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THE HISTORY OF NESQUEHONING

 

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New Columbus Centennial Book

Book contains over 100 pages of original newspaper articles about Little Italy and New Columbus.

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LITTLE ITALY MOVES

 As Nesquehoning grew, a sister community settled along the southwest edge of Nesquehoning overlooking town on the old road to Summit Hill near what were commonly called the "black rocks."

 The little settlement, founded by 12 Italian families, grew into a small village with a population of more than 500. It is acknowledged the first settler was a man named Angelo Vito Bochicchio.

 The original Italian settlers arrived at Nesquehoning in July 1884. They all came from the same town in Italy – Avigliano in the province of Potenza .

 During World War I, the demand for anthracite became exceptionally high. Knowing that rich deposits of coal lay beneath Little Italy, the Lehigh Navigation Coal Co. moved the miners and their families to the hill north of Nesquehoning.

 It was the biggest moving operation ever recorded in Carbon County when Little Italy was moved from that mountain south of Nesquehoning to its present site. The coal company moved many homes and the village church, and social club to the spot the people named New Columbus in honor of Christopher Columbus.

 Some buildings were transported in sections and reassembled in the new community. The largest building moved was the old Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.

 

 

WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN NESQUEHONING 100 YEARS AGO? CLICK ON THE RED BUTTON AND FIND OUT.

 

     Nesquehoning is the oldest of the mining towns in the Carbon County. The name is of Indian origin, signifying narrow valley.  

     Anthracite coal was discovered at Nesquehoning in 1785.

     The coal produced at Nesquehoning was originally carried to Mauch Chunk on the Room Run gravity railroad, along the line of the present road between the two places. This railroad was built in 1830. For years mules were employed to haul the empty cars back to the mines, being later displaced by a wood burning locomotive, which was brought across the mountains from Tamaqua by teams. The gravity road was abandoned upon the building of the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad.

     The first house here was built for Thomas Kelly in 1824. One of the memorable events in the early history of the town was the celebration of the centenary of Washington's birth, in 1832. The people of Lehighton, Mauch Chunk, Lausanne and other places participated in this patriotic function, one of the features of which was a great dinner, given at the home of N. Allen.

     This locality was at first popularly known as "Hell's Kitchen" or "the Kitchen."

     The first breaker at Nesquehoning was run by waterpower, and it is believed that with a single exception it was the only one thus operated in the anthracite region.

     The first school here was started in 1830.

     A post office was established at Nesquehoning in 1838 with Joseph Minehard in charge. It was at first kept at the store of the company operating the colliery. In 1910, the office was raised to the presidential rank.

     St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, the first house of worship to be erected between Mauch Chunk and Tamaqua, was built in 1839, under the leadership of Rev. James Maloney. For some time it was attended by missionaries from Easton, and services were held only a few times each year. About 1848, Rev. Patrick J. Hennegan, a conspicuous figure in the early history of Catholicity in this portion of the coal fields, appeared upon the scene. He was at first stationed at Tamaqua, and had a large field of labor. In 1850, he took up residence at Nesquehoning. The only reminder of this church is the grave yard which adjoined it, in which lie the remains of many of the first Catholics of Mauch Chunk, who worshipped here before the organization of a church of their faith at that place. The church of the Sacred Heart is the successor of that first named.

     The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1863 by Rev. Henry H. Davis. David Trevarrow was a local preacher of the congregation. The present building was dedicated in 1890, and is a memorial to Hames Meeds, a former resident of Nesquehoning, who contributed liberally towards its erection.

     St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church, a handsome structure costing sixteen thousand dollars, was built in 1910.

     Nesquehoning Hose Company No. 1 was organized in 1908, and a substantial firehouse was built in 1911.

     To learn much more about the history of Nesquehoning, view the calendars. Each calendar has old pictures with captions.

 

Nesquehoning Just Missed Chance To Be Biggest Town In Carbon Co. Back In Bustling Era Around 1830.

Human nature was no different back in the first decades of the 18th century than it is now. And human nature being what it is was, and probably always will be, Nesquehoning missed being the biggest town in Carbon County as well as the center of the anthracite industry here.

The Lehigh Coal Company might have its main office on the shores of Nesquehoning Creek, and the town might be one of the busiest railroad centers in the area.

It seems, according to an old and reliable record in the pigeon holes of the coal company, that back about 1830 the firm had great plans for Nesquehoning. But the landowners there “got wind of it.” And because they got wind of it, Nesquehoning had the first real estate boom in this locality. Property prices soared. The company ascertained it would have to do some stiff bargaining for the land it wanted. So the founders of the Lehigh Coal Company simple revamped their plans and came further west where they had all the land they wanted.

Wise minds saw the proximity of Nesquehoning to Mauch Chunk, the transportation center. There was talk of putting the company’s main office in Nesquehoning and of laying a railroad from new mines to Mauch Chunk. But the company didn’t have the grip on the land there it had further west for the reason that some old settlers and other firms had gotten there before them, and had he clear cut titles.

Nesquehoning got its historical start back about 1800. Woodsmen surveyors, trappers and the like were venturing off the Lehigh River trails to follow Nesquehoning Creek. It is recorded that a man named Abram Klotz built a tavern at the junction of the river and creek and that it became known as Landing Tavern. A few hardy souls put up cabins and called the area home.

An Irishman named Tom Kelly put up the first house in what is now Nesquehoning proper in 1824. Others came and there must have been quite a settlement in 1832. Records shown that on Washington’s Birthday of that year the good people of Nesquehoning had for themselves a parade and quite a celebration.

Packer, Harlan and Company mined the first coal in the area. That was a small concern that merely touched the outcrops of the coal veins. A few other contractors got pieces of the land and joined the Packer outfit, but in 1867, with anthracite established as an industry and markets growing the Lehigh Coal Company took over all holdings. That firm continued operation there until 1939 when the Edison Anthracite Coal Company took over under a lease.

Having mentioned that Nesquehoning might have been the key town of the industry, it is also interesting to note that away back early in its history it almost became a ghost town. It was scarcely out of its municipal diapers until some great brains decided to bury it. Geologists, who made a special survey, told operators all commercially mineable deposits of anthracite had been removed from the area. “You can’t make any money here,” they said. “The vein had petered out. Better close up shop and go west young man go west.”

The trouble with them, so to speak, is that they didn’t go deep enough into the subject. Other geologists dug a little deeper and found there was more than one vein of coal in them thar hills, and that the other veins had plenty of black gold waiting to be taken. Nesquehoning got a new lease on life. Instead of dying a municipal death it perked up to take its place in the family of Valley towns as a sturdy prospering town.,

Drainage problems also threatened the industry here for some years. As miners went deeper into the earth they were under subterranean creeks that continually threatened to flood and annul all of their good work. The solution of that problem came with boring of the famous Lausanne Drainage Tunnel, a job that took six years of work, from 1906 to 1912. It is four and a half miles long and extends from Nesquehoning to Coalport, where it empties its water into the Lehigh River .

Worked tunnels of Nesquehoning mines now spill their water into Lausanne Tunnel, instead of into the gangways below.

As Nesquehoning grew, other villages came into existence on its outskirts. There were workings in the Valley farther west and settlers went there to live and called their village Hauto, after George F. A. Hauto, and early executive of the Lehigh Coal Company.

Italian immigrants settled on the hillside south of Nesquehoning and called their town Little Italy. But that village was abandoned in 1918 when the company undermined it, whereupon the families moved to the opposite hillside and renamed their town New Columbus.

 

 

     

     There’s a controversy as to the date of Nesquehoning. One history book says the first house was built for Thomas Kelley in 1824. Many old time residents of Nesquehoning question this year because they remember their schoolteachers saying Nesquehoning was started in 1798. 
     Nesquehoning was definitely a result of the coal mining industry. Miners needed a place to live and houses were built to accommodate them.  Records indicate the first discovery of coal at Nesquehoning was in 1786. In 1793 the land was purchased from Jacob Weiss and a company was formed under the title of the “Lehigh Coal Mine Company. An article from 1806 indicates coal from Nesquehoning’s Room Run mine was sent to Philadelphia. Another article from 1814 says, Jacob Cist, Charles Miner and John Robinson, signed a lease with the Lehigh Coal Mine Company on December 10, 1813, to work the mines at Nesquehoning. There are records that show births at Nesquehoning in the early 1800’s. Most Nesquehoning teachers were born and raised in Nesquehoning, their parents and grand parents were born here and were the first settlers. The teachers were probably right when they told their students Nesquehoning started in 1798. 
     In 1820 the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was started and was incorporated in 1822. When the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company took over the mines at Nesquehoning they also became the owner of most of the land in Nesquehoning. They had the land surveyed and sold building lots. They also built many houses for the miners; maybe the first house they built was for Thomas Kelley in 1824. Nesquehoning was known as a “Company town.” Almost everyone worked for The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company or provided services for those who did. In the early years, the Company built houses for the employees. Rent charged for the homes were extremely low. A Company store, sold to the miners on “the cuff.” On payday, the Company deducted the amount owed from the miners’ pay. Since the Company owned almost all the land and all the mineral rights, as well as numerous homes and other buildings, it was by far the largest taxpayer in Nesquehoning, for example, 60 per cent of all taxes were paid by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. The Company was generous in its help to local governments, schools, churches, and associations of all kinds; it was a “soft touch” for almost every community activity, particularly because so many officials and supervisors were active in many civic and social activities. The real estate department, with its own maintenance crew, was called upon to do much public service work. Garbage collection, snow removal and street repairs were done by the LC&N. Company services were used quite freely by many of the bosses and employees. The Company was generous in making gifts for the community projects. They gave land for parks and playgrounds and sent workers to build ball fields for the children. It donated a former mule stable in Nesquehoning to become a recreational facility. Company foremen and officials were active on town school boards, governments and other community activities. In earlier years, the Company supervisors controlled local politics because of their influence on the workers. Republican candidates usually won elections. The strong Company influence on local politics when the Company was “supreme” eventually had an adverse effect on the relations between the Company and its workers. However, the paternalistic attitude of the Company was beneficial to the local residents. The strong tax base provided by the Company made it possible to have better streets and community services than other mining areas in the anthracite region. 
     The Company’s Board of Managers met in Philadelphia on Thursday, June 24, 1954 and decided to discontinue mining operations. Thus the chapter on Company operation of the coalmines for 134 years was finally closed.

I'll be adding more History about Nesquehoning to this page, so check back later. There are some interesting articles about Nesquehoning to be added.

 

 

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