Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mine Mule, the best photo ever!!!!!!!

Just found this photo of a unique Mine Mule taken in the anthracite region of Eastern Pa. This is the best photo of a mine mule I have ever come across. It was in our archives at the Historical Society of Schuylkill County.
Only wish I new its name and at what colliery. Damn!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mule Revealed Death Of A Miner

Anybody who reads this blog will note that I like Mules, especially mine mules those wonderful animals that worked for years in the depths of the anthracite coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania.
Here is an interesting story from March 6, 1907 issue of the Daily Pottsville Republican newspaper.
There is a superstition about the mines that the mule is able to give warming of an impending accident and is also gifted with a sixth sense whereby it can tell when a fatality has occurred, which superstation has taken a further hold on the employees of the Glendower colliery as is the result of the display of this sense given by a mule when John Zerbe of Mt. Pleasant was killed at that colliery.
The mule was at work on the surface while Zerbe was deep in the mines. Suddenly the animal; broke loose from a post of which he was tied, ran to the mouth of the slope and again and again repeated a loud hee haw, which could be heard about the entire colliery. It was with difficulty that the animal could be taken away from the mouth of the slope and when it was finally forced to do so it threw itself flat on the ground and pawed wildly, refusing to get up. The actions of the animal were so peculiar and so unexpected that the employees were unable to surmise the cause when a foreigner solemnly walked up and said, “Must be a man die inside.”
This superstition was known to all and an investigation was made with the result that the body of Zerbe was discovered crushed to death, the accident having happened about the same time that the mule ran to the mouth of the slope.
Zerbe has volunteered to do some measuring in a small offset, which was so small that the other men could not get in to do it, and it was while engaged at this that the fall of coal occurred which resulted in his death.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Murderous Assault on The Captain Smith of The Canal Boat.Virginia 1865

Pottsville Miners Journal
September 23 1865

On Monday morning last about 3 o’clock, as the boat Virginia, owned by the Schuylkill Navigation company, and commanded by Captain Smith of Reading, was passing through the guard locks at Landingville, this County, four Irishmen boarded the boat, two seating themselves at the bow of the boat, and two at the stern. As the boat was passing up the dam, the men gathered around the Captain, and demanded his money... The Captain replied that he had but seven dollars, and they could have that. The robbers were dissatisfied, and one of the ruffians named Owen Mullen, struck the Captain on the head with a billy, and threw him on the hatchway. The Captain’s son, a small boy, who had loaded a gun by his father’s direction, came up the cabin steps, and placing the gun near Mullens head, fired the contents through the head of the robber, killing him instantly. Malloy, lived on “The Flat”, Schuylkill Haven. And was known to be a desperate character. After Mullen was shot the rest of the men attempted to seize Captain Smith, but he sprang overboard and swam ashore. His son followed him by jumping through the cabin window. When the Captain jumped in the water the ruffians threw the tiller at him, but fortunately it missed him. The Captain and his son succeeded in reaching Orwigsburg Landing. Without further molestation. The robbers pulled the boat tothe shore, and escaped. Every good citizen will feel a sense of relief that such a scoundrel as Mullen has been disposed of, and earnestly hope that other wretches in this county, when caught in crime, may be sent the same road quickly.
On Monday Coroner Johnson held an inquest, The jury rendered a verdict of Justifiable homicide

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The Palo Alto Cut


There are seven coal veins that lie under the conglomerate rock strata in the Pottsville basin, or under Pottsville itself.
The York farm breaker once stood northwest of the Pottsville High School veteran’s memorial stadium. Back in the old days, (1880’s and 90”s) the big black structure could be seen from all parts of the town.
The Tunnel was bored southward in the direction of sharp mountain. It was done in the late 1890’s. It went under the hill on which the high school stands, under a section of town near 19th and 20th Sts., and right up into Sharp Mountain.
It cut acr4oss a lot of veins, most of them twice, on the north and south sides of Pottsville basin. What that means is it cut them on the hill where the colliery stood and again where they came up on Sharp Mountain.
There was an air hole drilled from one of the veins to the surface, and it is said to have come out near the southeastern entrance of St. John Cemetery at 20th street, and then known as Broad Street.
The tunnel was driven at an elevation of 485 feet above sea level. And if the elevation of Center and Norwegian st., is 618 plus, as we always have been told, (Actually GPS Verifies this) Then it is easy to conclude that the old York Tunnel is some 133 feet or 44 yards lower than Pottsville’s busiest intersection, though still not low enough to cut the shallowest vein in the basin.
But it apparently deep enough to have pierced all the veins on the south slope of Sharp Mountain, had it been driven farther south through the mountain. If it had been driven all the way, all arguments about coal on the southern slope of Sharp Mt. would have been settled;. As they really never knew if coal extended below the Sharp Mountain.
In the 1950’s the Boulevard or Route 61 was cut through Sharp Mountain in 1950, from Palo Alto to Mt. Carbon, we now have the opportunity to view the last of the southern veins of coal in the Anthracite region on the south side of Sharp Mountain. It is apparent that they were not workable, but you can still see them when you get off 61 and head into Palo Alto. Maybe they could have been worked, who knows.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Deadly Disaster At The Chamberlain Colliery in St. Clair, Pa. 1887

A Deadly Disaster At The Chamberlain Mine in St. Clair, Pa. 1887

On April 17, 1887 Easter Monday,, in the town of St. Clair, Pa. A hearse pulled by two black horses led two curtained horse carriages toward the cemetery bearing the body of a young girl.

On Saturday, April 16, 1887 disaster struck the town of St. Clair. The week before Miss Minnie M. Keiter came home from Vassar College to spend her Easter Vacation., bringing with her Miss Verlista Shaul, a college friend.
The two young girls visited with many of Minnie’s friends in town, celebrating the Easter holiday. Miss Shaul like a lot of people who were not from the area desired to see the interior of a coal mine. Minnie knowing many who worked in and around the mines arranged fro her to have a look.
Minnie was well acquainted with the workings of a coal mine having grown up in the area she had been down many times. Living next door to the Keiter family was Mr. Hiatt one of the owners of the Chamberlain Colliery, Minnie asked him if he could take Verlista down for a tour.
Mr. Hiatt Agreed to do give the girls the tour. He introduced Minnie to Harry Short who was always willing to entertain visitiors and went along for the tour into the mine.
Full of frolic and good humor the group started off for the mine. Mrs. Keiter talked to the girls and told them to be careful that no accidents would befall them. Minnie and Verlista talked with Mr. Keiter about the up coming tour and he gave his consent.
The girls arrived at the mine entrance which was about thousand yards below the Borough line; they soon had a mine car placed at their service. The party consisting of Minnie, Verlista and Harry Short descended the slope accompanied by Peter Harrison the engineer of the mine who had just surfaced to retrieve a piece of pipe for the exhaust pipe of the Allison pump he was working on down in the mine. The engineer notified Daniel Thompson who was also working on the pump that some ladies were in the mine for a tour.
After finishing the work he was engaged in Thompson went out to the bottom to receive the visitors, show them so light and escort them to the mouth of the tunnel and entertain them until his brother Edwin would arrive and take over the tour. While waiting for Edwin Thompson the group was engaged in merry banter and laughing like young people would do having no worry of the danger that they were exposed to.
Edwin Thompson arrived and had his safety lamp with him as he had been working in the Little Vein where he knew there was gas. The visit was to be made to the big vein where he was confident that there was no gas. (Fire Damp).
Mr. Thompson started out ahead of the group carrying his safety lamp, Minnie and Harry Short were given regular miner’s lamps. As they started walking Dan Thompson called to his brother Edwin that he should be careful for he was responsible for the safety of the young ladies.
Through the tunnel and into the Big Tracey vein the party tramped until they came close to the turnout. Mr. Thompson in the advance.
What happened next know one can say for sure, Apparently one of the open flame miners’ lamps was raised high enough to reach fire damp that was hovering above them. Quick as lighting the gas ignited and a flash, flame reached the main body of the gas causing an explosion for over a hundred and fifty yards ahead and back of the gangway with the force and velocity of cannon fire.
In this case the fire did little damage, but the blow mad sad havocs of those in the gangway. Edwin Thompson saw none of the lights of his companions, but he saw for a split second a ball of fire through the gangway and then he was unconscious, being hurled by the force of the explosion and dashed to the ground.
In other parts of the mine Daniel Thompson and George Frantz felt the wind from the expulsion and knew something dreadful had happened. They immediately rushed through the tunnel to the Big vein where they feared the explosion had occurred.
Daniel Thompson soon came upon Minnie Keiter who lay bruised and bleeding, who was crying and begging to be taken home for she was dying. Giving her all the attention he could, he ran over to Harry Short who he found lying with his neck across the rail and his low back toward the gutter unconscious. Grabbing a piece of board Mr. Thompson took off his shirt and making a pillow of it placed it on the board and put it under Harry’s head so that he could breathe. Moving forward Mr. Thompson found Miss Shaul about two yards further. She was wearing a gossamer and it had rapped twice around her head from the force of the explosion. She lay unconscious. Mr. Thompson thinking her dead leaned down and listened for signs of life. Finding a faint heart beat, he quickly tore the gossamer away and gave here a chance to breathe.
By this time Edwin had regained conscious ness and crept toward the sound of the voices. Before he reached where Miss Shaul lay, he fell over through weakness caused by an ugly gash in his hip. Leaving Edwin to fend for himself as he was the least injured of the party, Daniel ran back to where Minnie lay and as the other men had reached her they immediately set to work to get the suffering victims out before the poison after damp sets in that always follows a gas explosion.
They carried Minnie to the bottom and retuned with a car for the others and brought them to the bottom also. They worked fast ahead of the dangerous and deadly after damp before more people would die.
The victims were carefully hoisted up the slope. Mr. and Mrs. Hiatt being there to receive them.
Dr. A.P. Carr, a skilled surgeon was on hand to do what he could for the victims. He found all four of them in very bad shape. Harry Short especially being battered and bruised beyond recognition. By this time the colliery whistle had blown and half the town flocked to the scene of the disaster. The ladies were hauled home, Miss Shaul laid perfectly still bearing all the pain and agony she endured with courage. Miss Keiter’s injuries were beyond all endurance and her excruciating pain made her scream so that her screams could be heard a square away. Those terrible screams from the dying girl carried horror to all who heard them and brought back from the hearts of the most earnest sympathy for the poor young sufferer.
Dr. Carr examined the three victims and found that Miss Keiter suffered a compound fracture of the left thigh, a completely crushed ankle with the left foot hanging by a few shreds of skin. Serious burns of the face and several ugly scalp wounds. Miss Shaul, covered with coal dust had a fracture of the left thigh and sever burns. Mr Thompson’s head and hands were burned and a long deep gash on his hip.
Harry Short had four sever gashes of the head and one a dangerous fracture at the base of the brain, his left arm was broken, but no burns were found on his body.
Minnie Keiter, who’s screams guided the rescuers to the party died in the evening. Harry Short suffered for three more days and then passed away.
Verlista Shaul, lame and disfigured returned to her home where it was said she lived by day in the curtained attic, and walked at night in her garden. Verlista would have graduated valedictorian of her class at Vassar.
Mr. Thompson recovered and, except for infrequent bouts with disturbing sleep.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Samuel W. Williams P&R Fireman On Engine 303 Tragically Killed on The Railroad

Tag to Enlarge
While checking out Civil War graves at the Odd Fellow Cemetery in Pottsville I came across this interesting tombstone for Samuel W. Williams.

Yesterday while I was at the Historical Society Of Schuylkill County I found out what happened to Mr. Williams.


Pottsville Republican
August 25 1900

Fireman Samuel W. Williams of Pottsville, Instantly Killed.

Passengers Injured, Shaken Up and Scared!

Reading: August 25-Over 150 people made a marvelous escape from death here this morning. The Pottsville Express on the Phila & Reading R.W. due here at 8 a.m. left the rails two miles north of this city, and ran into an embankment. It was making 50 miles an hour, and passengers were thrown from their seats in promiscuous confusion. The entire train excepting the engine was derailed and the four cars were thrown against the embankment and were badly damaged. The supposition is that a coupling dropped from the tank and derailed the train.

Killed And Injured

Fireman Samuel Williams of Pottsville was caught between the cars and literally cut into pieces. Portions of his body were buried nearby.

These passengers were slightly hurt:
Solomon G. Siegelman, Tamaqua.
Mrs. William Shollenberger, Auburn
P.H. Hadesty, Tamaqua
Edward M. Shepp Tamaqua
Miss McFall, Wilkes Barre

Train No. 2 which leaves Pottsville at 7:05 o’clock in the morning was wrecked at Lightheisers Crossing about two miles this side of Reading. The tank left the main track and ran a distance of about 200 feet before the engine was stopped. Fireman Samuel W. Williams, of Pottsville was instantly killed his body being strewn along the track for a distance of 50 feet. The engineer W. I. Leiby also of Pottsville was un injured. The passengers although badly shaken up escaped uninjured excepting a woman and child from Auburn who’s names could not be learned.
After the train came to a halt Mr. Schrader walked up the track to where the tank lay. Scattered along the road portions of a man’s body were found and were unrecognizable. The engineer greatly overcome by the dreadful occurrence identified the body as that of his fireman. Mr. Schrader thinks the accident was caused by spreading rails. The rails for several hundred feet were torn up and the ties snapped of like pipe stems. He transacted his business at Reading and then returned home.
The same train was the one wrecked at Shoemakersville at the time of that terrible disaster caused by the train running over a high embankment. John White was the engineer on the train, and was instantly killed. The train is known as No. 2 while on its trip to Philadelphia and No. 7 on the return. He was on the return trip that the Shoemakersville wreck occurred.
Fireman Williams who is single was born in Pottsville 28 years ago. He is the son of Thomas Williams, the well known conductor on the Fr4ackville and Tamaqua branches of the P&R road and resides at 313 W. Arch St. After receiving a thorough education in the public schools of town he went into railroading... About 2 years ago he was made a fireman and was considered as one of the best men on the road. When the flyer was first put on he was made its fireman but later transferred to No 2. With William Lewis as the engineer. This morning as was the custom he arose early and went Palo Alto and fixed the fire in his engine, returning home for breakfast before starting on his run. He was very popular in town and had a wide circle of friends. He was a member of the Brotherhood of Firemen and also the Good Intent Fire Co. His body was taken to Reading to be viewed by the Coroner.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joesph Christock Last Man Hanged In Schuylkill County Prison March 30, 1911

March 30, 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of the last man hanged in Schuylkill County. This is the story of Joseph Christock.
The last man hanged in Schuylkill County
March 30, 1911

The execution of Joseph Christock was the third hanging in two years held in the prison yard of Schuylkill County Prison. On March 16th , 1909 Charles Warzal was executed for the murder of Mary Bolinsky at Shenandoah. Mary Bolinsky expressed love for Warzel and after he spent his last dollar on her she elected to marry his brother. So incensed at her loss of affection he secured a revolver and followed her to her place of work and shot her to death.
On the day of his execution he walked as far as the scaffold, evidently holding his nerve but when allowed to talk to the assembly of witnesses he became so excited he fainted on the scaffold. He had to be tied up with ropes so that the trap could be sprung. Death was due to suffocation and took 21 minutes till Warzel was pronounced dead.
Felix Radzins, the next to last man hanged in Schuylkill County. Radzins brutally murdered his boarding mistress Mrs. Cherwinski, at Shenandoah and after throwing her body into a cellar dragged her three year old son into the cellar and cut the child’s throat. When captured he admitted he had done the horrible murders and plead guilty. He was executed May 28th, 1909 and walked to the scaffold without a tremor, even holding his head erect to enable the Sheriff to place the noose. His neck was broken by the fall and he died in 15 minutes.
According to the newspaper Joe Christock went out of this world satisfied. He died as he wished to die, game and self possessed to the last. Hundreds of eyes were upon him as he swung off into eternity and that he wished it. If he had been hanged in the presence of only a few witnesses Christock would have quailed in some particular. Having an audience he was a cheap actor right to the end.
“No thespian in his dressing room with powder and paints and grease ever made more careful preparations to go to the stage when his call came than Christock did on the morning of his execution. He even asked for sand paper and rubbed the soles of his new shoes with it so as to eliminate, the possibility of slipping while on the gallows.
In this dramatic fashion, the Pottsville Journal reported the death of Joseph Christock., Alias Frank Mitchell, on the gallows in the prison at Pottsville on March 30, 1911, one hundred years ago. This will be the last execution in Schuylkill County.
Christock died in the atmosphere of a carnival before a laughing, joking crowd of 1200 witnesses and who began banging on the prison door for admission at eight a.m. more than two hours before the execution.
More of the bizarre occurred when a dozen women banged on the prison door and begged to be admitted. The Journal stated that they were all of foreign descent. They were refused admittance, although several of them tried a number of times to be admitted.

Joe Christock Sitting in the prison yard against the wall he will be executed against. Christock is sitting in front along with a fellow Prisoner and Prison wardens.
From an original Post Card

Joseph Christock was born in Mahanoy City although some said he was born in Russia ? By the time he was 24 he had quite a criminal record. He had been in prison for at least half of his life. Each time he got out he committed a crime greater than the preceding one until he reached the climax of his career with the murder of Mrs. Richards and the robbery of the Faulds home.
The murder for which Christock was hanged occurred on Wednesday November 17, 1910. Christock was employed by Peter Faulds who lived at Auchey’s Station near Auburn. Peter Fahl was aware of Christock’s reputation, but he was in ill health and needed help around the farm. On the 16th November Peter Faulds was away from the farm working at the sand plant on the Summit Station –Auburn road. Early in the day Christock began drinking cider endlessly. Drunk, he gathered a shotgun and went hunting for awhile. Having no success he returned back to the farm and began mending torn strips of leather for a harness. Christock claimed he heard a hound howling in the stable yard. He was frightened by the hound howling and knew this was a sign if death, he feared it meant his death. Instead it meant death for Mary Ann Richards, 65, who was at home with her daughter, Mrs. Faulds
Christock slowly walked to the lower floor of the Faulds house, saw Mrs. Faulds there and threw the leather horse line he was cleaning and repairing over Mrs Faulds He fastened her arms, and began to carry her up the stairs when Mrs Richards started after him At the top of the stairs he found a shotgun and shot and killed Mrs. Richards. He brutally beat Mrs Faulds on the back of her neck with his fist, pulled a mattress over her and continued beating her nearly to death.
He robed trunks in the house of $30, stole a gold watch, a revolver, a shotgun and some clothing. He then walked to Port Clinton where he bought a train ticket to Reading after laughing and joking with the station hands who he treated to cigars and drinks.
Peter Faulds came home about 6 p.m on November 17th , with a load of farm produce. As he tried to enter his home he found his house door was locked and the house dark. He then broke in his cellar door and climbed the stairs to find his mother in law Mrs. Mary Ann Richards lying in a pool of blood dead on the kitchen floor. He then found his wife beaten into unrecognizable condition also lying on the kitchen floor.
After the State Police were notified they went out searching for Christock they learned from the Reading operator at the station below Auburn that a man fitting his description bought a ticket for Reading. The State Police missed the train. Checking hotels in Reading the police the police noticed the name of Martin Ritter, on the register of a city hotel. Arousing suspicion as it was known that Ritter was a friend of Christock and was currently in the Schuylkill County Prison. They searched the room and found clothing articles corresponding to those missing items. Christock went to the movies and back to
the hotel about midnight. The police waited and arrested him there,

Christock pleaded guilty before Judge Arthur Shay and Charles N. Braum. On November 22, 1910, He was defended by attorneys E.W. Bechtel and A.C. Sherman. This was the first time ion county history a murder case was heard and disposed of without formality of drawing a jury.
Judge Shay in his opinion said: “Joseph Christock, your confession here on the witness stand for bold effrontery, cruelty of heart and mind devoid of all the better attributes of humanity is unparalleled in the annals of crime,”
On November 22nd , 1910 Joseph Christock was sentenced to hang..
Between then and his end Christock was a confused picture of self pity, contradiction and boast.. He bemoaned that he was only a few months old when his mother died, and a few years old when his father died, and he never had a parent’s love, he urged young men to go to Sunday school.
He admitted he lied when he said Mrs. Richards came at him with a butcher knife. And he boasted he shot a Cumbola woman and a Norristown toll gate keeper, and then repudiated this “Confession” because he was afraid his sentenced would be commuted to life and he wanted to and deserved to die

On March 2nd ,1911, Christock was read his death warrant. The Journal reported, without a tremor or change of countenance Joseph Christock heard his death warrant read to him in his cell. He with stood the ordeal with greater nerve than did the sheriff whose voice quivered and hands shook as he read the document that means death on the scaffold for this young self confessed murderer.
Christock stood to the right side of the sheriff in his cell and his eyes were fixed on the warrant.
After the warrant was read, Christock with a light and steady tread stepped to the corner of his cell and took from the top of a rude and primitive closet a sheet of paper from an envelope which contained a note addressed to the sheriff. It was in his hand writing and was a round and plain style of penmanship, It read as follows.
“ Sheriff, I am indeed very sorry for what I have done to Mr. Fawls and family. I know that I must die and am preparing for the same. I feel very grateful to Doctor Flaig and his good wife for what they have done for me in my present trouble, I hope and pray that the almighty God will pardon me, my sins and also all of the people will for give me for what I have done.”
While in prison Christock tried three times to commit suicide the night of the 17th . First, tried to hang himself with a strip of his shirt. Next he set fire to a mattress. Third, butted his head against a cell wall.

Christock's last photograph on the morning of his execution. Note he is still wearing prison striped trousers.

The day before the execution Christock joked with the under Warden Mike Schoenman, Christock said: “Hey Mike give me a job helping you tomorrow will you Mike” I won’t need any help, “was the reply. When a Reporter visited him in the morning he said he was “cleaning up his cell for he was getting rid of everything he did not need.” He was impatient to get a glimpse of the grim instrument of death which was taken fro the prison cellar in the morning of the 29th and placed in the northeast corner of the prison yard. In order that he might get an advance view of the instrument he complained that the cell was to warm and he would like to have the window opened. This is always done by allowing him to be lifted up to the window on the hands of the under wardens. The warden was called and Joe climbed the wall of his cell and opened the window. When he slid down he remarked the warden that the scaffold was half way up. “No it isn’t” replied the warden, Where upon Christock replied, “Yes it is I saw it when I opened the window.
Sheriff Murphy visited the prison yard in the afternoon to check the scaffold. The ropes that pull away the swinging platform were tested several times. The rope was also tested to insure its strength and the various duties given to the deputies were also practiced.
Peter Faulds the son in law of the murdered Mrs. Ann Richards was admitted to the prison yard and studied the wooden scaffolds frame closely. He left the prison without viewing Christock and will not be present for the execution, but showed a keen interest in the preparations for the execution.
On March 29, 1911, Christock’s last night alive he spent it in writing letters to his friends and in preparing for his morning. He wrote until nearly one o’clock A.M. and then lies down and fell fast asleep. At 5:30 he arose and almost immediately dressed himself in his death clothing. He expressed a wish for an egg sandwich, a cup of coffee and a glass of milk, but did not want the same until after the arrival of his spiritual; advisor. Reverend Vincent Dargius, of New Philadelphia.
He walked the floor of his cell until nine o’clock engaged in prayer. He would mutter short prayers and ask for mercy, and at the same time expressing pity and remorse at his misspent life and his terrible crime. After the arrival of the priest, no visitors were admitted to his cell.
Crowds came in early, actually before 8 o’clock. The crowd was thick along the steps and the yard of the prison.
Turnkey Samuel Wall spent last night with Christock in his cell and before retiring, Joe stated that he wanted to make a will and leave his cell and stars to the county.
He smoked his last cigarette shortly before midnight . He said he was not going to smoke after midnight and upon being told he had 29 minutes he hastily rolled a “whiffer” and started to smoke, stating “this is my last cigarette,” He puffed away for a short time and then threw the paper roll into the corner of his cell and stated, “I am done smoking”

The famous Schuylkill County gallows that executed Joseph Christock and many others.

At 10:18 A.M. March 30, 1911 Joseph Christock took up the death march, There were no formalities in the cell number 14, the prisoner simply being told the time had arrived for the fatal march. First his spiritual advisor Rev. Dargius, the Deputy Sheriffs followed. The party emerged from the side door of the prison and walked briskly down to the scaffold which is located about 130 feet from the door.
As they wended their way down the brick walk way a hush fell upon the assemblage. When they reached the gibbet Sheriff Murphy ascended first followed by the prisoner and the prison physician. The noose was placed around the neck of the condemned man and straps adjusted to his sides biding his arms, his legs were then strapped, down. A broad leather belt was placed about his body; the arms extended downward and locked in place. Two similar belts bound his legs, one at the ankles and the other just below the hips. The prisoner clicking his heels together with a military style when told to do so. Under the direction of the prison physician the noose was adjusted under the left ear.
He was asked by the Sheriff if he had anything to say and he replied:
“I am sorry for what I done, and I hope everyone will forgive me. Goodbye to all.”
The black cap was then adjusted and Sheriff Murphy took the prisoners hand and bid him goodbye, Joe’s last words were “Goodbye, pray for me”, which he whispered to the Sheriff.
The officials left the scaffold and at 10:33 A.M. Christock’s body swayed nervously for a time until with a dull thud the sides of the platform fell and the body of Christock shot down through the opening and for a moment swung around slowly. The State Police immediately told everyone that the execution was over and directed the visitors to leave the prison yard.
The prisoners nerve was admired by everyone in his last moments, but the nerve of the visitors was enough over a hundred said they would never want to see an execution again.
After the body had been hanging for some time a veritable horde of physicians swarmed about the corpse and with stethoscopes and other instruments tested the heart until the final beats ceased and he was pronounced dead at 10:34 A.M. At 10:38 A.M. he was cut down and the body moved to the prison morgue. Where the remains were viewed by the sheriff’s jury and concluded that Christock died of strangulation, the neck not being broken because the rope slipped around the back of his neck. There was then a bit of a scramble for pieces of the rope that still encircled the neck. and turned over to the undertaker for burial.

Schuylkill County Prison, Could this be the pole the lineman climbed to witness the execution?

Outside the prison a lineman climbed to the top of a light pole and called out bulletins of what was going on inside.
According to the officials the execution went off without any incidents and was accomplished in the presence of over 1,000 persons, some estimates placed the number of people in the prison yard at 1,500/
The remains were given to the undertaker in charge and taken to New Philadelphia by A. Tobac of Shenandoah. Christock’s body was taken to New Phila to the home of his stepmother from which the funeral will take place on March 31, 1911.
So ended Schuylkill County’s last hanging.

Shown below is Joseph Christock's hand written story as told to a State Policeman days before his execution. This is a fascinating read. This confession is from the files of the Schuylkill County Historical Society.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Jesse James

While doing research at the Schuylkill County Historical Society, my second home. I came across an interesting article about the son of a Shenandoah resident who was robbed by the famous outlaw Jesse James.
The article was written in the Pottsville Evening Chronicle. On July 31, 1882.
Prior to finding this article I was interested in how the local papers were reporting the death of the outlaw Jesse James.

St. Louis, April 3, A dispatch from St. Joseph, Mo. Says Charles and Robert Ford who, at one time belonged to the James gang and were engaged in the Winston and Blue cut train robberies, have been in St. Joseph for a week for the purpose of arresting Jesse James, but being afraid, as it is alleged, to make the attempt they shot him down at 13th and Lafayette streets today and then surrendered to the authorities and were lodged in jail. There is tremendous excitement over the affair, several thousand people being on the street.

For the next couple of days the paper ran stories about the shooting. “END OF JESSE JAMES”, …”THE DEAD OUTLAW”…”THE DEAD TRAIN ROBBER” but the most interesting of the articles was entitled:


The Highwayman’s Widow Returns a Stolen Watch

During the year 1880 John J. Dovey, formerly of Shenandoah, now diseased was the owner of a coal mine in Kentucky which was in charge of his son Charles, of Philadelphia. One day while young Mr. Dovey was sitting in his office he heard the tramp of horse’s feet outside, and the next moment four men entered and one of them presenting a revolver at his head demanded his money. Mr. Dovey replied as the funds to pay off the hands had not yet arrived there was no money about the premises. This did not satisfy the road agents, the leader who demanded that the safe be opened. Their direction being acceded to the ruffians were rewarded by finding some change, amounting to about five dollars and a box of cigars. After each had lighted one of the latter they pocketed the money with as much relish as though it amounted to thousands of dollars. As they were about to leave one of them noticed Mr. Dovey’s watch chain. “Hold on Boys, here is something we have overlooked”, said he, and Mr. Dovey was politely requested to hand over his gold time piece. After which the quartet took their departure. A short time afterward Mr. Dovey visited the Rogues gallery in Louisville. While looking over the pictures he came upon one which he recognized as that of the leader of the band who robbed him. Below the picture the name of “Jesse James” was inscribed. Mr. Dovey went south last week and while away a messenger from the Adams Express Company arrived with a package at his home. Mrs. Dovey upon opening it was surprised to find the watch stolen two years before. The watch was accompanied by the following note:
Mr. Dovey: Dear Sir: Included you will find your watch; please send me by return mail a receipt for the same.
Your, respectfully
Mrs. Jesse James.

The watch was in good condition as when stolen. Mrs. Dovey immediately wrote to her husband relating the story. And restoration of the time piece who thereupon sent a letter of thanks to Mrs. James for restoring the article. The watch had the name of Mr. Dovey and his address inscribed upon it so he widow knew where to send it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Shown below is a clipping from the December 13, 1913 issue of the Pottsville Republican Newspaper concerning the Otto Colliery at Branchdale.


Monday, January 31, 2011




Pottsville republican April 13, 1918

This is an interesting article telling about the very first visit or over flight of an airplane in Schuylkill County... The aircraft type is not identified. But knowing the year and that it had two occupants can probably be shown to be a Curtis Jenny.

The Jenny
The airplane which flew over this city (Pottsville) on Monday afternoon was the first to appear in this region. It caused considerable excitement, many flocking to the house tops to get a better view. From all appearances the plane was red in color and contained at least two occupants. There is significance to the appearance of the plane here, and on that it is now definitely proven that the old story about air currents and air pockets and the impossibility of operating a plane here because of them is ridiculous.
There is no better landing and starting point anywhere than Lawton’s Hill, the case with which the plane navigated over the hill yesterday, proving this.
The plane is traced as coming from Reading and flying directly over Centre Street, at about 2:30 p.m. It circled around the Court House spire and then turned to the east and appeared to be seeking a landing place on Lawton’s Hill, but instead of landing turned upward, just skimming the hill. The plane then proceeded above the Pennsy tracks to St.Clair and hovered over St.Clair yards for a considerable time. It then continued to New Philadelphia, but veered to the north passing over Silver Creek. From there it went to Frackville and Ashland flying right over Broad Mountain. It passed over Ashland, Mt.Carmel, Shamokin, Sunbury and Berwick where it was last reported.
It was not known who was the driver, nor where he started from. Many stories were in circulation. One had it that the machine had landed on Lawton’s Hill and that gasoline had been taken to it. Another story was that it was driven by a Port carbon boy and that it landed there. Neither story is t