Eckley Miners’ Village Anthracite Heritage
We celebrated Patchtown Days and Slavic Fest 2016
by Mike Korb
Pat and I went to Eckley Miners’ Village for their annual “Patchtown Days,” a genuine commemoration of Anthracite Heritage. We had an opportunity to experience Slavic Fest 2016, a celebration of the customs and traditions of the Slavic peoples who emigrated to the anthracite coal region. Traditional music, food, living history, and crafts were all part of the lineup. Pat’s family is Slovak. Her maiden name was Trubisky, before that maybe “Trubecki” in the Carpathians where her great grandparents came from in the 1870s.
We were at Eckley for a fun and eventful morning. In the middle of the main street. we saw a play about prejudice against the Slavs presented by Eckley Players, a group of volunteers who dress in 1870s garb; Pat ate “loksa”, a potato/flour pancake cooked on a coal stove in a Slavic summer kitchen; we talked to some University of Maryland archaeology students on a dig on Eckley’s Back Street; we listened to Slavic music; Pat fed a therapy donkey and decided not to buy a corn straw broom; people ate haluski, pierogi, halupki while I had hot dogs and watched them. Seems like it was a great day for a good time in a relaxed setting.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.”
Eckley Miners’ Village is heritage tourism.
Most of all, it tells the story of anthracite heritage and people through the preservation and exploration of the site. It is helped by these cultural festivals. http://eckleyminersvillage.com. Next year’s Patchtown Days will be a celebration of Irish culture.
Eckley Miners’ Village was founded in 1854. But it is a village frozen in time. Consequently, you see a company town that housed miners and their families, a doctor, a company store, and churches. The town also had the coal mine and the “breaker” where the mined coal was sized for market. These often were the only places immigrant families could afford to live. In the early 1900s, Pennsylvania had more company towns, which were known as “coal patches,” than any other state in the nation.
Eckley survives, a relic of anthracite mining heritage, because of a movie. The 1968 motion picture “The Molly Maguires,” starring Sean Connery, Richard Harris, and Samantha Eggar scenes were mostly filmed there. The homes and streets were restored to circa 1870 and a prop breaker and other period structures were erected for the movie. You’ll want to rent or buy the movie, a lost American film classic, at Amazon or Netflix. (http://www.movies.com/molly-maguires/m47145) I’ll write more about the “Mollies” in Anthracite Heritage in future posts.
In 1971, the village of Eckley was bought “lock, stock, and barrel” by Hazleton (nine miles west of Eckley) businessmen. They donated it to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to transform the quiet village into the country’s first mining-town museum. http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/pa-heritage/jewel-in-crown-old-king-coal-eckley-miners-village.html
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has active support by the Eckley Miners’ Village Associates, a non-profit community-based organization. Eckley is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Take a guided tour at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., Monday-Saturday (at 2 p.m. on Sunday). Treat yourself to a nice quiet stroll through history. Haunted Halloween Lantern Tours and Christmas at Eckley are two of the special events offered throughout the year.
1940s WWII Weekend
Consider attending the 1940s WWII Weekend August 6 and 7, which will include a Swing Dance to a live band on Saturday evening at the Freeland Public Park Pavilion, four miles north of Eckley at 401 Front St., Freeland.
Eckley’s 1940 anthracite mining engineer’s reflects the home front in the region, the subject of the weekend. It seems like it was an interesting time in Northeastern PA.
In 1940, more than half the US homes were heated with coal – 88 percent in Pennsylvania. However, anthracite production and employment were cut in half from 1918 and the biggest company had filed for bankruptcy in 1937. Although the war years brought production back, labor shortages with increased production caused problems . Some results were labor problems and collusion between companies. The push for more coal caused much of the extensive environmental derogation that led to many of today’s abandoned mine land problems.
You can see a good film in the public domain about the 1940s in anthracite online at http://www.buyoutfootage.com/pages/titles/pd_na_428.php#.V3EEIsuV91s
I don’t dance, but I DO plan to visit the WWII Weekend.
3 other Anthracite Heritage festivals you won’t want to miss:
- 9 Coal Mine & Museum, COAL MINER’s HERITAGE FESTIVAL Sunday, July 10 – 10 to 5; Lansford 18232, (570) 645-7074 https://www.facebook.com/No.9MineMuseum/?fref=ts
- National Canal Museum and Hugh Moore Park, Conversations on the Canal Dinner Cruise, several Saturdays starting July 16, 5:30; Easton 18042 (610) 923-3548 https://canals.org/canalendar
- Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine, PIONEER DAY Sat., August 20, Ashland 17921, (570) 875-3850 http://www.pioneertunnel.com/pioneerday.html