Coulsontown’s Welsh miners’ cottages: ‘Once they’re gone, there’s nothing else like them’
Volunteer Tom Sadler repoints the walls of Welsh quarry worker cottages in Peach Bottom Township. ‘It’s good for them to be preserving this history for the future generation,’ he said. By them, he means two-year owner Old Line Museum in Delta. (See additional photos below.) Background posts: Digging Coulsontown: ‘This is not Indiana Jones’, Time almost forgotten Coulsontown and Wanted: One slate-roofed privy from Delta.
Those old Welsh miners’ cottages in the southeastern tip of York County, in Peach Bottom Township?
It’s hard to get too much of their story. And those photos capture the eye.
Spokesmen at the Old Line Museum in Delta, which bought the cottages two years ago, believe the structures serve as the only examples of Welsh construction in the country… .
Tom Sadler descends the spiral staircase in one of the cottages in Coulsontown in Peach Bottom Township. In a typical Welsh cottage, the staircase was on the right side facing the fireplace. Also of interest: Check out these additional stories and photos about slate mining/Coulsontown in Delta/Peach Bottom.
A scholar believes the cottages link the Industrial revolution, immigration, labor history and architecture, according to the museum.
Add another category.
Slavery and race.
In recent decades, black families resided in these structures, just a short distance from the Mason-Dixon Line.
That sector of York County has been the home of many black families for 200 years. Its proximity to the slave state of Maryland and the number of Scots-Irish pioneers who settled there contributed to the number of black families. Scots-Irish settlers tended to own more slaves than their German counterparts.
The Friends of the Welsh Cottages, a branch of the Old Line Museum, continues to raise funds for the restoration of homes.
To learn more about the cottages or how to make a donation, contact the Friends group at Old Line Museum, P.O. Box 35, Delta, PA, 17314 or e-mail oldlinemuseum @aol.com.
Meanwhile, enjoy these photos, both submitted and taken by York Daily Record/Sunday News staff, or take a drive down Route 74 to see the cottages for yourself.
And a York Daily Record/Sunday News story (7/7/08) tells more about Sadler’s restoration work:
Passersby sometimes stop and ask Tom Sadler, a retired stone mason, about the restoration he’s doing on some cottages built by Welsh quarry workers in the mid-1800s in Coulsontown.
He’s been repointing the stone on the 18-inch to 20-inch thick walls and replacing the lime and clay mortar, which has deteriorated over the years.
The mortar has disintegrated so much that “you can just rake it out with your finger,” he said.
Sadler’s job is to replicate the work done by the early Welsh settlers who built the two-story stone and slate cottages, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Old Line Museum in Delta bought the homes in Peach Bottom Township two years ago to preserve them. It is believed the cottages serve as the only examples of Welsh construction in the country.
These are not dime-a-dozen historic homes, said Margaret Vetare, who studied the Welsh history in the Delta area for her master’s degree from the University of Delaware.
The cottages tie together numerous themes: the Industrial revolution, immigration, labor history and architecture. They present a golden opportunity for educational purposes, said Vetare, who works as an interpretation specialist for Historic Hudson Valley in New York.
Don Robinson, a member of the Old Line Museum, said he was terrified that if the organization would not have bought and preserved the homes, someone else would have and torn down the cottages.
“Once they’re gone, there’s nothing else like them,” he said.
The Welsh immigrants didn’t know how to build a log house, Robinson said. So they built cottages just like they had back home in northern Wales.
The quarrymen built the cottages with local Cardiff conglomerate stone that weighed 200 to 300 pounds, Sadler said.
He found that the workers set those stones by shimmying them in place and keeping them upright with smaller stones, which were left in place.
The cottages, which have been vacant for years, have sustained some damage.
The west wall on the upper cottage had to be torn half way down and rebuilt to the roof level, Robinson said. An Amish stone crew did that work. The upper cottage is expected to be completed first.
The south wall on the lower cottage is cracked, and the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station has volunteered the labor and materials to help stabilize it, Robinson said.
Replicas have been made of three windows because the originals were too bad, Robinson said. However, he hopes to be able to restore the rest of the original windows.
Robinson estimates it will take up to five years to restore each cottage. Sadler has been donating his time for the effort, which museum members appreciate.
Sadler said it’s a worthwhile project.
“It’s good for them to be preserving this history for the future generation,” he said.
The cottages sit along the narrow Green Road in a remote area of Peach Bottom Township, near the Mason-Dixon Line.
People either stumble upon it and wonder what’s going on, or they have heard about it and want to see the progress.
Visitors have a place to park because township supervisor S. David Stewart and his wife, Barbara, donated the land for a parking lot.
One man from Illinois dropped by recently. He had attended school in Delta, and Sadler showed him around. The man said he’d come back.
“That’s what we like to hear,” Sadler said.
Tom Sadler works on repointing the walls of the cottages.
These Welsh cottages featured two rooms on each floor: a kitchen and an adult’s bedroom on the first floor and the children’s sleeping quarters on the second.
Restoration work at Coulsontown is attracting tours.