It is unclear when this picture was taken. The photographer appears to be standing on Locust Alley, based on the map of 1870, shown below, left. Note that Hull and Davis owned the two properties along Centre Street then. In the map on the right from 1884, the tank is back from the street, the building has been expanded, and Jacob Fetter's planing operation has replaced Hull and Davis. That happened in 1883. The roofs and stacks behind the gas works appear to be those of West Branch Knitting, on the other side of the tracks. That building, however, was built after 1888, which would date the Gas Works picture after that year.
The Milton Gas Works was located on the east side of Locust Alley, now Filbert Street, about a half block south of Center Street. Illuminating gas of this era was made from a byproduct of burning coal, and stored in a large tank as shown in the picture. It was then piped to homes and businesses for use in interior and exterior lighting.
From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891: The Milton Gas Company was organized, August 1, 1860, with William C. Lawson, president; William H. Frymire, secretary; William F. Nagle, treasurer, and a directory composed of William C. Lawson, William F. Nagle, Thomas Swenk, William H. Frymire, U. Q. Davis, Edward W. Chapin, and Thomas S. Mackey. At present R. F. Wilson is president, C. F. Follmer, secretary and treasurer, and the capital is thirty thousand dollars.
From History of Northumberland County, PA 1876: Milton Gas Company was incorporated in 1856. The first officers were: W. C. Lawson, president; Thomas S. Mackey, secretary and superintendent; and William F. Nagle, treasurer. The works are located on Filbert street, at Limestone Run. They were built in 1860-61 by William Helm, of Philadelphia, as contractor, at a cost of about twenty-two thousand dollars. The gas is manufactured from Clarion and Westmoreland counties’ bituminous coal, and is furnished at four dollars per thousand feet. Before the present year, the price was five dollars per thousand. The mains extend to Chamberlain’s addition on the north, and to Lower Market street on the south. In April, 1876, W. C. Lawson, Esq., having resigned the presidency, Mr. W. A. Schreyer was chosen his successor. The secretary is J. Woods Brown, Esq., and W. P. Hull is the treasurer. The company pays a semiannual dividend of five per cent.
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