Photo above: Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper from February 18, 1888 of the attack on coal and iron police by Polish workers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Source: Library of Congress.
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Eckley Mining Village, Hazleton, Pennsylvania
This is hard history. Hardscrabble history. History of hard working families in a company town, diving into the coal mines each day to eke out a living. It is a history of union organization, or at least communal organization trying to protect the work abused, both the positive, attempting to gain a better life and condition for the miners, and the negative, trying to coerce anyone not on their side with intimidation and sometimes their demise. The story of Eckley Mining Village in northeast Pennsylvania tells that tale in a unique and preserved setting, with tours and a visitor center that's one of the best of the Pennnsylvania State Park system. It is a tale Hollywood has already thought enough of, they've told the 1876 story in a 1970 movie starring Sean Connery and Richard Harris. Yes, a heavyweight cast for a hardscrablle tale. And after your visit there, you'll want to get a copy of the Molly Maguires and sit back and see the story for yourself. PS - You can rent the movie easily through Amazon Video. See link in the center section below. Photo above: Pennsylvania Coal Miners circa 1900, courtesy Library of Congress.
- What is There Now
- History Nearby
Eckley Miner's Village
It wasn't always a coal place. In fact, prior to the 1854 establishment of the coal mine, this area was known as Shingletown, where the residents plied the woods and made shingles for the surrounding towns. That changed with the 1853 founding of coal by four prospectors and the subsequent 1,500 acre lease for the Council Ridge Colliery. A saw mill was built, workers emigrated from Wales, England, and Germany to man the mine. Houses were built to house them and coal was brought to the surface in a tough job with little comforts. The workers and their families were subject to the whims of a company town that basically owned their work days, their homes, and their lives. When the Irish immigrants came, they brought with them the concept of the Molly Maguires, a secret organization that stood up for the workers against the mine bosses and company towns where they worked. And yes, it became violent. That story is the one told in the Molly Maguire movie.
Image above: The row homes along the main street of Eckley Miner's Village. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Eckley Miner's Village
The Visitor Center Museum - Spacious and well informed museum exhibits on the village and coal mining, plus a 17 minute video presentation.
The Village - Seventy-three acres of a one street mining town with original structures, as well as a reconstructed coal breaker built for the movie. You can take a self-guided tour of the village if a regular tour is not available.
How Much to VisitAdults $8.00, Seniors $7.00, Children 6-12 $6.00, Under 6, free. Additional $2.00 per person fee for the tour. Fees subject to change without notice.
Hours OpenEckley Miner's Village is open 7 days a week, from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday to Saturday, and Noon to 5:00 on Sunday. Guided tours are at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. every day during the summer and weekends in the fall, with only the 2:00 p.m. tour available on Sunday. The village is closed on some holidays, including Monday holidays. Call before you come on one of those days to make sure the village is open.
Where Is It LocatedEckely Mining Village is located in Weatherly, Pennsylvania, at 2 Eckley Back Road, Weatherly, PA 18255. If you're coming from New York or New Jersey off Interstate 80, take Exit 273, PA-940 South to Freeland, PA. Just before Freeland, take a left, south, onto Highland Road, then left onto Strip Mine Road, another slight left onto SR2051 - Buck Mountain Road, then right onto Main Street, left onto Buck Mountain, and left onto Eckley Back Road. Boy, that wasn't easy. But it's only three miles from Freeland, so if things get too confusing, ask for directions once there. Likely best to GPS or print directions from your favorite map program to see if there may be quicker ways to get there via other local routes and from other directions. Yes, this is a good place to have GPS.
Website - Eckley Miner's Village
Want to Rent The Molly Maguires Movie? Do it here through Amazon Video. - Rent Film The Molly Maguires.
Area Historic Sites
So what else is there to do near Eckley? There's a number of other coal mining history oriented attractions such as the Scranton Iron Furnaces, Anthracite Heritage Museum, and the Lackawanna Coal Mine, plus Steamtown National Historic Site for railroad buffs, and a number of state parks for the nature oriented.
Steamtown National Historic Site
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
Structures of Eckley
Eckley Visitor Center Museum - Built in 1975 on the site of the former schoolhouse, the museum has exhibits, a film, and orientation for your visit.
Immaculate Conception Church - Built in 1861.
Eckley Sports and Social Club - Built in 1946. Used in the movie as the Emerald Club.
Slate Picker's House - Built in 1854. Only three remain of these houses for the lowest paid members of the mine. They are the smallest and located on a back village street.
Laborer's Dwelling - Built in 1854. These were double homes and housed up to fifteen people on each side.
Company Store - Not the original, built for the movie.
St. James Episcopal Church - Original built in 1859; one there now, same design built in 1860 and moved to Eckley from White Haven later.
Eckley Miner's Village Gift Shop - Built in 1862 as the rectory of the Immaculate Conception Church and now used as the gift shop.
Eckley Mansion - Built for the owner/proprietor of the village. Located at the far end of the street, farthest location from the visitor center.
The Breaker - Built for the 1970 film, the Molly Maguires.
Photo above: Drawing by W.A. Rogers for Harper's Weekly, June 23, 1888, of a Pennsylvania coal mining village street. Source: Library of Congress.
The Molly Maguires Movie
The Film - Directed by Martin Ritt and stars Sean Connery and Richard House, the film was shot in Eckley Mining Village. Plot follows the exploits of an undercover detective sent to expose the Molly Maguire secret society that was battling against the exploitation of the mine workers, often with violent outcomes.
Use of the Town - Since very little had changed in the appearance of Eckely since the 1880's, only the addition of the large wooden coal breaker, still on site, and the company store were added for the film. Additional scenes were filmed in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
Saved from Destruction - Although the film was considered a box office failure (it's budget at $11 million was considered high at the time), it's filming saved the town of Eckley as a historical musuem now run by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The film did garner one Academy Award nomination for art direction.
Other famous actors in the film - Samantha Eggar, Anthony Zerbe.
Photo above: Movie poster for The Molly Maguires. Poster image courtesy Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.