Shamokin and Coal Township History
Shamokin stands on tracts of land originally known as the Samuel Clark and the
Samuel Wetherill survey. These patents were issued on April 11, 1776 by John
Penn and John Penn Jr., successors of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.
The name SHAMOKIN is a
word in the language of the Delaware Indians which signifies “Eel Creek”. Five
nations of Indians occupied the Shamokin Indian Village at the confluence of the
two branches of the Susquehanna River in what would later become Sunbury.
The town of Shamokin was laid out on March 1, 1835. Later, the tract of land
known as Groveville just to the west of the town was added. The town was formed
in the true tradition of a Melting Pot with English, Welsh,
Irish, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, and German immigrants. Places of worship
sprouted to serve the masses: Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist,
Lutheran, and Jewish. The city grew beyond mining to include bakeries, ice cream
and dairy factories, F&S Brewery, Eagle Silk Mill, dress and hosiery factories,
as well was three movie theaters. The Borough of Shamokin was incorporated in
1864. Several other names were suggested for the name of the borough – Boyd’s
Quarry, Boydtown, Newtown, and Marion. John Boyd named the borough “Shamokin”.
At its peak in the 1920’s, the combined population of
Shamokin and Coal Township was 50,000 with primary industries in coal mining
and silk from the J.H. & C.K. Eagle Silk Mills.
The first "Chief of Burgess" was Richard B. Douty. In January 1950, the Borough
became a Third Class City.
In 1837, Coal Township was established from the
original Township of Coal which included all coal lands in Northumberland
County. There were only 17 voters in Coal Township when it was formed.
Shamokin was once the most populous area and the
largest trading center within a 60-mile radius. The Shamokin area is served by a
downtown business area of 35 blocks.
Coal, or “Black Diamonds”, was first discovered in
what would later become Kulpmont around 1790 when Isaac Tomlinson picked some
pieces out of Quaker Run and took them into Berks County for a Blacksmith to
try. Around 1875, Mr. Tomlinson erected a blacksmith shop and used Shamokin
Stone Coal. From this small beginning emerged an industrial giant, "coal", which
was to play a big part of the Industrial Revolution, and played an even more
revolutionary role in the development of the city.
The most famous name associated with Shamokin is
Thomas Alva Edison. Shamokin capitalists were among the first to recognize the
significance of Edison's carbon filament lamp. They supplied all the money
necessary to erect a power station in Shamokin and placed it under Edison's
immediate supervision. Edison was only 35 years old when he arrived in Shamokin
in the early fall of 1882. In November of that year, the Edison Electrical
Illuminating Company of Shamokin was incorporated. Shamokin was the site of the
second three-wire electric light station in the world in 1883 (Sunbury,
Pennsylvania, was the first). Edison's plant, for those of you visiting
Shamokin, is now the site of Jones Hardware on Independence Street. St. Edward's
Church (built in 1873) became the first church in the America to be lit by
The loss of much of the coal industry as the nation
turned oil as its primary source of energy, loss of the silk industry in favor
of synthetic textiles that could be manufactured cheaper overseas, the great
depression which began in 1929 and the loss of Shamokin’s two railroads has
resulted in a decrease in the current total population of Shamokin and Coal
Township to a little over 18,000. Still, after an 80 year period of decline,
the community seeks to find a turning a corner to recovery.
Many people spent their lives in the community while
traveling great distances to maintain personal employments to support their
families. The community continues to be one that can be proud of its friendly
citizens and willingness for neighbors to help each other through difficult
Shamokin & Coal Township Claims to Fame
The first coal discovered in Shamokin was in the Shamokin Creek between what
would later become Spurzheim and Clay Streets. John Boyd built a Quarry and
mined 50 tons of the stone coal. The coal was taken by horse driven carts
to his farm near Danville and later loaded on to barges and sold 100 miles
south in Columbia.
Shamokin is home of the world's largest man made culm bank – the
Cameron/Glen Burn Colliery Culm Bank.
Shamokin High School Alumni is the first and longest active Alumni
Association in the United States – established in 1883.
St. Edward’s Church – First church in America to be electrified - Thomas
Alva Edison’s System.
Stanley Coveleski was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Admiral Herbert G. Hopwood is the only 4-star Admiral from the coal region.
Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet 1958-1960.
William Howard Lee designed and supervised construction of the Odd Fellows
Orphanage in Sunbury, the Dime Trust & Safe Deposit Company Building,
Masonic Temple, and the Elks Home in Shamokin. Lee also designed Shamokin’s
Victoria Theatre (1917) and Shamokin High School (1914) on Arch Street as
well as 200 other buildings and theatres in America including Pottsville’s
Majestic Theatre, Easton’s State Theatre and Reading’ Astor Theatre.
The J.H. & C.K. Eagle Silk Mill was the largest textile building under one
roof in America – 379,000 sq. ft.
The National Ticket Company was once the largest ticket company in the
U.S.S. Shamokin – United States Navy Ship named after Shamokin.
“The Shamokin” – Steam Engine Train currently in the Franklin Institute.
John Kleimbach was the original waffle man in America
Shamokin was the site of the first Lithuanian printing press in the Western
Kimber Cleaver is credited with the idea of laying the Atlantic Cable.
Evelyn Witt was Miss Pennsylvania in 1930 – there was no Miss America
Contest that year due to the depression.
In 1999, Dr. Kenneth Faust was selected as an Outstanding American for
developing one of the major components of modern cataract surgery used by
most eye surgeons throughout the world. Dr. Faust was also a two-time state
champion with a 58-2 career record at Shamokin High School in 1950 & 1951.
In 1955, the Associated Press named the Coal Township “Purple Demons” as the
best football team in Pennsylvania.
In the 1943 RKO Pictures production of the movie “Around the World”, a song
about Shamokin called “A Moke from Shamokin” was sung by Marcy McGuire. The
music was written by Jimmy McHugh and played by Kay Kyser’s Band. Harold
Adamson wrote the lyrics for the song.
The first house erected in Shamokin was at the corner of Shamokin and
Commerce Streets by Ziba Bird. The building sat on props and later became
part of the National Hotel. Ziba Bird then built a second house across the
street and moved into it. He then finished the first building by adding a
foundation walls and a cellar. He then returned to live in the first
house. The second house became Shamokin’s first tavern and was opened by
Joseph Snyder on July 9, 1835 and the first male child of Shamokin was born
there the following year. In 1837, the third house appeared in Shamokin.
John Boyd had this house moved from the country to a location on Dewart St.
This became the first school house in Shamokin.
In 1913, Jacob Ellsworth Daubert was the National League’s Most Valuable
Player. The lefthander was a two-time NL batting champion with the Brooklyn
Robins and steady .300 batter for ten years of the dead ball era.
In 2001, several small groups of 1940 – 1950 high school classes decided to
form a Coal Cracker Club. The club has no dues or fees and holds three
events each year. In 2005, it was reported that the club membership had
surpassed 600 and members from all across the America gather for the events.
One of the articles in the book “My Shamokin” (a collection of the Edgar
Marlok Stories reveals an interesting story about the men of the community
gathering at vantage points near the east end of Independence Street to see
the parade of female workers en route home after a day’s work at the Eagle
Silk Mill Plant. Girls employed at the Eagle Mill were accustomed to
dressing like “Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse” to go to and from work, and they kept
a change of clothes in the mill to be worn during working hours. The
reputation of girls spread so widely that Walter Winchell, in the early days
of his career as columnist and newscaster, commented on the Shamokin area as
the home town of some of the world’s most beautiful women.
The Shamokin High School Band, directed by James Baker, performed a concert
at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York City.
Technical Sergeant Freeman V. Horner of Shamokin, Pa was awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary courage in combat with the
30th Infantry Division in Germany in 1944.
On July 30th, 1864, during the Civil War, Henry “Snapper” Reese became known
as the “Hero of Petersburg, Va.”. Union soldiers from the 48th Pennsylvania
worked round-the-clock for nearly a month to complete a 500 foot tunnel with
two underground chambers where they packed four tons of powder, which, upon
detonation, would presumably blow the Rebels and their Fort all over the
countryside. After lighting the fuse, the Yankees waited but nothing
happened. Reese, having to hunch over in the confined tunnel went 150 feet
back into the mine to find out why the powder hadn’t detonated. He
discovered that a section of fuse which had been spliced was wound so
tightly that the fire was unable to burn through. Calling for Douty, who
arrived with the equipment, he relit the fuse, turned and, along with his
partner, made a dash for the tunnel’s entrance. Only seconds after the two
men exited the mine, the 8,000-pound charge exploded, lifting and tearing
apart both earth and men in phantasmagoric scene of destruction. After the
remnants of earth, the fort, and what was left of the 278 soldiers
languishing inside, came tumbling down from the sky, all that remained was a
hole some 60-foot deep and a quarter-acre in extent.
Capt. Holden Richardson, a graduate of Shamokin High School in 1896 was the
Navy’s first engineering test pilot who modified the catapult design to
operate successfully aboard ship. He was also a member of the crew who made
the first Trans-Atlantic aircraft flight.
The first “Iron-T” railroad tracks in the world were manufactured by the
Danville Iron Company and used on the Shamokin Valley Branch between Sunbury