Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adventures in Ronco, Pa

Ronco Barge load out. Compare to the 1940's era photo below.
We headed back across the mighty Monongahela today in search of the Fayette side of the old Nemacolin Ferry (as seen in this photo from Mr.Snopik).  We stopped in Ronco and checked out what appears to have been a bardge loading facility from the old mine.1985 must have been a fun year in Ronco! According to the hash marks on this old pier, 31 kegs of beer bit the dust that summer!
We then headed down Ferry Road (duh!) looking for the ferry landing.After taking what ended up being the long way around, we found it near an old water treatment facility along the river. The remains of the concrete landing lined up with the road on the other side of the railroad tracks.  Tough to see if youre not looking for it, but its there.  In the photo of the Nemacolin ferry sent to us by


 Ogden, you can see both the water treatment plant and the barge load out area circa the 1940's

Ronco, as seen from the Nemacolin Ferry

The Ronco mine, from the ferry picture above

The old bridge pilings from the Monongahela Rail Road line that ran through are still intact. It appears to have tied into the new line which along the river.
On the hike out (the road was cabled to prevent railroad tie theft, we didnt steal any, so its cool...) we looked along the creek and saw what we thought were coke ovens.  After re-hiking back, we found...well, we aren't sure what it is.  Some sort of furnace or oven in amazing the middle of nowhere.  Any info on this wil be appreciated.  Theres not much info on Ronco on the net.

In this picture, the buildings in the background are the water treatment plant in Ronco, Pa.  The actual structures are gone now, but the "tanks" to the side of  the plant remain, as seen in the two videos below.

Part 1 of 2 below.....

And Part two.....


  1. Patricia writes:

    Hello Chip,

    Many,many thanks for posting the Nemacolin pics, and for the great videos of Ronco. You indeed did find the ferry landing at Ronco. I stood on the Nemacolin side, many moons ago as a child, skipping rocks across the Mon.

    It was amazing to see the coke ovens at Ronco. In the 1910 census, my family was listed as living in Ronco, no street names, just "Ronco Coke Works" and house numbers for the addresses. My uncle was listed on this census as "coke worker" in Ronco. There may have been a mine there, too, because many men listed on this census were "coal miner"s. The stone structures have me stumped. You're right, they don't look like the typical coke oven, they resemble lime kilns that are found in Maryland. I'll add this to the list of "questions I should have asked" when my family members were still living!

    My grandfather was listed on this census as "water line repairman". He worked for Trotter Water Company, which I was told was formed by H.C. Frick, since they needed huge quantities of water in the coke ovens. When we stood at the ferry landing in Nemacolin, a relative would point across the Mon to a building on the Ronco side and say that was Trotter Water. I wonder if this was the building, the remnants of which you showed in your video? That may explain the pipes in the bottom of the building, possibly they were used to distribute water to the ovens?

    1. Those remains were from the Trotter Water plant. The plant was operated by Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority to supply local communities with water until a new plant was built in Greene County (mid to late 1990's I believe)

  2. Hi Chip--
    My father is originally from Ronco and later lived in Uniontown. I'm trying to find a nice book with pictures of the area. Do you know if one exists??

    Thanks in advance!

  3. Chip, those abandoned railroad bridge piers there at Huron are from the old Monongahela Railway's Brown's Run Branch which went to Leckrone, Plummer, Hoover (site of the Hoover coke ovens) and beyond.

  4. Hi Chip, those ovens in part 2 are coke ovens. . . they are similiar to the ones in Grays Landing and Martin. Have you been there? Grew up in that area and actually lived in Ronco for a few years.

  5. Those remains along Brown's Run are not old coke ovens. They are remains of an old Grist mill. The grist mill was built to support the making of Rye whiskey, which was the main source of income in the area in the late 1700s. I would expect the mill to have been built sometime in the late 1700s.

    1. Yes, I agree they were remains of the Rabb Mills. There were some other structures still apparent in the 1960s when I explored that area as a kid. One was a chimney made from Asher cut stone that had a fireplace on the second floor. They had a large trade with New Orleans with whiskey, lumber and other goods like blacksmith goods. Andrew Rabb had a network of Mills in that small area that were fed by Browns Run. His house was listed on the Window Pane Tax/Direct Tax of 1798 and was the only stone structure in German Township at that time. It was built in 1773 and still stands. He also played a part in the Whiskey Rebellion. His second wife's father was Colonel Dorsey Pentecost. Andrew Rabb's mill was built in the Colonial period but the time frame for expansion I'm not sure. Andrew Rabb died 5 Sep 1804 at Hot Springs Bath County, VA.