John Umstead Charcoal Burner


"A unique scene fast disappearing from the American way of life about the turn of the century is presented by the Pottstown Advocate. 'A charcoal wagon drawn by six mules with Davy Schrock of Knauertown, as driver, on our streets the other day brought up memories of the charcoal industry and the burners of half a century ago. The team belonged to Davis Knauer, the big land owner around the Falls of French Creek, and it was laden with charcoal to be delivered to the local tinsmiths and plumbers of town. The body of the wagon is fashioned after the manner of the long-ago corncrib, narrow at the bottom and gradually expanding outward with numerous crevices in the woodwork. The entire makeup is black, like the stock with which it is loaded, and the driver is no exception, so far as his face and hands are concerned.

"'Charcoal burning has become an almost lost trade, very few of the younger engeration knowing anything about the method of burning, though there are still some veterans who have burned many a bushel.

"'Among the charcoal burners of fity years ago in north-western Chester county were ... John Umstead ... '"


From STORIES OF THE FALLS OF FRENCH CREEK by W. Edmuncs Claussen, 1974. A footnote states that the article appeared in the Pottstown Advocate April 27, 1901. The time frame for John Umstead's having been a charcoal burner would have been 1850 and earlier. There are several John Umstead to whom this might refer.

Submitted by Barbara Wentz


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last updated 9 February 2008