FDR had ties to coal mining in Mt. Savage


Cumberland Times-News Thursday, August 26,1999

Arie Wagner of Cumberland sent me a copy of a column that ran in the Cumberland Sunday Times on Nov. 26,1944. The title of the column was "Carl's Scrap-book". It was written by Frank Lee Carl, who was city editor at that time.

There were several subjects covered in the scrapbook on that particular Sunday, but I thought the most interesting was the first story. Carl's first paragraph interested me when I read, "It is generally known that the Delano-Roosevelt interests were at one time engaged in coal mining in the Maryland field at Mount Savage where the Delano Mining Company operated."

The story continues: "On Dec. 29,1870, the Union Mining Company conveyed for a consideration of $385,000 all the surface part of Walnut Level, 501 acres, which was part of the Wright farm. On July 17,1871, the Mount Savage Brick and Mining Company Consolidation Coal Company executed a deed to Franklin H. Delano and James Roosevelt where by the first and second parties agreed they will not sell, lease or convey any part of the land or appurtenances as set forth in a deed dated Feb. 28,1870, without the consent of the Union Mining Company." According to Carl's column, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Cumberland in 1920 when he was associated with James Cox of Ohio, who was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. He spoke to a crowd that had gathered at City Hall. At that time there was no evidence of the illness that would beset this vigorous young man who was 6 feet two inches tall.

Carl reported that Franklin D. Roosevelt would spend a portion of his summers at Mount Savage, which had many tennis devotees at that time and young Roosevelt was never at a loss for a match.

Back to the late 1800s: President Roosevelt's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano and his brother, Franklin H. Delano headed a land company that in the 1850s purchased several thousand acres, embracing the site of the town named Delano. The town that came as a sequel covered 255 acres.

Associated with the Delano brothers was Asa Packer, builder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and founder of Lehigh University. Packer had a small daughter who was then 3 years old. When she grew up she married and became the mother of President Roosevelt. She was the owner of the Hyde Park estate on the Hudson River.

The Delano brothers continued to prosper and they developed coalmines in the areas they had acquired. The Lehigh area mined anthracite. Things were quite free and easy with restrictions as to safety of mines, equipment and pay of miners practically all in the hands of the operators. While prices in the Civil War area were high, the' pay of miners, compared with prices in 1920 was extremely low.

Many fortunes were made from the black diamonds that were extracted from Pennsylvania. Operators started to acquire tidy piles of gold in exchange for coal. Other families became rich from the hard coal that was mined in the late 1800s such as Ario Pardee and the Markles of Hazelton, Schaeffers of Pottsville, Coninghams of Wilkes-Barre and Eckley Coxe.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad acquired virtually the entire town of Delano and established their immense railroad shops. The writer of the column declared that the percentage of FDR's income that flowed from ancestral wealth coined in the anthracite fields of Pennsylvania is not known.

While the coalfields of Allegany County never produced anthracite (hard) coal, never the less, mining the "soft coal" of this region helped make many riches.

A special thank you to Arlie Wagner for the newspaper clipping. We'll use more of the Frank Lee Carl column at a later date.