PRICEDALE, PA

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PRICEDALE MINE

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Pricedale, Pa., near Belle Vernon, Pa., was home to the Somers No. 2, 3, and 4 Mines. I'm not sure exactly where Somers No. 1 Mine was, but it was a few miles away along the Monongahela River. That mine was opened by the J.H. Somers Fuel Company in the 1890s. Around 1900 Pittsburgh Coal Company acquired the remainder of the Somers lease / coal reserves (Pittsburgh seam) and went further back away from the river into Rostraver Twp. and opened Somers 2, 3, and 4 mines and built Pricedale. Use of Joy mining machines was pioneered at Pricedale. Coal mining at Pricedale ended by 1955.


Mar. 2018 image by author

Former company store with the Pricedale patch town in the background.


Mar. 2018 image by author

Front of the company store still bears the name Federal Supply Co. No. 16. Federal Supply Co. was the retail subsidiary of Pittsburgh Coal Co.


Mar. 2018 image by author

This photo shows the side of the company store with a red brick building in the background that looked like a coal mine office to me, though the Somers No. 4 mine map that I have shows no such building.


Mar. 2018 image by author

"Shotgun" coal company houses at Pricedale.


Mar. 2018 image by author

The patch houses have had individual customizatons over the years.


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Another section of Pricedale on the other side of where the tipple was located has the more familiar Pennsylvania duplex homes.


Mar. 2018 image by author

At one time this was the Somers stable boss's house. The stable (for mine mules and horses) was located near here, but is gone now.


Mar. 2018 image by author

One of the few remains of the Somers mines is this brick building. The part on the left was the power house, the part in the middle was a machine shop, and the section on the right was added after the mine closed. And, yes, someone has recently painted it purple.


Mar. 2018 image by author

Concrete substructure for the tipple peeking out from behind the brush.


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Part of the slate dump.


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Railroad trestles at Pricedale. The mine was serviced by Monongahela Division of the P. & L. E. Railroad.


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After all these years there is still a Hungarian social club in Pricedale. Someone told me that you don't have to be Hungarian or Polish or Slovak to belong to these clubs anymore.


Mar. 2018 image by author

We are fortunate that Tim Shaffer is sharing his memories of growing up in Pricedale.

I have many memories of growing up near the “coal patch” of Pricedale PA in the early 1940s, and one of the strongest was the sometimes overpowering stench from the slate dump just out of town. One of the largest "gob piles" in the area, this dump was from the Somers No 4 coal mine, owned by the Pittsburgh Coal Company (PCC) since about 1905. Also strong in my memories was the burned slate that came from burned slate dumps; slate ash, known locally as "Red Dog" due to its color, covered many back roads and driveways in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pricedale was developed after PCC bought the largest of the four Somers mines existing since the late 1800s near Belle Vernon PA. After realizing the potential of their new acquisition, they brought in a construction company from Ohio to build their company houses and company store for the army of miners required to dig into the rich Pittsburgh Coal Field. Originally known as Ohio City, the name was eventually changed to Pricedale, in honor of a local Rostraver Township politician. PCC also enticed the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad to build a spur track up to Pricedale from their main line on the Monongahela River to haul out the Somers' No 4 output.

Another strong childhood memory was the daily banging and clanging of the P&LE coal cars being shunted around near our Pricedale elementary and high schools, both within a few hundred feet of the Somers' No 4 pit mouth. This railroad action, the noise from the tipple, and the occasional shift whistle, were great disrupters of our classes. Other memories of that era were the daily hikes to and from elementary school, around - and sometimes over - the burning slate dump, or skinny-dipping (boys and girls alike - those were different times!) in the many pools on our ½ mile school route. These pools were formed when a local company strip-mined what was probably the remnant of the Somers No 1 pit. (Somers No 2 had been sold to the Victoria Coal Company and the Zundel Coal Company by that time; both were located on the Pricedale-Monessen road).

We children often explored another abandoned and unnamed mine just south of Allen's Crossroads, rooting through the cast-off tools and animal bones that we found there. Strip mining the various abandoned shaft mines near Pricedale provided an opportunity for many of our older local enterprising boys to go into business for themselves. They would borrow a little money from parents and buy old worn-out coal trucks and haul the strip-mined coal to rail-heads or to the steel mills in the area. Not to be left out, we neighborhood boys would flag them down and spend entire days riding around in these overloaded clunkers, racing each other mine-to-mill, and evading the state police with their portable scales and truck inspection lists!

All that is now gone; the last working mine near Pricedale was shut down in the 1960s, and the patch houses were sold off to private owners. La Grange, our elementary school, later burned down, and the Rostraver High School was abandoned, in part because it sat atop a mine fire, but mostly because it became overcrowded. The huge slate dump was eventually hauled away, replaced by a Wal-Mart! We children of Pricedale are, for the most part, scattered far and wide, chasing opportunities not available to our parents and grandparents, who spent most of their lives in or under Pricedale Pennsylvania!

Sources:

Fitzsimons, Gray, editor. Westmoreland County - An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites. National Park Service, 1994.

Washlaski, Raymond A. "Somers No. 2 Mine, Somers No. 3 Mine, Somers No. 4 Mine." Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania, 1 Jan. 2017, patheoldminer.rootsweb.ancestry.com

“Encounter with ‘Frank’ Outside of the Old Power House.” 31 Mar. 2018.


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