ASHLAND - A headframe constructed at a mine near Bowman's in Mahanoy Township over 150 years ago has found a new home, after a reclamation project at its original site.
The 35-foot structure stood at the Bowman’s shaft at North Mahanoy Colliery, which was operational from the mid-1850's to 1931, when it was abandoned.
Now, it's on display at the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland, and on Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held a dedication and ribbon-cutting for the structure.
"I'd like to thank everybody who was involved with this project and for the foresight of people in the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to see preservation as a part of reclamation, which we can now use as an exhibit or for education." Ed Wytovich, a member of the Pioneer Tunnel's board of directors, said during the dedication. "As many of you may know or may not know, we have an awful lot of school tours in the spring, and this is only going to allow us to enhance our tours and our educational aspect of the mine."
Wytovich extended thanks to Pagnotti Enterprises, the donor of the mine headframe, and to Keystone Anthracite for the coal which spells out "Pioneer Tunner" on the hill near the headframe.
"As far as the headframe is concerned, what it was used to do is to redirect the forces from the hoisting winch so it was straight up and down to raise and lower cars into the shaft and the mine cages. My grandfather worked 53 years underground, and after he retired, we were talking about it, and I said 'Pap, what was it like going down in the cage?', and he said 'Eddie, my feet spent the entire trip trying to catch up with the floor.' These were not slow moving elevators." Wytovich added.
"My father, like many people in the coal region, he lost his father at the age of 14, leaving my grandmother with five sons to raise. There's not a family in the coal region that doesn't share the same type of story, and that's why it's extremely important that we save our history, for future generations, so that they know that, the people that worked in this area, it was not an easy job. It was a very difficult job... it was also a dangerous job, and a lot of people worked very hard and even lost their lives fueling the industrial revolution that grew this nation." Representative Neal Goodman (D-123) noted during the dedication.
"The headframe was dismantled, stockpiled, and transported here to the Pioneer Tunnel as part of an AML project that we did. The pieces could easily have been disposed of as part of that abandoned mine land project, which eliminated a hazardous shaft, but we found this opportunity to increase the awareness of the heritage that we have here while still removing a public health and safety hazard." PA DEP Deputy Secretary John Stefanko added.
Also speaking at the event were Dave Hamilton, of the Office of Surface Mining and Enforcement; Conrad Falvello from the office of Congressman Barletta; Schuylkill County Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier; Duane Fegley, Executive Director of the PA Anthracite Council; and David A. Lucas, a retired Anthracite miner.
Funding for to reclaim and reconstruct the headframe was awarded by DEP to the Pioneer Tunnel through the 2016 Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program.
Also involved with the project were the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) at the U.S. Department of Interior; Ashland Borough; Ashland Community Enterprises; Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum; Pioneer Tunnel Group; and Schuylkill County.
Pioneer Tunnel will also host their annual Pioneer Day event this Saturday, August 19 from 10am to 5pm, celebrating the tunnel's 55th anniversary as a tourist attraction. The event will feature food, craft vendors, live entertainment, and more.