Memories buried in the cauldron of time
Last coke fires long extinguished
What was once the source of steel making
left to turn to rubble.
Hollow shells of coke ovens
buried in the hillsides
Specters of the past // once alive
Now // just ghosts…
with eyes that have no fire.
Swallowed up by nature’s blanket
overgrown and hidden
for the last seventy years.
Once beehives of life and work
Now, just crumbling brick walls
stained with memories of the past;
with names of countless men
who’s sweat and toil
were the first
to make America Great!
Coke Ovens burning at night. – Ed West Photo
In September of 2010, two of my brothers and I went back to our hometown of Masontown, Pennsylvania where we grew up. We spent four days driving around, visiting friends, and reliving memories of our childhood. It was a wonderful time. One of the things we wanted to do was find some old Coke Ovens that were buried in the hills nearby. When I was a child, they burned day and night lighting up the hillsides like jack-o-lanterns. The smoke poured into the air and was blown away by the wind. The gasses were burned off the coal then it was watered down and only the coke that remained. There was not EPA to worry over the environment back then. The coke was loaded into cars and hauled to Pittsburgh to fuel the steel mills.
With the help of a friend, we found some coke ovens down along the river at the little mining town patch of Mount Sterling. Most of the houses were gone and it was greatly overgrown with vegetation. We hiked through the weeds and underbrush and found the abandoned ovens crumbling but many still in tact. We made and shared great memories on that trip back in time.
Backbreaking work day after day at the coke ovens. – historical archives
Photos; Dwight L. Roth