Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Diamonds: Lucas County & Coal (Part 4)

The town of Phillips, named after Thomas J. Philips --- then superintendent of mining operations at Cleveland --- was platted in 1887 just south of the White Breast Coal & Mining Company's new No. 3 mine. The town died at birth; the new mine three years later.

To recap a little --- William Haven and his crew of miners hit Lucas County deep coal with an exploratory shaft about a mile and a quarter east of Lucas on Saturday, Jan. 15, 1876. Sunday, Jan. 16, was spent burrowing through the bed to determine its thickness and when that had been gauged at 5-feet-3-inches --- 5 feet was a magic number --- there should have been a shout of "Eureka," if there were not.

The White Breast Coal & Mining Co. was incorporated the following Wednesday and west central Lucas County began to boom.

This all took time, of course. The exploratory shaft would remain as the air shaft, but the main shaft had to be dug and walled some distance to the south. Rail sidings were built from the main line of the C.B.&Q. to the mine site so that coal could be hauled away. Mine buildings were constructed and equipment installed.

The Chariton Leader, in its edition of Feb. 5, 1876, reported, "The air shaft of the Whitebreast Coal & Mining Co. is located 1 1/4 mile east of Lucas, and to the main shaft, which is 850 feet south, about one mile. The main shaft is to be driven 150 feet from the railroad track. They intend having one main switch with three branches for the three grades of coal (slack, nut and lump), making the most complete mine in the state for advantages and facilities of loading."


A year later, the mine was fully operational. The following is part of a longer report published first in The Burilington Hawkeye, then reprinted on Jan. 17, 1877, in The Chariton Patriot:

The mine is worked from the principal shaft, which is 7 x 14 feet, very strongly walled with timbers, and protected from surface water inflow. It is ventilated by the aid of another shaft, the two forming an up-current of air through the principal shaft. The mine is remarkable dry and free from either moisture or foul air. We tramped through the myriad galleries as if over a dusty road, and no sign of moisture presented itself; in fact, the visitor comes out as dry externally as when he entered upon his subterranean explorations....

The underground work is in charge of Thomas A. Francis, a skilled and experienced miner, by whom, also the prospecting was done under the supervision of Mr. Haven, the general superintendent. Mr. Francis is "pit boss," and takes an especial pride in the "underground city," which he is rapidly constructing. The progress of the work is something creditable to Iowa enterprise. One thousand yards of main and side entries have been driven and a large amount of preliminary work done, which now puts the company in position to turn out 50 car loads of coal per day, or more by working day and night. The equipments have cost altogether about $35,000 and are as complete and efficient as capital and modern invention can make them.

The buildings consist of engine and boiler house, tower and coal shutes, blacksmith and carpenter shops, etc. The coal passages are all equipped with iron tramways along whose smooth tracks mild mannered mules drag a ton of coal at a time. It is raised to the surface on a car in the quick time of 12 tons in 10 minutes as timed by the watch. Twelve tons make a carload, and at this rate the mine would turn out 60 cars a day, or one hundred cars working double time. The coal is weighed on a 60,000 pound Fairbanks track scale, 32 feet long and double beam. It is in charge of Thomas Watson, weighmaster, who handles the monster scales with all the ease and accuracy with which a postmaster weighs a letter.


As what was known as Mine No. 1 was developed, the demand for professional miners grew --- and they arrived by rail, primarily from the East, at a steady pace, some unattached but many with wives and children. With the exception of Swedes, nearly all were immigrants from the British isles or the sons of immigrants.

William Haven platted the original village of Cleveland for White Breast Fuel & Mining during June of 1878, but there had been building on the site since shortly after No. 1 was opened. Now growth would begin to accelerate and the village would be added to twice before it began to decline. Lots were for sale, and many bought, but the mine company built most of the early houses --- rented to miner familes as they arrived in town, then often sold to them later. Lucas was experiencing a building boom, too.

When the 1880 federal census was taken, 891 people lived in Lucas; 380 in brand new town of Cleveland. The Welsh were best represented among Lucas County's newest citizens, but the English came in second. Then in declining numbers, Scots, Swedes and Irish.

Labor giant John Lewellyn Lewis was born in Cleveland on Feb. 12, 1880. His father, Thomas H. Lewis, who left Wales during 1869-70, apparently had worked in mines in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before heading to the Black Hills in search of gold. He arrived single in Lucas County during 1876 to work in the new White Breast mines --- and married Anna L. Watkins, daughter of another Welsh miner, here on May 20, 1878.

Cleveland was a "dry" town --- White Breast Coal & Mining did not allow the sale of intoxicating beverages on its property and the deed for each lot it sold contained a covenant also forbidding the sale of liquor. It was in some ways, a model family village.

Lucas, however, was not dry --- nor was a stretch of open territory between the two towns before annexations to both closed it. There was a rather famous saloon named "Last Chance" in that gap in the beginning.

The area east of Cleveland, over the line into Whitebreast Township around the mines, developed into the unincorporated settlement known as East Cleveland. At times any thing that could go on there, did --- with the added complication of no law enforcement.


Also during 1880, work began on a second White Breast Coal and Mining shaft some three-quarters of a mile east of Shaft No. 1. The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 22, 1880, reported that the new shaft --- Mine No. 2 --- was "nearly down to coal." It opened and was developed fully during 1881, increasing the need for miners. These two shafts more commonly were called "A" and "B" and as mining continued during the 1880s, their underground workings joined up.

1880 also was the year that the White Breast partners, including John C. Osgood and William Haven, opened the Western Supply Co. store in Cleveland. This was a company store, but also because of its scale and variety of merchandise served Lucas and the surrounding rural community. It was rather famous in its time.

About this time our friend William Haven, who began his career as prospector, then became president of White Breast Coal and finally, after passing the presidency on to Osgood, became general superintendent, slips out of sight briefly. Everything indicates Haven had marginal interest in completed projects, preferring to move along to something new. Thomas J. Phillips replaced Haven as superintendent of operations at Cleveland during 1880.

Most likely Haven remained on the White Breast payroll, but in another field, until 1882, when he sold out after agreeing not to engage in the coal business along the C.B.&Q. line for 10 years. We'll catch up with him in upstate New York, Omaha and St. Joe, Missouri, another time.


The 1880s were the boom years for the White Breast field, and as many as 800 miners were on the payroll during those years. By 1890, Cleveland's population had grown to 807; Lucas, to 1,320. Cleveland actually had begun to decline by 1890, so its population may have been even larger a little earlier.

The first black miners arrived in Cleveland during the fall of 1881, recruited by White Breast Coal. I'm not going to tackle this topic now, because it's complicated and the record is muddled by misinformation, speculation and the overt racism of many of the newspaper men who filed reports datelined Cleveland during the 1880s. 

One of the potentially most interesting reports about these new Lucas Countyans, published in The Patriot of Nov. 2, 1881, is largely illegible because of careless microfilming (an original copy of the newspaper, if it exists, is not accessible in Chariton and damnfool state archivists destroyed the state's newspaper archive many years ago after microfilming it). But what little bit of it that can be read, follows:

"Yesterday afternoon we paid a brief visit to the camp of the colored miners near Cleveland, and found the colored men perfectly happy and contented. There were originally 140 men, but a few of them were dissatisfied and left, while a few miners were found incompetent, and discharged, leaving present number about 115 or 120. The houses for their accommodation are being built as rapidly as possible, and as fast as completed are taken possession of by the families of married men. From a conversation with Mr. William Freeman and others, we learned ...."  (balance illegible.)


There were few clouds on the coal industry's horizon in Lucas County during the first years of the 1880s, but as the decade advanced Whitebreast No. 1 came near to being minded out and during August of 1887 it closed after a major "sqeeze."

The White Breast bed was mined using the room-and-pillar method. Coal was removed to form large rooms with substantial coal pillars left to support the slate roof. As areas were mined out, these pillars often were carefully removed and the chambers allowed to collapse. That apparently was going on below Cleveland when an unplanned chain-reaction "squeeze" commenced in the north part of the mine. Chambers began to collapse in domino-like sequence as pillars failed. Here's how The Chariton Herald of Aug. 25 reported "the squeeze" under a headline that read, "Good Bye to the Old Shaft."

"Last Sunday the northern part of shaft No. 1, at Cleveland, began to close up. The squeeze kept increasing so rapidly that the miners in that portion of the shaft had barely time to get out their tools before it was too late. On Monday, but five drivers out of the whole number employed could be given work. Tuesday evening shortly before dark, the squeeze again commenced, and the miners who had gone home from work were notified that if they wanted their tools they must make haste to get them out. A force of men was put to work to get out the cars and track as fast as possible, and at this writing (Wednesday morning) it is evident that the whole shaft will be closed up. Fortunately, all the miners secured their tools, as those in the mine Tuesday night took out all they could find, regardless of whether the owner was there or not.

The closing up of this shaft will be a serious loss, not only to the Whitebreast Company, but to the miners, and our town as well. There were about 200 men employed in the shaft, and while a large portion of them will probably begin work in No. 2 they will probably not have more than half time. The new shaft will not be ready for hoisting coal before Christmas, and while the miners have work enough to keep the wolf from the door, they will be obliged to use economy.

As mentioned, the "new shaft" --- for the White Breast No. 3 mine, located higher in the hills east of the No. 1 and 2 shafts --- was being readied for production as No. 1 closed itself down. This mine was highly touted, highly anticipated --- and quite likely its financing involved a bit of scamming of eastern investors by the remaining White Breast stockholders.

The town of Phllips was platted near the new shaft during June of 1887, and it was anticipated that it would develop as Cleveland had during the previous 10 years. The new shaft reached coal during October 1887.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned. Miners left underutilized by cutbacks at No. 1 and 2 went to work at No. 3, so there was no need for another town --- and Phillips died at birth. The coal taken out of No. 3 was not of the same high quality as that produced by No. 1 and No. 2. And the whole operation was plagued by accidents and other minor disasters.

By 1889, when No. 3 should have been the biggest producer had projections panned out, only 200 miners were working there. No. 2 remained larger, employing 300. No. 1 had been abandoned.

During May of 1890, White Breast officials directed that coal mined in No. 3 mine be brought out through No. 2 --- workings of the new mine had reached those of the old. That led to speculation that No. 3's days were numbered. 

The Lucas Ledger reported on May 29, 1890, that "quite a number of our miners are leaving Lucas and Cleveland. Some are going to Ottumwa, some to Centerville and others are going to Colorado; all are looking for a better locality for work."

White Breast No. 3 closed officially on July 12, 1890, and all of the equipment was removed to a new White Breast mine in Wapello County, Keb No. 2.

Almost immediately thereafter, the general offices of White Breast Coal & Mining were moved from Burlington to Chicago and a branch office was opened in Ottumwa. The manager of the Cleveland office was sent there to run it.

White Breast No. 2 was abandoned less than a year later, during May of 1891, and all equipment that could be salvaged and moved to other mine sites elsewhere in southern Iowa was. The White Breast Coal office in Cleveland was locked for the last time. Lucas County's first coal boom had gone bust.

A Patriot reporter visited the two Clevelands, one officially a village and the other, not, during 1894 and reported, "The Patriot representative, in his wanderings around the once busy town of Cleveland, unconsciously repeated the poetic story of Goldsmith, "deserted village." The great hive of industry, wherein toiled nearly two thousand men a few years ago, is now nearly silent .... The great coal deposits were practically worked out, capital pulled up stakes and the army of labor followed. The seven hills whereon the classic town of East Cleveland stood is now a common everyday corn field."

By 1900, Cleveland's population had declined to 202. Eighteen years later, after petition was filed in Lucas County District Court, the Cleveland plat was vacated and the little boom town officially vanished.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Water Department, the closet & me

The best photo opportunity of the week presented itself in my downstairs bedroom closet yesterday --- and darned if didn't occur to me that I should have grabbed a camera until a half hour after the moment had passed. That means I missed the chance to spin a yarn about this house being a stop on the underground railroad.

Not that anyone would have believed me (the house is only 20 years old), but I could have tried.

This all started the summer before last when two guys from the Chariton Water Department knocked at the front door, told me they needed to change out the water meter and asked to go to the basement. 

So I had to explain the facts of life --- there is no basement; the house sits atop a crawl space. It is a cadillac among crawl spaces, high enough to stand upright in, thoroughly insulated, vented, vapor-sealed and all the rest. But crawl space none-the-less.

And the only access is a trap door in the floor of the closet in the downstairs bedroom --- totally invisible under layers of padding and carpet unless you know where to look. In short, it would have been the perfect place to conceal fugitive slaves --- had it been built 150 years ago.

I told the water guys that it would take a day or two to get ready for their descent, since the closet would have to be cleared, and they seemed dubious. So I invited them in to look, opened the closet doors, we looked in, they turned pale, then turned tail and ran, saying, "uh --- call us when you're ready."

I don't sleep down here, so the closet has been used for storage; lots of storage.

More than a year passed, then last week there was another knock on the door and a different set of Water Department personnel --- this time, it seemed like a good idea to make an appointment and finally get the job done.

So I spent the equivalent of a full day clearing that closet --- the biggest challenge was the big old battered trunk that had accompanied my paternal grandmother to new homes, boarding school, Simpson College and elsewhere after the untimely death of her mother condensed her belongings into it while her father, my great-grandfather, acquired a trophy bride some 20 years his junior named Maude and headed for Wyoming to ranch, drink, gamble and carouse.

But I was ready yesterday afternoon when the water guy returned with a ladder (it's a long way down), flashlight, tool kit and new water meter --- and he got the job done quickly and efficiently; a credit to the Water Department. 

It was a tight squeeze, mostly because it was a fat ladder, but he was relatively young, limber and not overweight. I'm still kicking myself, however, because I didn't get a shot of his upper half emerging from that trapdoor in the closet floor.

The trap door's back in place, the carpet down again and I've promised myself that I'm going to be more careful about what I cram in that closet from now on. Of course everything that had been there is now sitting in the upstairs store room --- and it was already hard to find a path through that mess. So there's still work to do.

Everyone in Chariton eventually will receive one of these fancy new meters that transmits its readings, as I understand it, to personnel who drive slowly by. So the days of meter-readers who walk from house to house are passing --- and that seems like a good thing. What can seem like a pleasant task when the weather's decent can turn nasty when temperatures drop toward or below zero and snow starts to fly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ending the teaching of contempt ...

A YouTube version of Dr. David Gushee's Nov. 8 presentation entitled "Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church's Sexual Minorities" became available this week. So I sat down to watch what is seen by many as a strong affirmative statement from a noted evangelical protestant scholar that might aid efforts by LGBT people to find a place in that wing of the church.

Gushee, also a noted Holocaust scholar, is of Southern Baptist origin, but now would be better described as a moderate and serves as director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Georgia's Mercer University, once a Southern Baptist institution, now independent although loosely affiliated in things theological with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The presentation was keynote during an early November conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Reformation Project, an organization launched by young evangelical LGBT activist Matthew Vines and others aimed at reforming the church's contemptuous teachings, advocacy and actions related to gay people.

I liked the presentation --- it is skillfully done, compelling and most likely will aid the causes of an increasing number of moderates within evangelical circles who wish to be seen as less hateful and more welcoming, even in some cases as affirming.

Gushee, like many others who have changed their hearts and minds, acknowledged that the simple act of getting to know LGBT people had been a major factor in his shift in thinking. He discovered that one of his sisters was gay, then became acquainted with LGBT people for the first time after moving outside the walls of conservative evangelical academia, theology and worship.

I was interested in some statistics that he cited --- not that many years ago, when queried, only about 22 percent of Christians acknowledged knowing someone who was gay; now, that percentage is up to something like 64. The most subversive thing gay people have done is merely to tell their stories and become visible.

Much of Gushee's presentation --- he is a Holocaust scholar, after all --- involves parallels between the experiences of Jews in relation to the Christian church and those of gay people --- locating a scapegoat, justifying its persecution with scripture, then building a two-millennia tradition of hatefulness. Those parallels have their limits, obviously, because the focus on gay people is far more recent and the results, far less apocalyptic.  

In the case of Jews, the Christian tradition was appropriated by the Nazi state, leading to the slaughter of millions --- as Christians for the most part merely looked on.

In the aftermath, out of shame and most likely the impulse for self-protection, Christians of all varieties reinterpreted scripture, repudiated the old traditions and to one degree or another repented. To a lesser degree, the church has adopted similar tactics in regard to racism, enslavement and the oppression of dissenters, women, ethnic minorities and others.

That, Gushee argues, would be the appropriate response for Christians in relation to LGBT people, too, and a way to move forward.

It is a compelling argument --- but begs the question: When the church has finished repenting for centuries of wickedness will there be anything of value left to salvage?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shadrack Fry and Fry Hill

A cemetery high on a hill overlooking the White Breast Creek valley was among the amenities added when the White Breast Fuel & Mining Co. developed Cleveland in the late 1870s to house its workers. 

Neighboring Lucas, founded in 1867 as the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad line was being built through the the valley, didn't have one. Rose Hill Cemetery was not far northwest of town; Grimes, to the east; and they had been considered sufficient.

The new cemetery was known first as just Cleveland, but after a young Welsh miner named Shadrack Fry died in 1880 and was buried there, some started calling it "Fry Hill" --- and that's the name that stuck, a permanent memorial to a young man otherwise --- for the most part --- forgotten.

Shadrack's death was reported in The Chariton Patriot of Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1880, as part of a brief but newsy dispatch from Cleveland and Lucas, signed by a correspondent who styled himself for some reason, "A Nasty Coal Miner."

"Shadrack Fry, a miner of this place, died last week of a lung complaint. He was buried in the new cemetery north of Cleveland," the report begins. Then the page is torn and a few words missing. The rest of the report commences, " He had no rela ...," presumably "relatives," then concludes, "... with him, however, in his last moments."

The missing words probably would have told us that friends were with him when he died. Shadrack did have a family, of course --- in Pennsylvania; and they most likely were informed and perhaps arranged for the tombstone that marks his grave.

Fry Hill Cemetery is a gorgeous place with views that go on for miles --- but not so much in winter when the wind cuts like a knife. So I didn't drive out this week. Instead, I'm using a photo I took during September of 2010 and borrowed the tombstone photo, shot by Doris Christensen, from Find A Grave. You can see some of the Fry Hill views by going here.


Thanks to the wonders of computer-based genealogical research, we know that Shadrack was the second son of Charles and Jane (Werrett) Fry, born in Wales, where his father was working as a collier, or coal miner, in 1851.

Charles and his eldest son, Thomas, age 7, arrived in New York from Liverpool on the 25th of July, 1860, aboard the ship Chancellor. Jane, Shadrack (then age 6) and younger brother, George, age 2, came a year later, landing in New York on 22 August 1861 aboard the ship Dreadnought.

The family settled in Pennsylvania and Charles and Jane had another child, Charlotte, born during May of 1864, and then Charles died. The widowed Jane married another Welsh miner, David Morgan --- a few years her junior --- during 1870 and they settled down at Shamokin in Northumberland County, Pannsylvania, and had two daughters, Mary and Rachel Morgan.


When the 1880 federal census of Cleveland was taken on June 28, 1880, Shadrack was boarding with another Welsh coal mining family, John and Sarah Watkins and two of their children, George, 18, also a miner, and Elizabeth, age 5. 

Four miners, all natives of Wales, were boarding with the Watkins --- Shadrack, age 24; David Hines, 23; John Clifford, 27; and Lewis Llewellyn, 61.

Shadrack, David and John all were listed in the census as "disabled" in some manner. Shadrack hadn't worked in three months. 

It's tempting to speculate that Sarah Watkins somehow specialized in caring for ailing miners --- and that some or all of these people were among those with Shadrack when he died. It seems likely that his death was caused by tuberculosis, then a great killer of the young and a disease aggravated by work in the mines.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Black Diamonds: Lucas County and Coal (Part 3)

What I want to do here today is allow William Haven to tell in his own words the tale of financial and physical adventures involved during the mid-1870s in locating and then sinking the first shaft to deep coal deposits under Lucas County. In doing so, he set off a boom-and-bust industrial-scale mining industry that didn't sputter out finally until 1950 when the last deep mine closed just north of Chariton.

The setting is the area just east of Lucas, in Jackson and Whitebreast townships, and the illustrations here are plats of the ghost town of Cleveland, the White Breast Coal & Mining Co. company town surveyed by Haven, which he first platted on June 26, 1878. This was some two years after coal had been located and the Whitebreast No. 1 mine had opened for production. The plats are taken from Lucas County's 1896 land ownership atlas.

At the height of this first phase of big-time mining in Lucas County several thousand people lived in Lucas and Cleveland as well as the unincorporated area known as East Cleveland that straggled off to the east. Many residents of East Cleveland were black and there was not always peace in the White Breast valley, but that's a story for another time.

By now, 2014, the Clevelands have disappeared and only a couple of hundred people live in Lucas. Nor would it be easy to locate the sites of the three Whitebreast mines, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, which were located just east of Cleveland, over the line in White Breast Township.


The cast of characters who were among Haven's first financial backers is fascinating, but there isn't time to go into their lives and times, too. So here's a summary of the principals involved in the formation of the White Breast Coal & Mining Co., organized immediately after coal was struck.

John Cleveland Osgood, who would later rise to robber barondom in Colorado and elsewhere, was only 25 when the company was formed. He was born in Brooklyn, but came to Burlington with his parents at age 6. In 1874, after working as a bookkeeper in New York City, he accepted the position of cashier of the Union Coal & Mining Co. of Ottumwa --- also William Haven's employer at the time. That was how they became acquainted. By 1876, Osgood was cashier of First National Bank, Burlington.

Wesley J. Jones was a little older when coal was struck --- 35. He grew up in Burlington, and was mad for commerce. A modest book could be written about his retail and wholesale adventures in the mining towns of the old west before he finally settled down again in Burlington. There, he opened what was described in 1881 as "one of the most commodious and elegantly furnished book and stationery houses in the West." His exploits in the West, however, had destroyed his health and he died during 1885, age 44.

Lewis R. Fix, age 37 when the White Breast company was formed, was an officer veteran of the Civil War and a jeweler in Burlington when he agreed to back Haven. Fix had the grave misfortune to be found dead on railroad tracks in Chicago, where he then was living, during 1890, age 51, with a bullet hole above his left eye.

Haven's  fourth backer --- Tom Potter, age 36 --- had just accepted a position as assistant superintendent of the C.B.&Q. Railroad in 1876 and withdrew after his boss, Charles E. Perkins --- generally recognized as one of the most honest and upright rail entrepreneurs ever --- told him he didn't want company officials involved as investors in firms that might benefit from rail patronage. Potter eventually rose to the position of vice-president and general manager of the Union Pacific, then dropped dead on 9 March 1888, age 48, having literally worked himself to death.


Now, here's William Haven's account of striking the first deep coal in Lucas County, contained in a letter dated Nov. 18, 1920, and published in the alumni newsletter of his alma mater, The Norwich University Record, on Jan. 8, 1921:

"The original agreement, made between Wesley Jones, J.C. Osgood (and) Lewis R. Fix of Burlington, William Haven of Ottumwa and an unmentioned friend (Tom Potter), represented by William Haven, was that the 540 acres under lease from Col. B.O. Carr by William Haven would be prospected to the extent of four holes by churn drilling, the only method then available, in 1875, to the total amount of $3,000 to be paid over to J.C. Osgood as treasurer of said fund.

"Jones, Osgood and Fix each paid an equal amount. Potter a less sum. I was to be credited with one-fourth the total for superintending all the work and if coal was found, transferring said lease to the company with $60,000.00 capital stock.

"At several locations, attempts were made to get through the quicksand just below creek level. Finally, close to the Carr west line, we succeeded and drilled to a depth of 138 feet when clay cavings made the progress so slow that it looked impractical to go further. At my suggestion, as we had passed through the two upper coal beds, showing uniformity of strata, the plan for four holes was abandoned and it was agreed that we would bank on the drill hole and sink a five-foot diameter shaft (in those days considered ample size for an air shaft).

"At a depth of about 200 feet the agreed amount of $3,000 had been expended and expenses were running about $500 per month. The other parties refused to go farther but finally agreed to go another month, viz., the month of December, 1875, if I would pay one fourth, or about $125. This being fair, I agreed.

"About the 20th in sending for some supplies to Osgood, I wrote: 'I hope to make ourselves a good Christmas present.' To which he replied: 'My faith gave out last Thanksgiving. I am not planning any trips to Europe on what we may find in Lucas County.' This letter I yet have and it has been read by John and George Verner and Will Frost.

"To resume --- the miners and myself well knew we were in a natural shale roof to a bed of coal, but how thick the roof or coal remained to be determined. I wrote Col. Carr that we had reached our limit, and he authorized me to draw on him for $100. Mr. Mabury Skidmore sought contributions, to be repaid in the event a working bed of coal was found, and here is where Dave Thompson comes in, for those who signed for future payment were Dave Thompson, $10; S.H. Mallory, $10; Elijah Lewis, $5 (total Chariton $25). Lucas --- Mabury Skidmore, $10; Baker Bros., $10; Bill Chase, $5; and one other, $3 (total $28), with Col Carr, grand total $153.00.

"I called a meeting of the employees, some are yet living, and stated I had $153.00, all of which would have to go for supplies. I wanted to keep on another month but had no money for wages. That it went without saying in the event we found coal they would have their choice of working places and if we did not, I would see that all got places in the Happy Hollow mine (between Chillicothe and Ottumwa, along the Des Moines River), where I was superintendent of mining operations. This was agreed to.

"We were down 238 feet. When the sun did not shine Jan. 1, but the rain descended, we had a 238-foot well of water, as it was getting all the side hill drainage from a three-inch bed of quicksand. We sunk a four-foot-square shaft a little higher on the hill drained with side ditches, cutting off the side hill supply, then raising the water by bucket, reached the shaft bottom January 10. We still had to raise so much water that progress was slow, but the following Saturday, I think the 14th, we reached the coal.

"All day Sunday was used in going through the 5-foot, 3-inch bed. Monday morning at Ottumwa I received the cypher message which I had arranged with Tom Francis, (who was) in charge, to send, and I knew we had over 5 feet (of coal).

"Arriving at the shaft early in the afternoon Tom and I went down in the bucket and sampled each foot of thickness. As I stepped off at the top I was greeted by Mr. Skidmore: 'I want to congratulate you, Mr. Haven, and to say that all those who subscribed have agreed to double their subscriptions.' To which I replied, 'I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Skidmore, for your personal efforts but if you have collected the money, I wish you would return it to my friends as I think we will not need it.'

"The following Wednesday the Articles of Incorporation of the White Breast Coal & Mining Company were filed.

"Now a few remarks about the stockholders. Tom Potter at once told me that he had informed Mr. (Charles E.) Perkins that he was interested in the venture as he thought that the easiest way to avoid my repeated talks. Mr. Perkins informed him that he wished no one in the operating departments of the railway to be in any way interested in coal or other business on the line.

"Osgood, Fix and myself therefore agreed to take it off his hands, and pay as soon as any market prices were established. Said stock was soon sold to Mr. (Smith H.) Mallory at par, who kept it about a year when the same three bought it back, paying him 10 percent for the time his money was invested. Mr. Wesley Jones thought going into the mining business too risky as he had more money that all the rest of us put together, he might have the empty bag to hold. So he was simply, much to his satisfaction, repaid the money he had invested and Fix, Osgood and myself each held one third of the capital stock which cost us each $6,666.66 plus prospecting expenses for Fix and Osgood.

"What thereafter followed is another story. I want to make it plain how much Lucas county is indebted to that little bunch of miners who agreed to work without any certainty of pay and coal 'only 15 feet away.' "

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Black Diamonds: Lucas County and Coal (Part 2)

I cited William Haven (above) as the father of Lucas County's coal mining industry in Part 1 of this disjointed cruise through mine history and that certainly is true. Without his prospecting zeal and skill, neither the first nor the second wave of industrial-scale mining in the county would have developed as it did.

However --- Haven tends to be overshadowed by his associates and therefore receives less attention. He was never excessively wealthy, so relied on the resources of others to finance projects he launched, his major contributions being skill, enthusiasm and labor.

Among his associates, for example, was the notorious (or illustrious depending upon perspective) John Cleveland Osgood (right), a familiar face in Lucas County during the late 1870s and 1880s, who some years later while operating in Colorado ascended to dizzying robber baron heights, doing battle with the rich and famous, Rockefeller and Gould among them, for control of a mining empire.

Lucas County's ghost town of Cleveland, surveyed and platted by Haven, reportedly bears John C. Osgood's middle name, honoring him rather than referencing the Ohio city of that name.

Haven, too, sold out of his Lucas County coal interests when the companies exploiting them were on the rise, then moved on.

That certainly was the case with the White Breast Coal & Mining Co., which Haven exited during 1882 after signing a pledge not to engage in mining enterprises along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line for 10 years. Without Haven, the company's prospecting efforts failed and its mines in the White Breast field were abandoned during the early 1890s, bringing coal production in Lucas County to a virtual standstill. It took Haven's return after 10 years had passed to resuscitate it.

Then in 1913, he sold out again when the Inland Fuel Co., which opened the coal fields in Lincoln, English and Pleasant townships, sold out to Central Iowa Fuel Co., which developed them.

Haven maintained his ties to Lucas County, however, until his death during 1928 and was fondly remembered here in part because his home from the 1890s until the late 1920s was Ottumwa, where he is buried.

Haven also was a talented writer and story-teller, and set down a good deal about himself in various places --- if one knows where to look.


Haven was born, by his own account, on Nov. 11, 1845, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His parents were James Henderson Haven, a chemist by profession, and Elizabeth Salter Cushman --- both descendants of venerable New England families.

James and Elizabeth may have flirted briefly with Joseph Smith's Latter-day Saints during the early 1840s since their eldest son, Samuel Cushman Haven, was born at Nauvoo, Illinois, on Feb. 19, 1843, and few who were not Mormon lived there at that time.

Whatever the case, the Havens moved on to Quincy, Illinois, then to St. Louis, but apparently had returned to Portsmouth prior to William's birth, returning to St. Louis soon thereafter.

Elizabeth and her two sons reportedly were spending the winter in Portsmouth with her father, Samuel Cushman, when James died of cholera in St. Louis on January 26, 1849, when William was 3. Elizabeth and the boys continued to live in Portsmouth with her father until she married as her second husband the venerable, affluent (and much older) Samuel Tilton during 1858.

Samuel C., known always as Cushing, was very much the star of the small family --- attractive, sociable and precocious. He was dispatched during the fall of 1856, age 13, to Phillips Exeter Academy where he remained until 1859 when he entered Harvard College as a sophomore. He graduated from Harvard during 1862 after a stellar academic career.

William, on the other hand, was sent off to Norwich University, also known as the Military College of Vermont, at Northfield, Vermont, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree during 1863 at the age of 18.

With the Civil War in progress, Cushman enlisted immediately after graduation from Harvard and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in Co. B, 162nd Regiment, New York State Volunteer Infantry.

William, only a few months short of graduation, attempted to leave Norwich and enlist, too, during the spring of 1863, but was dissuaded by his mother, who allowed that one son in service was enough. He returned to Norwich.

Not long after William's graduation, Cushman died of diptheria on June 23, 1863, in a Union hospital at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 20. William gave no further immediate thought to enlisting.

In the fall of 1864, however, William did enlist as a sergeant in the reorganized 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, but the war had for practical purposes ended before he could be mustered into U.S. service and during 1865 he was mustered out at Boston.

William told the story of his abortive attempt at a military career in a letter to the Norwich University Record, published in its March 8, 1919, edition, but apparently written a few weeks earlier. Also in that letter, he refers to his son, also named Samuel Cushman Haven and also known as Cushman --- in his late uncle's honor --- who at the time was serving as private first class in Co. B, 314th Field Signal Battalion, 98th Division, American Expeditionary Force, in Europe.

Cushman had practiced law in Chariton before returning to Ottumwa to help care for his dying mother, then enlisted after her death during July of 1917.

Cushman died of disease on Feb. 9, 1919, at St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Trier, Germany, age 29, a month before the letter that mentioned him proudly was published in Vermont. His remains were returned to Ottumwa for burial during 1920.

William Haven's life was not without its sorrows.


Haven's first biography was very short, 12 lines in Dan Baker's definitive 1881 history of Lucas County. In it, William provides a little more information about the years immediately after his graduation from Norwich University in 1863. "He was first engaged with a dry goods and commission house of Boston, pursuing the business with various firms until 1869," the entry reads. "He then went to New York and engaged in the same business."

More than 30 years later, just after he had sold his interest in the Inland Coal Co. during 1913, Haven was prevailed upon by the editor of The Chariton Herald-Patriot to write (in third-person) an account of his mining career in Lucas County, published on the front page of that newspaper on July 31, 1913. In it, William writes briefly of his move west from New York and his early prospecting days in Lucas County.

"(He) came to Illinois in 1869 and had charge of construction of ten miles of the Buda branch of the C.B.&Q. Railroad. His connection with the coal mining industry of Iowa commenced in 1870 when he was placed in charge of three mines of the Union Coal and Mining Company as assistant superintendent (William was only 25, keep in mind).

"The mines furthest west on the C.B. & Q. in the early part of the '70's was located about two miles west of Albia, and as no prospecting had been done west beyond this point, and as there were no outcrops in that direction showing seams of coal thick enough to be mined economically and on a large scale, the existence of workable coal seams was a matter of great uncertainty.

"Mr. Haven was well aware of this fact, but he also knew that the nearer a mine could be located to the viable markets the greater its advantages over mines further removed, mining conditions being the same, and so he decided to prospect the untried territory.

"In 1874, he made a lease with Col. B.O. Carr for his farm of 540 acres, situated on White Breast creek, near Lucas. But prospecting for coal is expensive and Mr. Haven had not sufficient means himself to undertake the work alone. After nearly a year's effort he succeeded in interesting others in the enterprise and in obtaining the necessary funds for prospecting. 

"For a long time the results were disappointing, the money raised was spent, Mr. Haven's associates were discouraged and considered the undertaking a failure. Mr. Haven persevered in his efforts and in January, 1876, he found the coal exceeding five feet in thickness. The White Breast Coal and Mining Company was at once organized with William Haven as president.

"On account of good marketing facilities and the good quality of the coal the entire output of the mines opened was readily disposed of and for several years this company was the largest shipper of coal in the state."


In late 1920, William wrote another letter to The Norwich Record, this one describing in detail his discovery of coal at the base of the White Breast Hill east of Lucas during January 1876 and the subsequent formation of the White Breast Coal and Mining Co. It reads a little like an adventure story which, in effect it was; and I'll pick up the narrative with it next time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Am I blue? Well ...

Epic soaps like Downton Abbey, churned out recently in Britain, don't interest me --- but there's nothing quite like a good British spy story (John le Carre, by the way, is now 83 and still writing). So I've been frittering evenings away this week watching the first two installments of the Worricker Trilogy, written and directed by David Hare and broadcast first on BBC Two. The final installment, Salting the Battlefield, airs Sunday on PBS.

Bill Nighy (above right) stars as Johnny Worricker, an aging MI5 operative who despite various trials, tribulations --- and romances --- manages to give the establishment fits. Great stuff. 

I've frittered a lot this week, which is why there's nothing especially productive here this morning.


Part of the problem is, I am not a winter person --- unless the winter is happening in let's say Mississippi, where the seasons change but not quite so dramatically. 

So I've been frittering, too, by reviewing past and current posts on the Facebook site, "A Place Called Rodney,"  which I joined despite my Yankee-ness and the fact that the only family member who spent any time at all in that state, Uncle Jim Rhea, A Lucas Countyan of an earlier century, was killed during the Siege of Vicksburg and is still there, sort of.

Rodney is a ghost town in the Natchez District with a couple of wonderful old crumbling churches and the members of and contributors to the site incredibly and most interestingly productive. So it's a constant source of diversion for someone who obsesses about old buildings --- even though my interest in Civil War order of battle is underwhelming.


Truth be told, I've been cowering inside too much since Tuesday, when the cold snap set in. I'm working on adjusting the old attitude, but it's going to take time.

One of the Facebook posts that diverted me this week came from a friend in one of Iowa's big cities who, while shopping his favorite Hy-Vee, ran into a guy with an automatic weapon strapped to his leg. Upon inquiring, the manager sent him a nice note saying the store does "not completely prohibit fire arms" and observing that, "This is an issue with no clear cut answer and much support on both sides."

Now I really don't care if people own guns, hunt, play with guns, any of that. But must say it's bad manners to carry a weapon into a retail establishment --- and probably dangerous, too. You never know when somebody's going to misunderstand your motivation and blow you away.

And I understand Hy-Vee's position, too. Ban guns and you end up with heavily armed folks in camouflage scaring the bejezus out of people in the parking lot.

I'm just grateful that the Chariton Hy-Vee management posts that little sign on the front door every summer reading, "Shoes and shirts required." Because only God knows how dangerous barefoot people are.


Am I blue? Not necessarily, but the weather map is. Predicted high of 30 today --- and snow. Wonderful.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sacred Heart's chandeliers, &tc.

I can be a little obsessive sometimes about figuring out where stuff came from, so was pleased yesterday when Gloria Lee loaned two big scrapbooks containing background information about the Sacred Heart (earlier, St. Mary's) parish to the historical society. We'll keep them a few days to copy items to add to our Sacred Heart file which, at the moment, has exactly one item in it (and I've been whining about that).

Among the items included are a few notes about the sources of various items in the church, including the altars, windows --- and the chandeliers. I speculated about sources recently when writing three Sacred Heart-related posts, which you can find here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

The scrapbooks also contained the image at the top here, shot from the balcony during midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1932. Here's how the chancel looks today, and one thing interesting to note is the addition between 1932 and now of the magnificent chandeliers that light the nave. According to a couple of notes in the scrapbooks, these chandeliers were brought to Sacred Heart from St. Patrick's Church at Georgetown, which in fact is the Chariton congregation's "mother" parish. No date for the move was noted, however.

I got to wondering about that, so pulled out my copy of a book about St. Patrick's of Georgetown published during 2007 by Michael W. Lemberger and Leigh Michaels. In it, I found a small and not especially clear photo of the interior of St. Patrick's, taken during 1908 --- and sure enough what appear to be the Sacred Heart chandeliers were suspended from what at that time was the soaring ceiling (since lowered) of that magnificent building. St. Patrick's is a larger building (it will seat 600) and there appear to have been more of these chandeliers than are in use now in Chariton.

St. Patrick's underwent a major remodeling in 1900 during which an elaborate tin ceiling was installed over the original plaster and I'm guessing the chandeliers date from that project. By 1951, when another interior photo of St. Patrick's was taken, the chandeliers had disappeared. You'll note in the 1932 photo here that much simpler ceiling fixtures were in use at Sacred Heart then. I couldn't find anything to tell me when the chandeliers were relocated, but was happy to know their source.

Unlike Sacred Heart, St. Patrick's interior was extensively altered during the late 1950s and 1960s. The ceiling was lowered and flattened and gorgeous altars "simplified." In addition, the north chancel wall was moved forward, blocking a beautiful rose window previously visible from the nave.

Other scrapbook notes state that the high altar at Sacred Heart was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Herman J.H. Steinbach; the side altars, by James and William Lyons and by J.C. Kinney and Laurence McCann. According to parish tradition, these altars were created in Italy.

Statues of St. Patrick and St. Boniface are located on the high altar and another note stated that Sacred Heart parishioners of Irish descent bought St. Patrick; parishioners of German descent, St. Boniface. The statue of St. Anthony of Padua at the rear of the church was brought to Sacred Heart from St. Mary's.

Other notes confirmed that several of the smaller windows in Sacred Heart --- including the three tower chamber windows --- also were brought from the old St. Mary's Church to the new Sacred Heart.

The high altar at Sacred Heart is flanked by Sacred Heart windows and there is conflicting information in the scrapbooks about their source. In one place, it's stated that these windows, too, came from the old St. Mary's; in another, that they were brought from the "old" church at Georgetown.

I'm reasonably sure the latter just isn't true. These windows surely were brought from old St. Mary's to the new Sacred Heart.

One reason is the fact there are no openings in the venerable 1860s stone walls of St. Patrick's small enough to hold these windows. And the predecessor to the current St. Patrick's was essentially a log cabin.

Another reason is the dedication panel on one of the windows, "Donated by Rev. Henry Maniett in memory of his Father & Mother." Henry was a son of the St. Mary's parish, arriving in Chariton with his parents, Joseph and Anna J. Katharine (Roder) Maniett, during 1869. The Manietts were among the founding members of St. Mary's parish. Joseph died during 1874 and Katharine, who later married James Gallagher, during 1901. 

Henry served as faculty member and administrator at St. Ambrose College in Davenport from roughly 1890 until 1901, when he was assigned as pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Ottumwa. His whereabouts after that are obscure --- but his "absentee" estate was probated in Lucas County during 1917-1918.

The design of the second Sacred Heart window, donated by Dr. M.F. Riordan in memory of his parents, is nearly identical to that of the first --- so there's no reason to think they've ever been separated. Exactly why Dr. Riordan would have donated a window to St. Mary's is a bit of a puzzler --- he was a Melrose physician who practiced extensively in Lucas County but seems never to have lived here. He and his wife eventually moved to upstate New York where both died and are buried.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Black diamonds: Lucas County and coal (Part 1)

This photo from the Lucas County Historical Society collection reportedly was taken during 1880. It shows Lucas County's first great coal mine --- Whitebreast Fuel Co. No. 1, also known as Cleveland No. 1 --- about two miles east of Lucas. A total of 405 miners and 52 mules were employed at this mine during 1880. The mine generated its own electricity and lighted the mine with it --- the first in Iowa to do so.

I grew up hearing stories of the latter phase of Lucas County's coal mining industry because my mother grew up during the late teens and early 1920s on an English Township farm alongside a road that then, perhaps, was the busiest in the county. It connected the boom town of Williamson with the coal camps of Tipperary and Olmitz to the east and the Central Iowa Fuel Company No. 4 mine, almost due north. Walks to and from Sunnyside School, east of Williamson, often were accompanied by miners walking to and from old No. 4.

By the time she graduated from Chariton High School during the early 1930s, mining was on the decline and by now, extinct and rarely thought of --- except in Lucas, where the John L. Lewis Museum of Mining and Labor helps to keep that era alive.

So I thought it might be interesting to review that industry's history briefly off and on this fall and winter --- just so no one can say, "they didn't tell us about that." 

I'll bet you didn't know, for example, that one man --- William Haven --- can be identified as the father of Lucas County's coal mining industry. Or that there were two separate major coal mining phases in the county, one from the 1870s into the early 1890s principally near Lucas in the west central part of the county; the other, from 1900 until the industry foundered, principally in northeast Lucas County's English and Pleasant townships. And how many know what a "drift mine" is?

The most valuable deposits of Lucas County coal are very deep, accessed by shaft mines that descended between 200 and 300 feet to reach the coal beds. But drift mines --- small mines that tunnel horizontally into beds of coal that come very near the surface, sometimes as outcrops --- were earlier and more frequent.

What remains the most comprehensive short history of coal in Lucas County --- up to 1924 --- was written by geologist Alvin L. Lugn and published during 1926 on pages 101-238 of Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report, Vol. 32. It's earliest sections, however, are highly derivitive --- lifted errors and all from James H. Lees' 1908 History of Coal Mining in Iowa (Lees, James H., and Beyer, S. W., (1908) "History of Coal Mining In Iowa & Coal Statistics," Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report: Vol. 19: p. 521-597).

Here is Lugn's brief summary of the first phase of mining in Lucas County:

"The first discovery of coal in Lucas county is accredited to a ground hog burrowing in the banks of North Cedar creek in the vicinity of or east of the Briggs drift mine. To whom or the exact date when this fact became known the writer has been unable to learn, but was considerably prior to (Orestes H.) St. John's visit to the county in 1867 (St. John was a geologist and the first to formally analyze the lay of Lucas County's land). In 1860 the county produced 945 tons of coal. In the summer of 1867 when St. John made a survey of this area he recorded drift mining along North Cedar creek and its branches in the northeast part of Pleasant township, along English, Little White Breast and White Breast creeks. One of this type exposures ... was at Wheeler's mill (near Wheeler's bridge); an upper "Wheeler" coal and a lower "Panora" coal were being mind there at that time. All these mines were small and of very local importance. No attempt has been made to record the history of all of the drift mines of the county or to locate them .... The duration of any one of these has been so short and their production and aggregate importance have been so small that such a record would be of little value.

"In 1868 the production was 37,283 bushels or 1491 tons, but the beginning of coal mining history in Lucas county dates from 1874, when in June Mr. William Haven and others leased 540 acres of land on White Breast creek about two miles east of the town of Lucas. The leased lands belonged wholly or in part to Col. Byron O. Carr of Galesburg, Illinois. About a year later the White Breast Fuel Company was organized and Mr. Haven became associated with Wesley Jones, J.C. Osgood, Louis R. Fix of Burlington and J.T. Potter. Mr. Osgood was made president of the company.

"In the first prospecting of the White Breast field a number of holes were drilled. After many delays and much trouble, due mostly to financial difficulties, on January 16, 1878 (actually January 16, 1876), five feet, four inches of coal was reached. This marks the beginning of development in the White Breast field, one of the most productive in its day. James H. Lees, in his History of Coal Mining in Iowa, states "... a field from which a greater tonnage has been raised in shorter time than from any other field in the state." This interesting beginning is best told by a further quotation from Lees' paper: "The shaft was 250 feet deep and an eighty horse power engine was installed for hoisting the coal. Tail-rope haulage was installed in 1882. Electricity was used for lighting the mine, the first installation in the state. When the Mine Inspector made his first report in 1880, 405 men and 52 mules were employed and were raising 640 tons per day. The quality of the coal was considered superior to that of any other then produced in the state and the coal acquired a great reputation and an extensive market. White Breast No. 1 (also known as Cleveland No. 1) was the first mine to adopt the plan of shot firing once a day. This avoided the danger of explosions when the men were in the mine and also kept the air pure for the men and mules." The company operated several mines in this field and in 1880 the production was 126,490 tons, making the county an important Iowa producer.

"About 125 diamond drill holes were put down north and east of the White Breast Company mines in the years 1884 and 1885 but did not find any additional workable coal. Conditions in parts of the field being worked were so unfavorable that by 1891 the field was considered worked out and the large mines of the White Breast Company were abandoned. Production had risen to 594,450 tons in 1886; it dropped to 339,229 tons in 1890 and then in 1891 fell off to practically nothing. Lucas County did not again become a producer until Mr. Haven resumed operations in 1899.

"There were some other more or less abortive attempts to work the Lower coal but none was notably successful. In 1877 or 1878 Daniel Eikenberry of Chariton sank a shaft a mile and a half east of White Breast No. 1. This penetrated sixty or seventy feet deeper than the White Breast mine but did not find conditions favorable and hence was not develeped. In 1879 a cooperative company of miners and business men of Chariton was organized. The more prominent of these men were S.H. Mallory, D.Q. Storie and D.M. Thompson and the company was known as the Chariton Co-operative Coal Company. This company sank a shaft to a depth of 330 feet, the greatest depth of any mine in Iowa at that time. It was located about three-fourths mile north of the Eikenberry shaft. The cooperative scheme did not work well and soon a reorganation was effected, the business men taking over complete control. They, not being experts in mining, did not succeed, for as a consequence of unwise mining methods disastrous slumping and caving resulted and the venture had to be abandoned. They also had a good deal of trouble with water. The equipment was up to date and adequate.

"In 1877 the Union Coal and Mining Company of Ottumwa under the direction of its president, J.C. Peasley of Burlington, sought to enter the White Breast field. The company acquired the shallow Ladow shaft (in southwest Lucas, later known as the Big Hill Mine), which it deepened to the Lower coal, here five feet in thickness and at a depth of 300 feet. After considerable expenditure of money and the opening of several entries, the company abandoned the mine on account of the troublesome and excessive quantity of water, which it was inadequately equipped to handle. In 1899 this mine passed into the possession of Hon. H.L. Byers, associated with George Ramsey of Oskaloosa and Messrs. Shuler and Bates of Illinois. They reconditioned the old shaft and using it as an air shaft sank a new main shaft to the west of it. The water was pumped out and the mine operated for about a year when it passed into the hands of  S.W. White of What Cheer and of White City, and others. About a year later it was transferred to Mr. Reed of Illinois and he, with Mr. Byers, operated it for two months and then Mr. Moody of Kansas became part owner. Work was again discontinued late in 1907.

"About 1878 the Farmers Co-operative Coal Company was organized and opened a mine at Zero on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad a mile and a half west of the Monroe county line. The shaft was 260 feet deep and reached the Lower coal, which is five feet thick at this place. This mine passed through several changes in ownership and was last operated under lease by the White Breast Fuel Company. After being worked more or less continuously for less than ten years it was finally abandoned owing to the large amount of poor coal and the "bowlders" in the coal and also on account of water entering through the sandstone roof. Where Lucas county mines, such as this and some in the White Breast field, had a sandstone roof, water has usually been one of the main causes of abandonment, but on the other hand a shale or "slate" roof usually means a dry mine.

"In 1890 the county's production was 339,229 tons; in 1891 it dropped to almost nothing. Between 1891 and 1899 Lucas county was almost a nonproducer, except for the local drift mines working upper thin veins.

"Mr. Haven, previously referred to, had sold his interests in the White Breast mines to Mr. Osgood in 1883 and also bound himself not to engage in mining along the Burlington line for ten years ...."

More of this another day ...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Demichelis Building blinks, then opens its eyes

The Demichelis Building, which blinked some months ago when upper-level openings were uncovered, now has opened its eyes --- all 21 of them --- fully. New custom-built windows are in place as the four new upstairs apartments in the building move closer to being ready for occupancy.

The four apartments under construction here are part of Chariton's 10-unit upper-level housing initiative that also includes two apartments in the Piper's Building and four apartments in the Iowa Realty Building. The project is funded by a state-administered grant of federal funds along with owner and city matches. Occupancy is scheduled for later this year or early in 2105.

Amanda and Jason Demichelis now own this great old building on the northwest corner of the square, constructed during 1906 by Jay J. Smyth as headquarters for his new Commericial Bank. An additional ground-floor storefront was rented out as were office and residential spaces upstairs. The identical double-front building to the east was built during the same year by Jay. J.'s brother, W.H. Smyth. A disastrous fire during December of 1905 had destroyed earlier Smyth buildings as well as three others on the north side.

The Demichelis Law Firm occupies this building's northerly annex, added some years later to house The Chariton Leader and other commercial ventures. The annex is not involved in the current project.

After Jay J. Smyth died in 1920, the building passed to his son, Porter Smyth, and then to his daughter, Marilyn (Smyth) Johnson. Marilyn can tell some great stories about the old building --- who would think, for example, that during the coldest weather someone had to sleep with the furnace in order to keep it operating?

Eventually, the market for upper-level offices and housing on the square dried up, rooms were closed off and, finally, a later owner blocked the windows and disconnected the building's second level from the grid.

The Demichelis have done a tremendous amount of work on the building, replacing its roof entirely, for example; and reworking the upper level of the annex.

Here's how the building looked before upper-level windows were reopened.

This post card view shows how the building looked not long after construction.