CASS TOWNSHIP

(This account is taken from the Munsell's book of 1881)


[Early Settlements][Pioneer Life][Mining][Schools][Villages][Churchs]


    This  township  is  located a little west of  the  center  of
Schuylkill  county  geographically, and is bound by  Butler,  New
Castle,  Norwegian, Minersville, Branch, Reilly and  Foster.   It
was  formed from Branch, in 1848.  In 1855 a portion was set  off
to form part of Foster, and in 1857 another portion was  included
in Reilly, then formed.  The number of taxable inhabitants in the
territory now comprised in Branch, Cass and part of Reilly  town-
ships  was in 1842, 1,058.  The number of taxable inhabitants  in
Cass  in 1849, as then bounded, was 799.  The population of  Cass
in  1880  was 3,061.  The township is divided into  two  election
precincts,  known  respectively  as North and  South  Cass.   The
surface  of  the township is rough and uneven,  Sharp  and  Broad
mountains  encroaching much on its territory, and much of  it  is
yet unredeemed from the forest.

EARLY SETTLEMENT-OLD MILLS.

    Many  years elapsed between the date of the first  settlement
within  the present limits of Cass and a time when  the  township
had more than a very meagre and very scattering population.   Mr.
Alspach, who located on the top of Primrose hill, between Miners-
ville  and Forestville, is stated to have been the first  settler
in  the township.  Mr. Crouse built the primitive cabin,  half  a
mile  south of Alspach's clearing.  The date of their  coming  is
uncertain,  but  it is supposed to have been an  early  one.   In
1830,  when coal operations began to attract business men to  the
southern part of the present township, the only residents between
Forestville  and  Minersville were Abraham Hoch, a quarter  of  a
mile  north  of  Primrose; Peter Yokam, at  Primrose,  and  Jacob
Kantner,  on  the old Crouse farm.  At Forestville  were  an  old
house  and  an old mill, both of which had been  long  abandoned.
The oldest present residents in the locality cannot state when or
by whom they were built, or  how  long they  had been idle. It is
probable  that the  mill played its part in the earliest improve-
ments in that section, and went into disuse in consequence of the
later sparse population and consequent small  demand  for lumber.
Prior  to 1840  this  establishment  often  received  unimportant
repairs at the hands of the few residents, and any man who wished
to manufacture a little lumber used it at will. About 1840 it was
repaired and partially rebuilt by Robert Patton, who used it five
or six years.  It was  subsequently  torn  down.  There were also
early settlers in  Heckscher's valley, but patient inquiry of the
oldest present residents of the township has failed to elicit any
information concerning them. It is not known that any of the des-
cendants of any of them are living  in the  township.  As farming
began to give place to mining, a half century ago, the land pass-
ed into the possession of new comers, and the original owners went
to other sections. At Coal Castle there was, when coal mining be-
gan, an old saw-mill which was used to some extent afterward, and
later  repaired  and run  by  Lewis C. Dougherty. Residents there
about 1830 were Michael Sands, Abraham Steeper and Frank and James
Daniels.  There was at Heckscherville another old mill, which was
repaired by George and  William Payne, and operated for some time
in manufacturing lumber used in improvements about their collier-
ies.  It was long since torn down.

INDIAN OCCUPANCY-PIONEER LIFE.

    In  the southern portion of the township when the land  began
to  be cultivated, farmers found from time to time  arrow  heads,
spear  heads, stone hatchers and other relics of  the  aboriginal
occupants  of the soil, and though it does not appear  that  they
any  considerable  Indian  village was ever  located  within  the
present township limits, there is proof that the savages at least
frequented  the section; but historical incidents connected  with
the Indian period are not as plenty in the history of the  north-
ern portion of the county as in that of the southern townships.
    Very few of the old houses built by the pioneers of the town-
ship were standing when the influx of settlers began.  One or two
of the first domiciles in the southern part are remembered by the
oldest residents of the section as primitive in all respects.
    The life of the pioneers in Cass was as arduous and as  unin-
viting as it is apt to be anywhere.  There were no local condions
to  render it more than usually easy and uneventful.  The  county
was  rugged and heavily timbered, and until the era  of  develop-
ment,  was valued somewhat lightly for its  productive  qualities
and  its  timber, for which the market was early  very  poor  and
later none too good.  The animals common to the American  forests
were numerous, and while some of them, with the fish that abound-
ed  in  the streams, afforded easy subsistence to  the  pioneers,
other,  notably the bear and the wolf, often made their  presence
disagreeably manifest.
    It  is said that so frequent were the incursions of the  bear
and  wolf  on  the scattered pigs styes and sheep  folds  of  the
district now including Cass, that the residents for miles  around
were necessitated to combine in

        
MINING IN CASS TOWNSHIP.

periodical hunts, which served the double purpose of ridding  the
neighborhood  of  the pests in a measure,  and  securing  rewards
offered  for  their  extermination.  Tradition has  it  that  the
excitement  of one of these early hunts centered in Wolf  valley,
and  that a number of animals were slain there, and on the  envi-
roning  hillsides;  but  in account of the long  time  which  has
elapsed since, and the scarcity of definite information  concern-
ing the pioneer period of the history of the township, no authen-
tic in detail can be given of the affair.

COAL OPERATIONS

    The  energies  of the former residents of the  township  were
principally directed to the work of clearing and cultivating  the
land.   Of  this industrial period the old saw-mills  and  a  few
scattering farms were the landmarks when coal development brought
people  in  comparatively large numbers to  the  hitherto  thinly
populated section.
    The  early  residents had made openings here and  there,  and
taken  out small quantities of coal from tine to time  for  their
own use or to supply such meagre demand as was then afforded.
    The  first opening made for regular and systematic mining  in
Cass  township was made on the Black Heath vein, about 1831.   It
was  a  tunnel, driven for Isaac Stauffer by Abraham  Hoch.   The
colliery  was  soon leased by John Womer, who worked  it  two  or
three  years,  hauling  its production over  the  Mine  Hill  and
Schuylkill Haven Railroad to Schuylkill Haven.  Messrs. Heilner &
Bast  were  the next operators there, and at other  new  openings
until 1853.  Later A. M. Wood operated there for the Philadelphia
and Reading Coal and Iron Company.  The Black Valley slope, which
had  been put down by M. Heilner, was operated by Thomas  Scholl-
enburger  until 1854 or 1855.  The Diamond Coal Company were  the
next operators.  Since 1871 the colliery has been idle.
    In 1831 or 1832 Jacob Serrill excavated a tunnel which became
known as the Black Heath tunnel, about a quarter of a mile up the
creek  from the Black Valley slope.  Dr. Steinberg was  the  next
operator  there.  He was succeeded by Jacob Serrill, who in  turn
gave place to Mr. Heilner, who operated the colliery from 1842 to
1852.  Richard Heckscher & Co. were his successors.  They erected
a  breaker  on  the top of the mountain, to which  the  coal  was
carried  from the mine over a "selfacting plane."  The  New  York
and  Schuylkill Coal Company operated the colliery from  1865  to
1868,  when  it was abandoned.  At a later date the  breaker  was
burned.
    A  colliery was opened upon the Kantner vein, about 1833,  by
Wann & Reese Davis.  After a few years it passed into the posses-
sion of M.G. & P. Heilner, who operated it until some time  after
1853, when it was purchased by the Philadelphia and Reading  Coal
and  Iron Company.  About the same time a draft was put down,  on
the  Primrose vein, by a company of Englishmen.  They  were  suc-
ceeded  in operating it about two years.  Some time between  1845
and 1850 Richard Kear put down a slope on this vein, and built  a
breaker.  He operated the colliery till about 1866, when he died.
His heirs, under the title of Kear Brothers, worked the  colliery
till 1868 and Kear & Austey till 1869, when it filled with  water
and was abandoned.
    Wann  &  Reese Davis made a drift to the  Big  Whiteash  vein
about  1842.  In 1843 the colliery was sold to Gideon  Bast,  who
put down a slope, greatly enlarging the producing capacity of the
colliery.   Here  was soon erected the first  successful  breaker
ever  in  use  in the county, two  unsuccessful  attempts  having
previously  been  made at the mines of Charles Potts,  with  less
effective  machinery.  Mr. Bast operated here until  about  1850,
when  he sold the colliery to L. Audenreid, who worked  it  until
1869, when he abandoned it.  The second breaker in the county was
also erected in Cass, in 1844-45, at the colliery on the  Kantner
vein, previously mentioned.  The above were the principal  mining
operations  on Wolf creek.   A number of small  enterprises  were
carried  on  from  time to time.  On the  Primrose  vein  Richard
Reckert  made an opening, which was afterward worked by the  Cor-
nish  Company during many years.  They were succeeded by Prior  &
Jenkins.   Henry  Harper was the next operator.  He  put  down  a
slope  and  built a breaker previous to 1850.  The  colliery  has
been long abandoned.
    At  Forestville the Diamond colliery was opened, about  1840,
by  William Hoch, who sold out to Johannan Cockill before he  had
shipped any coal.  Cockill worked it five years, and it was  then
abandoned.  Goodman Dolbin put down a slope in 1863 or 1864,  and
operated  till  1869, when he sold out to John Wadlinger.  A  man
named Whittaker began operating in 1873, and continued until  the
breaker burned in 1875 or 1876.  Between 1845 and 1850 there were
a number of small workings in the outcroppings by Dolbin &  Rodg-
ers, Robert Patton & Thomas Lloyd, and William Britton & Bristin.
    The  Forestville  colliery was opened in 1841,  by  Salathiel
Harris, who worked the Black Heath vein, by means of drifts above
water  level, until 1844, producing about a hundred  tons  daily.
In 1844 Thomas Petherick took charge of the colliery as agent for
the Forest Improvement Company.  He continued to ship the coal as
it came from the mine until 1848, when he built a breaker with  a
capacity  of  100 tons daily.  In 1852 Richard  Heckscher  &  Co.
began to work the colliery, and in 1857 they erected the  present
breaker, which has a capacity of 300 tons per day. The slope  was
sunk  in 1854 a distance of 130 yards, to the Black  Heath  vein,
working  1,400 yards east and 600 yards west.  In 1859 it  became
necessary  to sink 150 yards, working the same vein  1,400  yards
east  and 250 yards, working the same vein 1,400 yards  east  and
250 yards west, the average thickness being 6 feet.
    In 1866 the New York and Schuylkill Coal Company was  formed,
and  operated  the colliery until 1868, when it passed  into  the
possession  of  the  Manhattan Coal Company, and  was  leased  to
Daniel Hoch & Co., who operated it until 1878, giving  employment
to 280 men and boys.  The machinery of this colliery is propelled
by  5 engines with a capacity of 160 horse power. Ventilation  is
produced by a 16-feet fan.

    At Coal Castle Michael Sando put down a drift to the  Mammoth
vein,  about  1832,  and mined coal on a small  scale  about  ten
years.   Lewis C. Dougherty put down a drift on the Daniels  vein
about 1833, and for some years mined about 20,000 tons per annum.
His successor was John McGinness, who had seven years of  equally
large business, until, about forty years ago, the mine took  fire
at a later date McGinness put down a slope which opened upon  the
came  vein below the fire, and worked it for a  time.   Salathiel
Harris also operated at Coal Castle.
    At  Heckscherville  William and George Payne  opened  on  the
Mammoth, Jugular and Church veins by drift and tunnel.  They were
soon  succeeded by the Forest Improvement Company,  who  operated
there  fifteen or twenty years, sinking slopes, putting in  heavy
machinery and doing a successful business.  The land was sold  to
the Manhattan Coal Company, and by that corporation to the Phila-
delphia  and  Reading Coal and Iron  Company.
    The Thomaston colliery was opened in 1858 by Heckscher &  Co.,
and operated by them until 1866.  The first breaker was built the
year the shaft was sunk, and had a capacity of three hundred tons
per  day.  The shaft was 90 yards deep, the Diamond, Crosby,  and
New  veins.   From 1866 to 1873 this colliery was worked  by  the
Manhattan Coal Company.  In 1870 the present workings were begun,
the old ones having been exhausted.  The breaker was built by the
Forest Improvement Company.  The first coal was shipped from  the
new colliery in 1872, when the Philadelphia and Reading Coal  and
Iron Company purchased the property, which they have since  oper-
ated.  The total capacity of the breaker is 500 tons per day; the
average  production 400 tons.  The machinery of the  colliery  is
propelled  by  seven engines, the total horse power of  which  is
nine  hundred and thirty; 225 men and boys are employed  outside,
and  135 inside.  In 1876, 65,996 tons of coal were produced;  in
1877, 81,543; in 1878, 77,429; in 1879, 123,078.
    At  Meckeysburg, on land owned by George Meckey, he  tunneled
to  the Mammoth vein, and put a drift down to the Jugular.   This
colliery has since been leased by General Wynkoop and others, but
its production has never been large.
    Phoenix Park colliery No. 2 was opened by John C. Offerman in
1839,  and  a drift was worked above the water level  till  1842,
when Charles Miller, of Philadelphia, and Daniel Still, of Potts-
ville,  assumed  control of the colliery, and operated  it  until
1865.  George Frill operated it until 1866.  His successors  were
Johnson & Dovey, who, in 1869, were succeeded by Z. Byer, and he,
a year later, by Daniel Hoch & Co., until 1872, when the colliery
passed to the ownership of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal  and
Iron  Company.  The breaker was built by Miller & Stall,  and  it
has  a capacity of 250 tons per day.  The average daily  shipment
has  been 185 tons. 108 men and boys are employed inside, and  52
outside.   The motive power for the machinery is furnished  by  8
steam engines with an aggregate of 225 horse-power.   Ventilation
is  produced by a 15-feet fan.  The openings are to the  Primrose
vein.  The first slope extends 160 yards from the surface, at  an
angle of 30 degrees, working the vein 150 yards east.  The second
slope  is 227 yards from the foot of the first, descending at  an
angle  of 27 degrees.  The breaker is located 50 yards  from  the
top of the slope.  The average thickness of the coal is 11  feet.
The colliery produced 25,956 tons of coal in 1878, and 13,612  in
1879.
   Phoenix Park colliery No. 3 has been owned by the Philadelphia
and Reading Coal and Iron Company for some years, and operated by
it since 1877.  It was opened, and the breaker built, in  1873 by
Lloyd & Glover, and worked  by them till 1875, when Mr. Lloyd be-
came the sole operator. He was succeeded by the corporation ment-
ioned. The first coal was shipped from this colliery in 1874. The
depth of the first slope was 187 yards, on an angle of 26 degrees,
working  Big Diamond  vein 1,004 yards  east and 1,080 yards west.
In  1878 the present slope was  finished 120 yards  from the easy
and 500 yards  west. The average thickness of  the vein is 6 feet.
The number of employes inside  is 108; outside 60.  Only  5 lives
have been lost at this colliery since it was opened. The capacity
of the breaker is 250 tons per day. The average daily  production
is 200 tons. The colliery has 5 engines, with a total of 125 horse
power; 22,557 tons were  produced  in 1876; 22,427 in 1877; 11,018
in 1878; 10,305 in 1879.


EDUCATIONAL.

    Primrose school-house, still in use, was erected previous  to
the formation of Cass township.  In early times abandoned company
houses  and engine houses were used for school purposes and  they
continued  in use till the present stone structures  were  built.
The  first  school house was erected at Heckscherville.   It  has
since been enlarged, and it now accommodates 150 pupils.
    The  first  board of directors consisted  of  Andrew  Patton,
William  Cook (still living) John Kennedy, Robert  Patton,  Peter
Fitzpatrick  and  John Delaney.  The first meeting of  the  board
were  held at the house of Abraham Hoch.  They have since met  at
various  places.   Their present place of meeting  is  McDonald's
Hotel, Heckscherville.
    During  many years the average school terms amounted  to  ten
months  in the year, and the monthly salary of teachers was  $28.
In  1855 it came to be $35; in 1860, $40, and during the  war  of
1861-65, it rose to the maximum of $60.
    James Knowles was the first teacher in the township, teaching
at  Primrose.   A  Mr. Thomas taught at Woodside,  in  a  company
house;  Michael  Connolly at Jonestowm, in an  engine-house;  Mr.
Holt in Heckscherville, in a building now occupied for  religious
services.   James Perso taught the first lessons in  the  present
Heckscherville school-room.  Master McGuire (still living)  began
his education labors as early as 1850, first teaching in
Woodside  and subsequently in nearly every school in  this  town-
ship.  Terence Cook, in 1855, taught in the "Old Log  Cabin,"  at
Black Valley, and a Mr. Gressang wielded the birch in the present
frame building in that vicinity.  The educated but eccentric  Mr.
Boland was among the earlier teachers, and it was he who  "taught
by  day and studied the stars by night."  The following  teachers
also taught previous to 1865; Martin Finley, Michael O'Brien, Mr.
Mulhall,  Thomas Fogarty, Charles McGee, Michael  Goody,  William
Mealey,  Robert Patton, jr., James McDougal, William H.  Conolly,
James Mohan, Samuel Clarkson and P.J. Ferguson.
    Among the teachers since 1865 were the Messrs. Clark,  Kelly,
Butler  brothers,  Madden,  Toole,  Brennan,  Dormer,  Cavanaugh,
Hughes,  McAvoy  and  Brophy.  Miss Maggie Kelly  was  the  first
female principle employed, and she was quite successful.  Messrs.
McGuire and Boland were educated in Dublin, and the former taught
in that city twelve years previous to his thirty years experience
in this township; making a total of forty-two years.  Mr.  Boland
was  probably  the most versatile and profound scholar  who  ever
taught in town.
    Library societies sprang up in Forestville and Jonestown, and
semi-monthly  township  institutes were held from 1856  to  1870.
    The financial management of the school system of the township
has not been satisfactory.  A large debt exists, and "school ord-
ers"  have been  sold  at a discount of  from 10 to 30  per cent.
Efforts are being made to reduce or extinguish the debt.
    There  are  twelve school-rooms in the  district  and  twelve
principals are employed; supervised by a township superintendent.
The  number of children of school age is 1,250; but  the  average
attendance is only 650.  The cost of teaching the school is about
98  cents  per pupil.
    By reason of the good attainments and training of the  teach-
ers the school system of Cass is leading the rising generation in
the direction of good citizenship and cultivated manhood.

VILLAGES.

    The  mining  operations in various portions  ofCass  township
have  caused the growth of settlements and villages,  which  have
become known as Meckeysburg, Heckscherville, Coal Castle, Forest-
ville, Woodside, Jonestown, Thomaston, Sheafer's Hill, Mine  Hill
Gap and Delaware Village.  All of these settlements and  villages
have been small, comparatively speaking, and none of them are now
as  well populated as they once were.  The most important of  the
above-named  points are Forestville and Heckscherville.  Both  of
these  villages  were built up under the auspices of  the  Forest
Improvement Company.  This corporation opened stores and  carried
on  a  general business in the township for a  number  of  years.
Later  a store was kept open at Forestville by the New  York  and
Schuylkill  Coal  Company till 1868.  Goodman Dolbin  hada  store
there for a few years subsequent to 1845 or 1846.  Joseph  Patton
was a merchant there from 1873 to 1876.  John Dolbin, John Reilly
and James O'Donnell are the present merchants.  J. O'Donnell  and
Thomas Conner are the present merchants at Heckscherville.


CHURCH HISTORY.

    The  Methodist Church of Hecksherville was built in 1853,  by
subscription,  William Payne having been the principal  contribu-
tor.   Among the early members of the organization  were  William
Payne, George Brown, Josiah Jenkins and Abraham Ayers.  The first
preacher was Rev. Mr. Banks.  There have been no regular meetings
held  since 1873 and there are few Methodists now living  in  the
neighborhood.
    St. Keiran's Catholic Church, located at Heckscherville,  was
erected  in 1858, 1859 and 1861, and officiated until his  death,
in 1875.  His successor, Rev. Matthew O'Brian, came in 1875,  and
remained  until 1877.  Rev. Martin Welsh was pastor from 1877  to
1879, and was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rev. P. McSwig-
gan.   The attendance upon the services  is large.  The value  of
the church property is about $20,000.
    St. Stephen's Protestant Episcopal Church at Forestville is a
stone  building  which will seat about 150 persons.   The  corner
stone  was laid in 1856, and the building was completed in  1857.
The  bell was hung in 1858.  Charles A. Hecksher and family  were
the  special  patrons of the chapel.  About 1870  and  1871  Mrs.
Arthur B. De Sauls, daughter of Charles A. Hecksher (still inter-
ested  in church work there), thoroughly renovated the  building;
refurnishing  it  very tastefully with new carpets,  new  chancel
furniture, new books for the chancel.  A large window of  stained
glass, a memorial to her father, was among the improvements.  The
chapel  was consecrated by Bishop William Bacon Stevens.  It  has
always  been associated with St. Paul's Church, Minersville,  and
has  depended upon its rectors for services.  There have  been  a
number of interruptions to church services, but the Sunday-school
has  been  maintained without interruption  from  the  beginning,
first under the superintendency of Edward Noble, and for the last
eleven years under that of James Nesbit.  Rev. Harrison  Byllesby
was  rector  at  the time of the building  of  the  chapel.   The
present (1881) rector is Edward J. Koons, of Pottsville.