20 Jun 2019

“The Lonely Valley”

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Birdseye view of early Girardville.

Nice article on the foundation of the mining industry and the founding of towns in the Valley of the Mahanoy Creek, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania by Jake Wynn.

I grew up in Shenandoah. My father’s family had settled in Mahanoy City.

Out of wilderness came the wild towns of the Mahanoy Valley.

Ashland. Girardville. Mahanoy Plane. Gilberton. Shenandoah. Mahanoy City.

These communities and the patch towns that surrounded them suddenly appeared in the 1850s and 1860s out of pure wilderness. All built to mine black diamonds from the mountains surrounding the area in every direction. …

The Mahanoy Valley became home to a series of boom-towns in the 1860s and early 1870s. And with boom-towns come the inevitable problems of a population explosion. Lawlessness reigned in these years after the Civil War. These towns had major problems with violence and liquor in their early years. And they also became the seat of unrest directed toward the large mining interests that sought to absorb the patchwork of independent operators in the 1870s. Many of those hanged as Molly Maguires came from this narrow valley.

Developing the Mahanoy Valley came as a direct result of the Civil War and the sudden emergence of life in the wilds of the “Middle Field” created a situation as close to the “Wild West” as would ever be seen in the Keystone State.

Walter Winchell, back in the Prohibition Era, referred to Shenandoah as “the Only Western Town in the East.”

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