Eckley Miners’ Village: A Coal Mining Community Frozen In Time
Writer| Laurisa Gruver
A group of miners shuffles across the dusty pathways in the dark and bitter cold mist of the morning. They pass houses where wives are busying themselves, building fires, preparing meals, and cleaning. The children are waking up for school or heading to the breaker, where they clean and size coal.
This was a daily scene across the region back in the 1800s, and when visitors enter the Eckley Miners Museum, located in Hazleton, they get to take a peek into what life was like in a mining patch town.
According to the museum’s website, a patch town was an industrial community designed by a mining company
“to house their employees in close proximity to the collieries, or mining operations, for which they worked.”
Eckley’s patch town is the remnant of years of unique history. The museum was established after “The Molly Maguires” movie was filmed on the property, and the movie crew restored the village to its original state. When the filming ended, the village was conserved as a historical reflection of the mining communities who persevered there.
“The thing about Eckley is it’s unique and not unique,” said Dr. Bode Morin, the museum’s administrator. “It’s unique because it’s saved and preserved, and we’re the only place like this in the country—and maybe the world, too—that has kept a company town mostly intact.”
The attraction is made up of both a museum and the preserved village itself. Inside the museum, many artifacts are on display, including basic household necessities and mining tools. Visitors can watch an informative documentary and be taken day by day through a typical week in a mining family’s life.
After exploring the museum, visitors can head outside into the actual village. Miners’ houses, churches, a doctor's office, and barns line the dirt road. Guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Several events are held at the village as well, including the Eckley Christmas Experience and the Haunted Halloween Lantern Tours.
As Morin said, the town is incredibly unique but is commonplace at the same time.
“[The village] tells a story that was played out all over the country,” Morin said. “The immigrant patterns that we saw in Pennsylvania are the same in New York and Detroit and Philadelphia. They’re the same patterns that we saw all over the country.”
These ties are often what draw people to Eckley.
“People have a connection to Eckley, and they have a connection to their family history,” Morin said. “Saving and preserving a place like this lets them sort of understand who they are and where they came from… It gives them a sense of identity and helps them understand who they are.”
Those looking for a richly historical experience can visit the Eckley museum and walk in the footsteps of their forefathers.