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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
John Lochrie


THE coal and iron mines in the vicinity of Glasgow have received added fame from the notable men who started there in their early teens, on meager pay, but through energy and perseverance have risen from this hard life to positions of trust, and to success and fortune throughout the world. No one can read the following life-story of one of these boys, who began work at the age of ten in these "black holes," without being inspired with his determination and indomitable desire to rise to a worthy position in life.

John Lochrie was born in the village of Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, Scotland, March 18, 1861, the son of Neil Lochrie and Janet Provan. The father was a miner, employed in the mines of the Carron Iron Co.; and John, like other miners’ sons of the neighbourhood, went to work in the mines before he was quite ten years old. His first work was as "trapper boy." This work consists of opening and shutting one of the ventilating doors, that send the air-current back to the miners working in their places. The door that John attended was a very important one, and every day the mine-foreman would caution him to keep the door shut every minute possible, as all the miners’ lives beyond were in great danger from gas-explosions should the door be left open for any length of time. Think of a boy of such tender years, left alone from morning till evening in a dark chamber, opening and shutting a door as boys or ponies with mine-cars passed through, with the responsibility of scores of men’s lives that would be lost in consequence of his neglect of duty. Two years he spent at this work, the training of which to him has been of great importance in all his after life. At twelve he began pushing cars from the miners to the bottom of the shaft. This was hard work on the boys; the gangways were so low that the skin was always rubbed off their backs, and the skin would often be off their feet from the sulphur mine-water through which they had to travel.

John ‘s father and his two uncles, John and James Provan, his mother ‘s two brothers, went from Scotland to the United States in 1862. One of the uncles, John Provan, enlisted immediately in the Northern Army and saw severe service until the end of the war, attaining the rank of Captain. John ‘s father also enlisted in the Northern Army toward the end of the war. John’s father returned to Scotland in 1866, when John was five years old, but his uncle John did not go back to Scotland until 1876. He had gone west after the war and returned rich, having acquired wealth in the gold-mines of California. It was the wonderful stories told by his father and his uncle of their adventures in the United States that fired John’s ambition to seek his fortune in America, and he left Scotland as soon as he was allowed to leave home by his parents.

John arrived in New York when he was eighteen years old, with only one shilling and sixpence in his pocket. He made his way into the mining district of Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, where he found employment in the coal mines and worked for three years. In these years, by hard work and thrift, he was able to send for and bring over his father and mother and his nine brothers and sisters. During all the winters, from the time he was twelve years old, he had attended night schools, and by reading and study laid the basis of a good education.

In 1882, Mr. Lochrie returned to Scotland to marry the "bonnie Scotch lassie" he had left behind, and remained in Scotland six months. While there, though but twenty-one years old, he secured an important contract from the Carron Iron Co., for driving a tunnel through the old workings of the first pit, where he had worked as "trapper boy." His work was so satisfactory that the company offered him the position of mine-boss; but he declined, preferring to return with his bride to Pennsylvania, where he had located his family.

Before he was twenty-four he had charge, as mine-foreman, of three mines at Houtzdale, Clearfield Co., Pa., for the Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., of New York City. But dissatisfied with his progress, when he was twenty-seven years old and the father of three children, he gave up his fine position in order to enter college and secure a technical education in mining. He moved to Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and children, and took the full mining engineering course in Ohio State University. He had only one thousand dollars saved to see him through, but by canvassing novelties, books and articles during his summer vacations, he was able to make sufficient money to keep his family and pay his way through college without having to ask assistance from anyone.

After completing his college course, he was sent to Colorado by his old company, to take charge of mines there for the Colorado Coal & Iron Co. (of which, at that time, E. J. Berwind was the principal stockholder). Mr. Lochrie’s practical knowledge and experience brought him very rapid advancement. After a few years in Colorado he returned to the East with the expectation of going into the mining business in West Virginia on his own account. However, he did not find conditions favourable, and for the next few years was employed chiefly as a mining expert to make examinations and reports on coal lands for several large concerns. This work took him into a large number of states and gave him a valuable knowledge of their mineral resources. He was a pioneer in building washeries for washing out the impurities of soft coal, for the purpose of making a higher grade of coke. He spent six years in experimenting and making high-grade coke out of what was considered a low-grade coal. His experiments and demonstrations in the utilization of inferior coal, at Graceton, Pa., almost twenty years ago, will be of great economic value to this country for centuries to come.

In 1898, the Berwind-White Coal Mining Co. was about to open up a large coal field near Johnstown, Pa., and proposed to make these the most up-to-date and the largest coal operations in the United States. The coal was all to he mined and hauled by machinery—-everything was to be run by machinery that could be so run—a very radical departure from the system of mining of that time. Mr. Lochrie was intrusted by the General Manager of the Company, Mr. A. Crist, with the opening of the mines. He exerted all his energies in this work, and it can be truly said that he was one of the most important factors in making the Berwind-White mines, at Windber, Pa., the greatest coal-producing, low-vein coal mines that the world ever has known. In less than three years a new town was built up with a population of at least 7,000 people, and the mines in that same time were producing and sending to market 12,000 tons of coal per day. The mines have since run almost continuously, and their production for years has been from 16,000 to 18,000 tons per day. The town, with its surroundings, has a population of 15,000 people, and is the largest mining town in the United States. With its paved streets, its water, sewerage, electric lights and its public heating system, Windber can compare favourably with any city in the country.

In 1903, Mr. Lochrie left the employ of the Berwind Co. to go into business for himself, and has been remarkably successful. To-day he is an owner of mines, employing hundreds of men; of gas-wells, producing millions of feet of gas; of oil-wells in California; of thousands of acres of timber lands and farms, in the south and elsewhere. He is the President of the Scalp Level Coal Mining Co., President and Treasurer of the Lochrie Coal Co., Secretary and Treasurer of the Lake Trade Coal Mining Company, President of the Rummel Coal Co., President and Manager of the Salem Coal Co., and director and manager of other concerns.

But what he prizes far more than these material rewards of industry and business success, is his splendid family. He married, December, 1882, Matilda Wakely, who was also born in Bishopbriggs, Scotland. Their fathers had been "buddies" together in the mines, taking contracts together from the Carron Iron Co. to drive rock headings. When their children were very young, the two fathers agreed that when they were of age they would give them in marriage. When the young boy and girl grew up, they fell in with the plan of their parents; but John left his sweetheart to come to America, and as in Burns’ Highland Mary:

"Wi’ monie a vow and lock’d embrace,
Our parting was fu’ tender,
And, pledging aft to meet again,
We tore oursels asunder."

But he was more fortunate than Burns, for he went back to Scotland shortly after he became of age and married his boyhood sweetheart and brought her back with him to this country. Nine children were the issue of this marriage:

Fannie M., April 5, 1884; Janet P., Feb. 27, 1886; Matilda, Dec. 26, 1887— all born in Houtzdale; Gilbert, born in Columbus. Ohio, while his father was in college there; Minnie, June 10, 1892; William Albert, April 11, 1894; Martha E., Sept. 20, 1895, John H., Aug. 27, 1897—born in Graceton, Pa.: and Rufus Hugh, born in Scalp Level, Pa., May 28, 1899. Mr. Lochrie ‘s first wife died April 23, 1900. He married Miss Kathleen MeNamara, of New York, June, 1903, and five children have been born to them; Kathleen, June 29, 1904; Thomas Clair, August 29, 1905; Agnes, April 12, 1908; Neil Malcolm, April 30, 1910; Robert Bruce, Oct. 24, 1912. There are eleven grandchildren.

Mr. Lochrie is a Presbyterian and a Republican. He became a Mason in Athole Lodge, Kirkintilloch, in 1883, and has been prominent in that society ever since. He has travelled considerable in nearly all the states of the United States and abroad. The most of his family know Scotland and Scottish life well and have visited with their father the land of his birth.


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