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Category: Coal Region Projects

Coal Region Landscapes Field Trip

On October 3rd, the Place Studies Program co-sponsored a field trip led by Professor Ben Marsh through the hard coal mining region immediately southeast of Bucknell University. The field trip was a compilation of class and professional field trips that have been run over the years, and was also sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program and the Geography department.

Ben Marsh, a Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Bucknell, led the bus tour through what he described as a region of some of the “strongest communities in Central Pennsylvania, featuring proud old neighborhoods and businesses, diverse ethnic churches and clubs, and a population of miners families who are deeply committed to these towns they have lived in for generations.” The highlights of the tour included un-reclaimed strip mines, unstable hills of black mine waste, orange acidic water found in streams, and the remnants of the town Centralia, which sits atop a burning deep mine.

The tour started in Sunbury, a river town situated next to the Susquehanna River that used to be a large pre independence Native American community. At the height of coal mining in the Pennsylvania mountains it was an area that largely brought wealth into the community; experiencing a population boom that has since rapidly declined with the rise of larger cities and newer resource areas.

From there, they drove up to Shamokin where the history of coal is still evident throughout the landscape. The town of Shamokin and its surrounding township sit atop 200,000,000 tons of anthracite, and acid mine drainage can still be seen seeping out of an old mine shaft.

Acid Mine Drainage 4

Acid Mine Drainage


The next stop was an old strip mine area that had originally been mined underground. There they got to see a unique geological feature known as folded rock, which look like ripples in layers of flat and planar geo-surfaces. Then the tour went up to Mount Carmel to see old coal towns that once experienced a rapid growth in population; where they used to house almost twenty thousand people and now house only six to seven thousand. The European influence and style can still be observed in the architecture and landscape due to the influx of European Migrants that had once settled down in those areas at the height of the mining revolution.



Folded Rock and Synclinal cut away

Folded Rock exposed by Coal Mining

Folded Rock and Ben 2


The last stop was Centralia, a ghost town that has literally been burning since 1962. What started as a brush fire caught onto an exposed coal seam, thereby leaving the coal underneath the town on fire for over fifty years.

Centralia - Abandoned Hwy 1

Centralia: Abandoned Highway

Centralia - Abandoned Hwy 3


The bus trip revealed the environmental challenges, beauty, and rich cultural history of the hard coal mining region just outside of what is often referred to as the Bucknell Bubble. “It was a really good opportunity to get a better view and understanding of the coal mining region and history of the coal mining region, and what it’s like now” said Shaunna Barnhart, who attended the tour.


Mother Kaupas Center Updates: Summer Projects 2015

Jennifer Silva and Jesse Scheimreif’s Research Project

This summer, Professor Jennifer Silva worked with her research assistant Jesse Scheimreif ’16 on a study concerning identity and community in the coal region. They were interested in engaging with the local community by interviewing older residents about how the community has evolved over the years. They also wanted to look at the economic opportunities and social support systems available to the young people in the area, such as families and churches. What they discovered through their experience and research was a close knit, friendly, and generous community who welcomed them into their homes and was open to sharing their family stories. “It was fascinating to learn more about the history and culture of the area in which we live” said Professor Silva. They will be continuing their work in the region over the next few years.

Nick Kupensky and Erin Frey’s Research Project: Summary

This summer, Nick Kupensky worked with Erin Frey on “The Emil Kubek Project”, a scholarly resource that encompasses the works of Emily Kubek (1857 – 1940), one of Mahanoy City’s most prolific writers. Kupensky, along with Frey, worked on translating Kubek’s text from Carpatho-Rusyn into English, which can be seen on their website along with more information about Kubek and Kubek’s Mahanoy City. On the site there is also a virtual walking tour called “The West End Walking Tour” that was organized to allow one to experience Kubek’s Mahanoy City that inspired his work. For more information about The Emil Kubek Project, visit:

The Emil Kubek Project

The Emil Kubek Project is a scholarly resource that pays homage to the works and memory of Father Emil Kubek (1857-1940), one of Mahanoy City’s (PA) most prolific writers. The project was created in the summer of 2015 by Professor Nick Kupensky (Comparative Humanities and Russian Studies, Bucknell University), and Erin Frey ’17 (Comparative Humanities, English, and Economics, Bucknell University) and funded by a Coal Region Field Station Grant through ActionResearch@Bucknell, Bucknell’s program in Comparative Humanities, and the Mahanoy Area Historical Society.

Father Kubek, once remembered as the devoted priest of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, left behind an impressive wealth of literature in the form of lyrical poetry, prose, short stories, and the novel Marko Šoltys. After emigrating from the Hungarian Kingdom (present day Slovakia) where he had been an accomplished journalist and lexicographer, he settled down in Mahanoy City, PA, where he sustained his journalism career by producing articles, stories, and verses for Carpatho-Rusyn newspapers and magazines. Mahanoy City served as the source of his inspiration, and as a historic and scenic backdrop for many of his works, many of which focused on the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant experience as urban miners. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an amassment of Slavs from the Austro-Hungarian Empire immigrated to America, many settling into coal mining job opportunities that were in demand for unskilled, low paid labor. There is very little Carpatho-Rusyn literature regarding the migrant experience that has been translated into English, and therefore it has made very little impression in American literary history. The Emil Kubek Project serves to preserve Carpatho-Rusyn literature and the voices of Slavic immigrants, contributing to the significance of this group in American literature and history.


Nick Kupensky


As a National Endowment for the Humanities summer scholar at Columbia University, Kupensky came across a number of Kubek’s poems in a Carpatho-Rusyn newspaper called Den’ (The Day) amidst working on his research project on Carpatho-Rusyn literature published in American newspapers. Intrigued by Kubek and his work, he jumped at the opportunity to create the Kubek Project. Kupensky hopes that the project will leave a lasting impact for the Mahanoy City community. “I mainly want people who know Mahanoy City well to learn more about the town’s most prolific writer. I hope that Kubek’s work will be a source of pride for the community. For the Carpatho-Rusyns, many of whom are acquainted with Kubek’s work, I want them to discover Mahanoy City and see the ways in which the town influenced his writing,” Kupensky said.

The project can be viewed on the WordPress site, where Kupensky’s translations of Kubek’s texts and information on Kubek and Kubek’s Mahanoy City can be used as resources to learn more about Kubek’s work. On the site, there is also a virtual walking tour, called The West End Walking Tour, which was organized to allow the public to enjoy Kubek’s work whilst experiencing the sights of historic Mahanoy City that inspired it. For now, the tour will primarily be virtual, but a few guided tours may be organized in the future. Kupensky is also planning a Kubek celebration in Mahanoy City this upcoming November 22nd. Check out this link for more information: To reserve a seat on the Bucknell shuttle, contact Carol High at

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