Closson Press

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The Great Chance - James B. Neale & Anthracite’s Forgotten Experiment

The Great Chance - James B. Neale & Anthracite’s Forgotten Experiment Author: Rev. Father Elijah J. Bremer

The Great Chance is a unique manuscript. It tells the story of James Brown Neale, a coal baron, and his model village of Buck Run. Neale and Buck Run were well known in national and industrial circles in the early years of the twentieth century, but are today unknown by historians.

Combining elements of benevolent paternalism with the boom in anthracite, Neale used his influence to touch the lives of an otherwise insignificant corner of the world. As part of his vision, miners and their families were well housed, had access to basic health-care, workers-compensation, religious institutions, a recreation facility, and ball fields. Priorities for the community included sanitation and education.

Neale believed in “rocks,” or immutable, first-principles, upon which his ideal society was based. He tried to impart his values to the miners, lifting the sooty reputation of the anthracite industry, and making the business of mine operation a little more humane. For his hard work, and knowledge of the industry, he was awarded a wartime post in the National Fuel Administration, increasing production and bolstering morale.

Neale’s endeavors made him a millionaire. His philanthropy made him an icon. Buck Run was studied by industrialists far and wide, including by the pre-revolutionary, Tsarist Russian Government. While the Pullman company town was deteriorating, and Concrete City lay abandoned after less than ten years, it seemed that Buck Run was poised to continue indefinitely. This model village thrived, and could, seemingly, change the way of life of anthracite miners.

In the end, however, Neale was not large enough, and the coal veins under Buck Run did not run deeply enough to perpetuate the experiment. With his death and the subsequent exhaustion of the coal, Buck Run faded from the public consciousness. A shadow of its former glory, only a few buildings remain. Those who knew Neale are now in old age, and their childhood memories are of a gentle giant in his declining years. Only The Great Chance exists to tell the story of “Jim” and his Buck Run. Index.

2011, 6 x 9, Softbound, 138 pages
ISBN 9781558565418

Price: $15.95

SKU: CP-621

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