Connellsville Township, PA

Information

Geography
?} Communities bordering Connellsville Township, PA include Bullskin Township, PA, Connellsville, PA, Dunbar Township, PA, Springfield Township, PA, South Connellsville, PA, and Upper Tyrone Township, PA.

Mentions Connellsville Township, PA (less relevant)

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PA State Game Land 51 is located in central Fayette County, PA along a portion of Chestnut Ridge. Elevation ranges from around 900 feet along the Youghiogheny River to in excess of 2300 feet in Wharton Township, PA.

The sprawling game reserve has land in the following communities: Connellsville Township, PA, Dunbar Township, PA, Springfield Township, PA, Stewart Township, PA, and Wharton Township, PA. It also borders portions of Ohiopyle State Park, PA to its east.

Water flowing through PA State Game Land 51 include: Bruner Run, Dunbar Creek (and its many smaller tributaries), Laurel Run, Morgan Run, and Youghiogheny River.
Geography
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Casparis is a remote rugged area on Chestnut Ridge made up of tree farms and PA State Game Land 51 located primarily in Connellsville Township, PA. It is named for the Casparis Mine and the former Casparis Community that sprung up to service the mine. Lookout Point Overlook, a half mile above the mines, has one of the best views in all of Fayette County, PA.
History
?} Kenneth Casparis purchased the acreage where the stone was located and also the Charles Hampshire Farm in 1916 and started the Casparis Quarry.

A number of people came with Kenneth Casparis and settled on the mountain above South Connellsville, PA. Eighteen homes were erected to house the families that worked at the Casparis Quarry. One of the carpenters who helped build the houses near the quarry was J.M. Tressler, who was later to become the first president of the South Connellsville, PA Borough Council.

A school to educate the children and boarding houses were also part of the Casparis Community. The teachers who taught at the Casparis School had only two modes of transportation available to them. Some rode horses and others would travel by the Suburban Street Railway to the "end of the line" and then walk the last part of their journey. Other teachers were known to travel by horse from the Springfield Pike (Route 711) and Tanyard Hallow Road to Casparis for their daily teaching duties.
?} The quarrying of the stone at Casparis was a tedious job that involved drilling and dynamiting. The larger stone was broken up by pneumatic drills into smaller pieces. These were loaded into small rail cars which were hauled to the crusher, a short distance from the drilling area. After the stones were crushed, they were transported down the mountain by incline and loaded in railroad cars for shipment.

Some years later the quarry was purchased by Vang Crushed Stone Company and a new process was implemented for securing the stone. A method of tunneling for the stone was developed and tracks were laid to bring the quarried stone from the tunnels by a small rail buggy. Under the new arrangement, the quarried stone was transported to the bottom of the mountain by aerial buckets, transferred to a crusher, and then into a screener which graded the stone into stone dust, crushed stone, railroad ballast and larger stones used for highway construction. The various stone was stored in designated bins in the tipple. Railroad cars were placed on the siding, and cars were shifted under the tipple for loading as needed.

The "caves" (Casparis Mine) as they are called today, still stand. Receding approximately a quarter mile into the mountain, with thirty-foot entrance ways and forty-foot high ceilings, they are a monument to nature and to man's ingenuity to control his environment. Approaching the "caves" on a hot summer day, one is delightfully surprised by a cool airflow from the entrance ways. A visitor in winter is astonished by the seeming warmth of the flow of air coming from the openings. The truth is the caves maintain an almost constant temperature winter and summer. Although Casparis, as it is called, is located in Connellsville Township, PA, it is a well-known landmark that has always been associated with South Connellsville, PA.
?} Kenneth Casparis founded the Casparis Quarry in 1916 at an outcropping of blue limestone below the crest of Chestnut Ridge in an area of Connellsville Township, PA that is now known as Casparis.

At the site of the Casparis Quarry, tunnels were dug into the ridge to obtain more of the stone thus creating the Casparis Mine.
?} External Web Link: Hiker Survives Fall Off Cliff at Lookout Point Overlook (Pittsburgh Post Gazette Article)
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Casparis Mine is made up of four large (thirty to forty foot tall) tunnels dug a quarter of a mile into a portion of Chestnut Ridge for the purpose of obtaining blue limestone. The mine was dug at the Casparis Quarry.

PA State Game Land officials had the entrances all but sealed in August of 2005, citing safety concerns and the need for a bat habitat as the reason. Two of the tunnels were left open but sealed with metal gates to allow bats and authorized personnel entrance into the mine, but the gates were vandalized and destroyed within a year of their construction. As of this writing, the PA State Game Land were raising money to have additional gates constructed.

Prior to being sealed the "Casparis Caves," as locals call them, were popular as a destination on the remote jeep trails crisscrossing the Casparis mountain area.

Illegal camping was common along the entrances of the Casparis Mine.
Campfires inside of the tunnels were blamed for a major roof collapse back in the 1980s, as the extreme heat changes caused fracturing in the rocks. The collapse left a large almost perfectly sphered dome in the ceiling of the largest tunnel.
?} Blue limestone mined from the Casparis Mine) was sent down to the railroad along the Youghiogheny River in large buckets down the Incline. Evidence of the incline still exists along Casparis Road about a half mile away from the Casparis Mine.