Brief History of the Rochester and Pittsburgh 
Coal and Iron Company


Early History
The Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company (hereafter referred to as the Company, Coal Company, or the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company), was financed by Walston H. Brown and Adrian Iselin, both New York financiers. In 1881 it was incorporated by the Iselin family in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The Company’s first mines were located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, and most of the coal from these mines was used to produce coke. One of the coke producing operations, the Walston mine, had the longest string of coke ovens in the world at the time. Five-hundred men were employed in the ovens alone. The Company grew rapidly and by the turn of the century it purchased many pieces of land in several western Pennsylvania counties including parcels that totaled 40,000 acres in Indiana County. In addition to the purchase of land, the Company also purchased several small railroads, which they consolidated into the larger Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh Railroad. Ownership of the railroad enabled the Coal Company to quickly, cheaply, and efficiently transport coal to Buffalo, Rochester, and other northern markets. By obtaining track rights between Indiana and Pittsburgh over the Baltimore and Ohio rail lines, the Coal Company was able to expand their operations south to Pittsburgh’s growing iron and steel industries.

Mine Acquisition and Subsidiary Companies
As the Coal Company developed its own mines, it also purchased the mines of other local coal companies. Numerous smaller companies were involved in coal production in Indiana County during this period. For example, in Montgomery Township, there were no fewer than twenty-nine actively working mines in 1909. During this period, it was not uncommon for corporations to set up complex systems of subsidiary companies to protect the parent company from potential bankruptcy and to insure that all financial tax advantages were exploited. Executives of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company frequently served as executives in its subsidiary organizations. For example, Lucius W. Robinson was simultaneously president of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company and of the Jefferson and Clearfield Coal and Iron Company. The following, compiled from different sources by the author, is a listing of companies which the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company purchased or in which they had controlling interests: Adrian Furnace Co., Bell, Lewis and Yates Mining Co., Brush Creek Mining Co., Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, Coal Run Mining Co., Cowanshannock Coal and Coke Co., Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, Helvetia Coal Mining Co., Jefferson and Clearfield Coal Co., Kent Coal Mining Co., Jefferson and Clearfield Coal Mining Co., Jefferson Supply Co., Mahoning Investment Co., Mahoning and Jefferson Supply Co., Pittsburgh Gas Co., Plum Creek Coal Co., Punxsutawny Furnance, and Tide Coal Mining Co. In addition, Lucius W. Robinson, a Coal Company executive, privately owned the Coal Run Mining Company which developed the Young Township community of Coal Run in 1912 located adjacent to McIntyre.

Expansion/Development in Young Township, Indiana County
At the turn of the 20th century the Coal Company began to systematically purchase land in Young Township from established families, from other smaller coal companies, and from coal speculators. Courthouse documents reveal that prices varied from a low of $20 per acre to a high of approximately $60. In 1905 a parcel totaling approximately 4000 acres was purchased by a speculator and resold to the Coal Company. Other sizeable land purchases followed. As acreage was accumulated, mines were opened and towns were developed. Because there were not enough local native-born men to work in the mines, the Coal Company looked to Europe as a source of inexpensive labor. A 1902 letter written by Lucius W. Robinson, an executive of the Coal Company, to an agent, states, “We want mainly good Italians, Polanders and Hungarians. We do not want any colored help, or Irish, under any circumstances, nor do we want any hard coal strikers.” 

Individually and collectively, the Coal Company towns were populated by a wide spectrum of immigrants from many places including Italy, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Romania, Lithuania, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia. The Coal Company permeated various aspects of the lives of the miner and his family. For example, although they were not obligated to do so, many shopped in the company store. Miner’s children attended schools that were built with funds from the company, and coal, usually free, was given to the school for heating classrooms. Although some homes were privately owned, most families lived in rented company-built houses. The most popular form of recreation in many coal mining towns was watching company-sponsored baseball games.

Although the early executives of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company are long dead, there are reminders of their existence in the names of several Indiana County towns. The town of Iselin was named after Adrian Iselin. Two towns, Waterman and Luciusboro, were named after another Coal Company executive, Lucius Waterman Robinson. The town of Ernest was named after the grandson of Adrian Iselin. The Iselin family was from Switzerland and thus the coal town of Lucerne was named after the Swiss city of Luzerne.

The 1920s, 1930s, 1940s
The Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company and other coal operators faced numerous concerns during these decades. Following World War I, there was a serious decline in coal operator’s profits. In order to offset financial losses, companies attempted to reduce existing wages. In 1927 Indiana County coal companies attempted to lower wages to $6 a day. This period was characterized by strikes of unionized miners, the use of the Coal and Iron Police, the issuing of injunctions by pro coal judges, and the hiring of nonunion miners. After the onset of the Depression, by 1932 bituminous coal production fell to its lowest rate since 1904. During this period in McIntyre and in other company towns, miners worked only a few days a week if they were fortunate. In 1930, the combined number of men working in the two McIntyre mines totaled only 30. Credit was extended by the company store to the most needy families. In the late 1930s and into the war years, the demand for coal increased. Realizing the potential loss of miners to the military and the increasing demand for coal, the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company modernized by installing new mechanical loading equipment in all its mines. An article from the June 2, 1945 edition of the NY Times indicated that the Coal Company gross earnings for the year 1943 was $42,181, 321. For the same year assets totaled $9, 504,225.   

Sale of the 17 Remaining Coal Company Towns
By the late 1940s many Indiana County mines, including those of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company were nearly exhausted, although large quantities of coal were now obtained through strip mining. Underground mining continued for a while in the Company’s towns. The first of McIntyre’s two mines closed in 1952, and the second one in 1963. It was clearly becoming obvious that strip mining was more profitable than mining underground. Because surface or strip mining no longer required company housing, in 1947 seventeen remaining towns including McIntyre, and their water rights, were sold by the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company to the Kovalchick Company in Indiana, Pennsylvania, for $890,000. The names of the seventeen towns, located in Indiana, Armstrong, Clearfield, and Cambria counties were: McIntyre, Coal Run, Iselin, Waterman, Lucernmines, Aultman, Ernest, Tidesdale, Coy, Luciusboro, Fulton Run, Nu Mine, Yatesboro, Margaret, Helvetia, Twin Rocks, and Yatesboro Lots.


The above information was compiled from Richard H. Quin, Indiana County: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, 1993), and from Eileen Mountjoy Cooper, The Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company: The First One Hundred Years (Indiana, Pennsylvania: Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company, 1982).
The names of the remaining 17 Coal Company towns provided by Stan Wass, Clarksburg, PA. The list of the Coal Company subsidiaries was compiled from various sources by the author.