Sep. 2009 image by author

Palanka, a typical Western Pennsylvania patch town, housed the miners of Pittsburgh Coal Company's Midland No. 1 coal mine. As a matter of fact some locals still refer to the area as "Midland."

Sep. 2009 image by author

Two company-built houses - one a duplex for two families found all over Southwestern PA, and the other, larger one may have been a boarding house.

Sep. 2009 image by author

These garages are in the alley behind the main row of homes, near where the company store used to be located. About these garages Daniel Giosta writes, "Those are now garages but were originally constructed as stables for the mules the miners used in Midland Mine. The mine and town were built around 1900."

Sep. 2009 image by author

A view of the Palanka patch from the top of the slate dump. The only other feature of the Midland mine I saw at Palanka beside the slate dump were some tipple foundations in the woods, and a brick structure that was behind the tipple ruins, and was on a private residential property.

Sep. 2009 image by author

Patch town burn barrel.

The following information was taken from a paper written and researched by Daniel Giosta in 1970. It is used here with his permission.

Prior to 1900 Midland was farmland, owned by the McNarys and the Skileses. A few small country mines were opened at this time and employed men from Houston. In the Spring of 1900 L.A. Russell optioned a block of land, 3000 acres, located in the Plum Run and Little Chartiers Valleys, located north and west of Houston, for Pittsburgh capitalists. The land sold from $35.00 to $100.00 per acre, or on the average of $60.00 per acre. The total block of land sold for $200,000. The capitalists joined together to form the Midland Coal Co. Their officers were, President, Mr. Salisbury, and as Secretary-Treasurer and chief engineer, Selwyn Taylor. They decided to open their first mine on Plum Run. Work began to lay out the town of Midland in 1900. The company built between 150-200 houses for mine employees. In 1901 work began in what was to become known to the Midland Coal Co. as Midland Mine No. 1. The mine employed several hundred men and began shipping large amounts of coal. The Midland Coal Co. began work on laying out the town of Westland on the Little Chartiers and this became known as Midland No. 2 and No. 3. The Midland Coal Co. sold 2,500 acres of the land to the Pittsburgh Coal Co. for a fine profit.

The company houses were built by the Sykes Brothers in 1900 for $750 each. The homes had no foundations, but were built on stone or wooden pillars. The houses contained four rooms on one side and four rooms on the other - two families to a house. The rent for the four room houses was $7.35 and rent for the 3 room houses was $5.25 per month. Another building owned by the mining company was the company store. In Midland this was a large frame building, located on the main street. All items the miner and his family needed could be bought in the company store. The store was supplied by the Federal Supply Company. The employees of the store were store manager, cashier, 2 clerks, butcher, and a delivery man. Prices were higher in the company store than other stores because most of the goods bought by the miners were on credit. There were three stores besides the company store. One was a small candy shop, another was Smith's store on Wylie Ave., and the third was Mitchell's store. If the miner got sick, he went to the company doctor. Through the years there were three company doctors. They were Dr. Dague, Dr. Hazelett, and Dr. Safran. Midland school was built shortly after the opening of the mine. It was a large frame building, containing four big rooms, each room having two grades. The present [1970] school was built in 1938. At one time there were two churches in Midland - a Presbyterian located across from the company store, and a Catholic church on the second floor of the old Casagrande's hotel and bar. Midland's recreation was mainly baseball. The largest baseball field was where the slate dump is now located. The first club in Midland was the Owl's Club. The second club was the Palanka Sportsman's. This club is still an organization in Midland today. The largest fire in Midland occured on the second floor of Casagrande's Tavern. The fire started in the church and ended in the total destruction of the building. Midland became a melting pot of nationalities, with the largest percentage Polish and Italian.

The coal mined at Midland No. 1 was used for the purpose of producing steam and not for making steel. It was one of the finest grades of steam coal in Washington County. The first coal taken from Midland No. 1 was coal stripped from the hill west of town. Mules were used when mining went underground. In 1907 electric motors were installed, but mules were still used until 1937, because the electricity was only a main line into the mine. All coal mined in Midland was shipped to the Northwest part of the country. This was known as Lake Trade. Each winter while the Great Lakes were frozen the mine worked very little or none. On April 15 work began, sending coal to the harbors of Ashtabula, Ohio and Sandusky, Ohio, then by way of the lakes, shipped to the Northwestern states.

The miner started out as a trapper, one who opens the doors to the mine. He received 78 cents per day. Then he went directly into the mine to dig coal. Most miners were paid by the ton of coal they dug. If a miner loaded slate into the coal car to make it weigh more, this was called dirty coal and they were laid off and didn't receive pay. No matter what job, the miner's pay increased through the years. The miner had several ways of lighting his way in the mine. In the early years they used miner's oil, a thick heavy oil producing a bright light. Also, parafin was used. Carbide was used to produce a type of gas flame. The light today [1970] is electric, produced by a battery pouch.

The local union at Midland was founded between the years 1900-1907, and was UMWA Local 1724. There were several union halls built. The first was built near the company store; The second was located on the second floor of the hotel; and the third and present [1970] one at 438 Cherry Ave., Houston, PA. The largest strike ever to occur at Midland No. 1 was during 1925-26. The strike followed a mine shut-down on November 10, 1923. (The reason being the mines could not produce coal under union basis.) Through negotiations the company offered the miners $6 a day to return to work as a non-union workforce. The miners joined together and went out on strike. During this strike a miner was killed in Houston. The coal company hired Coal and Iron Police, deputy sheriffs, and state police to control fights. The strike lasted six months. When the strikers went back to work, it was as a non-union workforce, which continued until 1933. Then the union slowly gained power and helped the miners get equal rights, along with other industries.

During the Depression the coal mine worked better than other industries. The main reason for this was the demand for coal. In 1936 Midland employed its greatest number of men - 1,180. During the years of World War 2, Midland worked six days a week, producing 5,200 tons a day. The Midland No. 1 mine began to close down in the summer of 1948. The reason was the long way the miners had to travel underground to get to the coal seam. Midland Mine was officially closed March 9, 1949.

In the summer of 1968 a fire was started on the slate dump in Midland. The purpose of the fire was to dispose of old cars. It ignited the entire slate dump. The residents complained to the Township Supervisors without any accomplishment. The residents elected Roger R. Fischer to the State House of Representatives and, by doing this, were able to have the fire extinguished.