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Allegany County
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Coal for Charcoal, page 8

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westward for their fortune never dreamed that a far greater one lay beneath their feet.

The Potomac Navigation Company, fathered by George Washington, came into existence in 1784 shortly after Washington had returned from his trip west of the mountains. His primary purpose was to make a study of the most likely water-way connection between the Potomac and Ohio valleys. At first the keel-boats and flat-boats operating between Westernport and Georgetown carried flour, whiskey, country produce and iron. It was not until 1828 that work actually began on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and not completed until 18 50.

A great deal has been and is being written about the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The era of the Potomac Navigation Company has been all but forgotten. This Company provided slack water navigation of a sort from Westernport to Georgetown, commencing operations in 1784. This use of the Potomac River was seasonal, mostly during the springtide when the river was above normal stage. At such a stage the boats were less liable to flounder on the rocks and boulders that occupy the stream bed almost every mile from its source to Georgetown. Thomas and Williams in their "History of Allegany County" provide the reader with a great deal of interesting material, such as the races conducted on the return trip upstream, the eager and enthusiastic fans lining the banks near the home stretch; of the daring exploits of the steersmen downstream. One of special interest is the story of Joseph Strong.

The authorities differ as to when coal was first shipped down the Potomac. Eavenson states that this did not happen until 1826. Beachley believes coal was shipped down the Potomac as early as 1810, the year in which the Georges Creek seam was accidentally exposed by a freshet. It is reported that coal was piled along the banks of the Potomac, awaiting for a rise in the river when it would be loaded. These early coal-boats on the Potomac were flat-bottoms, eighty feet long, thirteen feet wide, and three feet deep. Their capacity was around fifteen tons.

Another important coal date in Allegany County was 1840 when the Georges Creek Valley went into high production. It was at Lonaconing that the first coal mine was opened in 1840, according to Jacob Brown, to provide fuel for a blast furnace. The year that witnessed the start of construction on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (1828) was also a notable date in the history of bituminous coal. This was the year in which the first regularly organized coal mining company in North America came into being. This was the Maryland Mining Company which operated in the Georges Creek Valley. As Beachley says, "The Maryland Mining Company is the oldest and most direct antecedent of The Consolidation Coal Company." The latter is the largest producer


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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