Early Historical People of Centralia

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This page details any noteworthy people from early in Centralia's history (i.e. before the mine fire.)

Alexander Rea

In 1854, Alexander Rea, mining engineer for Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, built a house and moved his family to the future site, naming the area Bull's Head after an 1841 tavern, later Centreville. Because there already another town by that name in Schuylkill County, and the Post Office could not allow that conflict, Alexander Rea chose a new name -- Centralia, which he hoped to be a center of commerce.

The coal mines opened in Centralia in 1856, with railroad access by 1865, providing easy access to eastern markets.

In October 1868, Rea ambushed and murdered while driving his buggy along the road between Centralia and Mt. Carmel, victim of Mollie Maguires.

Father Daniel Ignatius McDermott

Daniel Ignatius McDermott

Father McDermott was only twenty five years old in 1868 when he began his work in Centralia and had been ordained a priest only ten months before this assignment. For a brief period Father McDermott celebrated Mass at St. Joseph's Church, Ashland which was attended by the Catholic people from Centralia. Then on 12 April 1869 he come to Centralia and celebrated two Masses the following Sunday in the school house on East Main Street. Later he lived in a house at 108 West Railroad Street, celebrating Mass in another school house on East Railroad Street until the church was built.

Centralia local legend states that Father McDermott placed a curse on the community for supporting the Molly Maguires, especially after 3 members beat him for retaliating against the organization. He prophesied that a day would come when only St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church would remain standing in Centralia, which became a common topic of discussion in 1981 with the way things seem to be headed. Although ultimately the church was not the LAST structure in town, it certainly did last a relatively long time after the relocation period began to decimate the village.

As a footnote, According to the website Behind the Name, the root of Ignatius is the Latin ignis, meaning "fire". While surely just a coincidence (right?), it does add a bit more to the eeriness of this bit of lore.

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