Account Book of the Danville & Pottsville Railroad, Mount Carbon, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, 1835-1838, with the later accounts of carpenter Jon. T. Willis, of Fairhill, Cecil County, Maryland 1862-1898

folio, 170 manuscript pages, bound in full calf, lacks spine and pieces of calf on boards, binding very worn, and rubbed, entries written in ink, in a legible hand,

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The ledger is divided into two sections: the first contains 119 manuscript pages and is dated 14 August 1835 to 2 November 1838 and deals with the Danville & Pottsville Railroad in Pennsylvania. The second consists of 51 manuscript pages and is dated 14 May 1862 to 13 June 1898, and deals with Jon. T. Willis' carpentry business at Fairhill, Cecil County, Maryland.  How or why the ledger came to be used by two different companies is not clear.

   This ledger was kept by two different people for two different businesses. The first section (1835-1838) appears to have been recorded by Thomas P. Sharp, superintendent of the Danville & Pottsville Railroad in the 1830s. Sharp’s name appears a number of times in the ledger, being reimbursed, paid, or for people paying him, etc. The accounts show the receipt of payment from various companies and individuals for coal, lumber, hauling, etc.

    We are not clear who kept the second section, but it was likely recorded by Jon. T. Willis, whose name appears a number of times in the accounts. Willis lived and worked in the area of Cecil County that was once known locally as Fox Chase, which was just east of Fairhill and the Big Elk River, at the intersection of today's Telegraph & Appleton Roads. Checking the 1870 Census, we find that of the 23 accounts kept in this section of the ledger, at least 18 are found in District 4 of Cecil County, Maryland, whose post office was at Fairhill. From a map of District 4, published by Lake Griffing & Stevenson in 1877, we find Jon. T. Willis shown located on the main road (Telegraph Road, or Route 273) between Fairhill and the town then known as Fox Chase just east of the Big Elk River. A number of the names associated with the accounts are listed near Willis' location (L. Sentman, Geo. I. Smith, G. E. Wollaston, J.T. Steele, Jos. W. Brown, T. Peterson, J. Law, J.Z. Finley, J. Huggins, A. Alexander, A.R. Strahorn, etc.). This section contains a number of accounts that show Willis doing work for various people, mostly farmers. Besides his carpentry work (supplying planks, or boards, working on bridges, making a sled, etc), he also hired himself out as a day laborer to farmers, and others).

Danville & Pottsville Railroad

    The Danville & Pottsville Railroad was the first attempt made to enter the remarkably rich coal fields in the Mahanoy and Shamokin regions of Pennsylvania. The Danville & Pottsville line was originally chartered on April 8, 1826 as the Danville and Pottsville Railroad, making it the third oldest line in the United States. It was to run from the Ferry House opposite Danville, Pa. to the Schuylkill Canal at Pottsville, Pa. Before construction began, the terminus was changed from Danville to Sunbury.

    Construction began in July 1834 on the 20 mile section between Sunbury and Shamokin and was completed in the summer of 1835. The town of Shamokin was laid out by John C. Boyd in 1835 and enjoyed but little more than a nominal existence until 1838, when the western section of the Danville and Pottsville railroad was completed, terminal facilities at Shamokin were provided, a machine shop and foundry were placed in operation, and the erection of dwelling houses received a quickened impulse, so that the town had reached the proportions of a small village in 1839. The line was soon extended to Mt. Carmel, Pa. Entries for 1837 in this ledger show John C. Boyd and others paying a combined $2215.00 to Thomas Sharp for the “western section of railroad,” presumably to help bring the road into Shamokin.

    The transportation of Anthracite Coal was the principal business of this rail road. Coal was brought from the mines in two ton dump cars pulled by horses or mules. The road entered Sunbury through Raspberry Alley, out to the river front to wharves, where the coal was dumped into canal boats to be taken across the river to the canal and then to market. However, with the collapse of the Canal System, the line was never extended to Pottsville. A number of entries in this ledger show coal accounts.

    The railroads of the day were very different from what we usually think. The rails were wooden stringers topped with flat iron bars, and the motive power was horses and mules. The first passenger cars were the "Shamokin" and the "Mahonoy" and were each pulled by two horses. In 1837, 3 small steam engines, the "North Star", the "Mountaineer", and the "Pioneer", were purchased and put to work on the road. In 1839, the road went back to using 'Horse Power" because the weight of the steam engines proved to be too heavy for the track. In 1852 the line became the first rail line in the world to use iron T rails made by the nearby Danville Iron Company, and the line secured six more steam engines. It was over these tracks, that in 1861, the first troops from this area left for service in the Civil War. The Line went through several name changes before becoming the Shamokin Valley Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Passenger service on this line continued until 1938.

    Thomas P. Sharp (1790-1856) was the D&P RR's superintendent during the 1830s until he resigned in 1840 and may have been the one who kept this ledger, or perhaps someone working for him kept it. Thomas P. Sharp was the father of noted railroad man and Confederate, Thomas Robinson Sharp (1834-1909). After Thomas P. Sharp resigned from the P&D RR he took the position of Superintendent of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad, which he held from 1840 to 1853. He died in 1856.

    Thomas Robinson Sharp was born at Mount Carbon, Pa. February 22, 1834, when his father was Superintendent of the D&P RR.

     Thomas R. Sharp became a rather well known railroad man and Confederate. He was an assistant to the Superintendent of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad until 1854. He then was an assistant Superintendent of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. From 1855 to 1856, Thomas R. was an assistant to the Superintendent of the Petersburg Railroad, and from 1857 to 1859 was assistant Superintendent of one of the Alabama & Florida Railroads. From October 1859 to June 1860, he was Superintendent of the Richmond & York River Railroad (under construction when he joined it). During the Civil War, Thomas R. joined the Confederate Army and was a Captain in the Quartermaster branch. He held three very interesting positions during the war - Commander of the removal of the captured Baltimore & Ohio Railroad rolling stock, officer in charge of the Confederate States Army Locomotive Shop in Raleigh, and Superintendent of the Charlotte & South Carolina Railroad.