Lemon House and Coal Mine
Historic Structures Report (Part I—Historical Data)
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Samuel Lemon's financial success was not tied only to the tavern and hostelry. In fact his success was probably rooted in the coal industry. His obituary notice of 1867 had this to say about his coal operations:

[When the Portage Railroad was completed, Lemon] commenced mining and shipping from the vast bed of bituminous coal with which the Mountain abounds, and this completed what in the country would be considered more than a competence, if not a fortune. [21]

The story is related that the discovery of coal on the Lemon land was quite an accident. It occurred in the pursuit of another enterprise -- supplying water for the boilers of the engine house. A well-digger was hired to drill for water and while proceeding, discovered a vein of coal which proved to be 4 feet thick at that point. That vein has since become known as the Lemon seam. [22] No historically contemporary documents have been located to corroborate this story but it is not likely that the Lemon seam was undiscovered until this event. Indeed, the Lemon seam was evident from its numerous outcroppings among the hillsides. For this reason it was probably the first vein of coal in the area to be discovered. Therefore, the field was known to have existed much earlier than the time of the railroad construction. [23]

The earliest evidence that Samuel Lemon sunk a coal shaft on his property appears in 1840. The tax assessment records of that year, for the first time, indicate the presence of a coal bank valued at $150. By 1843 the coal bank was assessed at $500. and the following year it tripled again in value to $1500. It is not until 1847 that its value began to diminish falling to $700. and eventually in the 1850's to its original level. [24] Its eventual collapse in value was probably due to the gradual demise of the Portage Railroad and the playing out of the seam.

That the coal shaft existed in 1840 is further corroborated by a map of that year showing a coal mine north of the Lemon establishment. [25] On the other hand an earlier map (c. 1832) of the Portage Railroad showing the Lemon place does not indicate a coal mine. [26] These facts place the development of the Lemon mine during the early years of the development of the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

During the life of the railroad Samuel Lemon may have shipped 970 tons of coal over the line. The coal didn't all come from the one shaft north of his home. It is reported that he opened a mine near the foot of plane 5 and an 1840 survey shows a coal mine directly east of the Lemon House. [27] This latter survey raises the question whether other shafts might be present on the Lemon grounds. The shaft north of the Lemon House across the railroad trace is indicated on a map of 1897. [28]

The stationary engines of the railroad required coal for fuel and a report to the Pennsylvania Senate, 1831-32, discussed the presence of fuel sources along the proposed route.

Coal in abundance in the vicinity of all planes on the western slope and also near the summit, and not far from the line on the eastern slope, will ensure an unexhaustible fuel supply for the stationary engines. [29]

Samuel Lemon was, therefore, well aware of the fuel resources residing in the ground and this knowledge was probably the major factor for his obtaining the tract in the first place.

Lemon sold coal in two ways. He contracted with the superintendent of the railroad to supply coal for use at the engine houses and shipped coal to iron mills in the vicinity. In 1849 he sold coal for use at planes 8-10 at 3 cents a bushel and the following year supplied planes 6-10 for the same price. [30] He shipped his coal in his own private cars. In 1854, an accident occurred on one of the inclined planes, probably due to runaway cars, which destroyed his cars. In response, he filed a damage claim against the railroad for $1364. [31]

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Last Updated: 03-Nov-2009