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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Local man gives history of Linton's coal mines

Monday, January 7, 2013

(By Jo Chipiro) Historian and author, Fred Allen, shared the history of Linton's coal mines.
Coal mine enthusiasts braved cold temperatures Sunday afternoon to hear noted Linton historian and author, Fred Allen, share the industry's stories at Carnegie Heritage & Arts Center.

With a myriad of information, Allen traveled with his guests through the dreadful, early days of mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s to today's more modern conditions provided by technical improvements.

Although Allen never worked in a coal mine himself, he noted that he came from a coal mining family and has always been interested in the business.

For this reason, and because coal is the black gold of Greene County, Allen has spent the past nine years studying and writing books about the industry's rise and its stature in the area.

Allen noted that Curryville Mine located south of Hymera was opened in 1870 and was the first mine in the region.

"By 1900, miners were making 75 cents a day and glad to get it," said Allen.

Many miners from England and Scotland immigrated to the United States trickling to Greene County to work in the mine fields. Since they were experienced miners, Allen said it was easy for them to find work.

However, conditions were bad and work was never steady. Breakdowns were common with workers losing, on an average, one or two days a week.

During those early days, Allen explained that buggies filled with coal were pulled by mules or horses. If animals weren't available, the laborious task fell to workers.

Allen also noted that methane gas was another mining hazard. Miners wore hats that had an open flame attached. It wasn't uncommon for the open flame to ignite a spark causing a disastrous explosion and fire.

Two of those catastrophic methane explosions occurred in Sullivan's Baker Mine killing 20 in 1937 and Little Betty Mine in Dugger killing 28 men in 1931.

"I remember as a kid my father would come home so black that all you could see were the whites of his eyes," Allen said. "My mother would have to boil water outside to wash his overalls, and that wasn't easy."

As time went on working conditions improved -- somewhat. Battery-operated lights replaced the open flame and carbide lamps. Machine loaders, which were much more efficient, were used to dig coal.

Most mines were also equipped with wash houses where men could take showers and store dirty, coal encrusted clothes until they were taken home for laundering.

However, there still remained many small, individual mines with hazardous working conditions and no modern equipment.

Allen explained that by 1950 strip mining began replacing deep mines. However, equipment for strip mining was very expensive with a time period of eight or nine months to build one stripping machine. Some drag lines were a little less expensive.

In order to reap deeper coal, deep mines are now making a revival. The mining industry will be no stranger to Greene County and surrounding areas for years to come.

"There is still a lot of reserve coal in Greene County," said Allen, "enough to last another 200 years."

While introducing Allen on Sunday afternoon, Fred Markle noted, "Linton, as it is today, wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for coal mines."

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I wish I would have heard about this before it happened, I would have liked to have went!

-- Posted by miner_14 on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 6:13 AM

I would like to see this presentation too. I wonder if Mr. Allen could put some of his story on the internet.

-- Posted by bill454 on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 10:21 AM

It was a very informative storytelling session. I apologize if we didn't get the word out well enough.

We did post flyers all over town and put it on our site. The Carnegie has a website that posts upcoming events. www.carnegiegreeene.org.

Hope you can make it next time. This is a monthly event with different speakers at the Carnegie.

Fred Markle is the organizer and can be contacted if you have history or stories to tell.

-- Posted by Donna K on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 10:46 AM

the history of coal mining is not so great...theres alot of pride in being a coal miner...and thats great...but the industry its self is not so great...early mining was as close to slavery...sorry but it true...

-- Posted by willam* on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 1:59 PM

I owe my soul to the company store ....

-- Posted by dorindaJ on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 5:12 PM

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