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Series XVII. Josiah Vankirk Thompson, 1914-1920

Historical Background

Josiah Vankirk Thompson was the son of a prominent banker from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Uniontown is located in the Connellsville Coal Region where Thompson grew to know the value and profitability of coal lands to the developing steel market. When his father died, he acquired a large inheritance and the family banking business. Thompson continued his father’s banking business while expanding his interests into land speculation by purchasing large tracts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia coal lands. Thompson made his fortune by purchasing risky land investments that presented the possibility of large profits with an even larger possibility of a net loss. His business seemed to be going well until some of the risky investments fell through, debts compounded, and Thompson was forced to file bankruptcy in 1916.

During the bankruptcy, both secured and unsecured creditors filed their claims against Thompson. A creditors committee of bankers and businessmen was established to take possession of Thompson’s properties, which included his ownership of the First National Bank in Uniontown, the Highland Building in Pittsburgh, and his mansion at Oak Hill as well as his expansive coal lands. His entire estate was estimated to be worth over $50,000,000 at the time of bankruptcy in 1916.

The properties were later auctioned off to pay Thompson’s creditors. The estate and coal lands were quickly divided amongst buyers like the H.C. Frick Coal Company, the Northern Pacific Rail Road, and the Piedmont Coal Company. In 1916, the H.C. Frick Coal Company bought 12,000 acres of coal land for nearly $7,000,000. A few years later in 1919, the Piedmont Coal Company bought the entire Thompson Estate for nearly $18,000,000. Included in this deal were Thompson’s three mansions, the Highland Building in Pittsburgh, and over fifty thousand acres of coal land.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains records that pertain to the business deals and bankruptcy of J.V. Thompson. Materials included in this series are statements, assessments, correspondence, mortgages, briefs, and court suits. There are also maps for this series, but due to size, they are located in the Series XXVIII Maps and Architectural Drawings. Materials are arranged in three subseries: Coal Properties, Legal Material and Scrapbooks. The Coal Properties subseries relates to the purchasing of Thompson’s coal properties. The Legal Material consists of court cases held to secure Thompson’s outstanding debts. The Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings that document Thompson’s bankruptcy, claims, estate value, and property sale. The material in this series dates from 1914 to 1920.

Subseries 1. Coal Properties, 1908-1936

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries contains material that pertains to purchasing Thompson’s coal properties by Frick. Materials in this subseries consist of mortgages, statements, proceedings, bonds, tax transcripts, assessments, clippings, petitions, and maps. The materials are arranged by county relative to where the coal lands were located. Thompson’s coal lands were made up of properties mostly from Greene County, Pennsylvania and Monongalia County, West Virginia. The material in this subseries dates from 1914 to 1918.

Box 560
Folder 1 Coal Books and Tax Transcripts, Greene County, Pa., May 15-June 5, 1915
Folder 2 Coal in Franklin and Whitely Townships, Greene County, Pa., July 26-August 2, 1918
Folder 3 Copy of Bond from Josiah V. Thompson to H.C. Frick, November 2, 1914
Folder 4 Deeds of Trust, Greene County, Pa., April 1, 1914-June 2, 1915
Folder 5 Delinquent Taxes, Greene County, Pa., December 15, 1914-April 12, 1916
Folder 6 Foreclosure Proceedings, Greene County, Pa., August 5-19, 1915
Folder 7 Foreclosure Proceedings, Greene County, Pa., August 18-December 15, 1915
Folder 8 Frick Sale, Greene County, Pa., June 21, 1918-August 2, 1918
Folder 9 Mortgage, Greene County, Pa., November 10, 1914
Folder 10 Mortgage Book, Josiah Vankirk Thompson to H.C Frick [2 copies], May 1, 1914
Folder 11 Payment of Greene County, Pa. school taxes from Reed, Smith, Shaw, and Bell, June 23, 1915-July 10, 1918

Box 561
Folder 1 Real Estate Sale for Taxes, Greene County, Pa., May 10-June 10, 1918
Folder 2 Sheriff Sale, Greene County, Pa., August 16, 1917
Folder 3 Tax Lien Statements, Greene County, Pa., March 5-September 27, 1915
Folder 4 Taxes on mortgages, Greene County, Pa., November 29, 1915-May 18, 1916
Folder 5 Taxes on mortgages, Greene County, Pa., November 12, 1917-April 29, 1919
Folder 6 Taxes paid by E.G. Donley, May 11, 1916-July 10, 1918
Folder 7 Coal Land Statements, Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., June 26-November 1, 1916
Folder 8 H.C. Frick Coke Company, Holdings in Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., March 6, 1916-May 15, 1919
Folder 9 Mortgage Statements from Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., April 1, 1914-July 1, 1918
Folder 10 Sale to Dorsely in Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., June 27, 1918-January 13, 1919
Folder 11 Undivided Interests in Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., January 20-28, 1915
Folder 12 Undivided Interests in Greene County, Pa. and Monongalia County, W.Va., June 30, 1915-March 7, 1918
Folder 13 Ancillary Court Proceedings, Monongalia County, W.Va., September 12-24, 1919
Folder 14 Assessment, Monongalia County, W.Va., May 2-August 5, 1916
Folder 15 Assessment Data, Monongalia County, W.Va., April 19-August 12, 1915

Box 562
Folder 1 Deed of Trust, Monongalia County, W.Va., undated
Folder 2 Demurrer and Answer, Monongalia County, W.Va., April 8, 1916
Folder 3 Property Valuations and 1917 Taxes in Monongalia County, W.Va., August 31, 1918
Folder 4 Property Valuations and 1918 Taxes in Monongalia County, W.Va., January 4, 1919
Folder 5 Property Valuations and 1919 Taxes in Monongalia County, W.Va., September 27-October 21, 1919
Folder 6 Releasing Property in Monongalia County, W.Va., January 9-March 15, 1919
Folder 7 Taxes from Monongalia County, W.Va. for 1914, Unpaid, July 21, 1914-August 5, 1915
Folder 8 Tax Statements for Monongalia County, W.Va., June 13, 1916-December 13, 1917
Folder 9 Tax Statements for Monongalia County, W.Va., August 16, 1917-August 5, 1918
Folder 10 Tax Statements for Monongalia County, W.Va., November 29, 1915, September 7, 1916

Subseries 2. Legal Material, 1915-1920

Scope and Content Notes:

Material in this subseries consists of court cases that were held against Thompson by his secured and unsecured creditors, which included Frick. The court case items contain correspondence, court proceedings, statements, transcripts, briefs, and newspaper clippings. The people that filed suit against Thompson were Waitman H. Conoway, David H. Cortney, Jacob S. Hayden, and Fuller Hogsett. In the case of Courtney v. Thompson, many folders contain correspondence between Frick, Karl F. Overholt (president of St. Paul Coal Co.), and the attorneys that represented their clients. Materials in each file folder are arranged in chronological order. The material in this subseries dates from 1915 to 1920.

Box 563
Folder 1 Assets, Analysis of Thompson Estate, September 20, 1917
Folder 2 Assets, Papers brought by W.J.N., June 18, 1918
Folder 3 Clippings and Notes, April 1, 1917-September 1, 1920
Folder 4 Claim Petition, June 23, 1919
Folder 5 Conoway v. Thompson, August 20, 1917-August 15, 1919
Folder 6 Courtney v. Thompson, Proceedings, October 14, 1916
Folder 7 Courtney v. Thompson, Decree, October 14-December 20, 1916
Folder 8 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit, June 12, 1915-May 19, 1916
Folder 9 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit, May 20-July 14, 1916
Folder 10 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit, December 5, 1916-May 22, 1917
Folder 11 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit, April 14, 1917-February 15, 1918
Folder 12 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit and Decree Proposed, September 30-October 19, 1916
Folder 13 Courtney v. Thompson, Suit and Proposed Sale, January 21-June 14, 1917
Folder 14 Courtney v. Thompson, Tracts of Coal, April 23, 1917
Folder 15 Hayden v. Thompson, Court Case Brief, Petition and Brief, October 1916
Folder 16 Hayden v. Thompson, Receivership Matter, April 10-October 30, 1915
Folder 17 Hayden v. Thompson, Receivership Matter, October 30, 1915-September 27, 1917

Box 564
Folder 1 Hayden v. Thompson, Court Case Brief, Transcript of Record, January 19, 1915
Folder 2 Hayden v. Thompson, Summons and Acceptance, May 4, 1917
Folder 3 Hayden v. Thompson, Bill, undated
Folder 4 Hogsett v. Thompson, Appraisement, July 12, 1915-June 11, 1917
Folder 5 Hogsett v. Thompson, Appraisement and Creditors Committee, September 9, 1916-July 4, 1917
Folder 6 Hogsett v. Thompson, Appraisement and Property Sales, May 21, 1917, May 5, 1918
Folder 7 Hogsett v. Thompson, Receivership Suit, January 28, 1915-May 15, 1917
Folder 8 Hogsett v. Thompson, Reorganization and Readjustment, May 15-June 19, 1917

Subseries 3. Scrapbooks, 1916

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries contains two scrapbooks that document the bankruptcy of J.V. Thompson. The books contain newspaper clippings on property sales, creditor claims, coal land sales, and estate estimates. The clippings are from newspapers from Pittsburgh, Greene County, and Fayette County. Newspaper clippings include articles from the following publications: the Pittsburgh Dispatch,Pittsburgh Sun,Democratic Messenger (Waynesburg, Pa.), Pittsburgh Post,Pittsburgh Press, the Gazette Times, and the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph. Most of the articles are sited and date from February 21, 1916 to June 25, 1919; however there is no corresponding index of subject topics. Additionally, there is information relating to the Thompson matters in another scrapbook labeled as “Coal Clippings.” The materials in that scrapbook date from January 20, 1915 to February 9, 1916. The book has an index and the clippings are clearly sited. The Thompson material is on pages one through twenty-five and then on pages 120 to 143. The material in this subseries dates from January 1915 to June 1919.

Box 565 J.V. Thompson Scrapbook, February 21, 1916-June 25, 1919
Box 566 “Coal Clippings” Scrapbook, January 15, 1915-February 9, 1916