Friday, April 13, 2012

The Peach Orchard Coal Field

A Split in the Coal Seams Making Two Distinct Veins 60 Feet Apart

The Peach Orchard coal field in Kentucky is thus described by a writer in Black Diamond: The Chatteroi railroad runs almost due south from Ashland, Ky., through a country rich in coal and iron ores. The route is rather picturesque: on one side is the sluggish Big Sandy, and on the other high hills covered with timber. At Louisa, the county seat of Lawrence County, the river separates into the Tug and Levisa Forks, and the railroad enters the coal region between them. All along the route, on the west side from Ashland to Louisa, one saw small openings where the farmers have penetrated the hills for their winter's supply of coal, but not until Peach Orchard is reached is there any regular attempt at mining. Peach Orchard is an old village, built some time in 1850 or 1851. Before the Chatteroi Railroad was built the coal was sent down to the Ohio river in barges. The bargemen counted it a lucky voyage if they saved two out of three of the boats. So much coal was lost in this way that some future geologist may imagine that he has discovered a new vein of coal in the bottom of the Big Sandy river.

The works at Peach Orchard are operated by the Great Western Mining & Manufacturing Co., and are under the care of L. S. Johnson. The mines are 100 feet up in the hills, the coal being lowered on inclined planes. Their capacity is 400 tons a day. The coal is a dry-burning splint coal, remarkably free from sulphur and other impurities, hard and firm, and well adapted for transportation. The seam is six feet in height, but several inches have to be sorted out and thrown aside as bone-coal and shale. Peach Orchard is three miles east from the Louisa Fork of the Big Sandy. The coal in the front or river hill is thin. The first operators before the war tunneled through these hills in this thin coal to reach the vein in its full growth. The old tunnels and tramroads are still there, but the mine owners, and miners of those antebellum days have been gathered to their fathers.

The Chatteroi road, before reaching Peach Orchard, is tunneled through one of the hills three-quarters of a mile long, in the coal level. The vein splits in two in this tunnel, the intercolated material being fire-clay and afterward shale. In fifty yards, the foreign intrusive matter increases to eight feet, the upper member of the seam rising and the lower maintaining its position. The fire-clay under the upper member soon becomes from two to three feet thick. The upper coal gradually loses thickness and finally disappears as a feather edge. At the northern end of the tunnel the upper member reappears and is seen descending toward its normal place, and as the coal leaves the tunnel the two members are less than six feet apart

This splitting of the seam has played havoc with the state geologists of Kentucky, who recognize in two veins sixty feet apart a few miles north of the tunnel the upper and lower members of the tunnel coal. There is no instance in the history of mining operations in the United States of a seam of coal splitting indefinitely. Instances are numerous of coals splitting in two, but the upper member either thins out or disappears entirely or returns to its normal position.

The coal of the Peach Orchard region belongs to the upper series of the lower coal measures. They have no equivalents in the Ohio coal field, their place being represented by the barren measures of the State Geological Reports. In the Peach Orchard field the coal seems to improve to the southeast, and on the Middle Fork of Rock Castle creek, sixteen miles southeast of Peach Orchard, the coals are represented by six veins in the same hill, said to aggregate forty feet. On the Buffenmeyer tract, about midway between Rock Castle and Peach Orchard, one of these seams of coal measures twelve feet in thickness, including three bands of shale.

[Courier, Connellsville, PA, August 2, 1889]

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