At the very bottom of the hill, you will cross a modern-day concrete bridge over Mammy’s Creek. Hidden immediately to the right of the bridge is
This lake also served local residents as a respite from summer heat well into the 1980s.
If you pull to the left on the far side of the bridge, and park near the yellow gate, you will be about 50 yards from a double line of beehive coke ovens that were constructed around 1904.
These abandoned coke ovens, neglected for over 80 years, are covered in undergrowth and even large trees. It’s surprising to learn that they once represented a bustling and burgeoning industry – the coal and iron industry.
I first thought these ovens were part of Civil War history, but I’ve since been educated. Nonetheless, it is a very mysterious looking place and it’s kind of creepy, especially if you are alone, to see nature slowly reclaiming it. Now, only dark ghostly mouths, ringed with red lips and mossy brick teeth give up the secrets of the place. It makes you think twice about stepping inside one of the earth’s dark open mouths for a better look at the white ringed vent openings in its roof!
In the latter part of the 19th century, the steel-making industry came to the secluded forests of the
As the steel industry continued to grow in the early 20th century, fields of coke ovens and smelting factories began supplanting forests throughout the Plateau region.
One of those companies was the Waldensia Coal and Coke Company. The Waldensia Company purchased 8,000 acres of
The Waldensia Company under took in 1901 the effort to build a large complex to support their coal mining and coke making business. Among the supporting facilities were 80 cottages, a commissary, a hotel, offices, a school*, a post office, a train depot, many coke ovens, a large coal washing facility, and a railroad! It was all completed in 1904.
A sawmill was also constructed to prepare the wood for their building needs, and most of the required logging was done on their own property.
The lake was created by the building of a dam on Mammy’s Creek, where it still stands today. Since the lake and dam are on private property today (2009), you have to view the lake, and falls that cascade over the dam wall, through a large growth of hemlocks. I was told by the owner that someone had recently fallen on the property and was currently suing him over a broken hip. Therefore, “private property” signs have been posted and a fence is being built around the beautiful lake.
I suppose this means that the cool waters of the lake and the shade of the hemlocks will never be freely available to the general public again. Such a shame…why do Americans have to sue so much?
But…more on the coke ovens pictured (click to enlarge).
Generally, the coke ovens found in the
After laborers sealed the doors with brick and mud, the coal was left burning under low-oxygen conditions for two or three days and could reach temperatures of nearly 2000°C (or 3600°F). In this process, the volatile parts of the coal were combusted and escaped as gases through a hole in the roof – what remained was the desired coke, which was almost pure carbon, and the by-product slag.
The property was sold to the Chicago-Tennessee Coal & Coke Company in 1908, which operated the facility until 1921. After the closure in 1921, Connellsville Coal & Coke Company bought the property in 1925 and continued to operate it until 1929.
The “Great Depression” brought about the end of the mines and ovens forever.
Now, it’s all but lost to time and privatization. There are certain areas of our country that should be considered “wilderness pockets”, protected and preserved for posterity.
More photos HERE.