Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘coal tipple’

Coal Miners’ Exhausting Work at King’s Mine

Photos from David Adair collection

This double engine stops by the tipple for some coal in its feeders.

In 1895, Robin’s Mine just two miles from Lore City loaded train cars with coal mined there to take to the big cities, where much of it would be used in steel mills. However, one day something happened. The mine ran out of its vein of coal.

Two years earlier, Madison and Alexander Robins furnished financing for the opening of a 97-foot shaft that led to a vein of coal 5′ high. As the men worked the shaft, that vein kept getting smaller and smaller until it disappeared into a wall of stone called a “horseback.”

This 1895 picture shows a fairly new King’s Mine tipple with wooden coal cars waiting to be filled.

At that time the Robins brothers thought about abandoning the project but they had thousands of dollars invested. Up stepped Joe King, a local colored man who worked in the mine. He proposed that they blast through the horseback, without having any idea of its thickness,  to see what was on the other side.

Joe and a few friends took on that project and did indeed blast through the stone wall and find another vein of coal. This vein was even larger than the first one at 14′ high!

Joe King had a professional picture taken at a studio in Cambridge.

Imagine the excitement of the Robins brothers when they were shown this new discovery. Why they were so happy, they changed the name of the mine from Robin’s Mine to King’s Mine in honor of Joe King. A town near the mine was named Kingston. Joe became a bit of a celebrity in the coal mining town for a while.

A locomotive gets a load of #7 coal in its tender.

During their heyday, King’s Mine had as many as thirty trains a day stop to pick up coal to take to places like Akron or Cleveland. At the tipple, they would drop 35-40 tons of coal into each car plus 14 tons into the tender of the steam locomotive. Now, that’s a lot of coal.

This receipt shows coal being sold to Morton Tin Plate Co. in Cambridge in 1895.

Workers in the mine were a diverse group but most were uneducated in 1895. There were around 350 Hungarians, Slavs, Polish, and Negroes who found this a place where they could at least feed their families and have a roof over their head.

This young couple dressed in their best to meet at the tipple.

Housing was provided for the workers by the company. In those early days, the miners earned about $15 every two weeks and were paid in cash. Their rent was $12 a month, which they paid at the company store. Not much left for anything else. A mule was worth more to the company than a miner.

This photo of King’s Mine in 1926 shows the company store on the left with all the windows.

That old song “I owe my soul to the company store” was certainly true in King’s Mine and other towns in Guernsey County at that time. You must realize that in the summer there was no work at the mine because not as many needed coal in the summer. Then the miners had to put their rent and any food purchases on the tab at the company store to have part of their pay taken each payday in the future to help pay this debt.

Occupants of this little town would exchange milk, butter, eggs, and sometimes meat. If they needed sugar, flour, coffee, or supplies to work in the mine, they had to purchase those at the company store. Miners were never given equipment to work with. They had to purchase their own picks, shovels, carbine hats, and even dynamite. Life was not easy for these miners.

Students studied with their teacher at a one-room elementary school.

It was common practice for the miners to put a couple of lumps of coal in their dinner pail all year long either from the mine or on their walk home along the tracks. That way they could heat their house at no cost. The children most likely would also pick up a few lumps on their way home.

While the company had electricity in their company store and even at the coal mine to move the coal to the tipple, miners had no electricity in their homes. There was no running water and always outdoor toilets.

Ohio 265 sign shows a rough road in 1926 in front of the power house and tipple.

In 1908, a fire destroyed the tipple, all the buildings, and machinery. For seven years, this mine did not operate and became filled with water. At that time, it was leased to Akron Coal Company and the mine was rebuilt. From 1916 to 1936, the mine continued in full operation until all the coal was mined out.

This bronze statue made by Alan Cottrill to honor all miners stands at the old depot in Byesville, Ohio.

A bronze statue created by Alan Cottrill can be found at the old Byesville depot. In the early 1900s, Byesville was the coalmining capital of Ohio. It honors all those miners who worked in the dangerous underground mines with very little pay or benefits. Part of the plaque on that statue reads:

May our miners of those early days never be forgotten for all their dangerous work underground with little pay and no benefits.

Blue Heron Coal Mine in Cumberland River Valley

After walking along the beautiful Cumberland River, decided to take a break in an abandoned coal mining town.

Today this old mining camp has been restored as an historical tribute to the people who lived and worked there…kind of a museum to Old King Coal. No. 18 Mine Blue Heron is located in the hills of Kentucky near Stearns in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Carved in the side of a mountain, it overlooks the Big South Fork of the beautiful Cumberland River.

Since this stop was in the winter time, the museum was not open, but still could enjoy the atmosphere of the mining camp. There wasn’t another living person around that day so had the freedom to move at a leisurely pace along the paved walkways in this re-created mining town.

…”I owe my soul to the Company’s Store.” That was the life of the coal miners in this small town of Blue Heron  from 1939-1962. From this isolated location, everything they purchased had to come through the Company Store. Instead of cash, miners would “draw scrip”, unexchangeable credit vouchers which could only be used at the company’s store. Coal companies had their own scrip coins with their personal emblem , thus indeed miners did end up owing their soul to the Company’s Store. They had no way to establish cash savings to find another workplace.  Luckily, some coal mines gave their miners a choice of cash or scrip for payment, and eventually the United Mine Workers Union forced them to discontinue the use of scrip completely.

Stops along the way contained recordings of the miners’ stories and provided a resting place as well.  The voices heard were those of long ago residents of Blue Heron as they shared their stories and memories of life at the mining camp.

Just looking into the entrance of the Blue Heron Coal Mine gave an understanding of what these miners faced each day. Inside there were figures of miners picking, drilling, and loading.  One of the recordings there described the mine as “dark as a dungeon, camp as the dew,” as singer Merle Travis portrayed the mines in his 1946 recording.  Outside this entrance the coal cars and locomotives were originals from the mining camp.

Was exciting to walk across the old tipple bridge to get a bird’s eye view of the area. This tipple was able to screen, separate, and load about 400 tons of coal an hour.

Sometimes over 200 men worked in this camp. When they got off work, most headed to the big bath house so they could shower and change their clothes before heading home for the day.  That saved a lot of coal dust in the houses! Workers actually went on a two day strike to get a bigger bath house, but of course didn’t get paid while on strike. Imagine their families really appreciated the cleaner workers coming home at night.

Learned a little more about the life of a coal miner…their living and working conditions. Next time perhaps will take the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which reaches the heart of the canyon along the Cumberland River and drops passengers off for a visit to the Blue Heron Coal Mine.  Add a Coal Miner’s Lunch all wrapped up in a bandanna for a better taste of the mining experience.

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