Buffalo Coal Company Mine Shaft

photo credit: David Johnson

A short History of Coal in Clermont

The first bituminous coal in McKean County was found in 1815 by Jonathan Colegrove's surveying party  beneath a wind-blown tree near the pioneer town of Instanter. Two years later Ransom Beckwith discovered coal on his land, and in 1821 coal was also discovered at the Clare Mont Farm near present-day Bloomster Hollow.
By 1845 coal was being delivered at Smethport for 12 * cents a bushel, shipped by teams to Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties in New York, and shipped  by boats from the port at East Smethport. In 1849 Smethport paymaster John Forrest reported over 1,000 tons of coal had passed through Smethport in the past year.

n 1874 General George J. Magee paid for the exploration of the coal lands near present-day Clermont, and by September of that year the Buffalo Coal Company was organized. Magee was chosen President, while OJ and Byron Hamlin of Smethport were local stockholders. These three were also instrumental in organizing the McKean and Buffalo Railroad that same year, so the Clermont coal could be brought north. Byron Hamlin was named President and DR Hamlin local director. Work began in October 1874, and the railroad was completed to Clermont the next year. In 1881 it was purchased by the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, and 8 years later extended south to Johnsonburg.

Meanwhile, on a smaller scale the Marvin Creek Coal Company was organized in 1855 with $25,000 capital. John Atkinson of Erie and Bryant Tilden of Boston controlled half the stock. By 1857 they had an operation near Crosby  extracting oil from Clermont coal.

The initial Buffalo Coal Company mine was located just east of the WNY and P Railroad station. In 1879 a 3-mile tram road (the Clermont and Instanter narrow gauge system had been built to their new mines, Gumboot Mine 1 and 2.

There were smaller mines also in operation at this time in the Clermont area, including Joe and Fred Anderson and Fred Burkhouse.

By July 1885 cheap coal from more favorably situated mines caused a slump in production and the Instanter mines were closed. The Lymans of Roulette continued operation of the mine closer to Clermont and became large property owners in that area.

Eventually Clermont Excavating would strip mine both clay and coal from the area, both along the Clermont-Norwich Road, northeast of town, and near Bloomster Hollow. Both were utilized by Kaul Clay, which took over the Clermont Tile Plant in 1947.

In the 1980's Seneca Resources drilled test holes south of Clermont, hoping to renew strip-mining. But, public opposition halted those plans. Today much of the town is undermined, and cave-ins behind the PS and N Railroad station provide access to the tunnels.

History of Clermont Coal provided by David Johnson 2001

Improvements to Coal Shutes
McKean County Miner February 7, 1896

The work on the new coal shutes is progressing nicely.  This when finished will be a great improvement over the old ones.

Coal Shutes Booming
May 29, 1879

The Buffalo Coal Company have orders for more coal than they can mine with their present forces. Since the appoinment of C. J. Minor as sales agent, their sales have increased rapidly, and there is now every reason to believe that the investment at Clermont will prove as profitable as originally hoped.

Clermont News
McKean County Miner February 14, 1896

The miners in the Buffalo Coal Company's mines have been laid off for a few days owing to the railroad being blocaded with snow.

Our blacksmith is now building is now building  his shop on Pine street near the opera house.  He concluded that was the best location.

Wm.  Benson, our livery man, is making some improvements on his barn.  He is getting things in excellent shape.

The late storm delayed the work on the shutes of the Lyman mines a few days, but everything is all o.k. now.

Jerry McCarty brought a car load of fine been cattle in town a few days ago Jerry is up to time.

J.H. Whiton is now traveling salesman for W.H. Prentiss Marble Works.