Tuesday, March 4, 2008
A tale forged in steel
DONORA, Pa. – In a far corner of former mill property, behind a loading dock to a modern milling company, lay “the remains” of a steelworker who met his death in a ladle of molten steel in 1920.
Just home from World War I, Andrew Posey, 21, was working as a stopper setter when he was killed in the open hearth at U.S. Steel’s American Steel and Wire Co. Donora works, a mill that would disappear from the landscape in the 1960s.
Legend has it that, behind a blast furnace, U.S. Steel buried the entire 65 tons of steel that consumed Posey. And his 10 siblings bought the story, as did many others in the borough along the Monongahela River.
As it turned out, developers of a new building in what is now the Donora Industrial Park considered relocating the grave site in the 1990s because it stood in the way of progress.
The Mon Valley Progress Council had experts drill and dig into the “grave” protected by a 20-foot wall of crumbling yellow bricks and marked off by steel pipes forged at the mill. The grave turned up empty.
A historian was also consulted who theorized that the Posey family had probably been duped by the company into thinking that a big chunk of expensive steel had been buried as a fitting tribute to their loved one. These kinds of tales have been told for decades in the many mill towns that dot the Pittsburgh region, where the life of a steelworker once had much less value to a company than an ounce of steel.
In the end, the road was routed away from the Posey monument that also is hidden behind an outcropping of weeds. Stop by to pay your respects if you can find the site just north of the Donora-Monessen Bridge, but poor Andy Posey’s memory is more likely part of a bridge over a different valley.