A Landing a Day

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Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania

Posted by graywacke on January 14, 2010

First timer? In this (hopefully) once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –   This landing is within 10 miles of the site of a project I worked on back in the 1980s, in . . . PA; 26/27; 6/10; 4; 152.4.  I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m beginning to work my way back down closer to a Score of 150.  Here’s my landing map, showing that I landed between Nanty Glo (great name!) and Ebensburg:

Here’s my broader landing view:

I landed in the watershed of a new river, the Conemaugh (my 1051st river); on to another new river, the Kiskiminetas (1052nd); on to the Allegheny (6th hit); on to the Ohio (116th hit); on to the MM (725th hit).

The name “Kiskiminetas” caught my eye.  Locals call it the Kiski.  Paraphrased from Wiki:

There is no definite interpretation of the origin of the name.  According to regional historians in the area, the name has historically had several possible meanings, including: “river of the big fish,” clear, clean stream of many bends,” and “plenty of walnuts.”   One possibility is that the name comes from Gieschgumanito, signifying “make daylight” (likely a word of command, given by a warrior to his comrades at night to break up camp and resume the journey).  Another possibility – the Indians called this river Kee-ak-ksheman-nit-toos, signifying ‘cut spirit’.

As usual, I have to weigh in.  My vote is for “plenty of walnuts.”

Here’s my GE shot, showing that, as for several recent landings, I landed in the middle of the woods!

Anyway, about my comment above about a project I worked on – I was project manager for a consulting firm (SMC Martin) that had a contract for a Bureau of Mines research project.  We looked at the impact of deep coal mining on overlying groundwater supplies.  The coal mine (which I selected) was located near Ebensburg.  Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out where my old site was, although I think it was between Ebensburg & Nanty Glo, close to my landing.  I have a copy of the report, but the location was confidential, so there are no location maps.  Anyway, here’s the cover:

In particular, we looked at long-wall mining, which is where this huge coal-eating machine cuts a wide swath through a coal seam.  For our project site, the coal seam was about 5 ½ feet thick, and the swath was 585 feet wide.  The coal seam was located about 550 feet below the ground surface.  The coal is conveyed off to the sides (where passageways through the coal already existed), and then up to the surface.  Behind this huge machine, no attempt is made to prop the mine open, so it simply collapses.  In the study area, this machine kept going for 2900 feet, before they dismantled it and set it up to do the same thing elsewhere.

Here’s a page from the report showing the mine.  The “swaths” are called “panels.”

The overall mine extends for many miles in all directions.  Quite the operation, eh?

As one might expect when the mine collapses behind the machine, the land surface actually subsides; and all sorts of cracks develop in the rocks between the mine and the surface.  Here’s another page from the report, showing the subsidence.

Well, if a homeowner has a water supply well (which might typically be 100-300 feet deep), it is drawing water from those very rocks above the coal seam.  Once all of the cracks open up, water tends to drain vertically down into the mine (where, to prevent flooding of the mine, it is pumped up to some nearby river or stream).  Anyway, this can cause wells to go dry, as all of the groundwater drains away.

So, in our study, we put in a bunch of monitoring wells over the longwall mining study panel (before the mining began), where we kept track of water levels.  We also hired a surveyor to do regular surveys of the land to check on subsidence.  We did a bunch of other stuff, too detailed for me to go into now.  We ended up with a 130-page report that showed a maximum subsidence of nearly 2’ and a maximum drop in the groundwater level of over 150 feet.

Here’s a postscript to the story:  I left the company (SMC Martin) just before the report was finalized.  But I supervised (and participated in) all of the field work; I wrote essentially the whole thing; I designed all of the graphics, put together all of the tables of data, etc.  After I left the company (which I did on good terms, by the way), my stupid boss saw an opportunity to give himself some publicity.  So he listed himself as the primary author!!!!!   Here’s the abstract page of the report.  You can see the arrows I drew, switching the authors . . .

I’ll guarantee that he wouldn’t have pulled that if I had stayed with the company.  I can’t tell you how angry I was about that!   Even though it has been more than 25 years, just thinking about it makes me angry again.  The project went on for about two and a half years, and I poured myself into it.  So, Dennis Pennington, wherever you are – shame on you!

Well, after that little personal detour (although I trust you learned a little about long wall coal mining). . . from nantyglo.com:

When coal was king: State records indicate that Cambria and Somerset County mines employed 21,300 workers in 1950, compared with only 1,280 in 2000. Cambria County in 2000 produced 2.3 million tons of coal, of which all but 56,590 tons came from surface or “strip” mines. In the heyday of coal mining in the area, almost all that was produced was converted to coke to fuel steel furnaces. Now, the coal produced is used almost entirely to produce electricity.

Here’s a picture of the facilities associated with the first coal mine in Nanty Glo:

And, how did Nanty Glo gets it’s name?  It’s Welsh for Valley of Coal.  In fact, there’s a town called Nanty Glo in Wales.

Here’s a picture from Nantyglo UK, with the caption below:

The Round Towers at Roundhouse Farm in Nantyglo, Wales, were built by industrialists Crawshay and Joseph Bailey, who, by the early 19th century controlled much of the iron resources in the region, including the massive iron works at Nantyglo located about a mile south of Brynmawr. Fearing that their workers would one day rise against them, in 1816 the Baileys built the last fortified tower in Britain as a place of refuge against a potential worker’s revolt. Today these ruins stand as unique and important reminder of the region’s industrial strife.

So, Nanty Glo isn’t the only town in Wales with a namesake in PA – Bryn Mawr is a Philadelphia Main Line town, and home of Jody’s [my wife’s] alma mater, (of course), Bryn Mawr University.  Interesting that we Yanks tend to take a one word Welsh name and make it two . . .

Here’s a back-in-the day shot from Nanty Glo, from Shorpy.com (“Always Something Intersting”), with the caption below:

1937. Salvaging coal from the slag heap at Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania. Coal pickers get 10 cents for each hundred-pound sack or two dollars a ton. One man can make from 10 to 20 sacks a day. Photograph by Ben Shahn.

Here’s a shot of downtown Nanty Glo back in the heyday (1943):

I’d like to see the second car get out of that parking space.  Here’s a recent picture of a “boney pile” (a pile of mining waste), just outside Nanty Glo.

I found this picture in an Indiana University of Pennsylvania Geography Department website that featured a bicycle trip on an abandoned section of the PA Turnpike and through one of the abandoned tunnels.  From the website:

Ghost Pike Bike Hike

September 7, 2008

A Spell-binding peddle along the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s abandoned Rays-Sideling Hill Remnant

Once part of a magic motorway that was the epitome of modernity and the envy of the Free World, these abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels are now the haunt of lost souls and Satan worshipers…

…And we are going to bike through them!

You can too (if you dare).

Here’s a picture of the old Sideling Hill tunnel (which I remember going through on many occasions):

Hard to imagine, but this tunnel carried two-way turnpike traffic (as did all 7 tunnels until sometime in the 70s when two of the tunnels were abandonned and five new tunnels drilled so that all tunnels carried one-way traffic).   I remember as a kid (on vacation, coming from Illlinois and then Ohio to visit family in New Jersey and go to the Jersey shore) when we might have a big truck behind us and a big truck in front of us and then have a stream of big trucks coming the other way.  It made Ma nervous, but Dad and I loved it.

That’ll do it.



© 2009 A Landing A Day

10 Responses to “Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania”

  1. Spagets said

    Wasn’t there a town named after a Dennis PENNINGTON?

  2. Geoff Palfrey said

    Hi There, nice site,

    Nant y Glo means coal stream ( as in a small river) in Welsh, coal valley would be Cwm-Glo.


  3. Matt said

    I’m from the Ravine of Coal! I used to play on those boney piles. I liked this blog a lot. Well done.

  4. Tim Mc Hugh said

    My dad was born at 1574 Robert`s Street in 1923. He would have known the young man picking slag coal by name… He also came home on leave from the Navy during 1943 and would have known Robet`s street exactly as in the postcard… P.S. My mom was born in Twin Rocks about a mile up Robert`s street…

  5. Tim Mc Hugh said

    Just a little more info on the pics… The steep hill going up next to the boney pile is called Pergrim Hill, known as “Pergie” to the locals… There was also a neighborhood of well to do (for a coal mine town!) houses at the top of Robert`s Street . It was called Finntown for the Finnish folks who congregated there. When I went for the first time for my Dad`s funeral, I saw a couple of Finnish flags hanging from the porches. It made me think back forty years as a child hearing of his best friend from there. I must say I`m quite estactic about your little game “landing” so close to where my family heritage begins…As for myself I know nothing but San Antonio Texas where my father ended up after a military career. He would always “toast” the Japanese on December 7th for helping him escape a life in the mines…

    • Eugene Prosser said

      Apr 14, 2020. I was born just across the street in the 5th house from the bottom in 1928. My grandparents lived there until 1934 when grandpap was put out of the mines with blacklung and couldn’t work anymore. At 91 now (April 22 I’ll be 92) I spent 24 years in the army after working 9 months for my dad (a face boss) in the mine at Indianola Pa. Retired as a Lieut Colonel and living in Florida for the past 25 years. Gene Prosser

      • graywacke said

        Gene – I’m so happy you stumbled on my post. There is such a rich history & culture associated with Pennsylvania’s coal miners. And you were there. I guess I can say that you’re lucky that you only spent 9 months in the mines. Coal mining was (and still is) an incredibly difficult way to make a living and provide for your family. Good luck in today’s difficult times.


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