Original Document
Original Document
Jesse Fell, On the Discovery of the Use of Coal for Domestic Purposes, 1808

The late Judge Jesse Fell of Wilkesbarre [sic] appears to have been the first of whom we have any authentic record who used this coal successfully in the common grate for domestic purposes.

"He believed that our coal could be burned in grates. He judged correctly, that the natural draft occasioned by a fire would be sufficient if the coal were only placed in a proper position. It is rational to believe that these were his views; for his experiment, known to his descendants now in town, as made with a wooden grate, very much in the form of those now in use. It is amusing now to think of burning coal in a wooden grate; but his logic and economy were based on sound principles. He reflected, no doubt, that if he could make his fire burn so freely as to destroy his wooden grate he could then well afford to make one of iron, and could do so without fear of loss or disappointment.

"We know not the result of this first experiment, or any of the particulars; but the inference is reasonable that he succeeded, for his next experiment was more public. One of his daughters, the wife of Col. J.J. Dennis, lately deceased, told me that she well remembered the circumstances attending it. The judge was a practical man, and something of a mechanic. She recollected his going into the blacksmith-shop of his nephew, Edward Fell, and of his working with him most of the day fashioning an iron grate.

"Late in the afternoon he brought it home, and set it up with brick, in the fireplace of the bar-room. By evening he had kindled in it, with oak wood, one of the best coal fires. The interest this excited, and the many visits of curious neighbors, anxious to see a stone-coal fire, were also well remembered by Mrs. Dennis. I was an intimate of her house when these facts first came to my knowledge. I had taken down from their library a book entitled 'The Free-Mason's Monitor,' and found upon one of its flyleaves, in the clear, bold handwriting of Judge Fell, which I had learned to know from the records of our county, –the following memoranda:–

"Feb. 11. of Masonry 5808– Made the experiment of burning the common stone-coal of the valley, in a grate, in a common fireplace in my house, and find it will answer the purposes of fuel, making a clearer and better fire, at less expense, than burning wood in the common way."

Borough of Wilkesbarre,
February 11, 1808

(Signed,) Jesse Fell.

Credit: Samuel Harries Daddow and Benjamin Bannan, Coal, Iron, and Oil: or, the Practical American Miner, (Pottsville, PA: Benjamin Bannan, 1866),110.
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