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Coal for Charcoal, page 7

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


or rail, it was the means of providing more efficient transportation, as an agent of heat for iron required by horse and vehicle. The westward trek of the pioneer across the mountains of Western Maryland and Pennsylvania and Virginia produced the urgent need for this raw material. Callahan's "History of West Virginia," Volume One, page 517, states that the people of Wheeling began to use coal in their houses brought from the first mine discovered near the town. Thus if Callahan is correct the first coal discovered in West Virginia was in 1810 and was associated with the Pike. Again Callahan: "In 1811, the 'New Orleans,' the first steamboat on the Ohio, burned coal which her captain, Nicholas Roosevelt, (grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt) had found on the banks of the Ohio two years before." It was not until 1817 that coal was discovered in the Kanawha Valley. This was made by David Ruffner. Callahan also reports that in the year 1840 three hundred thousand tons were produced in West Virginia, two-thirds of which were used in the salt furnaces in and around Charleston, and the other third in homes and factories in the Wheeling area. By salt furnaces were meant heating arrangements under large evaporating pans. The salt was pumped up in liquid form from several hundred feet to a few feet below the surface. This is one of the most important saline regions in the world, providing the basis for a vast chemical plant.

Other important dates to remember are such as 18 51, when the first shipment of bituminous coal was made by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from Piedmont, West Virginia. Also, in 18 52, when James Otis Watson, "father of the West Virginia coal industry" shipped coal by the Baltimore and Ohio promptly upon the advent of the railroad in Fairmont, West Virginia. This year marked the developmental beginning of Fairmont. Also, 18 54, when the first coal mine was opened at Scotch Hill near Newburg. Wiley in his "History of Preston County" says that under the supervision of Lawrence Henry the first shipment of coal by rail west of the Alleghenies was at Scotch Hill. But James Otis Watson preceded Henry's shipment by two years.

The distance from Cumberland to Wheeling by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is two hundred and one miles. Between 1849 and 18 52, a period of three years, under the intrepid lead of Thomas Swann, President of the Baltimore and Ohio, tracks were laid between these two points, and the seventeen mile grade, together with several tunnels, were accomplished. It is doubtful if prior to this there was ever anywhere such an engineering accomplishment in the world. The railroad itself became the first large consumer of bituminous coal, not only as fuel but in the making of rails and machinery. And ever since, conestoga wagons, horseshoes, rails, steam engines, steamboats, automobiles and airplanes could not have been created except for coal. And those pioneers looking


Felix G. Robinson


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Maryland, History


Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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