Monday, October 5, 2015

Russellton PA for Laura Danziger Jacobowitz's 100th Birthday

My mother Laura (Lucy) Danziger was born one hundred years ago, on August 30, 1915, in Russellton, PA. You may remember the story of her surprise birthday party.

After Linda and I left Cleveland in early October we drove to Russellton to see what we could see.
From Aunt Ethel's description of where they lived, I had picked out a likely house,

"The entire Complex consisted of 4 rows of houses -- train-like -- with 4 lanes separating each row of houses...."
113 Pine St is the second from the top on the western-most street.

(Zrebny's Pizza is actually a couple of blocks north of here.)
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West Deer Township History
The houses on Pine Street are all company houses.
113 Pine Street from Google Street View
Images from Google Maps
113 Pine Street - Company Housing

The county map shows the four streets in the lower right corner of E-5.

What was going on in Russellton when Laura was born?

1912 The First Bus
Story from Bill Catherwood and note a from John Graff
One of our senior citizens tells us that the first "bus" service in West Deer was from Culmerville to the Railroad Station in Cheswick. It was a covered truck with benches on each side of the bed for passengers to sit upon. There was a set of steps on the floor between the benches that was pulled out and shoved back for the passengers getting on and off. In addition to the driver there was a conductor who collected fares and took care of the steps. This service was started about 1912 by people whose last name was McHarg who later sold it to the Norris family, {story from Bill Catherwood)
It is interesting to note that a similar service was started at the same time using very similar vehicles near Hibbing, Minnesota transporting workers to the open pit iron mines. While the West Deer bus service later became part of the P.A.T. system, the other became...Greyhound. (JG)

1914Company Bank is opened in Russellton.
Bairdford, town and shaft, are constructed.
A tornado struck Russellton.
1915UMWA was first organized in West Deer.
Culmerville Russellton Transit Company was organized.
Bairdford Mine, begins operations.
1916Mules were retired from the Russellton Mine.
Bus service was available to Springdale
1917The first coal was removed from the new Russellton No. 2 shaft.(Bessemer Coal and Coke Company)
Superior mine has underground explosion closes (after May 1918 according to other sources)
1918The great flu epidemic hit West Deer.
A tent hospital was erected near the old Flat Top Restaurant for flu epidemic. Many die.
January 1, 1918, Bessemer Coal and Coke Company sells mines to the Republic Steel Corporation.
Superior mine reopens


Unions Organized and Strikes:
The first union charter in West Deer was issued to the miners at the Francis Mine at Curtisville No. 2, in 1915. Later charters were issued to locals at Russellton, Bairdford, Curtisville No. 1, and Superior.

The unions were all chartered in 1915 but were not recognized by the three coal companies involved. Early in 1916 a general strike by the unions forced recognition and the negotiation of a contract which was signed by the coal companies and was endorsed by the United Mine Workers of America on April 10, 1916.

Peace End tranquility never existed in the coal industry. On one hand was a constant demand for higher wages and better working conditions and on the other economic pressures for just the opposite. Labor strife was common. The strike was the only weapon the miner had and he had to use it frequently to better his working and living conditions. He lived in a company house, bought his groceries on credit at the company store, and lived by company rules. He was free, however, to quit his job and work someplace else under the same conditions. On the other hand, the coal companies often were generous in their contributions toward facilities for the miners' health, recreation, and religious welfare. Mining town histories are full of stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Source: West Deer Township History, 2004, John Graff and others for the 150th anniversary of the township.

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