Miners, Railroad Workers Honored With Tiles on Punxsutawney Coal Memorial
September 9, 2023 - In Pennsylvania, the Coal Memorial Committee of the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogical Society hosted the 17th Memorial Tile Dedication on Sunday at the Coal Memorial site.
The 16 new tiles will be added to the Coal Memorial in honor of people who worked as coal miners, on the railroad, or in a coal related activity. The dedication ceremony was open to the public, and included a presentation highlighting the beginning of the Coal Era in Punxsutawney.
The Coal Memorial tile display at the Coal Memorial site on West Mahoning Street.
The ceremony was opened with a song by the Punxsutawney Community Band, and called to order by PAHGS board member and memorial committee member Nancy Anthony, followed by an invocation by Rev. Bob Bish. Coal Memorial Committee Member Bob Lott led the crowd in the salute to the American flag, and a welcome speech was given by PAHGS President Scott North. Each change of speaker was punctuated with another song from the community band until the conclusion of the ceremony.
North said that while the event was focused on the coal industry, he was speaking to all labor, and how it’s changed over the years.
“Two hundred years ago there were frontiersmen and women coming to this area, building a new life. One hundred years ago, well into the back half of the industrial revolution, coal was huge, railroads were huge, farming, mercantile, all these industries were the heart and soul. Through the decades coal remained important, oil and gas found its way into our economy. And then today, as time goes on we have more and more of a service oriented economy. It’s us adapting to the changes and the situation,” North said.
He also took time to highlight the hard work of the volunteers with the historical society, saying they do quality work on whatever the next community project is.
Tom Curry, another board and committee member, gave a presentation about the history of the railroad in Punxsutawney. Much of his presentation focused on the Jenks family, one of the first pioneer settler families in the area.
Curry provided some background details to go along with a letter included in the program from a G.A. Jenks to P.W. Jenks. The letter is dated Aug. 12, 1881, and showcases the interest Phineas Jenks had in bringing the railroad to the area, something Curry said is his legacy to Punxsutawney.
“His legacy to Punxsutawney –Phineas W. –is that he was instrumental. Nobody else gets the credit. Phineas W. gets the credit for his interest and investment, his enthusiasm, the money he put up to bring the railroad to Punxsutawney,” Curry said.
He also pointed out that with the letter dated for 1881, it was just two years later in 1883 when the first train came into Punxsutawney on the BR&P. Phineas Jenks is largely credited with bringing attention to the large coal fields in the area, creating a race between the railroad entrepreneurs to connect the Pennsylvania coal fields with the iron industry along Lake Erie. Coke ovens later became a major part of this history as well, as there were an estimated 1,700 coke ovens operating at once between all the mines in the Punxsutawney area, including Walston and Adrian.
Curry pointed to some area landmarks that could be recognized in the letter from Phineas as he shared about his meeting with railroad entrepreneurs to discuss lines to connect the railroads to Punxsutawney. He pointed out the mention of Saw Mill Run, which is local to the Punxsutawney area, Sprankles Run, and Geisttown. Sprankles Run is referencing the area of Sprankles Mills, and Geisttown is what today is known as Worthville, according to Curry.
Phineas also made mention of bringing some of the railroad representatives to the area to show them what he was describing, and mentions about Mr. Brown. Curry clarified this was in reference to Walston Brown who the Walston mines were named after.
Finally, committee member Jeane Curtis read the names of those being honored with a tile, and the names of those who were honoring them.
Coal Memorial Tiles In memory of miner Pehr August Johannesson aka August P. Johnson 1857-1925 –sponsored by Randall K. Johnson. In memory of Saul Johnson 1886-1974, miner circa 1900 –sponsored by Randall K. Johnson. William “Pete” McClure killed October 24,1918 McClure-Tyson Mine, Big Run 1901-1918 –Ruth Soliday. In memory of Joseph G. Guzzo Jr., CMM for Kocjanic Rosebud Mines, killed May 14, 2021 –sponsored by all those who loved Joe. Elmer R. Sheesley –Kramer Mines, WWII veteran –National Guard Europe; Clarry B. Lloyd –Sunnyside Mine, WWII veteran –U.S. Army –sponsored by Gary E. Sheesley. Elisha T. Hutchins, 61, died in 1948 Rock Fall at Country Coal Mine Bank near Frostburg –sponsored by Frostburg Community. In memory of George W. Kelly, Brakeman, B&O Railroad; 1917-2008 –sponsored by Frank & Peggy Pryzbrowski, Richard & Jane Hultman and Patty Kelly. In memory of Nick Ray Monoskey; Miner, Greenwich Collieries, 1974-1991 –sponsored by Diann Monoskey and daughters. In loving memory of the miners in the Freeman Ray Pierce family who worked in Country Bank Mines –sponsored by Ray and Peggy Pierce and family. In memory of Rosario “Reese” Marasco, mine owner-operator, Mines in Rossiter and Valier –sponsored by Ed and Lisa Marasco. In memory of Ben Marasco, laborer “grunt worker” in Rossiter and Valier mines –sponsored by Ed and Lisa Marasco. In honor of Joseph R. Juliette, miner operator of Rosebud Mining Company –sponsored by Anthony Pascuzzo. In memory of John F. “Jack” Kelly, B&O Railroad conductor, 1887-1950 –sponsored by Kay Harvey and Kim Wehry. In memory of Guy R. “Curly” Wehry, B&O Railroad engineer, 1918-1983 –sponsored by Kay Harvey, Kim Wehry, Gay Miller, and Katie Harvey. Blose family miners: Father, Stanley Blose; Son, O. Scott Blose; Grandsons; R. Lee Blose, James Blose, John Blose, Donald Blose, Phillip R. Blose, Thomas Blose, and Ronald Blose –sponsored by Ruth Blose. Railroad YMCA established 1907 sponsored by B.R.&P Railroad –sponsored by Donald B. and Marty Armstrong.