THE WAPWALLOPEN MILLS 1859-1865

by LYNN BRUBAKER - 1961

Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 974.832/B886

{Wapwallopen is located in Nescopeck Twp, Luzerne Co. 20 miles south of Wilke Barre and 11 miles northwest of Hazleton.},

 

When the anthracite mines first began to use black powder for blasting, DuPont wanted to open a mill closer to the area of operations. DuPont had agents at Mauch Chunk, W.W. Leisenring, R.D. Lacor at Pittston.and William Breck at Scranton. When the Parrish Silver and Company (PS&C) on the Wapwallopen Creek failed, DuPont bought the delapidated mill; Breck was the lead negotiator for DuPont.

An 1859 newspaper article announced:

"Wapwallopen Powder Mill. The extensive powder works erected some time since by Parrish, Silver and Company (PS&C), at the falls of Wapwallopen...have been totally purchased for $35,000 by the Messers DuPont, far famed powder manufactuer of Delaware...." The reason stated was that the flood of 1858 had finally ruined PS&C, beause it had not been in good financial health and had probably not recovered from an explosion earlier in the decade. At the end of Novermber 1858, William Breck, agent for DuPont at Scranton was advised discreetly that PS&C was ready to sell. The sale was completed in April 1859; it included the entire mill except for the mansion house and barn and the land those buildings were on. (Drake, representing PS&C creditors, purchased these later in June for $10,000) .

The first manager, Charles A. Belin, found that the mill needed to be wholly rebuilt. Machinery need to be shipped from Philadelphia and Wilmington by canal. By September 1859, the mills were running, producing close to 100 kegs per day. Laborers at the time were paid $1 per day. The mills’ operating accounts were held by Wyoming Bank. An account of the mills cited in DuPont: One Hundred and Forty Years by Wm. Dutton claims: "Rebuilt under Lammot’s (DuPont) direction, the new mill was soon turning out 36,000 kegs of soda powder yearly, a production that was to double and then to double again." Actual records indicate production of: 1859, 12,773 kegs, 20,773 kegs in 1860, and 27,389 in 1861.

History records that the mills were bought to supply soda powder to the anthracite coal fields in PA. Soda powder has the same ingredients used in the traditional black powder except sodium nitrate, or Chilean salt peter, is used instead of potassium nitrate, or Indian saltpeter. The supply of sodium nitrate came from Chile rather than India and shipments were more reliable and one-third cheaper. Lammot DuPont patented a method of making soda powder in 1857 which, according to reports, ‘swept the coal and iron fields over night’. According to the actual records, however, no appreciable amount of sodium nitrate was sent to the mills or refined before 1963. The production using sodium nitrate became increasingly necessary economically because of competition from other local mills which used it including: Black Powder Manufacturing, at Rayner; H.A. Weldy Co., Moosic Powder at Jermyn.

Belin did not approve of the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad and so most hauling was done by wagon or canal.

Additional Sources:

Wm Breck to E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Old Stone Office Records, Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation Library

Dupont: One Hundred Forty Years. Charles Scribner & Sons, NYC. 1949

This Article was donated by Jacqueline M. Wolfe.

©1997-2018 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors

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