Historical Markers
Philip Ginter Historical Marker
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Philip Ginter

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Ludlow Park in Summit Hill

Dedication Date:
May 27, 1991

Behind the Marker

The origin of Pennsylvania's role as the world's leading producer of anthracite coal is linked to the story of ne'er-do-well Philip Ginter (often spelled Ginder). His "discovery" of the first anthracite in Pennsylvania's great eastern coal field - the world's largest deposit - remains one of those historical events that lies somewhere between fact and folklore.
It took thirty years and two entrepreneurs, Josiah White (left) and Erskine Hazard (right), to develop a cost effective route to bring anthracite to market.
Josiah White and Erskine Hazard, when older men.

According to a story that originated in the Mahoning Valley, Ginter and his young family were living in "a rough cabin" in the woods around Sharp (later Mauch Chunk) Mountain in the Panther Valley. Struggling to survive "by the proceeds of his rifle," the Ginters were without food and growing desperate when one rainy day in the early 1790s Philip "stumbled against something" curious that turned out to be "stone coal" or anthracite. Ginter had accidentally hit upon a tremendous deposit of hard coal that stretched over seventy miles to the west, a deposit that would help fuel Pennsylvania's industrial revolution.

Ginter, so the story goes, took his discovery to Col. Jacob Weiss, a former quartermaster in the Continental Army, who was "alive to the subject" of coal mining. Weiss soon confirmed that the black rock was anthracite coal, and the race was on. Cheated out of his land, Ginter died as he had lived: a poor man.

The truth, as always, is more complicated and also more elusive. Pennsylvanians used anthracite coal as early as the 1750s, when an Indian brought some to a gunsmith in markerNazareth whose furnace ran out of wood. They used it to forge cannons and guns in both the French and Indian War and American Revolution.

The historical record contains several references to a Philip Ginter (under various spellings) but scholars disagree whether these items refer to just one individual. It appears that one Philip Ginter first arrived in Philadelphia in 1746 with a boatload of other German immigrants. He settled in Berks County, where Indians scalped his wife and captured three of his children during the French and Indian War. He then moved to the Mahoning Valley, started a new family, and acquired large tracts of land. His cabin was probably not so "rough," because Ginter, the hunter of legend, was actually a prominent local businessman and a miller, who served as a church trustee and road commissioner. Nor was Ginter ignorant about the potential value of anthracite. Documents in Col. Weiss's files suggest that Ginter had been looking for anthracite for years before he "stumbled" onto it in 1791. Indeed, seven years earlier, the Pennsylvania legislature had identified the shipment of coal to Philadelphia as one of the reasons the Schuylkill River needed to be made more navigable in its northern course.
Profile image of Weiss
Col. Jacob Weiss.

Appreciation of anthracite's value, however, was slow. In 1792, Col. Weiss, Charles Cist, and others formed the Lehigh Coal Mine Company. Although unprofitable for the company's founders, Charles Cist's son Jacob and his partners did their best to transport and market the abundant coal to Philadelphians, after they took control of the company's 10,000 coal acres. Public interest in coal took a step forward in 1808 after Judge markerJesse Fell of Wilkes-Barre substituted anthracite for wood in his home fireplace and found it cheaper and cleaner to burn. Serious marketing began after Josiah White and Erskine Hazard leased the Lehigh company lands in 1818 and formed the giant Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, which built the markercanal needed to carry the heavy and bulky fuel to market.

The great anthracite mining boom of the mid-1800s made some men very rich, and provided a good living for many managers and businessmen. For the poor folk who worked the mines, however, it more often offered subsistence wages and industrial accidents, hence the regional popularity of the hapless Philip Ginter, the folk hero who never realized the fruits of his discovery.

The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company lasted until 1965. At its peak in 1919, it employed 11,000 people and produced five million tons of coal. Reincorporated under its original name in 1989, the company today continues to mine coal in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania.
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