a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Railway fail

WEBSTER, Pa. - Little did I know until recently that investors in my hometown were once interested in bringing the streetcar to the small town along the Monongahela River.

In fact, the village of Webster showed up in as the first word in what became the failed 1919 venture known as the Webster, Monessen, Belle Vernon & Fayette City Street Railway Co., according to the copy of the stock certificate, above, given to me last week by the staff at Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

The museum workers know I'm from Webster, Pa., which has been growing smaller by the day, and love history, and that's why they gave me this small piece of history.

They also reminded me of the fact that this streetcar line never reached Webster. I'm not sure why, but guess Webster investors fell short on their promise. Those with old money here began to relocate in large numbers about the same time of the stock sale and shortly after U.S. Steel's zinc works opened across the Monongahela River in Donora. That mill created huge volumes of acidic pollution that it killed most of the vegetation within sight of Webster, along with farm animals, according to any number of local histories.

Yet Kerfoot W. Daly bought 47 shares of the stock at a cost of $2,350, a tidy sum of money at the time. He was vice president of the new railway company. He also worked as a cashier at the Bank of Charleroi, according to  FamilyTreeMaker.com, and surely rubbed elbows with former Pennsylvania Gov. John K. Tener, whose leadership helped to build a bridge over the river between North Charleroi and Monessen to serve the streetcar line.

Daly was seen as a rising star of his generation in the banking business, but it would appear that he lost his shirt by investing in the plan to lay streetcar tracks to Webster.

Still, though, I would like to conduct some more research or hear from local streetcar enthusiast before drawing any concrete conclusions about the company.

1 comment:

Don said...

I don't know about this company but in those years many interurban & trolley companies were built only to disappear as automobiles became more affordable. Unfortunately their electrical infrastructure disappeared also. We could sure use it today for mass transit.