A Company Town

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The rapid growth of the coal mines in the 1900's brought many new workers to Fayette County.  European immigrants and American Blacks migrating North from the Southern states provided a formidable work force for the mining companies.  The rush was on for the jobs, but there was no place for the families of the miners to live.

The Company Houses
The coal company took the initiative and secured a tract of land on a hillside and cut out three streets and parceled out lots.  This area of Lemont became known as "The Patch" due to the evenly spaced lots. Upon each lot the company built two-family homes and made them available to the miners' families.  The company would take the rent out of the men's paychecks.  The rent would go towards the purchase of the homes.  After a few years most of the miners owned their own homes.

The Company Store
In a popular song of the 1950's, Tennessee Ernie Ford sang "I owe my soul to the company store".  This theme rang true in Lemont as well as in the other mining towns.  Not only did the coal company provide the miners with jobs and a place to live - there was also a company-owned store that sold everything imaginable.  The Company Store, as it was called, sold food, vegetables, meats, clothing, tools, dry goods, and just about anything a family needed.  These stores were the Wal-Marts and Super K's of their day.  You didn't need any money, as credit was easily available.  A shopper would make a purchase at the ladies department and the clerk would clip the receipt to a wire that stretched to the accounting department, pull a lever, and the receipt would fly to the accounting department for approval and entry into the ledger.  Pretty high-tech for the times.

  Who Are These Strangers?
The miners would be taken to work each morning in a stake body truck sent by the coal company. At the end of the day the truck would bring them back, stopping at the foot of each street. The wives, knowing when the truck was scheduled to come, would be out at the edge of the street waiting to greet their men as they walked up the hill to their homes. What a sight it was, the tired miners jumping off the back of the truck with dirty clothes and grimy faces blackened with coal dust. A wife didn't know which man was her husband because in that condition they all looked alike. The wives waited as the men came up the hill and each one greeted the man who would walk through the gate.

Program notes from the Lemont Furnace Community "Reunion" Picnic on August 28, 1998:

The Lemont #1 Coke Works was built by the Lemont Furnace Company.  At it's peak, around 1871 there were 350 ovens in operation.

The Lemont #2 Coke Works was built by the McClure Coke Company and placed into operation in 1890.

In order to house the number of growing employees on the Lemont #1 and Lemont #2 Coke Works the Lemont Furnace Patch was built by the McClure Company.  Most of the houses were built in 1891.

By 1900 the operations were owned and operated by the H.C. Frick Company.

The first Post Office was built around 1876 and the postmaster was J. Zebley.

Lemont Furnace at one time had a company- owned Supply Store - (now the North Union Fire Hall) and a Recreation Hall - First Company Store. (Now Peccon Beer Distributor). Both were built previous to 1900.

The oldest building in Lemont was once the Lamp House for the mines.  The miners went there to light their lamps before entering the mine.  It later became the payroll building.  It was once the Sherlock home and is now the Nixon home.  It is the only brick home left in Lemont Furnace.

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