Upper Providence Township.
therefor three hundred and twenty-six pounds. Bishop also leased the shares of all the other owners for ten years. As the grist-mill and saw-mill were then rented and the leases had not fallen in he collected the rents, and for the two shares not owned by him paid twelve pounds per annum to the owners. In 1763 a fund was raised by subscription to erect a bridge over Ridley Creek, about one hundred yards below the mills, on the site of the present bridge. The subscription bridge stood until 1843, when it was washed away in the noted flood of August 5th of that year. At the March term of court, in 1799, a petition was presented, signed by a number of the inhabitants of the county, setting forth that the bridge over Ridley Creek, near Bishop's mills, was in bad condition, and "praying that a sum of money may be allowed out of the county treasury to repair the same." The grand jury allowed forty dollars for the purpose of repairing the bridge.
On Nov. 29, 1785, proceedings having been had in partition of the mill property, the mills were awarded to Thomas Bishop. After he acquired absolute ownership of the property he built a frame third story and added an overshot, the eastern end of which rested on three stone piers. The latter was designed mainly to "shore up" the old mill, part of the public road passing under this archway. The grist- and saw-mills were occupied by Thomas Bishop until 1802, when Francis Bishop was operating them. In 1807 Thomas Bishop was conducting the grist-mill, and in 1811 he had the saw-mill, and Amor Bishop the grist-mill. In 1810-11 the rolling-mill was built. It was about seventy feet in length, nearly fifty in width, and one story in height, adjoining the southern end of the saw-mill. The rolling-mill, which stood on the site of an ancient plaster-mill, which had been in operation for half a century before it was taken down, in 1810, was four times as large as the building it superseded. The slitting-mill was erected shortly after the sale of the whole estate to Bishop. This rolling-mill was used for making boiler-plates, sheet-iron, and a variety of other work. The pig-iron was carted from Philadelphia in wagons, and was in bars about two feet long. The rolling-hill was conducted, in 1812, by Malin & Bishop. The fuel used was the soft, bituminous Virginia coal, but the war soon made it difficult to be had, the cargo being of such a character that the masters of coasting vessels refused to carry it, for if chased when so loaded capture was inevitable. At first the owners of the mill attempted to use charcoal, but that was too expensive, and could not be had in sufficient quantity. Accident, however, came to the relief of Malin & Bishop, and at the same time brought about the use of anthracite coal. The incident is thus recorded in the first report of the Pottsville Board of Trade:
"In the year 1812 our fellow-citizen, Col. George Shoemaker, procured a quantity of coal from a shaft sunk on a tract fie had recently purchased on the Norwegian, and now owned by the North American, Coal Company, and known as the Centreville Mines. With this he loaded nine wagons and proceeded to Philadelphia; much time was spent by him in endeavoring to introduce it to notice, but all his efforts proved unavailing. Those who designed to try it, declared Col. Shoemaker to be an impostor, for attempting to impose stone on them for coal, and were clamorous against him. Not discouraged by the sneers and sarcasms cast upon him, he persisted in the undertaking, and at last succeeded in disposing of two loads for the cost of transportation; and the remaining seven he gave to persons who promised to try to use it, and lost all the coal and charges. Messrs. Mellon (Malin) and Bishop, at the earnest solicitation of Col. Shoemaker, were induced to make trial of it in their rolling-mill, in Delaware County, and finding it to answer fully the character given it by Col. Shoemaker, noticed its usefulness in the Philadelphia papers, and from that period we may date the triumph of reason, aided by perseverance, over prejudice."1
At the Delaware County Rolling-Mill, tradition records that the employes in charge of the furnace, when the load of coal first came to the works, late in the afternoon, threw into the fire a large quantity of the black stones with the often expressed forebodings that "the boss had been fooled," which opinion became more and more confirmed when the coal refused to ignite, although frequent attempts were made to kindle it. Late at night the fireman abandoned the effort in despair and went to bed. Unable to rest, he got up in an hour or two thereafter and went to the mill, when he found the furnace-door red hot, the heat in the building intense, and the wood-work almost ready to burst into a blaze. Never before had there been such a fire in the mill. Thereafter Enos Helms was sent to Mauch Chunk with a five- horse team, and carted from that place the fuel used in the rolling-mill. The coal cost two dollars a ton at the mine.
|1 Hazard's Register, vol. xiii. page 274. In Burrowes' "State Book of Pennsylvania" (1845), is briefly related the foregoing account, adding, "Some of it, however, was afterwards tried with perfect success, at a rolling-mill in Delaware County, and the result noticed in the city papers of the day." Watson, in his "Annals of Philadelphia," vol. ii. page 459, in referring to the first use of anthracite coal says, "At length, after a multitude of disappointments, and when Shoemaker was about to abandon the coal and return home, Messrs. Malin & Bishop, of Delaware County, made an experiment with some of the coals in their roiling-mill, and found them to succeed beyond expectation, and to be a highly valuable and useful fuel. The result of their experiments was published at the time in the Philadelphia papers. Some experiments with the coal were made in the works of the Falls of the Schuylkill, but without success." The official State publication (1878) entitled, "Pennsylvania and the Centennial Exposition" (vol. i. page 124), says, after relating the facts of Col. George Shoemaker's trips to Philadelphia with the nine wagons loaded with coal, "Of the two loads sold, one was purchased by White & Hazard for use at their wire-works at the Falls of Schuylkill, and the other was purchased by Malin & Bishop, for use at the Delaware County Rolling-Mill. By the merest accident of closing the furnace doors, Mr. White obtained a hot fire from the coal, and from this occurrence, happening in 1812, we may date the first successful use of anthracite coal in the manufactures of this country. Up to that time bituminous coal from Virginia had been exclusively used for manufacturing purposes in Philadelphia, and largely for domestic purposes. The war with Great Britain had, however, made Virginia coal very scarce, and it was very desirable that a substitute should be found. The following story is told of the success achieved by White & Hazard in the use of anthracite coal in their wire-works: A whole night was spent in endeavoring to make it burn, when the hands in despair quit their work, but left the furnace door shut. Fortunately, one of them forgot his jacket, and on returning to the works half an hour afterwards, he noticed that the door was red hot, and the interior of the furnace in a white glowing heat. Thereafter no trouble was experienced in making the new fuel burn." This is the most pronounced effort that has been found to give the credit of the first use of anthracite coal to manufacturing to Philadelphia, and to ignore the fact that that credit beiongs to Delaware County by simply an incidental suggestion that Malin & Bishop bought one of the cart-loads of coal from Col. Shoemaker.|