For nearly 70 years, Greene County, Pennsylvania has been home to a very special week-long celebration recognizing the rich coal mining history and heritage of the area and Southwestern Pennsylvania region.
Prior to the glaciers, the ancestral Monongahela River flowed from present day north-central West Virginia across Pennsylvania and northwest Ohio.
The Pennsylvania, Monongahela & Southern Railroad was organized in 1902 under the Pennsylvania Railroad to extend the rail line from West Brownsville to Rices Landing. In May 2000, the abandoned rail bed was dedicated as a rail-trail along the Monongahela River.
The invention of the beehive oven was a major advance in the production of coke. Beehive ovens were large masonry domes and named according to their shape. Constructed in long rows for ease of loading and unloading, workers would bring the coal from the nearby mines, dump the coal in the opening in the top, ignite the coal and seal the ovens to let the coal smolder.
Named by H.D. Rodgers of the First Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, the first reference to the Pittsburgh coal bed was on a 1761 map. In the mid 1700s at Fort Pitt, coal was being mined on Coal Hill, or as it is known now, Mount Washington. The coal was extracted from drift mines in an outcrop about 200 feet above the Monongahela River.
In 1911, the Crucible Coal Company began to develop Greene County’s second largest mine. Located along the Monongahela River, less than two miles south of Rices Landing, the high quality coal from the Pittsburgh seam was to be shipped to Midland to be converted to coke for the company’s new steel mill.
“Commercial” coal mining in Greene County began in 1902 when the Dilworth Coal Company produced 36,400 tons of Pittsburgh coal from its mine at Rices Landing on the Monongahela River. This appears to be the first mine in Greene County that was supervised and regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Mines.
Early coal mining in Greene County began with settlers using drift mining to mine the outcrops of coal along the creeks and the Monongahela River, usually for personal use. Later small mining companies were mining coal.