Jerry Lomshek will be out of the country until later this summer. Look for the return of the Mining Memories blog upon his return in late July!
In 1889, Commissioner Frank H. Betton, of the Kansas Bureau of Industrial Statistics, reported on Kansas coal mining activity for the previous year:
“…. Some $2,000,000 capital is shown by these reports to be invested in the state in the mining of coal, and during the year ending June 30, 1889, about 41,000,000 bushels was produced. The industry employed over 5,000 men and paid over $2,000,000 in wages. ….”
The main coal mining areas of the state, at the time, were in Cherokee/Crawford Counties, Osage County, and Leavenworth County.
Source: The Pittsburg Smelter, Friday, 27 December 1889, Vol. X, No. 52.
Dr. Robert H. McKay (1840-1927) first came to Crawford County in 1871 as an Army surgeon, stationed at Camp Limestone, established to protect the railroad during the Cherokee Neutral Land troubles. Following service, he returned to Girard by 1882, practicing medicine there for a couple of years, then entered into real estate. He became involved in purchasing thousands of acres of coal land for the Cherokee & Pittsburg Coal & Mining Co; the coal branch of the Santa Fe Railroad. He maintained offices at Girard and Pittsburg. McKay Street in Frontenac was named for him. This short 1890 article demonstrates his involvement:
“It is reported that Dr. R. H. McKay, well known as an extensive owner of Pittsburg real estate, is associated with the late vice-president of the Santa Fe in a business enterprise which will require his presence in Kansas City for several months.”
Later in life he would write a biography, entitled “Little Pills, in 1918. Dying at his home in Girard, he lies buried at Girard City Cemetery.
Source: The Pittsburg Smelter, Saturday, 8 March 1890, Vol. XI, No. 10.
There were all sorts of dangers in the mines; dangers which could quickly injure or cause fatalities. Here is but one example.
“Lou Montee, employed at mine No. 8 of the Cherokee and Pittsburg Coal and Mining company, Chicopee, had a narrow escape while working in the mine. He was engaged in jacking up a motor when the pinch bar used was caught in a cog wheel and it was thrown a distance of several fee.
“During its passage through the air like a catapult it struck Mr. Montee a glancing blow on the left side of the head which rendered him unconscious for a couple of hours and for a time it was thought that he was dead.
“Surgical assistance was secured and his injuries treated and at last accounts he was improving nicely.”
Source: The Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Tuesday, 3 August 1909, Vol. XXII, No. 92.
W. E. Turkington was a coal operator and businessman at Cherokee, Kansas. He was the virtual owner of the Cherokee Coal & Coke Company and the Cherokee Supply Company store there. In 1892, we find him sinking a mine east of Cherokee.
“W. E. Turkington, who has been drilling for coal in the east part of the city, struck a large vein at 122 feet. The company so far have refused to say just how thick the second vein is, but admit that the first vein is 28 inches of fine quality. They are busy at work drilling a second hole, as they want to be sure that they have a paying vein before sinking a shaft.”
Source: The Scammon Miner, Scammon, KS, Saturday, 4 June 1892, Vol. II, No. 8, taken from a article in the Cherokee Sentinel.
Coal cars needed to transport coal from the mines could get in short supply when demand was high, the railroads being an integral part of the coal mining industry.
“The switch crews in the Santa Fe-Frisco yards are very busy. The output of coal is enormous, and keeps them making up trains night and day.”
Source: The Pittsburg Smelter, Saturday, 2 August 1890, Vol. XI, No. 31.
When an error was made in the amount of cash needed to meet payroll at the Cherokee & Pittsburg mines at Frontenac in 1890 it caused a little excitement.
“Yesterday was pay day at the Santa Fe coal Company mines, and when the cashier at Frontenac discovered that there was only $4,000 to balance a $12,000 pay roll consternation followed. A notice was posted that a large part of the miners would be put off until Monday. This was read and received with an uproar amounting almost to a riot, until it was explained that a mistake had been made and that everything would be rectified Monday. … Mine No. 2 is closed, all working in No. 1 are on about half time. This makes any little irregularity such as yesterday very had to be borne. It is not easy to keep sweet tempered and considerate with scarcely work enough to keep the wolf from the door.”
Source: The Pittsburg Smelter, Saturday, 22 March 1890, Vol. XI, No. 12.
Pay day at the mines were a boon to area merchants, especially in Pittsburg, it being the largest town in the area. Miners and their families swarmed into town on these days to pick up provisions for the month, as shown here:
“This morning [April 18, 1891] at 8 o’clock the Santa Fe passenger [train] came in with the coaches full, and men standing on the platforms, who were all coming to Pittsburg to draw their wages. Over 400 miners and laborers in the Chicopee Santa Fe mines were all made happy by receiving the gold and silver for their month’s wages, and brought their wives with them to do their trading in our city, which makes our merchants feel happy, as their clerks are kept busy all day… Our streets have been thronged all day with more people than other western towns have at a Fourth of July celebration…”
Source: The Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Saturday, 18 April 1891, Vol. IV, No. 311.
When tragedy struck in the mines, bringing about the death of a miner, the affected family was usually left without any means of support. The relief of these families fell to the generosity of area miners and residents, as in this 1891 instance at Midway.
“The men of shafts No. 1 and 2, met to-day for the purpose of taking steps to aid Mrs. Richard Smith, whose husband died on March 2,  from injuries received the day before, leaving her with four little helpless children without any means of support. A motion that there be a committee of three appointed from shaft No. 1 to take charge of a subscription to be taken up for her benefit, was carried. …”
Solicitors were appointed and requested to gather donations at Midway, Mindenmines, Chicopee, Litchfield, Frontenac, and Pittsburg.
Source: The Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Thursday, 12 March 1891, Vol. IV, No. 279.
In an effort to obtain adequate miners, railroads in 1887 began to transport miners from Pittsburg to their local mines. Pittsburg endorsed this arrangement as it helped to keep miners living in the city.
“The Santa Fe company has made the employees of their mines at Frontenac and Vermillion [now Chicopee] a round trip rate of 5 cents to and from Pittsburg. The miners in the employ of the Missouri Pacific company at Fleming, who reside in Pittsburg, are given the same rate. There is an exceedingly liberal rate, and the benefits to be derived from it by Pittsburg are incalculable. Pittsburg will boom and boom until she heads the list as the great city of southeastern Kansas.”
Source: The Daily Headlight, Saturday, 3 December 1887, Vol. 1, No. 197.
Born in 1944 at the old Mt. Carmel Hospital, Pittsburg, Jerry D. Lomshek has been a lifelong resident of Crawford County and the Chicopee area. The grandson of a Slovene immigrant coal miner, he became interested in history at a young age, and began researching family and local history at the age of 14. This being a lifelong passion, he has amassed a mammoth amount of local historical data over the years. He has lectured and written several manucripts concerning the history of Southeast Kansas. From his service in the Navy, and as a registered nurse, he spent 45 years involved in various aspects of health care. Since retiring, he has devoted his time to further local historical research and various community involvement.