This map showing Atwater Coal Co.
Found at Reed Library June 19, 2009
ATWATER COAL MINES
Edited by Robert Stull
There have been numerous companies because of the large area underlain with coal. One of the earliest companies was called the Atwater Coal Company. An explosion in the mine of this company killed nine men and a boy a short time after it opened. There has been a continuous amount of companies since. The Peterson Coal Company was the latest company that started up.
The mine of the Atwater Coal Company.
On the morning of July 3, 1872 eighteen manly, hardy men descended into the mine and by afternoon only eight survived to tell the harrowing story of their comrade’s death. The mine was capable of producing from fifty to seventy or more tons daily.
ATWATER MINE TRAGEDY
Mine Name – Shaffer Brothers (S.G. Shaffer Farm)
Operator – Atwater Coal Co.
Location – Portage County – Atwater Township, Atwater, Ohio.
The mine work in which was commenced but a few months before had not until the first of the week got under full headway. Previous to that there had been only ten tons of coal mined daily. In the early morning of July 3, 1872 sixteen men filed to work in the Atwater mine, located in Atwater Township, south of Route 224 and west of Route 225. The mine was a good mine, productive and safe and in operation only a year and had produced coal of excellent quality for the past six months. The underground areas were securely shored. Heavy timbers framed the long entry slope, sloping to more than forty feet underground and beyond. In addition a ventilating furnace stood at the end of the slope to exhaust any accumulation of gasses through an air shaft fifty feet directly above.
Shortly after noon the furnace exploded, spewing flames on the dry wooden supports. Fire swept swiftly to the timbers of the slope. On the surface young George Hofford, nine years of age, saw billows of smoke boiling from the mouth of the mine. Heedless of danger, he sped down the slope to alert the men. Past tongues of flame lapping on either side, he sprang into the smoky, gas choked area.
Shortly afterward seven miners, their faces protected by wet clothing, stumbled from the entrance of the mine. They were scorched and almost suffocated — but alive. All day the fire raged. To communicate with the entombed men, a hand= dug shaft was sunk forty-two and a half feet deep, but the fire made all attempts to enter the mine impossible. Very early the next morning, Thursday July 4 an appeal for help was telegraphed to the Ravenna Fire Department. In midmorning, a locomotive steamed into Atwater, bringing one hundred fire-fighters and a flatcar loaded with a steamer (a steam-fired pumper), two hose carts, and miscellaneous equipment.
Gradually the fighters with their equipment worked their way down the slope. By 10:00 P.M. the mine was deemed safe for entry. At the bottom of the slope six bodies were found, among them the body of little George Hofford. Not until Sunday morning, two days later were the would-be rescuers able to penetrate the innermost reaches of the mine. There they recovered the bodies of the last three victims of the tragic fire.
James Long, one of the survivors of the men in the mine at the time of the accident, advised the fire is believed to have caught in the pine timbers supporting the wood at the foot of the slope and surrounding the furnace. When the danger was perceived, Long dropped upon his hands and knees and told his comrades to do the same. An old Scotch miner himself, cautious and self-collected he had the sense to do this and as he crawled out in this way, with his mouth as close as possible to the ground, he passed over the dead bodies of those that had been his living companions but a few minutes before. They had thoughtlessly attempted to save themselves by running but carrying their heads in the upper air got the full force of the burning air and were suffocated. When Mr. Long finally got out of the mine he was well nigh exhausted, but he was yet able to tell the horror-struck crowd above that their efforts to dig out the men were fruitless, all were dead.
On the morning before the fire occurred, John Hutchins of Cleveland, President of the Atwater Coal Company, visited the mine and made a tour of the whole area, and found everything working smoothly and no indications of anything which would cause the calamity that so soon occurred. At two o’clock on Wednesday afternoon eighteen men were working in the mine. Mr. Robarts had just ordered a Mr. Strong to put two shovel-fulls of coal upon the furnace fire, and the command had been obeyed when Strong discovered the existence of fire by the smell of burning wood. He first yelled “fire” and then rushed to the top of the slope, where little George Hofford , a lad nine years of age and who was employed in opening and shutting the doors in the mine was standing. Instead of going down into the mine like a man, he ordered little George to go down and tell the men that the mine was on fire. He obeyed and Sunday morning at one o’clock his little body, all mangled and charred was dragged out of the mud and slime at the bottom of the slope.
As soon as the fire was known in Ravenna, the fire engines were sent down and almost extinguished the flames.. The water however caused the ground-to -cave in and delayed the work of exhuming the bodies. The body of George Hofford was found by two men who crept through a hole just large enough for a man to pass through and dragged the body from the water and mud. Even at this time they discovered some fire still burning at the bottom of the slope.
The idea was conceived of a man-way partitioned off from the slope and made air tight by saw-dust, dirt and debris and which could be used for a two fold purpose, that of furnishing and entrance and exit for the workman and at the same time an air course for the transmission of the foul air from the entries below.
To facilitate this transmission of foul air a furnace was placed near the top of the air course and everything satisfied the company’s expectations until they had reached a depth where it could no longer work effectively. Finding that the draft was no longer strong enough to carry off the foul air, the furnace was removed to the bottom of the slope and a quantity of sheet iron placed about the walls and ceiling of the level to guard against fire. Two doors were built at the east and west entries and by shutting one or the other a sufficiently powerful draft was obtained to enable the men to work in either entry. To further decrease the risks the woodwork about the furnace was kept saturated with water from the pump which stood by and which was operated by the engine in the works above.
The most plausible theory is that by the furnace and mine combined, gases were generated which ignited from the fire in the furnace. It could not have resulted from fire damp as it’s existence has never been discovered in the mine.
Eight men who had been working in the coal rooms came out after the others had rushed for the opening and had dropped dead and getting down on their knees made their way through the fire to the opening above. One alone of all that escaped without injury a Mr. Lang. All the rest were so badly burned that the lives of some are despaired of. In four hours after the fire broke out a drill hole was made through the ground to the shaft entry. Soon after a shaft, six feet square was sunk and completed.
As soon as the men became aware of the existence of fire they rushed frantically for the entrance and tried to make their way through the burning embers which were falling from the timbers above. In their inexperience they must have stood up when they ran and have thus breathed in the smoke which suffocated them.
THE DEAD MEN
Thirty-five feet from the top of the slope the first body, that of Richard Roberts was found. The rest were scattered along down the slope as far as the doors of the main entries.
Richard Roberts – 30
Robert Roberts – 21
Thomas Means – 35
Joseph Evans – 35
Joseph Otey – 24
William Roberts – 27
John Williams – 33
John Howells – 25
John Jones – 32
Georgie Hofford – 9
Conducted by pastors in the neighborhood and which were largely attended were held. The sad calamity and tearful remembrances of departed friends touched the hearts of all and the occasion was made one of deep and solemn thought. The deceased came to their death by suffocation from fire and smoke in the slope of the mine, July 4, 1872.
COAL MINE HISTORY OF ATWATER, OHIO – PORTAGE COUNTY
There have been numerous mining companies because of the large area underlain with coal. The Bedford coal bed (Pottsville coal beds) is exposed in strip-mine workings between Atwater & Deerfield. In the area of the mines the coal ranges from three to five feet in thickness. One of the early ones was called The Atwater Coal Company, but it closed down when an explosion killed nine man and on boy on July 3, 1872. There also was a Wolford mine on the Spires land on the north-west corner of the cross-roads two and one-half miles east of the center.
Another mine was located along the Railroad tracks at the station south of Route 224. This was closed due to a fire. No other information available. Three Peterson Brothers started mining coal on the North-West corner of Route 224 & 225 (Behind Kays Korners). Moved across the road south-east, then mined coal east on north side of Route 224 (Carvers Farm). Then Roy Kays bought a large Page walking shovel and had it shipped to Atwater on the railroad. It was assembled by the tracks and walked across the fields to Peterson Coal Co. and strip-mined coal from Route 225 west to Porter Road and East to Virginia Road. Also coal was strip-mined east of Route 225 (Jones Landfill).
RALPH FRANKS INFORMATION – NOVEMBER 8, 1998
One of the first coal mines in Atwater was a shaft mine on the Siddall property (now Caris – north side of Route 224). Company had to quit mining as the ground was too unstable and not enough rock formation to hold the ground up and it kept caving in.
There was a shaft mine on Karl Lynns property on Porter Road. Was #4 coal and the vein was not deep. Was a big fire in the mine and ten men died and are buried in Atwater Cemetery. There was a small railroad spur that ran from the mine across fields to a siding near Limaville. Also was advised information that on Ralph Franks land they dug trenches and a drilling machine drilled under-ground, retrieved coal out. When finished
Explosives were put in and the hill would fall in and fill the void. Also other mining machines were brought in. They would bore in the hill which was controlled by radio, would grind the coal, put on carts and then back out. This was experiential.
The Hanna Coal Company formed in 1900 as Wheeling & Lake Erie Coal Company.
In 1931 the name changed to Hanna Coal Company. In 1946 it became a division of Pittsburgh Consolidated Coal Company. Was located in Jewit, Ohio. The pipe-line was constructed in 1956 The 10 inch, 108 mile long pipeline linked the Hanna Coal Company Georgetown preparation plant near Cadiz, Ohio Harrison County with the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company Eastlake Generating Station in Eastlake, Lake County. This pipeline supplied about six million tons of coal from 1957 to 1963. Coal-slurry plant at Hanna Coal Company, crushed coal and was mixed with water in the tank and pumped to Cleveland, Ohio. A pumping station was built on Industry Road across from the Waterloo High School. The pumping operation ceased because of changing water from the Ohio River to Great Lakes and could not return the water. Also the Government sub sized the Railroad and they could haul the coal cheaper.
DOGS IN MINES
Dogs commonly were used to pull mine cars at coal mines primarily in Muskingum
County during the 19th and early 20th century. Three dogs would be hitched in tandem at coal mine property.
FIGURE 202.–Coal-slurry pipeline under construction in 1956. The 10-inch, 108-mile-long pipeline linked the Hanna Coal Company Georgetown preparation plant (see fig. 203) near Cadiz, Harrison County, with the Cleveland Electric illuminating Company Eastlake Generating Station in Eastlake, Lake County. This pipeline supplied about 6 million tons of coal to the Eastlake Generating Station from 1957 to 1963. Location unknown. Photo courtesy of Dale Davis.
FIGURE 203.—Coal-slurry plant at the Hanna Coal Company Georgetown preparation plant, about 11/2 miles south of Cadiz, in Cadiz Township, Harrison County. At the coal-slurry plant, crashed coal was mixed with water in the tank to the left and pumped 108 miles to the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company Eastlake Generating Station. Circa 1960. Photo courtesy of Dale Davis.
BOYS: WORKING IN MINES
A boy miner would be in charge and lead a haulage mule.
In a little room in a big back shed, forty boys would pick their lives away. The floor of the room would be on an inclined plane, and a stream of coal would pour constantly in from some unseen place above, crosses the room and pours out again into some unseen place below. Rough board seats would stretch across the room, five or six rows of them, very low and very dirty, and on these the boys sit and separate the slate from the coal as it runs down an inclined plane. They work here, in this little black hole, all day and every day, trying to keep cool in the summer, trying to keep warm in the winter, picking away among the black coal, bending over until their little spines are curved, never saying a word all the long day. The coal makes such a racket that they cannot hear anything a foot from their ears. Not three boys in this roomful of 15 to 20 can read or write. They have no games, they know nothing except the difference between coal and slate.
FIGURE 148.—A boy miner and his haulage mule. Date and location unknown. Photo from Humphrey (1959, P. 35).
FIGURE 149.—In a little room in this big black shed … forty boys are picking their lives away. The floor of the room is an inclined plane, and a stream of coal pours constantly in from some unseen place above, crosses the room, and pours out again into sonic unseen place below. Rough board seats stretch across the room, five or six rows of them, very low and very dirty, and on these the boys sit and separate the slate from the coal as it runs down an inclined plane. They work here, in this little black hole, all day and every clay, trying to keep cool in the summer, trying to keep warm in the winter, picking away among the black coals, bending over until their little spines are curved, never saying a word all the live long day … the coal makes such a racket that they cannot hear anything a foot from their ears …. Not three boys in this roomful could read and write … . They have no games …. They know nothing except the difference between coal and slate (Labor Standard, quoted in Long, 1989, p. 75, 76). Location unknown. Circa early 1900’s. Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Mines.
FIGURE 96.—Dogs commonly were used to pull mine cars at coal mines primarily in Muskingum County during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Photo from The Coal Trade Bulletin (1922, v. 47, no. 9. p. 352).
FIGURE 97.—Three dogs hitched in tandem at a Middle Kittanning (No. 6) coal mine on the }Poperty of Lewis Fisher in Wayne Township Muskingum County (see Hansen, 1990, p. 1). Ohio Division of Geological Survey file photo taken by Wilber Stout in 1917.
WOMEN COAL MINERS
Some women probably worked in coal mines alongside their husbands or sons. One woman coal miner in Ohio was Ida Mae Stull who was considered Ohio’s only woman coal miner in 1934. Miss Stull had worked in Ohio coal mines since the age of six carrying her daddy’s lantern to light his way underground. In March 1934 she was prohibited from mining coal by the Chief of the Ohio Division of Mines. The action toward Miss Stull was based on an old Ohio law which forbids women from being coal miners, taxi drivers and other dangerous occupations. However an appeal by Miss Stull to the governor she was allowed to continue mining coal because she was the owner of the coal mine. But the law was changed to read women may work in coal mines in Ohio providing they own the mine. But they are not permitted to hire out as a miner for a wage. There was the superstitious belief that women in coal mines bring bad luck. The fact that prior to the explosion in the Willow Grove No. 10 mine in 1940, the mine was visited by several women including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in April 1935. She was discovered mining coal from the Megan mine near Cadiz, Ohio. Born in 1896 she was one of 18 children born to a poor coal mining man, a family so poor that children were put out to work at the age of six or seven. Other girls worked the small country bank coal mines in those depression days. Her personal views of coal mining, she stated, “I don’t like house keeping. A pick feels better than a broom. My face gets black, but I prefer coal dust to a powder puff”. Mining coal was a personal adventure. First you hack yourself a portal in the side of a hill, bracing it with sturdy timbers of oak and locust. You dig 300 feet below the earth, exposing the vein of prized fuel as you go. To loosen the stubborn rock, you drill a hole, needle in the treacherous black powder, light the squib and while the fuse burns, dancing and jumping crazily – you run out of the mine to wait for the blast. Is this any work for a woman? Ida Stull shakes her head, snorting … I could dig coal faster and better than any man alive!
FIGURE 122—Ida Mae Stull of Cadiz, Ohio, was prohibited from mining coal in 1934 by an old Ohio law, when she was discovered mining coal from the Megan mine near Cadiz, Ohio (Gorisek, 1977, p. 12 A court ruling later allowed her to return to mining coal. Born in 1596, Ida Stull was one of 18 children born to a poor cool mining man — a family so poor that children were put out to work at the age of six or seven, according to Ida’s younger .sister, Elizabeth, who became a farmhand at the age of seven. Ida Stull was not unique. Other girls worked the small “country bank” coal mines of Appalachia in those Depression days. What made Ida Stull unusual was that she was willing to fight for her right to dig coal (Gorisek, 1977, p. 12). In providing her personal views of coal mining, Miss Stull stated, I don’t like house-keeping.. A pick feels better than a broom. My face gets black but I prefer coal dust to a powder puff (The New Philadelphia Times-Reporter, May 13, 1994, p. D-2). To Miss Stull, mining coal was a personal adventure. First you hack yourself a portal in the side of a hill, bracing it with sturdy timbers of oak and locust. You dig 300 feet below the earth, exposing the vein of prized fuel as you go. To loosen the stubborn rock, you drill a hole, needle in the treacherous black powder, light the squib and while the fuse burns, dancing and jumping crazily—you run out of the mine to wait for the blast. Is this any work for a woman? Ida Stull shakes her head, snorting…. “I could dig coal faster and better than any man alive”(Gorisek, 1977, p. 12). Photo circa 1935, courtesy of Dale Davis.
WOMEN COAL MINERS
Although some women probably worked in coal mines alongside their husbands or sons, very little has been written concerning women working in Ohio coal mines. One example of a woman coal miner in Ohio is Ida Mae Stull (fig. 122), who was considered Ohio’s only woman coal miner in 1931. Miss Stull had worked in Ohio coal mines since the age of 6, carrying her daddy’s lantern to light his way underground (Gorisek, 1977, p. 12). In March 1934, she was prohibited from mining coal by James Berry, Chief of the Ohio Division of Mines. Berry’s action toward Miss Stull was based on … an old Ohio law which forbids women from being coal miners, taxi drivers and other “dangerous” Occupations (Manna Coal -News, March 1931, p. 1). However, following an appeal by Miss Stull to Governor George White, she was allowed to continue mining coal because she was the owner of the coal mine. Attorney General John Bricker stated … women may work in coal mines in 0hio — providing they own the mine. However, they are not permitted to ‘hire out” as a miner for a wage (Hanna Coal News, January 1935, p. 7). The near absence of women coal miners is probably because of the superstitious belief that women in coal mines bring bad luck. Some male coal miners held the belief that … a woman is as welcome in a coal mine as a Republican would he in South Carolina or a bad case of itch to a man in a straight jacket Hanna Coal News, April 1946, p. 8). In fact, some superstitious coal miners might point out the fact that prior to the explosion in the Willow Grove No. 10 mine in 1940 (see Chapter 6), the mine was visited by several women, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (fig. 123) in April 1935. But no one seems to know where this superstitious belief originated.
FIGURE 123. — First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt touring the Hanna Coal Company Willow Grove No. 10 mine (Bt-163). She traveled 212 miles into the mine to learn about coal front the men who mined it. Photo courtesy of’ Dale Davis, train Hanna Coal News (Stay 193.5, p. 8). (For other photos of this mine see figs. 35, 79, 82, 93, 110, 117, 119, 120, 140142, 153, 154, 193.)