The Norton Coal Company

According to the 1880 census, Julius was a coal operator by trade, born in 1819; he was a native of Ohio, whose parents were from Connecticut. He lived with his wife, Harriet, at no. 628 Mill Street in Akron, Ohio. [1]

Extract of testimony by Mr. Tuttle, in respect of private corporations, at the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, 26 March 1874 [2]:

  There was a man in my county, named Julius Humphrey, who was a successful coal hunter. He went out upon the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad into Summit county, I think. if not it was just across the line, [3] and found fine fields of coal there. He leased them [4] and then went to the railroad, and all that he wanted was a switch, and he was willing to make it at his own expense, and then he was ready to furnish to the railroad company for carriage a considerable number of tons of coal per day, and to sell them coal at a reasonable price, but they would not let them have the switch. Why? Not because the railroad had engaged in mining, but because Kennard, who managed it, amd some other ingenious gentlemen who were in the ditectory, had just before that found a mine three miles from the road, near the same locality, and at the expense of the railroad they had built a railroad to that mine and were shipping coal. [5] When Humphrey applied to them for a switch the reply was: "Give us one-fourth of your mine and you can have it, or put your mine into a common stock with ours and you can have it." He said no, I will not do that. He got some other gentlemen to join with him, and they went to work, thinking to influence these fellows to back out of their prior scheme, and got a contract which they brought to me for my advice upon it. All that I could tell them was, that they could go to law. They finally worked along and got some wealth enlisted, and built a railroad three miles to the Ohio canal, where they could take their coal, and then the railroad company came down.

Sources and notes:

  1. U.S. 1880 Census; Julius Humphrey, Akron, Summit County, Ohio; original records: United States, Census Office, 10th Census of the United States, film T9-1068, page 29B; National Archives, microfilm publications, ref. T0009;  digitised copies held by (accessed 20015-04-20, by subscription).
  2. Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, Vol. II, Part iii, by J.G. Adel, Official Reporter. Cleveland: W.S. Robinson, 1874.
  3. It was Summit County, specifically at Dennison station, in Norton township.
  4. Please refer to a transcript of this lease under the heading, Lease agreement between Humphrey, Coleman, and Burgner, 1864, below.
  5. The speaker may have been referring to the rail siding that ran into Silver Creek, situated in the southwestern corner of Norton township, not far from the Wadsworth Coal Company's mine, just over the border in Western township. Refer to the 1874 map of Norton township.
  6. Summit County, Ohio, Death Records, 1866-1908; Julius Humphrey, date of death: 8 November 1891, age 72 years, Akron, Ohio; original records: Summit County Court of Common Pleas - Probate Division, vol. 2, pg. 35. no. 375; digital copies held by (accessed 2015-04-20, by subscription).

William B. Coleman was born between 1832-34 in Massachusetts. He was a civil engineer by profession [1], and by his marriage, in 1857, to Mary E. Humphrey [2], son-in-law to Julius Humphrey (1819-1891).

In 1878, Mr. Coleman was named co-defendant, with his father-in-law, and the Norton Coal Company, in four legal actions brought against them by their landlord, Samuel Burgner, in the Court of Common Pleas, Summit County. Mr. Burgner was not satisfied with the judgment of that court, and filed a petition in error to the Ohio Supreme Court Commission.The case was heard on the 11th Novemer, 1884, for an outline of which, please refer to Burgner v. Humphrey, 1884, below.

Sources and notes:

  1. U.S. 1860 Census; Julius Humphrey and wife, Harriet, with son-in-law.Wm. B. Coleman, daughter, Mary Coleman, and grandson, Frank Coleman; Hartford township, Trumbull County, Ohio; original records: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration); digitised copies held by (accessed 2015-04-20).
  2. Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013; William B. Coleman and Mary E. Humphrey, Trumbull County, 24 December 1857; original records: Trumbull County Court House, vol. 5, pg. 174; digital copies hosted online at (accessed 2015-04-20), FHL film 905549.
  3. Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001; Wm. B. Coleman, date of death: 17 Novenber 1894, place of death: Cuyahoga, Ohio, address: 172 Kensington, married, Coal Operator, born c.1832; online at (accessed 2015-04-20), FHL film no. 2074727; original records: Cuyahoga County Court House.
  4. Index, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Coroner Files, 1833-1900; compiled by the Cuyahoga West Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society, 1983, online at (accessed 2015-04-20); William B. Coleman, no. 2589, age 62 years, heart disease; original records: Cuyahoga County Archives.

Samuel Burgner (1811-1885) was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. [1] He was descended from a Swiss man, Peter Burgner (d.1784), who immigrated to Lancaster County in 1734,  and Salome Burkhart (d.1818), also from Switzerland. Peter's and Salome's son, Jacob (1769-), was a blacksmith by trade, who set up shop on a five acre lot in Franklin County. Samuel Burgner was the third son born to Jacob, the blacksmith, and his wife, Mary (d.1843).

Hearing of "the richness of the soil, the excellence of the timber and the low price of land in Ohio," in 1812 Jacob Burgner moved his family to Jackson township, seven miles west of Canton. Finding the private land purchase too dear to maintain, a couple of years later, Mr. Burgner next opted for "320 acres of Government land in Franklin township, Stark (now Summit) County," near Clinton. After the deaths of their mother in 1843, and their father only four months later, Samuel and his sister, Mary, kept up the farm and homestead.

This biographical sketch continues with an extract from the History and Genealogy of the Burgner Family [2]:

samuel burgner famhist burgner 2

   In January, 1847, Samuel Burgner married Miss Sarah Hayes, an Irish lady, after which he lived about two years longer on the Burgner homestead, then moved upon his own 140 acres in Norton Township, Summit County, O. Here he spent his life in honest toil for the good of his family and in unselfish labors of love and charity for the needy and destitute, in a large community of coal miners. He was a zealous and faithful worker in church, Sunday school and temperance societies. In politics he was a Democrat. He voted for Andrew Jackson, and for the other regular Democratic candidates for President, down to Grover Cleveland, when, as a Prohibitionist, he voted for Mr. St. John. He died March 19, from injuries received while doing an act of kindness with his team for a Welsh minister. [3] His last words were, "All aboard! The train is coming, loaded down with children, and I am going with them!" He was buried in Grill Cemetery, near his parents. His widow and three daughters now live with the family of her son, Jackson, on the undivided homestead.* A married daughter, Mrs. Mary J. Price, lives in Kentucky.

* Several years after Mr. Burgner's purchase of this farm he dug an artesian well and discovered indications of coal. A few years later some prospecting miners obtained from him a lease of his whole farm for mining purposes, for a term of years, at the low rate of ten cents per ton. Suspecting that he was being defrauded, he sued the company, and after a careful survey by experts, obtained a judgment for $3,000——also $2,500 for damages to house and barn.


  1. Summit County, Ohio, Death Records, 1866-1908; Samuel Burgner, age 74, born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, date of death: 17 March 1885, cause of death: Erysipelas; original records: Summit County Court of Common Pleas - Probate Division; digital copies held by (accessed 2015-04-20, by subscription). Note: the family history cites Franklin County as the place of birth.
  2. History and Genealogy of the Burgner Family, 1st ed., by Jacob Burgner. Oberlin, Ohio: The Oberlin News Press, 1890.
  3. c.f. death record,  op. cit., which states the 17th, versus the 19th, March, and cause of death as erysipelas.

In June, 1864, Julius Humphrey and his son-in-law, William B. Coleman entered into a lease agreement with Samuel Burgner, of Norton township, for the purpose of mining coal on Mr. Burgner's farm near Dennison. The following text presents the written lease, agreed and signed by the principals in September, 1866:

  This agreement made and entered into this tenth day of September, 1866, by and between Samuel Burgner, of the township of Norton, county of Summit, state of Ohio, of the first part, and Julius Humphrey and William B. Coleman, of the state of Ohio, of the second part, witnesseth: That for the consideration of one dollar in hand, paid by the said parties of the second to the said party of the first part, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged by the said party of the first part, and in consideration of the further covenants, agreements and stipulations hereinafter mentioned on the part of the said party of the second part, the said party of the first part hereby bargains, sells, transfers, aliens and conveys unto the said party of the second part, their heirs and assigns, all the mineral coal, iron ore, limestone and all the other minerals, together with all the rock or petroleum oils and salines in, under or upon the following described tract or parcel of land, situate in the township of Norton, county of Summit, state of Ohio, bounded and described as follows, to wit: being the south part of lot seventy-three in said township, bounded south, east and west by the lines of said lot, and north by a line parallel to the south line of said lot, and far enough distant therefrom to contain one hundred and ten acres of land, being the same land upon which Burgner now resides. And the said party of the first part also hereby further gives, grants and conveys unto the said party of the second part, their heirs and assigns, as well as their workmen and laborers, the right, privilege and license to enter upon the above described lands at any and all times hereafter, and search and explore thereon for said mineral coal, iron ore, limestone, clay and other minerals, oils and salines, or for any of them, and when found to exist on said lands to dig, mine and remove the same therefrom, together with all and singular the rights, privileges, licenses and easements necessary or incident or in any wise appertaining to the proper prosecution of the business of mining and removing any or all minerals and substances aforesaid, and also the right of way for all necessary roads and railroads over any portion of said lands, and the right to erect thereon all necessary structures, buildings and fixtures of every kind necessary in the proper prosecution of said business; and the right to occupy a sufficient area of the surface of said land for stocking and storing the said coal, ore, limestone, or other substances, and the refuse therefrom, and the right to remove and transport the coal and other minerals from other lands over or under the land described during the continuance of this agreement; for and in consideration of which the said party of the second part hereby agree and bind themselves and their heirs, executors and assigns, to enter upon said lands within one day from the date hereof and make search and exploration thereon for said mineral, coal, iron ore, clay, limestone and other minerals, oils or salines, unless satisfied from examination of lands adjoining or in the vicinity that said exploration will be fruitless; and if the same or any of them be found to exist thereon in sufficient quantities and under such circumstances as to warrant the said party of the second part, their heirs or assigns, in digging, mining and removing the same, then and in that case the said party of the second part agree and bind themselves, their heirs, assigns and legal representatives to pay the said party of the first part, his heirs, legal representatives or assigns, the sum of ten cents per ton for each ton of 2,000 pounds of mineral coal mined and removed from said land as merchantable coal, and other minerals according to the hills of the diggers, but not to include slack or fine coal, which said party of the second part is to have the privilege of removing and selling free of charge, and the sum of ten cents per ton as above for each ton of iron ore mined and removed therefrom, and one-twentieth part of the net proceeds of any and all other minerals, oils, and salines taken or procured from said lands by said party of the second part, their heirs, legal representatives and assigns. And it is also agreed by and on the part of the said party of the second part, their heirs, legal representatives and assigns, that so long as this lease shall be held by the said party of the first part, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns, after the expiration of one year from June 2, 1866, a sufficient quantity of the said minerals, or one of them, shall be mined each year to amount at the rate above mentioned to the sum of one hundred dollars, or that the same shall be paid to the said party of the first part, his heirs, legal representatives or assigns, the same as though a quantity of one or more of said substances had been mined sufficient to amount at the rate aforesaid to said sum. But all sums thus paid for any year in pursuance of this stipulation and not applied in payment of any such minerals actually mined, shall be applied in payment of that subsequently mined so far as the same will pay therefor at the rate aforesaid. It is mutually agreed that said party of the second part shall have the privilege of canceling and surrendering this lease at any time upon payment of the amount due thereon at that time. It is also further agreed by the parties hereto, for themselves, their legal representatives and assigns, that all payments to be made hereunder shall be made annually, counting from the second day of June, 1866. (It is also agreed that the correctness of the scales and weighing of said coal and other minerals, and the books showing the weight thereof and other minerals mined shall be open at all times during business hours to the inspection of said party of the first part, his agents, legal representatives and assigns). It is also agreed that no mining operations by the parties of the second part, their heirs or assigns, shall extend to, or be so near the dwelling-house or barn now upon said land as to injure said buildings. This lease is made to protect and make more full a lease between the parties heretofore entered into the second day of June, 1864. In testimony whereof the parties hereto have hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals, the day and year above written.

Source: "Burgner v. Humphrey," American Law Journal, Vol. II, pp. 189-96. Transcribed by A.Kilpatrick.

Source: Extract from History of Summit County, with an Outline Sketch of Ohio, edited by William Henry Perrin. Chicago: Baskin & Battley, 1881. Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick.

Norton township is abundantly supplied with coal of a good quality, no less than four coal mines being in operation within the limits of the township at the present time. The first coal was found cropping out of the bank of a creek, near where the Bartges or Williams Brothers bank now is, as early perhaps as 1825. The coal was sold for $1 per load, and each one dug his own coal at first. About 1830-31, the bank on the northeast side of this creek was opened by Jason Jones and a man named Funk. About ten years afterward, Joseph Burgess opened the bank on the other side of the creek, and, years after, the one now in operation on his farm, south of Johnson's Corners. In 1876, a coal mine was opened on the farm of Charles Stuver. In 1863, the Atlantic & Great Western Railway, now known as the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad, was opened through the township from west to east, and while grading this, coal was found in a cut at Dennison, which led to the opening of a coal mine at that place. Hundreds of thousands of tons of coal have been taken from this mine, and within the last three years two new openings have been made, and the old bank abandoned and allowed to fill up with water. This mine supplies the railroad with coal for their engines, at the chutes, near the mine, thus saving transportation on a great amount of coal.
(pg. 584)

Dennison (Sherman Post Office), on the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad, has sprung into existence since the railroad was built. At one time, it contained a store, kept by the Koplin brothers; but at present is without a merchant. The post office was established about 1864, with Joel C. Koplin as Postmaster, who has held the office ever since, with the exception of a few months. The principal business of the place is that caused by the Norton Coal Company's mines, which are located here, with coal chutes and a telegraph office. Hametown, one and a half miles south of Dennison, has also been brought into existence by the coal business. It contains a store, kept by J.W. James, and two saloons and a shoemaker's shop––F. Schneider, proprietor. (pg. 589)

This case was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on the 11th November, 1884. The original action was commenced in the Court of Common Pleas of Summit County on the 27th November, 1878. On this earlier date, Mr. Burgner averred four causes of action against the defendants, Julius Humphrey, William B. Coleman, and the Norton Coal Company:

  1. That the defendants had failed to: pay him the proper amounts due him for coal removed from the land; keep proper and accurate accounts; accounts were kept and certain records destroyed, for the purpose of cheating and defrauding the plaintiff; and, Messrs. Humphrey and Coleman assigned the lease to the Norton Coal Company without plaintiff's assent.
  2. The defendants had wrongfully extended "the mining so near the dwelling and other buildings as to injure them in violation of the provisions of the lease."
  3. By their negligence and improper conduct, the defendants had caused "the surface of said land in many places to sink down in deep holes," destroying abut sixteen acres; plaintiff claimed damages of $5,000.
  4. The plaintiff sought "to recover pay for the coal mined under the buildings at the rate of fifty cents per ton."

The verdict found by the jury, judgment rendered, and consequent petition in error are outlined in the following extract from the The American Law Journal:

  Under the first cause of action the jury found for the defendants; under the second cause of action found for the plaintiff, and assessed his damages at $500; under the third cause of action found for the plaintiff, and assessed his damages at $1,658.33; and under the fourth cause of action found for the defendants. In their special findings, by way of response to certain questions in writing propounded to them by direction of the court, the jury found, that the books kept by the defendants were not fraudulent or grossly inaccurate; that the damage done to the dwelling-house and barn by mining and removing coal amounted to $500; that there was no negligence or carelessness in mining the coal which caused the surface to fall in, other than the removal of the ribs and pillars; that the ribs and pillars were removed in a proper and reasonable manner, if the defendants had the right to remove all the coal from under the land, without reference to any support for the surface; that the damage done to the surface of the land by mining and removing coal amounted to $1,658.33; that the defendants mined, digged and carried away the coal and slack underlying the plaintiff's land, without leaving ribs, pillars, posts or supports to keep up said surface.

  Judgment was rendered on the first, second and fourth causes of action in accordance with the verdict; but the court, upon motion of the defendants, rendered judgment in their favor on the third cause of action, notwithstanding the verdict.

  A bill of exceptions was taken and allowed, embodying a portion of the evidence, and the charge of the court in full. A petition in error was filed by Samuel Burgner in the district court, where the questions arising in the case were reserved and sent to this court for decision.

After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court rendered its judgment in accordance with their opinion,

  that the judgment of the court of common pleas on the first and second causes of action should be afiirmed; that the judgment on the third cause of action should be reversed, with an entry of judgment for the plaintiff in error; and that the judgment on the fourth cause of action should be reversed, and the cause remanded for a new trial. Judgment accordingly.

Source: "Real Estate—Sale of Coal—Exemption—Injury to Building—Damages. (Ohio Supreme Court Commission. Nov. 11, 1884.)" The American Law Journal, Vol. II, No. 12 (Columbus, Ohio: 31 January 1885), pp. 191-6.

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