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Johnson Run Mining Company

Identifier: SC MS 0406

Scope and Contents

The collection contains land deeds, maps, real estate documents.


  • Creation: 1866 - 1956
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1869 - 1928

Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

Johnson Run which gave the mining company its name is a headwater stream of the Ohio River and since the late 1800s the subject of strip and deep coal mining. Its name continues at present in Ohio. The mining company was located in Jones Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania. Johnson Run Mining Company appears to have been in conflict with the McKean & Elk Land and Development Company about mineral rights of the land. By 1920 the Johnson Run Mining Company had as president Edward Hacker and Estella A. C. Priestley and Sybella G. Reese were owners of Johnson Run Mining Company but the mine was in decline. The early named officers were William Biddle as President, Samuel Mason, Thomas Leiper Kane (1822-1883), and H. G. [Harry/Henry] Clay (1835-1901?) as Directors, William Hacker as Secretary, Antony Alexander Clay (1839-1906) and his daughter Estella Antoinette Clay Priestley (1864/5-1954) as Authorized Agents. By 1880 Kane resigned as superintendent of the Company and A. A. Clay was elected to fill the vacancy of superintendent and general agent. According to Pennsylvania Court records the land in Jones Township, Elk County was under contention for many years mostly involving William Hacker and Harry G. Clay v. the McKean & Elk Land and Improvement Company and the ongoing land sales by Estella Preistley and Sybella Reese. The land in contention had been acquired by Thomas L. Kane in Sheriff Sales after the Civil War but the owners of the Johnson Run Mining Company continued to acquire land into the early 1920s. The law suits involved the paying of tax: Land tax had been paid but no tax on the mineral and timber rights, therefore, contention as to who owned the land. As the years passed, the land’s great potential for timber harvesting, limestone, gas and minerals caused many disagreements. Included in this collection is a sample of copper (potential of minerals of the land), numerous land parcel descriptions, land deeds and various correspondence. Antony Alexander Clay (1839-1906) was born in Vienna, Austria third child of John Randolph (1808-1885) and Frances Anne Gibbs Clay (1813-184?). His brother Harry/Henry [H. G.] Gibbs Clay was the first child of their parents and born 1835 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Their father was in the diplomatic service. Harry married and had a daughter Mary F. R. Clay (d. 1938). Antony married in 1863 Sybella Susan Seckel of Riverton, New Jersey (1838/40-1917) and they had Estella Antoinette (1864/5-1954) [m. in 1892 Edward Priestley (1861-1894) a publisher of the Riverton Journal] and Sybella Gordon (1868-1940) [m. John James Reese in 1893], and Ethel R. Clay. A. A. Clay was a Democratic representative from Elk County to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1887-1888, 1889-1890. He served in the Civil War as a first lieutenant, Company K, 58th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1862-1865) was a lumberman and farmer in Elk County but died in Riverton, New Jersey and is interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia. In this collection of the Johnson Run Mining Company, Antony Alexander is referred to as A.A. Clay, “AAC”, “Anthony” and “Captain.” He lived in Rasselas, Elk County. Antony’s daughters Estella and Sybella were actively involved with the land deals of their father. It is the estate disputes of Antony’s daughters that extended the company’s litigation into the 1950s after the mining operations had apparently shut down in the 1920s. Robert Patterson Field was the last remaining officer for the Johnson Run Mining Company and it is he who corresponds with Estella Clay Priestley in the 1920s regarding the disposition of the Johnson Run Mining Company lands. Estella had a daughter Marian Priestley who married in 1923 William Walter Frank. (d.1955). Thomas Leiper Kane (1822-1883) was born in Philadelphia and died there but is buried in Kane, Pennsylvania named for his family as is a memorial chapel dedicated to him. He had a varied career as attorney for the Mormons and was a personal friend of Brigham Young helping to move the Mormons to Utah Territory. Kane County, Utah is name for Thomas Kane; as a soldier, he served as Lt. Colonel to Colonel Charles J. Biddle serving at Gettysburg and received a Brevet major general for his service. After the Civil War, he moved his family to western Pennsylvania and acquired 100,000 acres of timberland in McKean and Elk counties. He was an agent with John Ernhout for the McKean & Elk Land & Improvement Company. Later this timberland was developed for oil, gas and timber and became involved in great confusion of land deeds and titles because of confusing surveying methods. Mr. Kane also was a abolitionist and his brother was Elisha Kent Kane who was involved in the two expeditions on the U.S. Grinnell to search for the lost Franklin Expedition which was seeking the Northwest Passage. The Kane family were prominent land holders in western Pennsylvania. By 1943 a Kane family member buys the remaining interests held in the Clay - Hacker Trust - created by Antony A. Clay and William Hacker, grandfather of the last trustee: E. Kent Kane offers to purchase the trusts’s interest in an unproductive 212 acre tract and V. V. Bowman of Kane, Pa offers to buy the trust’s surface rights to the same tract. William Estes Hacker was the last remaining trustee of the Clay-Hacker Trust and tries to dissolve it because the revenue generated by the Trust’s holdings became too small to reasonably divide among the remaining many claimants. The last extant paper trail in this collection is dated 1956.


1 box, .5 linear feet

Language of Materials



Business archive of the little documented Johnson Run Mining Company in Elk County, Pennsylvania. Also included are related personal papers of the officers, the brothers: Harry/Henry Gibbs Clay and Antony Alexander Clay, A. A. Clay’s daughter Estella Clay Priestley, Sybella Gordon Clay Reese; granddaughter Marian R. Priestley Frank and Thomas Leiper Kane, a member of the family that founded Kane, Pennsylvania.


Material arranged by the antiquities dealer, the source of the collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection was purchased from Ian Brabner Rare Americana in 2021

Johnson Run Mining Company
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)