PATRICK VARINE | Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 10:00 p.m.
The proponents of a grant-funded research project into the history of coal and coke mines in the Connellsville Coke Region are hoping it will draw additional attention — and possibly additional miles of trail — to the area.
“This is where Henry Clay Frick (1848-1919) began his empire,” researcher Cassandra Vivian said of the site where the sign now stands.
West Overton is the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, who at one point owned most of the mines and ovens in the valley.
photo credit: Jessica Fike Photography
West Overton Village and Museum — in partnership with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, its Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, Jacobs Creek Watershed Association and Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp. — has finished the research and installed signage showing details about historic coal and coke mines in the Morgan Valley area.
Erected near the former distillery on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, the sign outlines some of the industrial history of the Morgan Valley, which runs northeast for roughly 10 miles to the banks of Jacobs Creek in Everson.
“The whole coal and coke industry began in the Morgan Valley,” Vivian said. “The people responsible for it in the early mines — names like Frick, Schoonemaker and Rainey — were the start of the coal bonanza that took place.”
Western Pennsylvania, she said, was a major destination for immigrants arriving in the United States between 1870 and 1920.
“It was either for the coal mines or the steel mills,” she said.
Vivian is hopeful that a third grant application will come through from the Fayette County Cultural Trust to continue her research.