Jackson Township
Cambria County, Pennsylvania

Chapter 6

Annals of Jackson Township

Mrs. Betty Burkhart
Nanty Glo Journal

May 14, 1942

In Jackson township there have been several small industries that flourished for a time but are now almost forgotten by the oldest inhabitant.

There was a grist mill, several sawmills, sugar camps, a cigar factory, an oil-well project, shook shops, chemical works, blacksmith shop, a tannery, etc.

 The old Southern Cambria Railway ran through here, giving local men employment and also there was the building of the Eliza furnace, built by Ritter and Rodgers on the Blacklick Creek just below Vintondale in 1846.

Too, there have been several mines opened up in this township.  One owned by Jennie Meegan at Chickaree is still in operation.  In an old record we read that Charles Murray had a coal bank on the Sam Singer farm near Vinco before 1839, and that a great future was promised for that locality because of its rich coal deposits.  The Blacklick district was opened up about 1892 and ex-Judge Barker of Ebensburg was an associate owner.  The first coal was shipped out in 1894.  Judge Barker and his associates erected a large plant at Vintondale and the Blacklick Railroad was extended there on October 30, 1894, and on to Wehrum in 1902.

The blacksmith trade was a flourishing one and in 1830 the following men had a blacksmith shops:  Christopher Rufher, Henry Rager and Thomas Davis.

Henry Rager, grandfather of John Gray of Ebensburg, also made his own nails at his blacksmith shop.  He would take an old horse shoe pound it out into long strips one-half inch square, then with a hammer he would hit the strip while it was red hot, breaking it into the proper lengths.  John Gray recalls that his grandfather had a special hammer for that purpose, which no one else dared use.  The blacksmith shop was located near Ford's Corner.

At that time there were 18 oxen in use in the township and they of course had to be shod too.  Special harness, connected with a pulley hanging from  the ceiling was used for them, as theywere heavy and cumbersome.  In more  recent years, after 1866, Alex Fresh had a blacksmith shop near what is now Leidy's service station, on ground that was among the first pieces cleared in this section.  Jonathan Custer had a blacksmith shop at Vinco in 1858, also, which was later owned by Walter Mackall, who continued at the trade as long as there was need for it, the building still standing at Vinco.

Concerning the coal industry, there is an old story that has been handed down about the finding of a rich vein of coal on the Joseph Burkhart farm, and how it was discovered. In the year 1855, Joseph Burkhart, who has many descendants living in this  community, dreamed three times of finding a vein of coal on his land.  Going to the place designated in his dream, he actually found it.  It was a large deposit of coal, known in the market as canned coal. It contained a large quantity of carbon oil and at that time carbon oil had not been produced from oil from deep wells, but was obtained by distilling bituminous shale and coal.  It was said the coal was so easily ignited that no kindling was necessary in starting a fire with it.

On October 17, 1855 Steven Hill, Jr. made a contract with Mr. Burkhart, wherein Mr. Hill had the coal rights and other considerations for twenty years, for the sum of $10,000.  It was paid for partly in cash, the balance to be paid later.  Mr. Hill shipped large quantities of heavy machinery to the Burkhart farm preparatory to distilling the oil when word was flashed around the country side that oil had been discovered near Titusville.  This made the venture impractical, so Mr. Hill permitted Mr. Burkhart to regain his property.  Mr. Burkhart resided there until his death in 1884, at 81 years of age.  All this vast acreage, once so rich and flourishing, containing a school, a saw mill, several farm buildings and large orchards, is now overgrown with brush and trees.  All that remain are the stones forming the foundation of the buildings and gnarled old apple trees.  But the deep spring that stood by the old house has water as sweet and pure as the day when it was so necessary to the existence of a large family.  This old woods is a favorite hiking place for dozens of folk from the cities who like to come there on a Sunday afternoon, especially in early autumn, to walk under the old apple trees, eat of its fruit and drink from the spring.  It is now owned by a water company.

To Be Continued Next Week

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