Pickering exploring Wyoming County, Pa. for coal resources


Date Written

April 23, 1788

Timothy Pickering was 42 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Tench Coxe, was 32 when it was received.

Timothy Pickering died 40 years, 9 months, 6 days after writing this.
It was written 235 years, 7 months, 15 days ago.
It was a Wednesday.

Wilkes boro, April 23, 1788

Dear Sir,

I rec’d your favour by Capt. Schott. With respect of coal mines, I can give you very little information. That found in many places in this neighborhood is of a peculiar kind. It emits no smoke & the flame is bluish; & when burning the smell of sulphur is perceptible, tho’ the smiths who constantly use it, are insensible of it. It requires a constant blowing to keep it burning, but with the blast of a common smith’s bellows it quickly raises a heat (it seems to me almost in half the time that charcoal does) so that smiths not accustomed to it are apt to let their iron get burnt, & make great waste of it.

Some of the mines here give coal of a much better quality than others. Some parcels are too slaty. The best sort requires a hand stroke of a hammer to break it, & when broken, the surfaces of all the pieces are so glossy & hard, that you might rub a white stocking with them and not soil it. In the few places in which I have seen it, the lands adjoining are stony, & some bearing yellow pine, and others white oak. I have not heard that any kind of oar has yet been discovered in the vicinity of the coal mines.----As Shawanee [sic], on the other side of the river (where also there is coal). I have been told allum is to be found. There are some rocks there which are called the allium rocks: but I have not yet seen them: nor do I know how allum is obtained in Europe. I am indeed utterly unacquainted with the nature of oars & minerals in general; yet a knowledge of them would be useful, particularly in this country, where the hills and mountains probably contain valuable substances besides coal. If you can recommend to me a book (not voluminous) on the subject, I shall be greatly obliged. Between this & autumn I may find opportunities of exploring the country adjacent; & if I obtain any information which can be useful to you, I will communicate it.

I am pleased to find the affair of the roads in so prosperous a way. Dr. Sprague is returned & says he had the offer of employment as a surveyor but tho’ he has some knowledge of the subject, he is not adequate to the duty. He is acquainted with the woods, and to explore a route might be useful.

I have just been told that Franklin (in the new goal) has written his friend Jenkins here, that he soon expects to have the liberty of the yard: lent on what principle this indulgence is to be granted him I know not. If it is wished by any persons to have this county again thrown into confusion, they do well to put him in the way of making his escape: If any plausible tales & professions of his have excited a more favourable opinion of him—I am sorry for their credulity: with singular justness may be applied to him a general declaration, that “his heart deceitful above all things, & desperately wicked.” You feel interested in the quiet of this country, & I would gladly use your endeavors to secure it & consequently will make some use of these hints.

I remain dear Sir, with great respect & esteem your most obed. serv’t,
T. Pickering

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