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When coal was king of the city and gave life to locals

Photo courtesy Robinson Township Historical Society

Moon Run spoil piles are still visible from Route 60.


By Janet Gonter

At the turn of the 20th Century, Robinson Township residents depended on coal in virtually every aspect of life—school, business, home and transportation.

The 10 one-room schoolhouses scattered around the township were heated with coal in cast iron potbelly stoves. Coal was stored outside in a shed, and students or teachers would haul in bucketfuls several times a day.

When one of Robinson’s life-long residents, Elizabeth Lanigan (1910-1998), was interviewed in 1972, she remembered one school particularly well—the Hall School at the intersection of Devassi Road and Steubenville Pike. In her words, “My brother Jim and I took care of the school. We fired up the big stove with coal. We’d get buckets of coal and sweep up the school. Before going home each night we took care of the stove again. I was about 8 or 9 years old.” The memory was still vivid after more than 60 years.

Robinson was a busy coal town, and not only did coal provide heat to schools and businesses; it heated homes as well. Company houses had a potbelly stove in the living room that heated the two downstairs and two upstairs rooms, and a flat-topped coal stove in the kitchen for cooking. There was no avoiding the fine layer of coal dust that crept into every crevice and onto every surface. It was just a way of life.

Coal-fired steam trains abounded in that day, hauling coal and passengers. It is hard to imagine in quiet Moon Run today, but trains once crisscrossed the area with very busy schedules.

The Pittsburgh-Moon Run Railroad hauled coal, passengers and mail to Groveton and back. The Montour Railroad, based at the Montour Junction between Groveton and Coraopolis, provided round-trip services to Imperial and beyond several times a day.

Today’s quiet Montour Trail was once alive with rushing trains practically 24/7.

Today, all that remains of the once-thriving coal industry is a pair of huge spoil piles still visible from Route 60, and the many miners’ relics on display at the Robinson Township Historical Society.


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