The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

Corning Drew Life from the Mines and Railroads

Posted by JRW on February 8, 2011

Corning Drew Life from the Mines and the Railroads

 Written by Roy Cross
from the Athens Messenger, Sunday June 27, 1976

Corning had a violent youth before it grew to adulthood as one of Perry County’s more prosperous towns in the first quarter of the century.A child of the mating of coal mining and the railroad, the village was only two years old when it had a “war” and four years old when a flood almost ended its life.

But from the ashes of the hatred of a mine strike and the destruction of a flood, the town grew into a busy community. Today, Corning is heading toward its centennial. It is a quiet town, smaller than it was in its heyday, but with plenty of civic pride remaining. It ‘s a pleasant place to live and has neat homes, some of them reminders of the days when Corning was a thriving coal and railroad center. The town will observe its centennial in 1978.

Corning sits in the center of hilly Monroe Twp. in the southeast corner of Perry County. The township was organized in 1823 and was named for President James Monroe. A.A. Graham in his Perry County history on file in the Corning Library, tells of the early settlers who were attracted to the East and West Branches of Sunday Creek.

They came for the coal, fire clay, sandstone, potter’s clay, timber, and oil.

It wasn’t until 1878, however, that Joseph Rodgers laid out the town of Corning on the East Branch of Sunday Creek. Rodgers saw the need for a town for the workers who were lured by jobs in the mines which pockmarked the valleys.

Corning was a part of the “black diamond crescent” of mining villages in southern Perry County. The towns of New Straitsville, Shawnee, Buckingham, Congo, Hemlock, Corning, and Rendville sprung up around the mines that flourished in the post-Civil War days.

With the mines, came the railroad to carry out the coal to waiting markets.

The new mining camp had just 270 residents in 1880 when the “Corning War” was fought. Graham tells of the brewing discontent among the miners over the “sliding scale.” That meant the miners were paid according to the price of coal. When the price went up, so did wages. And when the price went down, the wages did too.

The men wanted a set wage and they refused to work under the sliding pay rule.But there was coal to be mined and plenty of markets waiting. So the mining companies hired Negro workers. Nearby Rendville was primarily a Negro community and the men needed work, so they took the jobs in the struck mines.

When violence flared, the companies provided armed guards. Trouble continued and soon Corning was filled with what Graham in an understatement termed “dissatisfied miners.” They came from surrounding towns to join their Corning friends.

A call went out for help and the Ohio National Guard was ordered to protect the mine property and the workers. The first unit in was the “Ewing Guards,” the New Lexington contingent. This was distasteful duty for the New Lexington men, many of them Civil War veterans. They had friends and relatives among the striking miners.

The Ewing Guards took up positions at No. 3 shaft near Rendville, to the north of town. There were also company guards, and many of the miners carried guns. The stage was set for a shootout.

The strikers- about 400 of them – split into two groups and moved on the mine from the front and rear. A National Guard officer drew a line and told the miners they should not cross. From somewhere a shot was fired. Just who fired it was argued for years, but it touched off a volley. History show the miners fled under the superior and disciplined fire of the guardsmen. At least 20 men were wounded, three seriously. There were rumors of a man being killed and secretly buried, but when a few days passed and all hands were accounted for, the rumor was disproved.

The skirmish took the fight out of the strikers and the “Corning War” ended with one engagement. A few days later The New Lexington unit was replaced by fresh troops from Columbus and the striking men looked at even more guns. A short time later the companies dropped the sliding scale plan.

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