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Ashland Borough

Ashland Borough Hall is located at 501 Chestnut Street, Ashland PA 17921; phone: 570-875-2411.

Beginnings [1]

The petition for a borough charter was filed and granted February 13th, 1857. The first charter election, held that month, resulted in the choice of James J. Connor as chief burgess; and a council composed of E.V. Thomason, John Orth, Charles Connor, Lawrence Hannon, and William Thomas.

The almost unbroken wilderness that, in 1820, was the site of Jacob Rodenberger's old log hotel, remained a tangled wildwood long after the southern part of the county had become the scene of busy industry; and the traveler on the Catawissa stage who, in crossing Locust Mountain in 1848, expressed the opinion that a man who could be induced to purchase such land must be a fool, but echoed the prevalent sentiment of the friends of Burd S. Patterson, a prominent citizen of the county, who, with a faith untouched by the raillery of others, had for years predicted that some day an important mining town would cover the slope of that mountain, and had taken steps that, in 1845, induced John P. Brock, of Philadelphia, and James Hart to join him in the purchase of two large tracts of land in the vicinity; one of four hundred acres, from the Bank of Pennsylvania, at a uniform price of $30 per acre, and the same area from Judge Gordon of Reading, an $11 an acre. To these united tracts they gave the name of the Ashland Estate, and took an opportunity to test the character of their purchase by sending in the fall of 1846 an experienced miner, named Patrick Devine, with a force of men, to develop the coal veins crossing the tract. During the following year the village site was surveyed by Samuel Lewis, and named Ashland, after Henry Clay's famous Kentucky home; and the proprietors expended large amounts in clearing lands, laying out streets, building substantial tenement houses for their workmen, and inducing immigration. One of their acts was to donate to Jacob Larish two lots of land in consideration of his erecting and occupying a convenient and commodious hotel; and by this act of liberality the Ashland House, which Mr. Larish kept until his death, was erected in 1846.

For the next three years the progress of the new village was slow, owing to the delay in the operations of the Mine Hill Railway Company, that had surveyed an extension to this place, on which work was resumed in 1851, at which time a renewed impetus was given to immigration; and in 1852, when Colonel J.J. Connors, of Pottsville, leased a portion of the tract for mining purposes, he found that an enterprising dealer, Jonathan Faust, had opened a small store. In the following year Mr. Connors opened a gangway at Locust Run, and built the brick store on the corner of Centre and Third streets, which was the first brick structure erected in the village, and was built from bricks made on the site of the foundry of Jacob Fisher. The establishment of another store was even then considered a hazardous venture, and its proprietor had often to answer the question-"Where do you expect to find your customer?"

In 1853 Bancroft, Lewis & Co. opened a colliery near the iron works and built breakers, and the work connected with the two new collieries drew large numbers to the place; and when, in 1857, the citizens, deeming that they had outgrown the guardianship of Butler township, applied for a borough charter, the village contained about five hundred buildings, and three thousand five hundred people. To the personal exertions of John P. Brock, Burd Patterson and James Hart, and to Dr Pancoast, and Samuel Grant, who afterward purchased Mr. Patterson's interest in the estate, as well as to the indefatigable energy and public spirit of Colonel Connor, much of the credit for this great advance was due.

In 1834 Colonel Connor, who had associated with him Thomas Patterson, a brother of the proprietor, anticipated the completion of the Gordon planes by drawing a quantity of coal with wagons to the foot of the first plane, loading a car, and drawing it over the planes by mules, and from there forwarding it to John Tucker, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, as a present. This was the first coal sent to market from Ashland, and the first shipped over that railroad. The date of the shipment was September, 1854. The first coal forwarded direct from a colliery by rail was sent by Bancroft, Lewis & Co., who for that reason named their breaker "The Pioneer." Of the early business men of Ashland, William and James Cleaver, William H. Bright, Emanuel Bast, Joshua Weimer, and Nicholas Graeber are still residents, and actively engaged in business pursuits. The only one of them that can claim both a continuous residence and an uninterrupted business career in one line of trade is Nicholas Graeber, who operated a clothing store opposite the Mahanoy House in 1855, and who is still engaged in the business.

Until 1853, the nearest post-office was at Fountain Springs, but in that year the Ashland office was established, and Dr. D.J. McKibben became its postmaster. Mails were received daily from Pottsville and Sunbury by stage and over the Mine Hill Railway.

The first church erected was a small framed building, built by the Methodist society in 1855; and the next was the brick church known as St Joseph's build by the English-speaking Catholics.

The first school building, erected in 1854, is still standing on Centre street, and used as a store house; and here, for several years, the religious services of some of the church organizations were held.

The oldest framed buildings in the village are the old store of Faust, now A. Bancroft's, and the Ashland House, on the corner of Centre and Third streets. Opposite the last named house is the first brick building built in the village, the old Connor & Patterson store; and on the southwest corner of Centre and Seventh streets is the Repplier House, which was the second brick structure erected. It was built in 1855 by Judge Rahn, and was known for years as the Mahanoy House. In the rear of this building stood the old Rodenberger tavern, and near it ran the stage road between Pottsville and Catawissa.

The population of the village in 1860 was 3,880; 1870, 5,714; 1880, 6,045.

  1. History of Schuylkill County PA., 1881, W.W. Munsell & Co., New York
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