Scholla: Guinther’s Black Gold January 7, 1942

1/7/1942              Guinther’s Black Gold

Philip Guinther cleared a settlement at Lehigh Landing soon after the war for Independence. Lehigh  Landing, near present day Mauch Chunk (Present day Jim Thorpe) later was given the more classical name of Lausanne.  Phillip fended for a living for his family by hunting in the Bear Mountain or Mauch Chunk Mountain as it was known to the Indians. He shot the game and sold the surplus meats and hides to nearby stores in exchange for the commodities that his family needed.

One night he returned from the hunt dispirited because he had not bagged any meat for his hungry family. Slowly he trod the summit of Mauch Chunk Mountain. Dejectedly his head hung low. A drizzling rain dampened his spirits and he knew that his brood of youngsters were hungry for meat and he had none. It was twilight and his eyes were not keen. His foot stumbled and an object was loosened from the crust of the earth. There was enough light, however to show him that the stone upon which he had stumbled was, black, very black.

Philip Guinther had heard of the stone coal which some Indians had brought to a blacksmith in Powder Valley. He picked up the rock which his foot had dislodged and carried it to his cabin. The next day he carried the stone to Col. Jacob Weiss who was then stationed at Fort Allen now Lehighton. The colonel was alert to recognize the possibilities of the discovery, and, accordingly, he took the specimen to Michael Hillegas and others who were qualified to adjudge the merits of the ore. It was anthracite coal.

Michael Hillegas and his partners formed the “Lehigh Coal Mine Company” in 1792. They paid Philip Guinter a handsome sum to lead them to the spot where he had stumbled. With the money realized from his adventure Philip Guinther built a grist mill near his original settlement and abandoned his hunting activities.

From 1792 until 1806 the Mauch Chunk Mines were not operated on large scale. Stone coal was used only by blacksmiths and a few forges. After Shoemaker showed the world how stone coal could be burned in furnaces it became black gold indeed. In 1820 Lehigh Coal Company mined only 365 tons. Thirty-five years later, in 1855 it produced 1,275,000 tons of the black mineral. The total tonnage prior to the Civil War was almost 10,000,000 tons from the Lehigh Coal Region.

View of Bear Mountain in Mauch Chunk. http://www.delawareandlehigh.org/talesofthetowpath/lehigh-canal/mauch-chunk/
View of Bear Mountain in Mauch Chunk. http://www.delawareandlehigh.org/talesofthetowpath/lehigh-canal/mauch-chunk/
Looking down from the Switchback Railroad to the Coal loading docks.http://www.delawareandlehigh.org/talesofthetowpath/lehigh-canal/mauch-chunk/
Looking down from the Switchback Railroad to the Coal loading docks.http://www.delawareandlehigh.org/talesofthetowpath/lehigh-canal/mauch-chunk/
View of Mauch Chunk emphasizing the importance of the barge loading coal chute over the slack water pool above the Lehigh Gap. Photo five years after the railway began operations circa 1832, by Karl Bodmer (1839) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe,_Pennsylvania#/media/File:Karl_Bodmer_Travels_in_America_(5).jpg
View of Mauch Chunk emphasizing the importance of the barge loading coal chute over the slack water pool above the Lehigh Gap. Photo five years after the railway began operations circa 1832, by Karl Bodmer (1839) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe,_Pennsylvania#/media/File:Karl_Bodmer_Travels_in_America_(5).jpg
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