A Dual Town

February 09, 2011

A Dual Town (From "The Best of Reflections" Book)

  DuBois, as it exists today was once a dual town, with one section known as the East or DuBois side, to distinguish it from the older or Rumbarger side.  Rivalry existed for many years between the two sections with coal miners and their families living in Rumbarger and woodsmen and lumbermen in the DuBois side. The sections were almost equally divided in pugilistic talents and there were frequent encounters in barrooms and on the street. Rumbarger held the appellation of the "Bloody Fist" or "Donegal" and woe be to those who invaded that section of town.  The East side was known as "Swamp siding." To get across the half mile of low lying beaver dam between the two "towns," slabs from the mills were used to construct a kind of corduroy or mud bridge.  It was later to be known as a plank road now Liberty Boulevard.

  The little village of Rumbarger near Long and Main was soon outdistanced by the rapid building on the opposite hill, adjacent to the mills, and the name DuBois was thereafter recognized for the lumbertown. Stumps were gradually dug out of the streets and a few sidewalks were built in front o more pretentious properties, the big pines were cut from the Scribner section to make room for more houses. When the low grade P.R.R. train was due from the east or west, crowds gathered at the depot to witness the rush and departing of the wonderful passenger trains.  The trains maintained a schedule, if convenient, of 30 to 35 miles an hour.

  Payrolls for the miners and mill hands had to be secured from banks at Luthersburg or Reynoldsville, or at times even as far away as Clearfield.  This meant an all day drive by horse and buggy over the mountain.  It was not unusual for a lone man to make the long journey and bring back the coins and currency safely locked in a carpet bag, protected by a sack of feed on or under the driver's seat. Shortly after the mills began to operate, it was found that coal veins of from five to six feet in thickness lay in the strata west of town.  And there was easy access to the railroad.  Development began by erection of a tipple and siding, and within three years a considerable trade was added to that of lumber.  DuBois became a live and growing town.

  Oil, which had been discovered a few years before at Titusville, was now being transported in tank cars, until the discovery of pipeline methods.  Before the era of the pipelines, a large part of the product passed over the low grade on the way to the eastern refineries. This oil, together with the lumber from the DuBois mills and coal from the Sandy Lick and Pancoast mines, made up the principal freight of the railroad for some years. New coal mines were opened between Rumbarger and Evergreenlater to be known as Falls Creek.

  Another mine, known as Rochester mine was opened south of Sandy Creek but a controversy developed over excessive shipments to Buffalo and Rochester.  In 1883 it led to the development and construction of a new railroad, the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh.  It was designed as a coal operating subsidiary of the Bell, Lewi and Yates interests to expand its mining operations.  The Iselins purchased a large tract of land near Helvetia and developed a huge deep mine operation.  Sykesville, Soldier and Cramer were quickly added to the burgeoning industry.Miners came to town and the Helvetia interest opened a large company store at the corner of State and Booth (Long) streets.

  The town expanded rapidly and DuBois became a real boom town.  As previously noted, the downtown business district was a mecca for Saturday night shoppers.  Street cars made their appearance about the same time, long before the day of the automobile, and brought additional throngs of visitors to the "city."  It was a period of prosperity such as DuBois had never experienced.  Building operation were at their peak. But that period of great prosperity was to be curtailed as lumber and mill operations neared the end, around the turn of the century.

  DuBois was again fortunate however, as the B.R.&P. Expanded its operations with the opening of the Car Shops and Locomotive Works.  With an employment level of more than a thousand, that industry had its ups and downs over the years, and there were no unemployment benefits at that time. The city had a good foundation upon which to base a steady growth in the earlier years of its development.

- Jason S. Gray, Jr. Editor

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