cranes, according to the town's Bicentennial History.  Substandard coal was fed by conveyor bed to the top of the boiler house.  This refuse was mixed with slack for fuel, which was shoveled by men and boys into furnaces that ran the Power Plant.  This Plant powered equipment used in mining as well as operating the tipple for the mines, and the electric generator that supplied lighting to the mine and the town of Marianna.  Mr. Jeffreys was in charge of the plant; Tom Wolfe and Harry Hoover were the last to run the steam hoisting engine in the power plant.  The engine was shipped to South America in 1953.

Turning attention to the town itself, with the purchase of the coal rights from the farmers, John H. Jones quickly contracted for 282 houses to be constructed.  The houses were 4, 5 or 6 rooms; the largest were permanent for mine bosses, or owners who might need temporary lodging.  The smaller homes were for miners, as well as a 14-room boarding house erected on the hillside behind the mine shafts.  The homes were made of yellow-color bricks, fired at Johnetta Plant of the United States Sewer Pipe Company (also owned by the Jones' brothers), and shipped by rail to Marianna.  Within a few months, this former farmland area became not just a town, but the "model mining town of the world." A 6-room house rented for $6.00 a month; this included free water supplied by a company-built water reservoir to process water from Ten Mile Creek, free electricity provided by the Power Plant, and garbage removal.  Each residence had indoor hot water and bathrooms, town sewage treatment, natural gas, and "landscaping" of 1 tree in each front yard.  A modern 3-story brick school-house and the Marianna Arcade building were built in 1910' the Arcade had a drug store, ice cream parlor, bowling alleys, billiard tables, dance floor/skating rink, reading/lecture room, and an indoor pool.  [The building burned down within 6 moths but was replaced with a simpler building that also had a jail.]  By 1911 all streets were paved.  The railroad brought in goods to supply the huge company store that was designed to meet every need for nutrition and home furnishing.

Within months of the homes going up, miners from foreign countries read advertisements in their local newspapers that touted living in the "ideal" mining town, where they would be provided adequate and comfortable residences and have their every need met within the town limits.  Miners came from everywhere. Russians, Italians, Slavs,  Scots, English, and Germans answered the call to fulfill their dreams for a better life.  So many arrived to run the mining operations that a "Shanty Town" of two rows of small frame houses had to be built later near the reservoir.  These immigrants, as 'bachelors' who had left their families to come here, or entire families with numerous children, had also brought the 'old country' with them in the way of customs, traditions, music, songs and dance.  During off-hours, the air filled with the boisterous goings-on of town-life.  Peddlers and hucksters traveled by foot, wagon, or buggy, hawking their wares up and down the rows of homes (as in other communities throughout the county during this period).  Everything from fresh bread, to produce, to household goods were 'yelled out' along the route, alerting prospective customers to grab their small change purses, tidy themselves, before hurrying out to the street to meet the sellers.

Both men and boys wore the black dust of working in the mines, on long shifts that supposedly paid well for the times (over $7 a day at first)  - except for the fact that everything was owed to the mine, from health costs of the "company doctor," to food and furnishings from the 'company store,' to housing costs owed to the company itself, and the fact that mining was still a very dangerous industry. Everything revolved around and was for the benefit of (mostly), the mine company.  

The Charleroi Mail newspaper of those years offers glimpses into the world of the coal miners in the county.  Labor movements had been begun to improve mine safety.  The most knowledgeable miners of the time lectured to anyone listening for the need of "practical miners," those who had the experience already of mining and who demonstrated safe measures when underground or near the mine.  This was a time when TNT, glycerin, and other explosives were routinely taken home at the end of shifts...and the explosives often caused injury and death to women and children who did not recognize the dangers.  Miners were still fighting to use these high explosives, which left coal in chunks, while safer explosives resulted in more "coal dust" - coal dust was harder to measure and resulted in lower pay.  Each week, deaths or injuries resulted from roof slate falls or other problems within the mines.  Ventilation was often poor or lacking in most mines.  A candle lighted the miner's hat, and in turn set off methane which always rises to the mine's roof.  Union organizers were constantly preaching safety, especially after another death of one-to-a few miners in "unfortunate accidents."  Mine Inspectors were supposed to keep the mines safer for employees, but often lacked the skill necessary to recognize immediate dangers, or who (it is suggested by many news articles), lacked the power or independence from the mine companies and operators to take action when danger was suspected.  The companies/operators had the power, but rarely the inclination, to protect its workers.  Miners were so numerous, they were easily replaced.  Coal was the commodity and the only objective was bringing this commodity to the surface, where it could be shipped by railroad and barge on rivers to points across the United States in all directions.

Early in 1908, the company had opened No. 1 Rachel, No. 2 Agnes, and No. 3 Blache mines.  The deepest shaft was said to be 460 feet; the shallowest, 340 feet down.  All shafts were 25 feet by 32 feet in diameter, according to the Bicentennial History. The coal seam in this area was 68 inches thick with slate of 12 inches over it. Safety in these "model mines" at Marianna was brought directly into view by the well-known tragedy of November 28, 1908.   Newspaper accounts differ, but on that day, at least 150 men had arrived for work and entered the mine.  In an ironic twist, a Mine Inspector had just completed his routine rounds a few minutes earlier and had believed the mine to be "safe." The Inspector was just leaving when a blast rocked the mine deep underground. Quoting from the newspaper entries: "Inspector Henry Louttit had just stepped from the cage of shaft No. 2, when the explosion took place. He had been at Marianna for two days and had inspected the mines every half hour on Friday and during the same intervals Saturday morning up until the time of the explosion."  And... "Engineer and General Superintendent A. C. Beeson had come to the surface just a few minutes before Louttit.  He had found the mine in perfect condition."  The explosion occurred in the No. 2 Agnes mine shortly before 11 a. m. This shaft was the air and supply entry for all three mines; the explosion took out the ventilation fans and wrecked the cage, which fell, mangled, back into the mine shaft.  One man was killed in the cage, and 152 died inside the mine.  Only one man, Fred Elinger, an immigrant from Germany, was rescued by Thomas Carney at 8:55 p.m; Elinger ultimately survived the disaster.   The explosion, which was heard at Beallsville and Scenery Hill, was determined at an inquest held Dec. 17th to have been "caused by a blown-out shot in Blanche Entry No. 3, which ignited gas and dust and caused a secondary explosion in the main dip entries almost simultaneously." (See Bicentennial History.)  Newspaper accounts can be read at: Other newspapers of the county, like the Charleroi Mail, contain numerous articles.

This article conveys the sadness of that day:

From the Charleroi Mail, Charleroi, Washington County, Pennsylvania, November 30, 1908,  page 2:

The Terrible Mine Disaster
-- The Terrible disaster Saturday at the new Marianna mine brings to us with a vividness that nothing else could the need of improvements and a more perfect system whereby the dangers which seem to be so great could be eliminated. The awfulness of the catastrophe; the suffering of the widows and children is terrible. Some are almost frantic with grief and others have lost their minds. The sadness of the scene cannot be depicted and no one knows but those who survive what is to be endured. The calamity has cast a gloom over the entire community for miles around and contributions are being made, the money to go toward aiding the widows and children who are left practically penniless and without a means of livelihood, by the sudden taking away of the ones who furnished their bread and butter. Thanksgiving, the miners did not work, spending the day with their families and friends. All was gayness; the next day suffering and death.

The Marianna mine which were touted as being a model has proved to be a death trap. An astounding fact, indeed. Dangers menace even in the best of workings and where there is supposed to be least chance of accident. Whether it was negligence on someones (sic) part that was the primary cause of the disaster will probably never be known. But it is evident that there must surely have been something seriously wrong even at the time that Mine Inspector Loutitt was in the place. The theory of a gas pocket having been struck may be a good one and may be the true reason, for the catastrophe. Even if it was there should be some way provided so that similar catastrophes could be avoided in the future, in other mines.
  Charleroi people have special reason for extending ready sympathy and aid, as many of the miners of this place, or those who formerly resided here are among the dead.  A large number are from Black Diamond and other places along the river."

A mass burial of miners who died in this disaster was held at Scenery Hill Cemetery, where bodies were carried by buggies/wagons from the mine.  Many were not identified, due to extensive burns and disfiguring injuries.  Others were buried at Monongahela Cemetery. Some bodies were never found; it was suspected that perhaps some families took the bodies away from the mine site; it is more likely that some bodies were consumed by the inferno.

See more articles  from this period.
Mine Disaster

Streams, rivers, and creeks: Daniels Run , Patterson Run, Plum Run

Reservoirs: Pond F, Ellsworth Reservoir



( - and put Marianna in the subject line)



Regional area Map of Washington County (west section)

Regional area Map of Washington County (east section)

See Cemeteries at Washington County PAGenWeb

Washington PA Uptown Landmarks -1 - Personal Perspectives

Uptown Landmarks -2

Washington Hospital and School of Nursing - Personal Perspectives

Look here for your families!

Washington Co., PA Area newspapers

McDonald PA Area Newspapers



Keystone Town Markers

List of Historical Societies in Washington County PA

Return to Index of Washington County PA Towns




This page was last updated on Saturday, December 05, 2015 01:43

Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420

Copyright Notice - Data / info. for individuals and surnames may be reproduced for personal family histories only, but not for any commercial use or sale. Please give credit to Judith Florian and Catherine L. Caldwell for newspaper items and original documents. You may use J. Florian's research conclusions if credit is given. No other data or images may be reproduced without permission. © 2005 to present, Judith Florian, Copyright All rights reserved.

Backgrounds by Marie. The background was chosen specifically to emphasize the matriarchal role of women in "the life" of children and families, and the resilience of all the women of southwestern Pennsylvania.