Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Lewis Family in Pardoe, Pennsylvania

In the late 1870s, Richard and Sarah (Betts) Lewis moved from Lancaster County to Pardoe in Mercer County, in western Pennsylvania. At that time, Richard worked on starting up mines in the region. Richard worked as a mining engineer for the affiliated Mercer Mining and Manufacturing Company. He was also Chief Engineer of the Shenango and Allegheny Railroad, a line constructed to move the coal from the Mercer Mines in Pardoe to the Allegheny valley (where Pittsburgh is located) and to the markets beyond.

We don't know exactly when Richard and Sarah moved to Pardoe. There is a Richard Lewis who was elected Surveyor of Mercer County on Nov. 5, 1878*. If this is our Richard, this gives us the earliest date we know he was living in the area.

It may be that Richard had to travel for his job with the railroad and mining company. When the 1880 census was taken, Richard and Sarah were living in a boarding house in Huston in Clearfield County. His occupation was given as superintendant of a coal mine.

We know for sure that Richard and Sarah were living in Pardoe in 1883, when their eldest son Justin Betts "Jess" Lewis was born. Son Bert was born in Pardoe in 1884 and daughter Bessie was born there in 1885.

Pardoe was company town, laid out by the Mercer Mining and Manufacturing company. At it's peak at the end of the 1800s, Pardoe had a population of about 3000 people. Today there are only a few homes.

Pardoe in 2003. Photo by Richard Kolm.

In 1884 the Shenango and Allegheny Railroad and the Mercer Mining and Manufacturing Company defaulted on bonds and went into receivership. The railroad couldn't generate enough revenue to pay expenses and meet its obligations. There were several causes. The financial panic of 1873 affected the U.S. economy until 1878. Around 1883 there were strikes by miners, sometimes violent and destructive, causing coal mines to be closed for an extended period. On the Shenango and Allegheny, construction work was sometimes suspended, working forces were reduced, and the pay of officers and employees was cut and sometimes held back for as long as six months.

In response to the company’s problems, Thomas Fowler was appointed receiver in 1884. He operated the company for almost 4 years, until all of its property, franchises, material, and rolling stock were transferred to a new company. The public sale of the railroad and mining company was held in Shenango on April 19, 1887. The new company that took over the properties was the Pittsburgh, Shenango, and Lake Erie Railroad Company, a Pennsylvania corporation organized on January 12, 1888.

It is about this time that the Lewis family moved to Slidell, Louisiana, possibly because Richard had lost his job with the mine and railroad, and perhaps because he lost an investment in the county.

* Mentioned in the History of Mercer County, 1888 and 1905. He would have had the position until at least the next election, in 1881

About Pardoe
• History of Mercer County, 1888: Pardoe , Surveyors
Railroads of Mercer County
• Article about the Pardoe Mine Co. from the Sharon Herald.

Portions of this post were written by Richard Kolm.

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