This township is located a little west of
the center of
Schuylkill county geographically, and is bound by Butler,
Castle, Norwegian, Minersville, Branch, Reilly and Foster.
was formed from Branch, in 1848. In 1855 a portion was set
to form part of Foster, and in 1857 another portion was included
in Reilly, then formed. The number of taxable inhabitants in the
territory now comprised in Branch, Cass and part of Reilly town-
ships was in 1842, 1,058. The number of taxable inhabitants
Cass in 1849, as then bounded, was 799. The population of
in 1880 was 3,061. The township is divided into two
precincts, known respectively as North and South
surface of the township is rough and uneven, Sharp
mountains encroaching much on its territory, and much of it
yet unredeemed from the forest.
EARLY SETTLEMENT-OLD MILLS.
Many years elapsed between the date of the first
within the present limits of Cass and a time when the
had more than a very meagre and very scattering population. Mr.
Alspach, who located on the top of Primrose hill, between Miners-
ville and Forestville, is stated to have been the first settler
in the township. Mr. Crouse built the primitive cabin,
mile south of Alspach's clearing. The date of their coming
uncertain, but it is supposed to have been an early
1830, when coal operations began to attract business men to the
southern part of the present township, the only residents between
Forestville and Minersville were Abraham Hoch, a quarter
mile north of Primrose; Peter Yokam, at Primrose,
Kantner, on the old Crouse farm. At Forestville were
house and an old mill, both of which had been long
The oldest present residents in the locality cannot state when or
by whom they were built, or how long they had been idle.
probable that the mill played its part in the earliest improve-
ments in that section, and went into disuse in consequence of the
later sparse population and consequent small demand for lumber.
Prior to 1840 this establishment often
repairs at the hands of the few residents, and any man who wished
to manufacture a little lumber used it at will. About 1840 it was
repaired and partially rebuilt by Robert Patton, who used it five
or six years. It was subsequently torn down.
There were also
early settlers in Heckscher's valley, but patient inquiry of the
oldest present residents of the township has failed to elicit any
information concerning them. It is not known that any of the des-
cendants of any of them are living in the township. As
began to give place to mining, a half century ago, the land pass-
ed into the possession of new comers, and the original owners went
to other sections. At Coal Castle there was, when coal mining be-
gan, an old saw-mill which was used to some extent afterward, and
later repaired and run by Lewis C. Dougherty.
about 1830 were Michael Sands, Abraham Steeper and Frank and James
Daniels. There was at Heckscherville another old mill, which was
repaired by George and William Payne, and operated for some time
in manufacturing lumber used in improvements about their collier-
ies. It was long since torn down.
INDIAN OCCUPANCY-PIONEER LIFE.
In the southern portion of the township when the land
to be cultivated, farmers found from time to time arrow
spear heads, stone hatchers and other relics of the
occupants of the soil, and though it does not appear that
any considerable Indian village was ever located
present township limits, there is proof that the savages at least
frequented the section; but historical incidents connected with
the Indian period are not as plenty in the history of the north-
ern portion of the county as in that of the southern townships.
Very few of the old houses built by the pioneers of the town-
ship were standing when the influx of settlers began. One or two
of the first domiciles in the southern part are remembered by the
oldest residents of the section as primitive in all respects.
The life of the pioneers in Cass was as arduous and as
viting as it is apt to be anywhere. There were no local condions
to render it more than usually easy and uneventful. The
was rugged and heavily timbered, and until the era of
ment, was valued somewhat lightly for its productive
and its timber, for which the market was early very
later none too good. The animals common to the American forests
were numerous, and while some of them, with the fish that abound-
ed in the streams, afforded easy subsistence to the
other, notably the bear and the wolf, often made their presence
It is said that so frequent were the incursions of the
and wolf on the scattered pigs styes and sheep folds
district now including Cass, that the residents for miles around
were necessitated to combine in
MINING IN CASS TOWNSHIP.
periodical hunts, which served the double purpose of ridding the
neighborhood of the pests in a measure, and securing
offered for their extermination. Tradition has
it that the
excitement of one of these early hunts centered in Wolf valley,
and that a number of animals were slain there, and on the envi-
roning hillsides; but in account of the long time
elapsed since, and the scarcity of definite information concern-
ing the pioneer period of the history of the township, no authen-
tic in detail can be given of the affair.
The energies of the former residents of the
principally directed to the work of clearing and cultivating the
land. Of this industrial period the old saw-mills
and a few
scattering farms were the landmarks when coal development brought
people in comparatively large numbers to the
The early residents had made openings here and
taken out small quantities of coal from tine to time for
own use or to supply such meagre demand as was then afforded.
The first opening made for regular and systematic
Cass township was made on the Black Heath vein, about 1831.
was a tunnel, driven for Isaac Stauffer by Abraham Hoch.
colliery was soon leased by John Womer, who worked it
three years, hauling its production over the
Mine Hill and
Schuylkill Haven Railroad to Schuylkill Haven. Messrs. Heilner &
Bast were the next operators there, and at other new
until 1853. Later A. M. Wood operated there for the Philadelphia
and Reading Coal and Iron Company. The Black Valley slope, which
had been put down by M. Heilner, was operated by Thomas Scholl-
enburger until 1854 or 1855. The Diamond Coal Company were
next operators. Since 1871 the colliery has been idle.
In 1831 or 1832 Jacob Serrill excavated a tunnel which became
known as the Black Heath tunnel, about a quarter of a mile up the
creek from the Black Valley slope. Dr. Steinberg was the
operator there. He was succeeded by Jacob Serrill, who in
gave place to Mr. Heilner, who operated the colliery from 1842 to
1852. Richard Heckscher & Co. were his successors. They erected
a breaker on the top of the mountain, to which the
carried from the mine over a "selfacting plane." The New
and Schuylkill Coal Company operated the colliery from 1865
1868, when it was abandoned. At a later date the
A colliery was opened upon the Kantner vein, about
Wann & Reese Davis. After a few years it passed into the posses-
sion of M.G. & P. Heilner, who operated it until some time after
1853, when it was purchased by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal
and Iron Company. About the same time a draft was put down,
the Primrose vein, by a company of Englishmen. They were
ceeded in operating it about two years. Some time between
and 1850 Richard Kear put down a slope on this vein, and built a
breaker. He operated the colliery till about 1866, when he died.
His heirs, under the title of Kear Brothers, worked the colliery
till 1868 and Kear & Austey till 1869, when it filled with water
and was abandoned.
Wann & Reese Davis made a drift to the Big
about 1842. In 1843 the colliery was sold to Gideon Bast,
put down a slope, greatly enlarging the producing capacity of the
colliery. Here was soon erected the first successful
ever in use in the county, two unsuccessful
previously been made at the mines of Charles Potts, with
effective machinery. Mr. Bast operated here until about
when he sold the colliery to L. Audenreid, who worked it
1869, when he abandoned it. The second breaker in the county was
also erected in Cass, in 1844-45, at the colliery on the Kantner
vein, previously mentioned. The above were the principal mining
operations on Wolf creek. A number of small
carried on from time to time. On the Primrose
Reckert made an opening, which was afterward worked by the Cor-
nish Company during many years. They were succeeded by Prior
Jenkins. Henry Harper was the next operator. He
put down a
slope and built a breaker previous to 1850. The
been long abandoned.
At Forestville the Diamond colliery was opened, about
by William Hoch, who sold out to Johannan Cockill before he had
shipped any coal. Cockill worked it five years, and it was then
abandoned. Goodman Dolbin put down a slope in 1863 or 1864, and
operated till 1869, when he sold out to John Wadlinger. A
named Whittaker began operating in 1873, and continued until the
breaker burned in 1875 or 1876. Between 1845 and 1850 there were
a number of small workings in the outcroppings by Dolbin & Rodg-
ers, Robert Patton & Thomas Lloyd, and William Britton & Bristin.
The Forestville colliery was opened in 1841,
Harris, who worked the Black Heath vein, by means of drifts above
water level, until 1844, producing about a hundred tons
In 1844 Thomas Petherick took charge of the colliery as agent for
the Forest Improvement Company. He continued to ship the coal as
it came from the mine until 1848, when he built a breaker with a
capacity of 100 tons daily. In 1852 Richard
Heckscher & Co.
began to work the colliery, and in 1857 they erected the present
breaker, which has a capacity of 300 tons per day. The slope was
sunk in 1854 a distance of 130 yards, to the Black Heath
working 1,400 yards east and 600 yards west. In 1859 it
necessary to sink 150 yards, working the same vein 1,400
east and 250 yards, working the same vein 1,400 yards east
250 yards west, the average thickness being 6 feet.
In 1866 the New York and Schuylkill Coal Company was
and operated the colliery until 1868, when it passed into
possession of the Manhattan Coal Company, and was
Daniel Hoch & Co., who operated it until 1878, giving employment
to 280 men and boys. The machinery of this colliery is propelled
by 5 engines with a capacity of 160 horse power. Ventilation is
produced by a 16-feet fan.
At Coal Castle Michael Sando put down a drift to the
vein, about 1832, and mined coal on a small scale
years. Lewis C. Dougherty put down a drift on the Daniels
about 1833, and for some years mined about 20,000 tons per annum.
His successor was John McGinness, who had seven years of equally
large business, until, about forty years ago, the mine took fire
at a later date McGinness put down a slope which opened upon the
came vein below the fire, and worked it for a time.
Harris also operated at Coal Castle.
At Heckscherville William and George Payne
opened on the
Mammoth, Jugular and Church veins by drift and tunnel. They were
soon succeeded by the Forest Improvement Company, who
there fifteen or twenty years, sinking slopes, putting in heavy
machinery and doing a successful business. The land was sold to
the Manhattan Coal Company, and by that corporation to the Phila-
delphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company.
The Thomaston colliery was opened in 1858 by Heckscher &
and operated by them until 1866. The first breaker was built the
year the shaft was sunk, and had a capacity of three hundred tons
per day. The shaft was 90 yards deep, the Diamond, Crosby,
New veins. From 1866 to 1873 this colliery was worked
Manhattan Coal Company. In 1870 the present workings were begun,
the old ones having been exhausted. The breaker was built by the
Forest Improvement Company. The first coal was shipped from the
new colliery in 1872, when the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and
Iron Company purchased the property, which they have since oper-
ated. The total capacity of the breaker is 500 tons per day; the
average production 400 tons. The machinery of the colliery
propelled by seven engines, the total horse power of which
nine hundred and thirty; 225 men and boys are employed outside,
and 135 inside. In 1876, 65,996 tons of coal were produced;
1877, 81,543; in 1878, 77,429; in 1879, 123,078.
At Meckeysburg, on land owned by George Meckey, he
to the Mammoth vein, and put a drift down to the Jugular.
colliery has since been leased by General Wynkoop and others, but
its production has never been large.
Phoenix Park colliery No. 2 was opened by John C. Offerman in
1839, and a drift was worked above the water level till
when Charles Miller, of Philadelphia, and Daniel Still, of Potts-
ville, assumed control of the colliery, and operated it
1865. George Frill operated it until 1866. His successors
Johnson & Dovey, who, in 1869, were succeeded by Z. Byer, and he,
a year later, by Daniel Hoch & Co., until 1872, when the colliery
passed to the ownership of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and
Iron Company. The breaker was built by Miller & Stall, and
has a capacity of 250 tons per day. The average daily
has been 185 tons. 108 men and boys are employed inside, and 52
outside. The motive power for the machinery is furnished
steam engines with an aggregate of 225 horse-power. Ventilation
is produced by a 15-feet fan. The openings are to the
vein. The first slope extends 160 yards from the surface, at an
angle of 30 degrees, working the vein 150 yards east. The second
slope is 227 yards from the foot of the first, descending at an
angle of 27 degrees. The breaker is located 50 yards from
top of the slope. The average thickness of the coal is 11 feet.
The colliery produced 25,956 tons of coal in 1878, and 13,612 in
Phoenix Park colliery No. 3 has been owned by the Philadelphia
and Reading Coal and Iron Company for some years, and operated by
it since 1877. It was opened, and the breaker built, in 1873 by
Lloyd & Glover, and worked by them till 1875, when Mr. Lloyd be-
came the sole operator. He was succeeded by the corporation ment-
ioned. The first coal was shipped from this colliery in 1874. The
depth of the first slope was 187 yards, on an angle of 26 degrees,
working Big Diamond vein 1,004 yards east and 1,080 yards
In 1878 the present slope was finished 120 yards from the
and 500 yards west. The average thickness of the vein is 6 feet.
The number of employes inside is 108; outside 60. Only 5
have been lost at this colliery since it was opened. The capacity
of the breaker is 250 tons per day. The average daily production
is 200 tons. The colliery has 5 engines, with a total of 125 horse
power; 22,557 tons were produced in 1876; 22,427 in 1877; 11,018
in 1878; 10,305 in 1879.
Primrose school-house, still in use, was erected previous
the formation of Cass township. In early times abandoned company
houses and engine houses were used for school purposes and they
continued in use till the present stone structures were
The first school house was erected at Heckscherville.
since been enlarged, and it now accommodates 150 pupils.
The first board of directors consisted of
William Cook (still living) John Kennedy, Robert Patton,
Fitzpatrick and John Delaney. The first meeting of
were held at the house of Abraham Hoch. They have since met
various places. Their present place of meeting is
During many years the average school terms amounted
months in the year, and the monthly salary of teachers was $28.
In 1855 it came to be $35; in 1860, $40, and during the war
1861-65, it rose to the maximum of $60.
James Knowles was the first teacher in the township, teaching
at Primrose. A Mr. Thomas taught at Woodside,
in a company
house; Michael Connolly at Jonestowm, in an engine-house;
Holt in Heckscherville, in a building now occupied for religious
services. James Perso taught the first lessons in the
Heckscherville school-room. Master McGuire (still living) began
his education labors as early as 1850, first teaching in
Woodside and subsequently in nearly every school in this
ship. Terence Cook, in 1855, taught in the "Old Log Cabin,"
Black Valley, and a Mr. Gressang wielded the birch in the present
frame building in that vicinity. The educated but eccentric Mr.
Boland was among the earlier teachers, and it was he who "taught
by day and studied the stars by night." The following
also taught previous to 1865; Martin Finley, Michael O'Brien, Mr.
Mulhall, Thomas Fogarty, Charles McGee, Michael Goody,
Mealey, Robert Patton, jr., James McDougal, William H. Conolly,
James Mohan, Samuel Clarkson and P.J. Ferguson.
Among the teachers since 1865 were the Messrs. Clark,
Butler brothers, Madden, Toole, Brennan,
Hughes, McAvoy and Brophy. Miss Maggie Kelly
was the first
female principle employed, and she was quite successful. Messrs.
McGuire and Boland were educated in Dublin, and the former taught
in that city twelve years previous to his thirty years experience
in this township; making a total of forty-two years. Mr. Boland
was probably the most versatile and profound scholar who
taught in town.
Library societies sprang up in Forestville and Jonestown, and
semi-monthly township institutes were held from 1856 to
The financial management of the school system of the township
has not been satisfactory. A large debt exists, and "school ord-
ers" have been sold at a discount of from 10 to 30
Efforts are being made to reduce or extinguish the debt.
There are twelve school-rooms in the
district and twelve
principals are employed; supervised by a township superintendent.
The number of children of school age is 1,250; but the
attendance is only 650. The cost of teaching the school is about
98 cents per pupil.
By reason of the good attainments and training of the
ers the school system of Cass is leading the rising generation in
the direction of good citizenship and cultivated manhood.
The mining operations in various portions
have caused the growth of settlements and villages, which
become known as Meckeysburg, Heckscherville, Coal Castle, Forest-
ville, Woodside, Jonestown, Thomaston, Sheafer's Hill, Mine Hill
Gap and Delaware Village. All of these settlements and villages
have been small, comparatively speaking, and none of them are now
as well populated as they once were. The most important of
above-named points are Forestville and Heckscherville. Both
these villages were built up under the auspices of the
Improvement Company. This corporation opened stores and carried
on a general business in the township for a number
Later a store was kept open at Forestville by the New York
Schuylkill Coal Company till 1868. Goodman Dolbin
there for a few years subsequent to 1845 or 1846. Joseph Patton
was a merchant there from 1873 to 1876. John Dolbin, John Reilly
and James O'Donnell are the present merchants. J. O'Donnell and
Thomas Conner are the present merchants at Heckscherville.
The Methodist Church of Hecksherville was built in
subscription, William Payne having been the principal contribu-
tor. Among the early members of the organization were
Payne, George Brown, Josiah Jenkins and Abraham Ayers. The first
preacher was Rev. Mr. Banks. There have been no regular meetings
held since 1873 and there are few Methodists now living in
St. Keiran's Catholic Church, located at Heckscherville,
erected in 1858, 1859 and 1861, and officiated until his death,
in 1875. His successor, Rev. Matthew O'Brian, came in 1875, and
remained until 1877. Rev. Martin Welsh was pastor from 1877
1879, and was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rev. P. McSwig-
gan. The attendance upon the services is large. The
the church property is about $20,000.
St. Stephen's Protestant Episcopal Church at Forestville is a
stone building which will seat about 150 persons.
stone was laid in 1856, and the building was completed in 1857.
The bell was hung in 1858. Charles A. Hecksher and family
the special patrons of the chapel. About 1870 and
Arthur B. De Sauls, daughter of Charles A. Hecksher (still inter-
ested in church work there), thoroughly renovated the building;
refurnishing it very tastefully with new carpets, new
furniture, new books for the chancel. A large window of stained
glass, a memorial to her father, was among the improvements. The
chapel was consecrated by Bishop William Bacon Stevens. It
always been associated with St. Paul's Church, Minersville, and
has depended upon its rectors for services. There have
number of interruptions to church services, but the Sunday-school
has been maintained without interruption from the
first under the superintendency of Edward Noble, and for the last
eleven years under that of James Nesbit. Rev. Harrison Byllesby
was rector at the time of the building of the
present (1881) rector is Edward J. Koons, of Pottsville.