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Windber Era 1900

 

It’s been 250 years since the area now known as Somerset was obtained by treaty from local Native American tribes.  But it was the last seven years of the 19th century that saw the virtually instantaneous transformation of northern Somerset from sleepy farmland to bustling communities of coal and timber workers.

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Revisit the Windber of 1900

That period comes alive again in a reprint of a special edition of the December, 1900 Windber Era newspaper.  With more than 350 pictures and illustrations, the 60-page paper describes in detail the people, places and organizations of the area in its infancy.

 

It is a fundraising effort of the Eureka Coal Heritage Foundation, which, among other things, is seeking to save the Windber Coal Heritage Center from imminent closure due to lack of grant funds.

 

It documents how in less than six years the coal and timber industries built entire communities - complete with housing, utilities, schools, churches, hotels, stores, police and fire protection, and places of entertainment.

The efforts of J. S. Cunningham (pictured at right), who spent the entire year of 1893 acquiring land for the Berwind coal company, are described in detail. His efforts earned him the title “Father of Windber”, and he later was elected superintendent of the Scalp Level Division.

 

The role of the coal and timber industries in the communities is well documented.  There are many pictures of the mines and mills, along with their equipment and workers.  The Berwind mines became the focal point for much of the development in the area.

Windber Era

Pictured at left is a Baldwin-Westinghouse electric mine locomotive in action at Mine 38.Company-built housing was generally considered superior, and tenants were offered opportunities to buy them on time. Electricity was provided from a plant in the No. 35 mine.  The company also sponsored water works, the Eureka Supply Company store, and housing for Windber fire company Number 1 (below), newly established in June, 1900.
The publication will take you back to when newspapers set a refined, genteel tone for its readers. Those whose families date back to this era will find the paper a fascinating source of historical information.  Background data is included for prominent individuals such as government and industry officials, clergy, businessmen, mine foremen, physicians, educators, and such.

 

 

For example, newly-elected school board president Dr. O. J. Shank is described as "a native of Cambria County, born in 1869. He attended the public schools, taught school for several terms and read medicine in the office of J. W. Hamer, M.D., at Johnstown.

 

The doctor attended the Medical Department of Western University of Pennsylvania: and graduated from the Baltimore Medical College in 1896; in 1897 he came to Windber and many citizens speak of him in the highest terms for the good work he has done for the town of Windber in the year of 1898 - and he, it is said has the largest practice in this section. The Doctor is a bachelor and very popular amongst both sex, being an active member of the F. & A.M., Heptasophs and K. of M. He naturally is possessed of a large circle of friends."

In-depth information also is presented for the areas surrounding Windber, as well as the many new businesses that were drawn to the booming economy of the time.

 

Great care was taken to provide for all the spiritual and material needs of the mine and mill workers. A number of new churches, stores and hotels served the growing population and its visitors.

 

Pictured at right is the bar of the Hotel Maine in Windber.


How to Get a Copy

If you can’t attend the Miner’s Memorial Day Weekend festivities in Winber during Father's Day weekend, hardcopy and/or CD copies of the paper can be ordered for $5 plus $3 shipping and handling.  Mail orders to the Eureka Coal Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 142, Windber, PA 15963.

 

Questions about the paper and/or CD may be directed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .