DUBOIS – Soldier is the destination for the DuBois Area Historical Society’s sixth annual Spring Walk. The walk, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 10, will leave from the parking lot of the Soldier Wesleyan Church on the Reynoldsville-Sykesville Road. It is free and open to the public.
Guiding the walking tour are siblings, Michael Grasso and Betty (Grasso) Anderson. The pair grew up in Soldier, a mining community that was once billed as home to the “largest bituminous coal mines in the world,” so famous that a photo of the mine appeared in many turn of the century schoolbooks.
The Soldier coal mine, owned by the Bell, Lewis and Yates Coal Mining Company, opened on Oct. 1, 1889. It was purchased by the Rochester & Pittsburg Coal & Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Jefferson and Clearfield Coal and Iron Company around 1896.
Its output for years ranged from 500,000 to 2,000,000 tons of coal per annum. There were also coking plants at Soldier containing more than 100 ovens. During 1895, 19,677 tons of coke was produced at Soldier.
The company town that grew up around the mines was called Big Soldier or simply Soldier. Despite being a company town, Soldier was noted for its large number of privately-owned stores located off the company property.
The tour will include visits to the location of the company store, hotels and other prominent sites when coal was king in Soldier. Grasso and Anderson will offer their personal recollections of the community and invite any former and current residents attending the walk to provide their own input to the program.