Parts of Westmoreland County, including areas in Hempfield and Unity Townships, harbor large deposits of bituminous (soft) coal. The so–called Pittsburgh seam runs through Westmoreland County. In places the coal is shallow enough to be stripped out of the ground, but usually the seam is deeper and one must sink mine shafts. In the early 1880s, Robert Smith Jamison (#78)
and some associates started buying undeveloped coal lands in Westmoreland County.292 In 1892, Robert and sons William, John M., and Thomas S. formed the Jamison Coal Company, which in 1900 became known as the Jamison Coal and Coke Company. The first operation, in 1892, was at Luxor, Hempfield Township, where ovens were built and became known as Jamison Number 1. By 1906, the Jamisons had six mines, 1200 coke ovens and 800 railroad cars.293 In 1910 Jamisons mines were producing 2.4 million tons of coal and 680,000 tons of coke annually, and having a payroll of nearly $1.5 million with over $1 million paid in cash to miners and laborers.294 In 1917, Jamison Number 20 was opened in Unity Township, and by this time operations had expanded into other south western Pennsylvania counties and West Virginia. The Jamison Coal and Coke Company introduced modern, mechanical methods in their operations. Labor strife was apparently not rampart and mine disasters were relatively few. Unlike many other coal companies, the Jamisons permitted other stores to operate in addition to the traditional company store.
The 1930s saw a decline in the demand for soft coal, and some Jamisons holdings closed. Demand for coal increased during World War II, but by 1953 the Jamisons had only one mine in operation in Pennsylvania, at Hostetter, Unity Township, Westmoreland County. The Jamison Coal and Coke Company sold its remaining operations to Consolidated Coal in 1954. According to Robert Van Atta’s 10 April 1994 article:295 “The remaining vestige of the vast Jamison coal and coke operation is a caretaking real estate subsidiary in a small office in the Jamison Building in Greensburg. Appropriately, it is conducted by David S. Jamison, a son of Jay and grandson of the founder.” Continuing with Van Atta’s article: “The chief reminders of Jamison Coal operations today are in central Westmoreland County, including the communities of Luxor, Forbes Road (see photo below), Hannastown, Crabtree, Pleasant Unity and Twin Lakes Park. Luxor, Forbes Road and Hannastown were original Jamison patch communities, while the company played a significant part in Crabtree’s growth and contributed to Pleasant Unity. Unlike many coal companies, however, the family did not lend its name to these locales, opting for historical designations instead.”
Robert’s son John Martin Jamison (#165) became head of the Jamison Coal and Coke Company when Robert died in California in 1903 and led the Company during its greatest expansion. In 1945, John Martin Jamison became chairman of the board, and was succeeded to the presidency by Ralph E. Jamison (#226), a son of William W. Jamison (#163) and grandson of Robert Smith Jamison. John Martin Jamison, who died in 1950, was a Princeton graduate and lawyer. He was a prime mover in breaking the practice of railroad rebates to favored shippers. Until this was outlawed, there were alliances between certain railroad heads and large coal producers in regard to rebates. John M. Jamison was also active in politics, being a Pennsylvania state senator from 1908 until 1912.
Most of the sources for this section are given in endnote #292.
The coal patch town of Forbes Road, as seen from the old Hannastown Road; Jamison No. 3 Mine & Coke Works (Forbes Road Mine & Coke Works, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania). Photo from "The Old Miner" Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania.
(URL http://patheoldminer.rootsweb.com/index.html). Ray Washlaski, Editor; with permission.
The Home Page shows a photo of one of Jamison's hopper cars. At one time Jamison Coal and Coke owned about 800 of these cars, which were first installed in 1903, and apparently serviced by the Pennsylvania Railroad. By about 1911, the Baltimore and Ohio began servicing the Jamisons' mines; and in 1917, the B&O purchased the cars. "The cars ran for about a decade on B&O before being
scrapped. About 40 cars remained in 1927, 2 in 1930." This information on the railroad cars is from Westerfield Disk Catalog 6.10.1 (http://www.westerfield.biz/7407.htm). The Home page photo is from Al Westfield, 53 River Lane, Crossville, Tennessee 38555, with permission.