The Coal Region is a region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is known for being home to the largest known deposits of anthracite coal in the world with an estimated reserve of seven billion short tons.
The region is typically defined as comprising five Pennsylvania counties, Carbon County, Lackawanna County, Luzerne County, Northumberland County, and Schuylkill County. It is home to 910,716 people as of the 2010 census.
The Coal Region is bordered by Berks, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties (including the Lehigh Valley) to its south; Columbia and Dauphin Counties to its west; Wyoming County to its north; and Warren County, New Jersey to its east.
See also: History of Pennsylvania
Further information: Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company
By the 18th century, the Susquehannock Native American tribe that had inhabited the region was reduced 90 percent in three years of a plague of diseases and possibly war, opening up the Susquehanna Valley and all of Pennsylvania to European settlers. Settlement in the region predates the American Revolution. Both Delaware and Susquehannock power had been broken by disease and wars between Native American tribes before the British took over the Dutch and Swedish colonies and settled Pennsylvania.
The first discovery of anthracite coal in the region occurred in 1762, and the first mine was established 13 years later, in 1775 near present-day Pittston.
In 1791, anthracite was discovered by a hunter atop Pisgah Ridge, and by 1792 the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company began producing and shipping coal to Philadelphia via present-day Jim Thorpe from the Southern Anthracite Field and Summit Hill, built between Schuylkill County and what would become Carbon County.
In 1818, customers fed up with the inconsistent mismanagement leased the Lehigh Coal Mining Company and founded the Lehigh Navigation Company. Construction of navigation and locks and dams on the Lehigh River rapids, later known as the Lehigh Canal, was completed in 1820.
In 1822, the two companies merged as the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (LC&N). By 1824, the company was shipping large volumes of coal down the Lehigh and Delaware Canals. Meanwhile, three brothers had similar ideas from near the turn of the century, and about the same time began mining coal in Carbondale, 15 miles (24.1 km) northeast of Scranton, but high enough to run a gravity railroad to the Delaware River and feed New York City via the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Pennsylvania began the Delaware Canal to connect the Lehigh Canal to Philadelphia and environs, while funding to build a canal across the Appalachians' Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh. In 1827, LC&N built the nation's second railroad, whose Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway ran from Summit Hill to present-day Jim Thorpe.
The region's population grew rapidly following the American Civil War, due largely to the expansion of the mining and railroad industries. English, Welsh, Irish, and German immigrants formed a large portion of this increase. This immigration wave was followed, in turn, by Polish, Slovak, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Belarusian, Jewish, and Lithuanian immigrants. The influence of these immigrant populations is still strongly felt in the region, with various towns featuring and offering various ethnic characters and cuisine.
In 1959, the Knox Mine Disaster served as a death knell for deep mining, leading to its ultimate shutdown in the mid-1960s; almost all current anthracite mining is done via strip mining.
Strip mines and fires, most notably in Centralia, remain visible. Several violent incidents in the history of the U.S. labor movement occurred within the coal region, which was the home of the Molly Maguires and the location of the Lattimer Massacre.
Tours of underground mines can be taken in Ashland, Scranton, and Lansford, each of which have museums dedicated to the region's historic anthracite mining industry. Patch towns and small villages, often historically founded and owned by mining companies, also still exist. While they are no longer company-owned, most of them still exist as boroughs or townships, and ne of them, the Eckley Miners' Village, is a museum and preserved historical town owned and administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which seeks to restore patch towns to their original state.
Further information: Geography of Pennsylvania
The Coal Region lies north of the Lehigh Valley and Berks County regions, south of the Endless Mountains, west of the Pocono Mountains, and east of the Susquehanna Valley. The region lies at the northern edge of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, and draws its name from the vast deposits of anthracite coal that can be found under several of the valleys in the region.
The Wyoming Valley is the most densely populated of these valleys, and contains the cities of Wilkes-Barre, Greater Pittston, and Scranton. Hazleton and Pottsville are two of the larger cities in the southern portion of the region. The Lehigh and Schuylkill rivers both originate within the region, while the much larger Susquehanna River skirts the northern edge.
Academics have made the distinction between the North Anthracite Coal Field and the South Anthracite Coal Field, the lower region bearing the further classification Anthracite Uplands in physical geology. The Southern Coal Region can be further broken into the Southeastern and Southwestern Coal Regions, with the divide between the Little Schuylkill River and easternmost tributary of the Schuylkill River with the additional divide line from the Lehigh River watershed extended through Barnesville the determining basins.
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