DHS Spring Walk Turns into Town Reunion

(Provided photo)

(Provided photo)

DUBOIS – The DuBois Area Historical Society’s spring walk is fast becoming a reunion for the communities where it is held. Forty society members and guests attended the sixth annual spring walk on May 10 in Soldier.

Siblings Michael Grasso, Betty (Grasso) Anderson and Angie (Grasso) Siple served as the presenters and guides for the walk, with plenty of help from current and former Soldier residents in attendance. They brought fossils, photos and display boards concerning the former thriving mining community for an indoor presentation at Soldier Wesleyan Church. The Rev. Kevin Brooks and his congregation volunteered their building as a meeting place for the walk.

But it was outdoors where the full scope of the community came into focus. During the walk, stops were made at the sites of the former company store, the school, hotels and churches. The tour also took a turn through the woods to the site of one of the town’s reservoirs and made a stop at the “arches,” the former entrance to the mines, left standing despite the strip mining that has taken place since the underground mines closed.

Soldier 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, which was owned by the Bell, Lewis and Yates Coal Mining Company, opened 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 million tons of coal per annum. There were also coking plants at Soldier containing more than 100 ovens. In 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.

Upcoming DuBois Area Historical Society events include:

June 7: Festival of the Arts, E.D. Reitz Museum, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

June 24-26: DuBois Pizza Hut Wing Street and Clearfield Pizza Hut fundraiser. You can get a voucher from any board member or print one from the society’s Web site.

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