WEST MINERAL — What do many families in southeast Kansas have in common? Coal mining.
Most area residents have a friend or family member who have been impacted by the coal mining days, and for the Markley family, a piece of their family history will remain alongside Big Brutus in West Mineral for time to come.

There was a special dedication for the Markley family’s shovel on Saturday on a small hill at Big Brutus.  

Perry Markley, was the designer and creator of the Markley Shovel built from scrap metal in 1928.

Merle Markley — Perry’s oldest son — was 15 years old when the shovel was moved from the coal mining site to the Markley Farm in rural McCune, where it sat for 70 years until the family decided to donate the shovel.
“This is the second shovel my dad built,” Merle Markley said. “He went into the coal business, there was about 30 coal mines, everybody was in the coal business.”

Although Merle Markley never got to see the shovel run, he participated and watched his father’s other coal mining operations. Perry’s grandson, Jerry Pendleton said, Merle “right to work” alongside him.

Darrel Markley — another grandson of Perry Markley — said the shovel was never patented.
His grandfather would complete the paperwork and send in the requested $100 several times, yet there was never any approval for the patent. 

According to the Markley family and area coal mining enthusiasts, it is said that the shovel was the first of its kind and the father of electric mining shovels. It is also said the design of the swiveling bucket was stolen by the Bucyrus company which manufactured Big Brutus, making the Markley Shovel’s relocation to Big Brutus even more important.

At approximately 10-years-old, Darrel Markley experienced the last of the coal mining business with his grandfather after coal mining prices collapsed at $6 a ton and they had to haul coal 40 miles to Coffeyville. Darrel reminisced being allowed to hold a jackhammer — which weighed nearly more than he did — over limestone to reach shallow coal.

The Markley Shovel at this time was not being used, and had been sitting in the field for nearly 30 years at this point.

In October 2018, the Big Brutus Board with the help of Tilton and Sons House Moving in Carthage, they began a three-week journey of moving the shovel to Big Brutus.
“Them [the Tilton company] being the professional people they were, we pulled it out of a field, 3 quarters of a mile back in the pasture with trees up around it, sunken in the mud — two foot — they pulled it out and put it here on this platform,” Big Brutus Board Member Jimmie Lovell said.

After clearing trees, the making of a driveway and platform for it to sit, the Markley Shovel was freed from the mud and was pulled away in one piece. It now sits on a hill right next to Big Brutus.

It’s engine no longer sits within, but people can climb a set of stairs and peer inside at its now rusty gears and old wooden seat.
“It’s something that was a long time coming and we’re glad the day is finally here,” Pendleton said. “The day that we could recognize the genius of our grandfather and what he did back in the 20s, which for most of us is just unbelievable.”

Lovell agreed. He thanked the many people who helped making moving the shovel possible, and of course, the Markley family for donating the shovel to the Big Brutus Museum.
“They were 100 percent in favor of the shovel being brought to Big Brutus and we sure do appreciate that,” he said.