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Chronicles: Coal washery business booms


Shamokin entrepreneurs may have been interested in an article that appeared in the Pottsville Chronicle the week of Nov. 9, 1891.

The article, which was picked up Nov. 11 by the Evening Herald, Shenandoah, reported on the completion of a new washery at Gilberton and how operators throughout Schuylkill County were using washeries to recover coal from culm banks. Since the culm bank at the Cameron colliery was once considered among the largest in existence, the process was certain to be of interest to local developers.

The Gilberton washery, owned by the Beddall brothers of Shenandoah, was ready to go into operation and was believed to be the largest in Schuylkill County. “The banks which will be washed by this concern are very rich and will give 100 cars of good coal a day,” the Herald said.

“The coal washery business is rapidly gaining a prominent position in the coal trade of Schuylkill County. There are in operation at the present time seven washeries owned by individuals and the Reading Coal and Iron Company. These washeries are all located near old culm banks, which contain many thousands of dollars worth of coal, dumped there before improved mining machinery was introduced to win all the coal from the dirt.

“A washery is built like a breaker, only it is not so large. It is fitted up with jigs, screens, chutes, pockets, loading tracks, and there is always a great demand for boys to pick slate where one of them is located.”

The article noted there were already other washeries in operation at Gilberton as well as at Shenandoah, Middleport, Glen Carbon and Girardville.

“The quality of the culm banks varies. The one now being worked by the Sydney Coal Company at Gilberton is very good, and the percentage of coal sizes is about as follows: buckwheat, 50 percent; pea, 25 percent; chestnut, 17 percent, and stove coal, eight percent.

“All of this, however, is only 50 percent of the culm. Some of the others are much richer. A number of new washeries are to be erected in different parts of the county during the coming year.”