In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World

By Dan Rottenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

At War in the Coke Fields

Judge John Leisenring and his relatives all believed they had struck the equivalent of gold in Connellsville. The Connellsville coking coal basin was about thirty miles long by an average of two and a half miles wide, and the Leisenring group’s property occupied about six miles in length at the very heart of this basin. “The coal is very unlike that in the adjacent basins, ” their Connellsville Coke & Iron Company explained in its first annual report to stockholders, in February of 1881. Whereas coal produced elsewhere required cleaning and crushing to remove the sulfur content before shipping, “the coal contained in your property, owing to its moderate percentage of sulfur, is taken directly from the mine and dumped into the ovens, without any desulfurizing process whatever. The cost of producing Connellsville coke is therefore at least fifty cents per ton less than that of the neighboring regions. ”

With a capitalization of $1 million, work on the Connellsville Coke & Iron Co. ’s plants and mines began on March 27, 1880, using the advanced techniques the Leisenrings had developed in the anthracite region. The first plant, called Leisenring #1, boasted the deepest shaft in the Connellsville seam: It descended 371 feet beneath the surface. “The deeper the coal is buried, ” the company’s annual report explained in February of 1881, “the purer and better it is found. ”

At first the Leisenring group’s contact in the Connellsville region was Edward K. Hyndman, who had been born in Mauch Chunk and had served with Ned Leisenring in the engineer corps when they built the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad. Hyndman had subsequently moved west to the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad as its chief engineer, and it was there

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In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Leisenring and Givens Family Trees ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Part I 11
  • Chapter 1 - A Rock That Burns 13
  • Chapter 2 - A Passage from the Mines 21
  • Chapter 3 - Holy Trinity 29
  • Chapter 4 - Boy Wonder of the Anthracite 37
  • Chapter 5 - Souls in Darkness 47
  • Chapter 6 - A Road Not Taken 57
  • Part II 65
  • Chapter 7 - The Ambitions of Henry Clay Frick 67
  • Chapter 8 - At War in the Coke Fields 75
  • Part III 99
  • Chapter 9 - Starting Over 101
  • Chapter 10 - The Rise of John L. Lewis 115
  • Chapter 11 - Utopia Goes Union 135
  • Chapter 12 - Be Careful What You Wish For 165
  • Chapter 13 - Prelude to Murder 187
  • Part IV 207
  • Chapter 14 - The Age of Uncertainty 209
  • Chapter 15 - Riding the Roller Coaster 231
  • Chapter 16 - Nowhere to Hide 245
  • Principal Characters 267
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 315
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index 321
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