There lies in the most northeastern portion of Indiana County Pennsylvania a small valley in the Township of Canoe. In the 1900 census Canoe Township was totally a community of farmers with several artisans in their midst. There was evidently a schoolhouse because the census listed several teachers. A surprising find was that the township had as many farmers as it did. An exact number could be found in the Census Abstract if one was so inclined. A safe guess would be of the several hundred households listed as the head of the household the vast majority gave as their occupation “farmer”. Those working the farm such as sons or boarders were listed as day laborers. The total population for 1900 would lie somewhere between 1000 and 1500. This of course was for the entire Township of Canoe of which Rossiter later on would only be a small portion.


A short two years later a new village called Rossiter would rise along with a bedroom community called Smyerstown and many of the farms would no longer exist. The population in Rossiter for 1920 was near its peak at  approximately 3800 and about 600 for Smyerstown. In 1930 there were about 3500 souls living in Rossiter  and 450 living in Smyerstown. The boom was over and the surprising thing is that here seventy five years later the town is still there and remarkably even continues to boast a Post Office which tells you something about Pennsylvania politics.


This village named Rossiter and the small valley which appears in the background of the photo above is unique in that we know its date of origin which in terms of history is quite young. You might also say that its life-span parallels very closely with that of the Andrew & Frances Yusko family.


Over a hundred years ago in the latter part of the nineteenth century the entire area in western Pennsylvania was explored with test borings to locate and identify coal seams. This information was needed for the burgeoning railroad and steel industry that was about to explode and turn America from a quiet agrarian and grazing community to what would become in a relativity short period of time, the worlds greatest industrial empire. A time frame of merely thirty years give or take a few.


Andrew and his family had a rôle insignificant as it may have been, in this metamorphosis,  Andrew and Frances according to their response to a 1910 census, immigrated to America in 1896. Both settled in Perth Amboy  which at the time held promise of becoming the largest seaport on the east coast of America. Manhattan and Brooklyn not part of the U.S. mainland sans bridges and tunnels were islands and not viewed as ideal for large scale shipping as  has been evidenced these past forty years or more.


Frances upon arrival in America stayed with her older sister Mary Demko nee Marton who was married to Stephen Demko. Stephen worked for the New York Central Railroad (NYCRR) that had a large railroad yard terminus in the area. One of the men working on a “work gang” with Stephen according to family lore was our patriarch Andrew Yusko. The name Yusko appears on another occasion when mentioned in a letter Katherine Demko Gaydos’  had written to her niece the daughter of Peggy Demko Hospidor who was raised by her older sister Katherine*. According to the letter this second Yusko joined Stephen Demko to find Stephen’s  wife to-be Mary Marton at Castle Gardens located at the Battery in NYC where newly arrived immigrants at that period in time (1886) embarked. There is also a photo that will appear here at a later date that is believed to have been a wedding picture of  Mary Marton and Stephen Demko with the Yusko noted above also in the picture. There are many Yusko’s in the cemeteries of Perth Amboy. And a good many undoubtedly  came from Saris Okre ( Saris county) in Slovakia near where the city of Presov is located and includes within its county borders Saris Michalany and Narsany the home villages of Frances and Andrew. 

*This letter will appear at a later date.


When the railroads found an opportunity to expand their lines by reaching the newly developed coal fields of western Pennsylvania there was found a need for labor to build those tracks. But where to get that help was not all that easy. Already the coal industry was deeply involved in recruiting help from Eastern Europe to work in the mines and political groups were raising the issue that foreigners were taking jobs away from American citizens. Sounds familiar doesn't it? However in this instance there just wasn’t enough of manpower to satisfy the  needs of the growing giants of tomorrow and as a result tertiary   businesses were also effected. Originally it appears local entrepreneurs  in the hinterlands of western Pa. being small in number had no difficulty finding help but as the population grew found itself desperate for help and resorted to placing large ads in the newspapers for young teenagers to work in their places of business. The mines were also actively advertising for men and openly stating the wages paid for specific duties which suggests mines were seeking to lure workers from other mines.

All of this created some difficulty for the newcomers. When entering the country immigrants were asked about their intentions and one of the questions was, “do you have a job waiting for you?” if they answered in the affirmative they would be denied entry because of the issue raised about employing immigrants taking jobs from Americans. It is believed this issue was a red herring because there was move afoot at the end of the 19th century to limit immigration and the  resulting legislation around 1910  for the issuance of passports supports  the notion.



It is with this background and the concurrent additional track laying by NYCRR between Clearfield and Punxy, that it is believed Andrew was offered an opportunity to work on this track building expansion contemplated by NYCRR. It is also very likely a substantial raise in pay was in the offering because he was already an experienced track-man with some albeit small skills in english. However this of course had to create a dilemma for the young ambitious couple who married in 1897 at St. Stephen's Polish RC church in Perth Amboy. The couple had two children when the move appears to have presented itself and the enticement of better wages may have been just too much to resist. Mary their second child had just been born in December and working in the field where crews would be working was certainly no place for an infant. The apparent practical solution appears to have been for Frances to take the children John and Mary to Slovakia to stay with Andrew’s family and for Frances to later join Andrew in the field or nearby of what was going to be the new town of Rossiter. The town was named after the Edward Van Wyck Rossiter, Treasurer of the NYCRR and a close associate of the Vanderbilt family. E.V.W. Rossiter died Dec. 13, 1910 and services were held at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing New York.


While there is no documentation to determine when Andrew and Frances actually arrived in America there is fortunately the record of Frances’ return to these shores from Slovakia. Frances having left John age 5 and Mary age 3  with the Yusko family returned to America aboard the liner Finland of the Red Star line. The steamer docked in New York City harbor on June 15, 1903. The exact length of her stay in Slovakia before returning is not known but it would be unlikely for her visit to have been brief. In any event the dates involved coincide very closely with the planning and creation of what was to become a bustling coal mining town in a very short time. The fortune and future of Rossiter was destined in large extent to be determined by the event of WW I in 1914.


In April of 1904 Anna was born in what is believed to have been one of the small towns just outside of Punxsutawney. There is no documentation at present just where she was born but she believes she was baptized in one of those small churches in an area such as Anita or Walston. 

It was at about this time (Anna’s birth) it appears the NYCRR may had completed its plans with both the tracks having been laid and the town itself being built. All was in place to accommodate the increasing number of miners needed to work the mines and also produce the massive amounts of coke needed for the steel mills in and around the city of Pittsburgh.  So it was back to Perth Amboy for the family of three which was about to increase again shortly with the return of the two children John and Mary from Slovakia reportedly being brought over by one of the Mizerock girls. Also forthcoming was the anticipated birth of Li’l Katie who was born in Perth Amboy and baptized Nov. 18, 1905 at the newly created Slovak Holy Trinity RC Church. So we see that from the time Frances returned to America and the birth of Katie almost two and one half years had elapsed. Just exactly when John and Mary came back to rejoin their parents is not certain. Was it prior to Kate’s birth or after is uncertain and only further research may make that determination.


Exactly when Andrew and Frances decided to hook their wagon to the future of Rossiter is not certain but it must have been shortly after the birth of Katie because their fourth child Helen was born two years later in Rossiter where the family lived in one of the “Company” houses on Bigler Street just across the street from where St. Francis the Slovak RC Church was destined to be built. Living in one of those houses meant that Andrew was working in the Rossiter Mine. Later he also worked in the St. Frances mine which was located in Smyerstown a stones throw from Rossiter. Also it is interesting to know that in those times anyone owning a piece of land with mineral rights could go into business for themselves by just start digging into a side of a hill. That is how close to the surface (at the base of the slopes) coal could be found. 


A second mine called St. Francis Mine and located in Smyerstown ran directly under the property that Andrew and Frances had purchased (sans mineral rights) in a number of transactions over a period of several years. How much coal has been extracted is not known but whatever remains  there are, probably does not amount to much because what does remain would be limited to that near surface structures   i. e. the farmhouse and barn

 

Welcome to the Yusko Farm in Smyerstown Pennsylvania

Smyerstown the bedroom suburb of Rossiter

Musser Xmas tree farm

Yusko farmhouse concealed.

Smyerstown

Rossiter

Bony Pile

To Juneau

Another New Mining Town

It is stated on good authority that Reed and Bigler who have recently purchased the coal fields on Canoe Creek will build one hundred houses in the early spring on the William Smith farm in Canoe Township

Article appearing in the Indiana Gazette on February 28, 1900

New Town Progressing


Many House Going Up at Canoe Creek’s Coming Metropolis

A remarkable amount of work has been done at the new mining town on Canoe Creek. Thirty five good double house are under construction, about twenty five under roof. About ninety additional houses are to be erected before winter and 175 next summer. A fine power station is in course of construction and the tipples and tracks for the three openings are about completed. The railroad is built almost up to the mine and it is expected that coal will be shipped over it with the next ten days

Article appearing in the Indiana gazette on August 1, 1900.

The red star in the foreground indicates the lie of the coal seam of the Francis Mines  The star in the upper portion indicates where the Rossiter mine was located.


The red arrow indicates where Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack had their home not seen being hidden by trees. Across the street were buildings that may or may have not been part of their farm but believed to have been there a good number of years.


The coal seams averaged about three feet, not very thick but the bituminous coal was of excellent quality.

Where did Rossiter gets its name?


For those of us old enough to remember back into the 1930’s we knew how the town got its name. It was simple because along the road going through Smyerstown and Rossiter was placed a historical marker stating the towns namesake, Treasurer of the New York Central Railroad (NYCRR).   In fact there was also if I am not mistaken a marker identifying the town of Smyerstown and possibly even the  identity of the gentleman.


The former Edward V. W. Rossiter was a gentleman of some prominence being a  long time associate of the Vanderbilts and serving in many capacities for Mr. Vanderbilt, the railroad being only one of them.

Obviously he had some hand in the creation of the town and yet it is reported that he never once visited the town named after him. For those who lived in New York City, they might be amused to know that Mr. Rossiter resided in the immediate vicinity of Main Street, Flushing when of course it was in all likelihood  a very quaint village with its Victorian homes and cobbled streets and the quintessential suburban home of upper middle income families.


The latter gentleman was simply identified as one of the early settlers Benjamin Smyers. The town was the bedroom community of Rossiter and started in 1901. Its population in 1919 was

given as 1000 as mentioned in Frank J. Basile’s book Rossiter, Pennsylvania ; Her People Past and Present.

The book’s author who grew up in Rossiter during its halcyon days has provided an excellent description of what a small coal mine  town of the time which were scattered throughout Pennsylvania was like. It is recommended reading for anyone whose roots go back to Pennsylvania.

Dalesky farmhouse behind trees.

Federal Census 2000


Rossiter as reported in the 2000 Federal census:


Total area of Rossiter is 1.9 mi.2

Population 790 people, 249 households and 169 families.

There are 282 housing units.

Racial makeup is 100% White and 0.25% Hispanic.

Median age was 44 years.

Median income for for household $25,577.

Median income for family $31,167.

Of 249 households 31.7% have children under 18 yrs.

For every 100 hundred females there were 99.5 males

16.5% of families below poverty level.

What is “Coke” ?

Elsewhere in these pages mention is made of the huge numbers of coke ovens that were employed in the Punxsutawney area which is in Jefferson County and only 3 miles from Rossiter.


Into these airless ovens the coal was heated to as much as 2000° C to extract moisture, coal tar and other inflammable products. Then used in the smelting of iron to produce steel. The use of coke was to reduce the amount of sulphur in the steel produced which made a superior product. Coke was also used in the generation of electricity because of better efficiency and a minimum of smoke.


According to a recent article read it appears that coke ovens at the turn of the century were being prohibited in such locations as Punxy. If so, then by the time the Dragos and Yusko families moved to Rossiter the ovens may have ceased being used.


The use of coke ovens in the making of coke in the production of steel is most interesting and one is encouraged to visit google for a complete understanding. Simply type in coke ovens.




Edited
Nov. 2011

Map Explanation;

Red Stars: Indicate locations of Dalesky Farm, Yusko Farm in Smyerstown. Dragos & Guzaks in Juneau. Dragos & Yusko in Rossiter.

Blue Stars: Indicate the three mines in the area. Francis Mine in Smyerstown, Rossiter in Rossiter, Juneau in Juneau.

Yellow Star: Indicates location of St. Francis Church.

Black Star: Indicates Buffalo & Susquehanna RR.

NOTE: Identifications are given in the sequence they appear as one scrolls down the page.

            Not shown are the original NYCRR tracks (holding company) running from the Rossiter Mine alongside Canoe Creek and the main street  which ran thru Rossiter and the hooking up with tracks from the Francis Mine  then tying up with the Buffalo & Susquehanna at the wye.

To Punxy

To County Seat Indiana & Pittsburgh

Buffalo and Susquehanna RR

Federal Census 1920


As reported in the 1920 Federal census living on the farm in Smyerstown.


Before giving all the particulars of Rossiter we shall note here  just what members of the family were living in Rossiter and where others lived.

Living at home in Rossiter aka Smyerstown were:

Andrew         47

Frances        41

John            21

Mary                20

Anna                15

Helen            12

Andrew        10

Frances        8

Joseph        5

George        3 yrs 9/12

Vincent        11/12

Federal Census  1910


As reported in the 1910 census living Bigler St. in Rossiter.


Andy Yuska            35

Frances Yuska        31

John                         12

Mary                          10

Anna                        5

Katie                        4

Helen                        2

Andy                        5/12

Emery Martin            19

Andy Sperka            22

Federal Census 1930


As reported in the 1930 Census living on the farm in Smyerstown.


Andrew Yusko            57

Frances                        51

Joe                                 15

George                        13

Vincent                          11

Eddy                                10

Henry                                8


By this time a number of children have left the nest with Mary, Anna and Helen already married and the youngest daughter Frances about to be married in New York where she was probably boarding with her sister Helen. John and Andrew were at this time living in Detroit boarding with their sister Anna. Prior to his presence in Detroit Andrew lived in New York City again probably with Helen and her husband John.

Frances Mines

Juneau Mines

Rossiter Mines

Yusko Farm

Dalesky Home

Dragos/Guzaks < 1920

Yusko <1912

Dragos >1920

Homes

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