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Shaner, Pennsylvania

About 26 miles southeast of Pittsburgh is the town of Shaner.

Pennsylvania's Westmoreland County was formed by an Act of Assembly, approved by Governor Richard Penn, on 26 February 1773. Sewickley Township was created in 1835 and named after Sewickley Creek which flows from the township’s southwestern boundary.

The town (village) was named for a Shaner family who lived in a log house where the road crosses the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks. The Shaner family lived there before the coming of the Pittsburgh-Connellsville Railroad, which was later purchased by the B & O.

Jonathan M. "John" Shaner, born about 1798 in Maryland, son of Daniel Schoener and Hester (née Ruffcorn). He was living in Westmoreland County when he married Mary "Polly" Goodlin (or Goodwin) on 21 January 1824. It is believed that he moved with his family, arriving in the area "when a mere boy." I believe he may be the one who lived in the area or one of his immediate family, such as relatives of his uncle, Christopher Schoener or his cousin Frederick "Fred" Shaner who also lived in Westmoreland County at this time.

John and Mary had seven children, 3 daughters and four sons. By 1850, John had established himself and his family and was working as a carpenter. Eventually John down the Youghiogheny River to Suterville, where his son Daniel lived, possibly to escape the booming mining business. He died there on 6 September 1882.

Although the village was called Shaner or Shaner Station, the post office was first called Youghiogheny and then finally Yohoghany. The Yohoghany Post Office, located in the Stewart Store at the Village of Shaner, was closed in 1934 and the vicinity is now served by R.F.D. from the Irwin Post Office. Once R.F.D. delivery was handled out of the Yohoghany Post Office.

The Youghiogheny Coal Hollow Coal Company (Y.C.H.C. Co.) had many coal banks along the Shaner Valley and appeared on a map of the area in 1867. Thomas Moore, who owned the distillery, once had mines in the Shaner vicinity. Once there was feverish activities here due to the coal boom. In 1867, Shaner was described as consisting of many dwelling and appeared to be the largest community in the township. It had a train depot, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a meat market and several dry goods stores.

The coal in the Sewickley Township district made excellent coke. Along the railroad in the Shaner-Guffey region about 200 coke ovens were built in the late 1880's.

In 1870, Shaner had a population of 300 people. In the early 1870's Shaner had two saloons.

The two saloons at Shaner were operated by Jimmy Skillen and David Keener. The saloons split the miners into factions, and one group would sit and drink in one saloon, and wait for the other to start trouble. When both groups began looking for trouble there always was some fun. One of the worst fights in Shaner occurred in 1872, the year General Ulysses S. Grant went into office. It was over politics. The Democrats had always been against the war of the Rebellion and the returning veterans who returned from fighting in the South were for the Republican party 100 percent. The Democrats were calling Lincoln and Grant all sorts of names. It was too much for the Republicans and especially the war veterans. The Republicans drove the Democrats out of town. And when they drove them out, the Democrats stayed out."

When William C. Gallagher, the distiller, left the town of Guffey, he came to Shaner and had an undertaking establishment until 1884.

Shaner had always been plagued with floods. On 26 July 1879 swept two homes and the school house into the river, along with crops, fences, telegraph lines and railroad tracks. The school house was carried down over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks and into the Youghiogheny River. It smashed into bits in the grinding debris of the swollen river.

Then twenty years later, in the summer of 1889, another cloudburst came down the valley and carried the school house away again. This time the remnants of the school were bought and used to build the Hotel Shaner.

Today Shaner rests quietly, hemmed in on three sides by the towering bluffs of the Youghiogheny River and bound on the other by the river. In the 1890's there were about 36 homes in Shaner; today it has about five. It is almost hidden in the steep valley and remains almost forgotten, another "ghost" town of the once prosperous coal mining days.


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