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January celebrates our area's coal mining history with free events

Besides Scranton getting more attention this month for being the hometown of President-elect Joe Biden, there's also something else that's being celebrated.

Ever since former Vice President Joe Biden was named the President-Elect, the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton has been getting slammed with phone calls from historians all over the world. The calls are from people wanting to know more about his hometown, the Electric City.

But those aren't the only hot calls this month. Others surround people's interest in our area's coal mining industry, something that helped put our area on the map many years ago. 

Newswatch 16’s Ryan Leckey highlighted the meaning and events behind January's celebration of "Anthracite Heritage Month."

It's spearheaded by the Lackawanna Historical Society. You can see even more of their January happenings at their calendar of events. 

Whether you’re looking to learn more about the history of coal mining here at home or find out more about your ancestors who worked in the mines, then this month, several free events are for you. 

After all, coal is the commodity that first put our area on the map centuries ago. 

"mining gave this region so much of its character," Sarah Piccini with the Lackawanna Historical Society said. 

And so did our area’s ethnic presence. It was made up of immigrant families that came to this part of Pennsylvania to work in the mines. 

It was an industrial revolution so big, so powerful, that there’s now a whole museum at Scranton’s McDade Park dedicated to anthracite coal mining. 

And January is all about spotlighting even more of that history, a time when coal was king many years ago.

 "Anthracite Heritage Month has been happening for the last 20 years. It's a collaboration of local historical societies, museums, and mining organizations to celebrate primarily what was essentially the end of a deep coal mining in the region, with the Knox Mine Disaster that happened near Wilkes-Barre in January of 1959. So the organizations have been banding together to kind of commemorate that spirit of coal mining," Piccini said. 

The Knox Mine Disaster in the late 50s happened when the Susquehanna River flooded a Knox Coal Company mine near Pittston. Twelve miners were killed. 

Historians describe it as the “final nail in the coffin for deep mining in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.” 

To share that story and many others, the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton is dedicating the last two weekends of this month to free, virtual workshops. All of them not only to take you back in time but to also offer some ideas from experts for anyone trying to track down the history of their relatives who worked in mines. 

"There's a gentleman who is a researcher at the University of Portsmouth in England. He's been working with payroll records that we have for the last 30 some years. They are really a great resource for people trying to find their coal mining ancestors," Piccini said.

Anthracite Heritage Month Free Events

To get the ZOOM meeting link for the activities mentioned, please email the Society at lackawannahistory@gmail.com in advance of the program.

You can also keep tabs on all happenings this month either at the Lackawanna Historical Society's Facebook page at this link or its website at this link

This coming weekend on Saturday, January 23, 2021, one program will surround a tribute to Bill Hastie, the last survivor of the Knox disaster, who passed away in the fall at 101. 

Twelve men were killed and dozens more were trapped in the 1959 disaster. PITTSTON, Pa. - A memorial was held in Luzerne County to mark 62 years since the Knox Mine Disaster. On January 22, 1959, the Knox Mine was swallowed by the Susquehanna River. Twelve men were killed and dozens more were trapped.
KINGSTON, Pa. - It's been 60 years since the Knox Mine Disaster changed the course of history in the Wyoming Valley, and on this anniversary, a docu... KINGSTON, Pa. -- It's been 60 years since the Knox Mine Disaster changed the course of history in the Wyoming Valley, and on this anniversary, a documentary about the deadly mine collapse premiered in Luzerne County.

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