A Patch of Tapestry out of Coal Country America
by Helene Smith

Documented history of a Pennsylvania coal mine patch, the first place coal was exported in America. Taken from oral histories of the residents.

More than a century and a half ago a five-year-old boy came from Ireland to America with his parents and settled in the present-day area of Export. Years later in his autobiography he described, with picturesque, his crucial formative years at the headwaters of Turtle Creek: "The rocks and glens, the meadows and streams ... are still my friends and acquaintances ... Every object revives some thought of the past; some hopes or fears, or plans for future execution ... Many, indeed most of the air castles I indulged in building at that early date have been successfully completed." Judge Thomas Mellon

Since the time that Judge Mellon — the founding father of America's greatest family fortune — moved from the Turtle Creek Valley to Pittsburgh, not only has the environment of his boyhood home metamorphosed from an agricultural landscape to an industrial one, but the ethnic fabric of his early beginnings has been altered as well. With the great influx of new immigrants to the valley of coal, to work in the mines, came an entirely changed culture.

It is interesting to speculate what Thomas Mellon's role would have been in the Export area if he had stayed on — to farm or become a minister, according to his parents' wishes. Had Mellon, who invested heavily in the coal measures of Westmoreland County, continued to live where he grew up, he would have been caught up in some of the most dramatic and chaotic industrial strife in the history of America — found in the coal fields of Export and its environs.

In the early twentieth century the nation's longest coal strike, up to that time, took place in Westmoreland County and involved Export and the surrounding gas-coal region. It came in with Halley's Comet in 1910 and ended as the fiery celestial tail disappeared from the horizon. At that time Mother Jones "the scrappy Irish champion for the working man" — traveled to Export and Greensburg to offer assistance to the miners.

The saga of Export follows this entire history of coal from its formation during the Carboniferous Period to the time that it was discovered and mined — and its aftermath — an exciting true drama of the bituminous coal era in the Turtle Creek Valley at Export.

ISBN 0-945437-00-5
1986, Reprinted and revised 1999
11" x 8 1/2" paperback
231 pages, illustrated, index


Helene Smith with Export book County woman writes a history of Export