239 – Tuscarora 1850

Bridget Large and her seven children arrived in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in 1844. They settled in the town of Tuscarora.

Tuscarora – c 1900

Tuscarora origins

Tuscarora was a native American tribe forced to move from its land in the Carolinas in the early 1700s. One group of Tuscarora people settled where the town of Tuscarora is now located.

The neighboring town of Tamaqua was named for a chief of the Tuscarora – Chief Tahkamochk, or Tam-a-kwah.

Tuscarora and surroundings were part of the huge tracts of lands acquired by William Penn. In 1749, Penn executed a treaty with the Six Nations and other native American tribes, who received 500 pounds of “lawful money of Pennsylvania.”

German immigrants settled in the area in the 1750s.


By 1800, anthracite coal had been discovered in several places in the county.

For a number of years the quantity mined, consumed and marketed was very inconsiderable; first sales being made to blacksmiths, and some was taken over the Blue mountains in sacks and sold at seven to twelve cents per bushel.

Tamaqua, Pennsylvania – Wikipedia

Schuylkill County was formed in 1811. Tuscarora and Tamaqua were small settlements in Schuylkill Township, one of the earliest townships in the county.

Tuscarora – 1830

The 20s and 30s

In the 1820s and 1830s the demand for coal increased. As more mines opened and canals and railroads were built, the demand for workers skyrocketed.

Jobs were available everywhere. Mine startups were numerous, and the operators were hungry for workers. Scores of Irish immigrants were coming to Schuylkill and surrounding counties to take those jobs.

The nation’s first railroads were being built in Schuylkill County to transport coal to the canals and rivers.

Yet, other research indicates that there were possibly two steam engines used earlier, with very limited success at first – the engines known as the Tamaqua and Tuscarora.

Built in England, the Tamaqua and Tuscarora were accompanied by two English engineers, George Mann and a Mr. Merrick.

Iron Steps – Illustrated History of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania – Donald R. Serfass


Bridget Large and her family arrived in Tuscarora in 1844.

In 1846, Tuscarora was the terminus of the Schuylkill Valley Railroad. There were seventeen houses, two taverns, one store, and a population of 139.

History of Schuylkill County, PA – W.W. Munsel – 1881

Bridget’s four sons were of working age. They went to work in the mines around Tuscarora.

  • William 21
  • John 19
  • Thomas 18
  • Richard 17


By 1850, coal was king. There were 110 coal mine operators and 142 collieries in Schuylkill County. The county provided over 50% of all anthracite coal in the U.S.

As railroads began to be built on a large scale, and the iron and steel industries flourished, demand for anthracite coal grew even more.

Tuscarora had several mine operations.

Bridget Large’s family

The 1850 Census provides lots of info about Bridget Large and her family.

Bridget Large and family – 1850 US Census

Bridget Large was head of household, age 55.  Ellen was age 15. Twins Catherine and Margaret were 18.

John, 25, Thomas, 23, and Richard Large, 20, worked as miners.  Eldest son William wasn’t living in Bridget’s household. He had married Ellen Brennan and they lived in a separate household.

Large brothers are miners

We are lucky to have some mine work records for the Large brothers. One of Thomas Large’s descendants, now deceased, compiled these records and gave a copy to Deb Large Fox. Unfortunately, we don’t know which mine the records are from.

I assume these aren’t original source documents, but rather a spreadsheet compilation done by Deb’s relative.  The records are for 1850 to 1852. Here’s an excerpt:

This shows that the brothers worked together at the same mine.

William is most often listed as a laborer. He’s paid $0.92 per day.

Thomas, Richard, and John are most often listed as miners. When they’re paid by the day, the pay ranges from $1.00 to $1.15 per day. When they’re paid by “waggons,” the rate is $0.42 per wagon in early 1851 and up to $0.50 per wagon in 1852. A wagon must be a mine cart.

All the boys are charged rent, typically $2.00 to $5.50. The rent is applied unevenly, most often to William Large as laborer. I don’t think this is for housing, but perhaps for tools or something needed for work. But I don’t know.

The miners are charged for blasting powder, sometimes listed as keg.

Bridget’s children

In the 50s, Bridget’s children were getting married and setting up their own households.

Thomas and Catherine Large

Thomas Large was the youngest of the four brothers. He married Catherine Coleman, who was from another family of early settlers in Schuylkill Township.

Among the pioneer families there are two that have many descendants living in Schuylkill Township. The Coleman and the Large families. Thomas Large and the Coleman family built, first a log cabin, then a house of native stone upon a site along the road leading to Lewistown. Traces of this stone house and of the well may still be seen.

Mr. Large died early in life from effects of an injury received in the mines. He was the Township Supervisor for several terms. (Thomas Large died in 1875.)

Later when coal operations ceased many families deserted the Sharp Mountain settlement. Mrs. Large was the last one to leave and moved to Dutch Hill in Tuscarora, where she lived until her death eighteen years ago. (Catherine Coleman Large died in 1917.)

History of Pottsville and Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, Vol. 3 – Joseph H. Zerbey – 1936
Thomas Large native stone house on the road to Lewistown – Tuscarora – 1875

Thomas and Catherine Large had eleven children. That’s 11.


William Large married Ellen Brennan. The Brennans were some of the original Irish landowners around Castlecomer until the British took over the land and deeded it to the Wandesfordes. We’ll meet William in a future story.


Richard Large married Theresa Bowe. The Bowe family was also from Castlecomer. We’ll meet Richard and Theresa in a future story.

John and Anna Large

John and Anna Large lived and worked in Tuscarora.


We’ve seen that Margaret Large married Patrick Kelly. They were Patrick Gallagher and Ellen Large’s wedding witnesses. The Kellys would soon move with Patrick and Ellen Gallagher to another mining town. We’ll follow them to Eckley in a future story.


Catherine Large was Margaret’s twin, and Ellen’s older sister. She married Martin Burst. By 1870 they had moved to Plymouth Township in Luzerne County, where Martin was a mine laborer.


2 thoughts on “239 – Tuscarora 1850

  1. deborahlargefox0764 September 21, 2022 / 4:47 pm

    You are a true seanchaí, Mark. You’ve turned a bunch of old records into a remarkable family story. Thanks once again.


    • Mark Jarvis September 21, 2022 / 5:04 pm

      I think about you when I put these stories together, because you contributed so much. Our debates and swapped information really created the stories.

      I’ve never in my life seen or heard the word seanchaí. Thank you for the honorific.


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