Centralia Home Page
Centralia PA History
Mine Fire History
Pictures From Today
Centralia Then & Now
An in-depth View
Film and Song
Historical Photos
Mine Fire History
Visiting Centralia
Mine Fire Chronology
Satellite, Aerial Photos
360 Virtual Tours
Downtown Panoramic
Centralia Multimedia
Scientific Study
Memories of Centralia

Panoramic Virtual Tours:

Mine Fire Hot Spot
Downtown Centralia Mainstreet Centralia Damaged Hillside

Knoebels Amusement Park (only 15 miles from Centralia!) 
Ghost Towns
Area 51 - Groom Lake
Abandoned PA Turnpike
Defunct Amusement Parks
Abandoned Places


Photo Updates:

Centralia in HDR

July 2006 360? Virtual Tour of Downtown Centralia PA

Centralia's Neighbor:
Byrnesville, Pa

Zeisloft's Mobil
Gas Station

July 5th 2008
Centralia PA

Centralia PA 2008
January Photos and 
commentary by
Donald Davis

2006 Photos

2005 Photos
of Centralia


IMG_0215b.jpg (116899 bytes)
2004 Photos
of Centralia

2003 photos

of Centralia

DSCF0059.jpg (65114 bytes)
2002 photos

of Centralia

360 Degree Virtual Tours of Centralia PA

Fire In The Hole
by Kristie Betts
A fictional story based on Centralia

The Little
Town That Was

by Donald Hollinger


RESIDENTS TO SAVE THE BOROUGH OF CENTRALIA - FACT SHEET #6 - MARCH 1984 - This "Fact Sheet" was transcribed from a photocopied, original March 1984 newsletter from a Centralia organization called "Residents To Save The Borough Of Centralia".  Read the News Letter here

130th Anniversary
of the 1877 Shamokin Uprising and the Great Railroad Strike .. Read More


Centralia Today
A Photo Documentary
of Centralia today.


Mine Emergency Response Program
Details from the
Mine Rescue Manual


Published in Bank Note Reporter December 2002

Coal town bank tells
story of Centralia, Pa.

By Richard McDonnell

Fire Dept.
An astute businessman," Big Mike” McDonnell was known to carry the local newspaper’s business section under his arm regularly, as captured in this August 1928 Centralia Fire Company photograph.

After becoming interested in genealogy several years ago, I found a way to merge my interest in collecting paper currency with researching my family roots. In particular, my interest was piqued after discovering that my great-grandfather, Michael J. McDonnell, was associated with the First National Bank of Centralia, Pa., for 39 years. Michael was the bank’s vice president from 1909 to 1927 and its president from 1927 until his death on Dec. 27, 1948.

A first generation Irish-American, he was the son of John and Mary (Leahy) McDonnell. John immigrated from Tipperary, Ireland, and arrived in the Port of New York on April 1, 1854. He resided for a short time in Schuylkill County before establishing roots in a small town in Columbia County now known as Centralia, Pa. John purchased a large house along Locust and Railroad Streets on Sept. 5, 1862, established a well-respected hotel and restaurant, and raised four children: Catherine, John, Michael and Joseph.

Michael, also known as “Big Mike,” was born in Centralia on June 21, 1867. He began his working years as a landlord and wholesale liquor distributor. After his father and elder brother died, he also became the proprietor of the family hotel and restaurant in 1916. Michael was very civic-minded and was active in the Centralia Fire Department. Centralia Fire Company No. 1 was organized on May 6, 1893, and dues were a whopping 15 cents a month. The company was granted a charter by the Columbia County Court in Bloomsburg on Aug. 16, 1893. Michael was a member for many years and, most noteworthy, he intermittently served as fire chief and company president for many years. During 1922 the fire company nearly disbanded due to a lack of interest, lack of subsidies and poor equipment, but on Nov. 16, 1922, the fire company was reorganized. An active but small fire department remains today.


These checks are from the First National Bank of Centralia, Pa. At top, a personal check signed by Michael J. McDonnell dated May 9,1929; below it, another personal check payable to First National Bank dated April 26,1920.

By most definitions, the current state of Centralia would be considered a ghost town; however, this town has a vibrant and industrial past. The land was originally surveyed and subsequently purchased by the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company. In 1855 Alexander W. Rea, the first engineer and agent of the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, surveyed the town into streets and lots. This was practically the beginning of the town which was called Centreville at the time. The name Centralia was suggested by Rea because another Pennsylvania town named Centreville already existed. This suggestion combined with a strong insistence by the postal authorities to change names in order not to confuse mail deliveries was accepted, and in 1866 the Borough of Centralia was incorporated.

With the incorporation of Centralia, the residents saw a need to develop and expand. Many of the residents sought loans to purchase homes through the financial institutions located in Centralia. Prior to the incorporation of the First National Bank of Centralia, the town hosted two other financial institutions: The Centralia Mutual Savings Fund Association, and The Citizens’ Building and Loan Association.

The Centralia Mutual Savings Fund Association was established on Feb. 2, 1866. Prominent members of the town were chosen to serve on the board of directors. One member was Rea. Rea was a friend of the McDonnell family and was known to be a staunch supporter of coal miners. He built his home in a section of Centralia that later became known as Rea’s Hill. Rea vouched for the credibility of Michael’s father and served as a witness as John McDonnell presented his petition for naturalization on May 2, 1859.

First National Bank of Centralia, PA.
This was the building used after a major fire destroyed the original in 1912. Markers identifying the bank were written on both windows. This bank was located along Locust Ave. also known as State Highway 61.

Sadly, Rea was murdered in 1868. Several years later the county charged three suspects with murder and their subsequent trial was reported as another Molly Maguire trial. The jury found all three guilty of murder and they were hanged in the jail yard in Bloomsburg, Pa., on March 25, 1878.

For several years the Centralia Mutual Savings Fund Association was successful and profitable. Subsequently, this financial institution fell on hard times and was closed during 1886.

Centralia’s other financial business, the Citizens’ Building and Loan Association, was established after the Mutual Savings Association. Both Centralia associations coexisted for several years. The Citizens’ Building and Loan Association closed during the early 1900s.

The First National Bank of Centralia was organized on Sept. 9, 1909, and received charter number 9568 on Oct. 26, 1909. This bank opened for business on Dec. 1, 1909, with initial deposits of over $106,000. The bank was initially situated along the west side of Locust Avenue, which served as the main conduit through town. Today this road is also known as State Highway 61. After a major conflagration in 1912, the bank was destroyed; however, the cash and records were protected by the bank’s vault. The bank moved across the street and reopened for business the next day. This “new” building was originally constructed in 1866 and was purchased by the First National Bank for $6,000.

The Centralia bank remained solvent throughout the next 44 years. The following excerpt from a 1933 advertisement expresses the strength of this hometown bank during one of America’s most troubled times: “When President Roosevelt proclaimed the national bank holiday, he assured the people of these United States, that only sound banks would be permitted to reopen. The Government’s stamp of approval has given OUR depositors the additional satisfaction of knowing their confidence was not misplaced.”

This large-size note from the First National Bank of Centralia was signed by James Jones, cashier, and Theodore W. Riley, president.

Michael J. McDonnell resided in close proximity to the national bank and would walk to and from his office. As a businessman, he was always seen around town “looking dapper.” My late paternal grandmother once explained that Michael had a reputation for being “tight with a buck” but he was a kind man who commanded respect. An astute businessman, “Big Mike” was known to have the local newspaper’s business section consistently placed under his arm. Evidence of this was captured in an August 1928 Centralia Fire Company photograph.

A consummate businessman throughout his working years, Michael also ventured into an agreement with Atlantic Refining Company on July 22, 1932. Still serving as bank president, his initial three-year contract called for the selling of petroleum products along the front of his residence/hotel. Additionally, he dedicated an 8 x 15-foot room from his hotel for office space to operate his new business. This partnership with Atlantic Refining Company entitled him to receive one cent for every gallon of White Flash gasoline sold.

On Dec. 27, 1948, at the age of 81, Michael’s role as bank president ended with his death. Appropriately, the Mount Carmel Item newspaper’s headline read “M.J. McDonnell, Centralia Bank President, Dies.”

Centralia Bank Note.
This Type-2 small-size note was signed by Michael J. McDonnell, president, and John Cramer, cashier.

Subsequently, the First National Bank of Centralia was merged into the Pennsylvania National Bank & Trust Company of Pottsville, charter No. 01663, on Dec. 15, 1955, and the deed was officially recorded Feb. 25, 1956.

Due to the relocation of most of this Centralia branch office’s patrons, the final day of business was Nov. 30, 1987. The building was razed shortly thereafter. The Pennsylvania National Bank & Trust Company later became known as Keystone Financial Bank, NA, and on Oct. 6, 2000, was merged into Manufacturers & Traders Trust Company, Harrisburg, which is a state-chartered bank.

The beginning of the end of Centralia commenced in 1962 after an underground vein of coal caught fire and has continued burning for the last 40 years. The federal government began acquiring homes during the early 1980s and only a few residents remain today. Centralia has received national attention and several books have been published describing the history of this modern-day ghost town.

Centralia Bank Collage.
This photo shows a collection of Centralia National Bank items: personal checks; a 1912 passbook, "The Traveling Teller", A promotional metal bank circa early 1900's; and two National Bank Notes.

Centralia reached a maximum of 2,761 residents. At one point in time, Centralia had 19 general stores, two jewelry stores, 26 saloons, two theaters, a dairy, an ice cream parlor, five hotels, seven churches, a bottling works factory and six major collieries in close proximity to the town. These collieries were the main employers for the majority of Centralia’s hard-working men and boys for generations.

In order to further my research, I would greatly appreciate any additional information or items from either the First National Bank of Centralia, Pa., the Centralia Mutual Savings Fund Association or the Citizens’ Building and Loan Association. I would gladly purchase related bank items or reimburse anyone in order to have copies produced from these financial institutions.  Please click here to contact Rick McDonnell.

For More Centralia related information see Rick McDonnell's Web Site:


Rick McDonnell's grandfather, John M. McDonnell was the proprietor of McDonnell's Dairy (pasteurized milk & ice cream) and McDonnell's Ice Cream Parlor (later partnered with his brother, William "Bill").  The dairy operated from 1930 until his untimely death in December 1948.  The dairy was located along Railroad Street behind the McDonnell homestead situated at the corner of Locust Ave and Railroad St.  The ice cream parlor was situated along Locust Avenue and some old-timers have told Rick that McDonnell's had the whitest, best tasting vanilla ice cream.  


This 1929 bank ad was published in the "IRIS", school yearbook of Conyngham Township High School.


Two years later, this bank ad appeared in the "IRIS".






  Mine Fire History Mine Fire History Historical Photos
  Pictures From Today Mine Fire Chronology Visiting Centralia
  Centralia Then & Now 360? Virtual Tours Scientific Study
  Satellite, Aerial Photos Downtown Panoramic Centralia Books


Other Interesting Things




So you want to Visit Centralia PA?  What you should know before you go to Centralia PA.


The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict



What's near Centralia?

Plan your visit around one of Pennsylvania's best kept secrets located only 15 miles up the road from Centralia...

Amusement Park

Click Below for
 more details...

Amusement Park


Silent Hill & Centralia
Centralia PA inspires screenwriter Roger Avary during the making of the movie Silent Hill.
Read More Here...


Remembering ...
Byrnesville PA
By Mike Reilley

  Books about Centralia
  Maps of Centralia
  Around Town Today
  Local Attractions
  Personal Notes
  Additional Reading
  Haunted Centralia?
  Gerry McWilliams and
  the album "Centralia"
  Silent Hill Inspiration
  Other Mine Fires
  Search Centralia
  Centralia Sites/Books
Panoramic Virtual Tours:
Mine Fire Hot Spot
Downtown Centralia Mainstreet Centralia Damaged Hillside
  Centralia Infrared

Centralia PA in B&W Infrared
Infrared Photography
by Donald Davis

Video Tour
in Infrared of
Centralia PA
by Donald Davis


The Little Town That Was
by Donald Hollinger
Made in U.S.A. - 1987 movie that was filmed on location in Centralia PA See the opening Scene that started in Centralia during the peek of the mine fire disaster



Is Centralia Haunted?
Explore the possibility

The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict

Is there Hope
for Centralia?


Through the use of Nitrogen-Enhanced foam the Pinnacle mine fire was extinguished by Cummins Industries, Inc.  Cummins proposes to tackle the Centralia Mine fire and bring an end to the 
40 plus year fire.

Read this White Paper which evaluates the effectiveness of remotely applied nitrogen-enhanced foam to aid in efforts to isolate and suppress a mine fire.