SFH History: Cleanup after the great Christmas plumbing project continues. (See Plumbing the Depths of History.) The yard and driveway are still a mess. That mess, however, has provided a great opportunity for the official Serendipity Farmhouse Historian & Archeologist to uncover important historical materials and artifacts. For example, our Historian can now say with some confidence that one or more of the original four SFH heating stoves and perhaps even the kitchen cookstove were fueled with either anthracite or bituminous coal.
Due to the amount of coal that was unearthed on the eastern side of our farmhouse, it appears that the coal was stored near there in a pile, perhaps in some type of enclosure. The use of coal for heating and cooking would have been consistent with common practice when the house was built. Having coal delivered by wagon or truck would have been far more convenient than gathering the large amount of wood necessary for wood burning heating and cookstoves.
As our SFH Official Historian was working the SFH archeological digs, a serious question nagged and bothered him intensely – Is that coal anthracite or bituminous? – Dang! He should be able to remember. After all, he had an international expert explain it all to him years ago.
A Little Family History & Birthdays
In the very early part of the 20th Century, the grandparents of our Historian passed through the Portas da Cidade and entered the old quay of Ponta Delgada on the Azorian island of São Maguel. That would be the last time they would see sites like the one in our featured picture. They boarded a craft bound for Bristol, Massachusetts and eventually would make a home near Fall River. On March 21st, 1907, a son was born to them.
There is neither time nor room here to dwell on details. Suffice it to say, the son, whose first language was Portuguese, grew and prospered, eventually becoming a Field Service Engineer for McDowell-Wellman Engineering in Cleveland, Ohio. His primary technical concentration was in the field of Coal Gasification. During the 1950s and 1960s, he would travel to far-off places, showing chemical engineers in Peru, Taiwan, Spain, Canada, and throughout the U.S. how to make an inexpensive, clean gas fuel from coal.
But it was more than just making a gas fuel. That gas could also be used in chemical processing to produce fertilizers for agriculture. That was the reason for his travel to Taiwan. The Taiwan Fertilizer Company he assisted in the 1950s in developing some of its processes is now a major producer of fertilizer and industrial chemicals. – – I guess the bottom line is – the SFH Official Historian’s father knew coal – he knew it just about as well as anyone could. – – Below you can see how he saw a lump of coal as compared to how most people see coal.
That son of the Azorian immigrants yearned to travel and he had an abiding love for the sea and ships that sail the seas. Below, you can see him in 1932 as the “Captain” of the the “Charles W. Morgan” – the last wooden whaleship in the world. He passed on that love of the sea to his son, the SFH Official Historian, by taking him to see ports and ships on the eastern seacoast, including the Mayflower II when it first arrived at Plimoth Plantation in the 1950s.
Our then young SFH Historian was able to accompany his father to several nearby worksites on a number of occasions. He was even able to join his dad on a two-week, work-vacation adventure in Woodstock, Ontario. On those trips, our Historian was able to tour the inside of large steel plants and view the world-renowned Wellman-Galusha gas producer in operation. Yes, our very own Official SFH Historian had received an education in chemical engineering and coal at a very young age.
In retrospect, it is no surprise that our Historian’s childhood house on Rob Roy Road had the best-working, most efficiently-run, coal-fired furnace to heat water for the radiators found in every room. – Our Historian’s father was definitely not like Ralphie’s dad in the movie A Christmas Story.
Now, there was one detail about the carbon that makes up coal that always interested our young Historian whenever his dad would talk about it. – That was the process by which carbon can be transformed into that beautiful, useful, and valuable substance known as a diamond. Just like coal, a diamond is composed of carbon. But, unlike coal which is formed by an entirely different and more recent process, pure carbon, through the influence of time and pressure, can become the beautiful, shining, crystalline object that captures our imagination.
As noted earlier, our Historian’s father was born on March 21st, 1907. That would make today the anniversary of his birth. But there is someone else in our Historian’s family who shares that same date of birth. And she carries on in at least one important family tradition. Like her great grandfather and her grandfather, she yearns to travel to distant places. That is why she is studying Japanese language and culture.
At this point, there are only three more things to say:
First, our SFH Historian’s Granddaughter #1 is a most beautiful, shining, and adventuresome member of the family. If her great grandfather were to describe her today, he might compare her personality to the radiance of a diamond.
Second, from our Historian and all here at SFH, Happy Birthday, Dad and Granddaughter #1!!!
Third, our Historian has finally determined, after long and serious consideration, that it was anthracite coal that was used in the stoves at SFH, not bituminous coal. So, this should be an Anthracite Birthday not a ?Bituminous? Birthday. – – – Am I right, Dad?