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Dunbar softball team places second in tournament

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2003

Congratulations to Dunbar's softball team. They took second place in the tournament played this past weekend at Neville Island. Frank Bryner reports that the team plans to go back next month and if they place first, they will qualify for the 16 team indoor championships in April. These are also held at Neville Island. He will let our readers know the dates as soon as they become available.

St. Aloysius Catholic Church members are busy making plans for the parish's annual Mardi Gras Celebration. It will be held on March 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dennis Martin is general chairman of the event and the Rev. Ed McCullough is pastor. In addition to a bake sale, a variety of ethnic foods and various desserts will be available during the day. The Youth Group will have a children's corner which will include face painting, a duck pond and pi-ata! The public is invited to attend this annual event sponsored by the church which is located on Ranch Road in Dunbar. No advance tickets will be sold and various food items may be purchased as desired.

Residents are reminded that the Dunbar recycling center will be closed during February and will reopen in March on its regular schedule.

The Dunbar Presbyterian Church will be holding a Watkin's Book Party during the month of March. So please check your pantry and if anyone would like to purchase any products for this fund-raiser, call Dody Harvey at 724-277-8360 or one of the Dunbar columnists.

Community Fest

The next meeting of the 2003 Community Fest committees will held at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Dunbar Presbyterian Church social hall. Committees are asked to have a representative at the meeting. The fest date will be finalized at this meeting, so please plan to attend.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Birthday wishes go out this week to Barbara Smitley, Molly Clawson, Chase McKnight, Frank Ross Jr., Jamie Bufano, Benny Musgrove, Glenn Ghrist, Alaina Breakiron, Virginia Hardy, Ben Santore, Kathy Bell, Olive Lafisca, Rene Miller, Ryan Butela, Travis Burnsworth, Scotty Hartz Jr., and George Marzano

Anniversary wishes go out this week to Tim and Sandy Kimmel, Keith and Dawn Basinger, Jeffery and Rosanne Maher, Rick and Robin Tuttle, Bob and Lois Holsing, and John and Tonya Payerchin.

Dunbar History Moment: The 1922 Coal Strike

Much has been reported over the last year in this column about the industrial growth of Dunbar and the many industries and businesses that thrived for a brief period in its local history. This growth was based in large measure on the regional growth of the coal and coke industry that flourished in the Connellsville Coke Region. Along with this growth came strife and tension in the mines. Due in part to the varied ethnic groups that thronged to this region to find work, the tension between mine owners and workers and the disparity between the rich and the poor, strife was bound to occur. This strife came in the form of strikes that plagued the coal region beginning around 1922. From 1894 until 1922, there were no big strikes in the coal and coke region. Dissatisfaction was, however, mounting during this time.

Muriel Sheppard, in her book, Cloud by Day: The Story of Coal and Coke and People, published in 1947, tells the story of this period in our local history. Workers demanded higher wages and a shorter work day but it was not until 1919 that John L. Lewis, United Mine Workers international president issued a strike call. The government countered with severe injunctions and the labor leaders called the strike off but not after the workers received some pay increases which seemed to appease them for the time being. Prior to the end of World War I, the production of the mines had increased to a capacity of a billion tons. But after the war ended, sales decreased sharply and some mines went out of business. The mine operators wanted wage cuts and a strike was called for April 1, 1922. Even though the coke region in this area was not organized, over 100,000 men in the Connellsville and Somerset regions came out anyway in support of the strike.

Since the miners were not organized, had no common language and lacked cultural cohesiveness, the problems began to mount for the workers and their families. Since they were dependent upon the owners for their homes, located in company towns, the owners hired "coal police" to quell problems with the miners and their families. Sheppard's book recounts the brutality of the actions carried out by these men and the violence that erupted at the company owned mines and towns. This book is an excellent read for anyone interested in this information.

Even though Dunbar had no organized mine workers at the time, those who lived and worked here supported the strike and Dunbar saw its share of violence. Omar Morrison's eyewitness account of this period in Dunbar's history is recounted here. During these hard times, Morrison delivered milk to the Pennsylvania police barracks, which was located in Dunbar, and also delivered milk to the Watt sisters, who lived on Front Street. It was Thomas Watt, who owned much of the property in Dunbar.

The police barracks were located in the old Dunbar Furnace superintendent's house behind the Pennsylvania Wire Glass factory on Hardy Hill. Morrison reported that they made their rounds of Dunbar in an old Model T Touring car with no top, the rear of which was riddled with bullet holes. They also had a mounted police horse patrol which was used for breaking up the strikers when necessary.

Apparently, Chinese, Mexicans and Negroes were brought in on railroad cars as "strikebreakers." These railroad cars were unloaded in the parking lot across from the present location of Miller's garage and Stefanick's Restaurant. They were then marched from the parking area, past the present-day funeral home and across the bridge towards the Feather's Row area, which was owned by J.I. Feathers. It was along Feather's Row that the strikebreakers were housed in barracks-like buildings. Many times, before reaching their destination, they were met by strikers. Violence ensued, bags and baggage were thrown into Dunbar Creek, most likely along with some of the strikers and strikebreakers! The buildings, which housed the "scabs" were built by the Dunbar Furnace Co.

Eventually because of the effects of the strike and the worsening economy, as would be expected, the depression came to our area a little sooner than to others. According to Sheppard, "Big banks swallowed little banks in an attempt to stave off collapse. At the other end of the scale the very poor moved into empty coke ovens and joined hunger marches on Uniontown. State and Federal aid ran as high as $100,000 per month for Fayette County with a population of less than 200,000. Some of the big operators were carrying people at the company stores and the burden of debt was piling up. The Frick Coke Co. alone had extended $840,000 in store credits to its employees for whom there was no work."

As late as the mid-1950s, this columnist remembers the "bums who lived in the coke ovens near Bowest" (admittedly embarrassing terminology by my adult standards), coming to our back door and asking for sugar and flour, which my grandmother and mother willingly provided. Their existence was just an accepted part of Dunbar life at that time! Once again for sharing his father's account of early Dunbar life, our thanks go out to Dennis Morrison.

Dunbar Trivia Question

Did you know the answer to last week's question, "Who was the first laborer and later the superintendent of the Dunbar Corp.?" The answer is: James I. Bryner nicknamed "Sandmill" Jim.

Now, let's see if you know the answer to this week's question, " In 1871, the Dunbar Iron Co. had built what railroad branch to access their mine?"

Phone us at 724-277-8448 or e-mail at myers@zoominternet.net or bonz@zoominternet.net . All announcements for this column should be received by noon Sunday for publication the following Wednesday. If you have an interesting article or bit of history you would like to share, please mail to Dunbar Column, P.O. Box 366, Dunbar, Pa. 15431.

Until next week, remember to say "hello" to your neighbors!

Zurick and Myers are Dunbar-area residents.

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