Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Corner View: Mineral--COAL

This is the last topic of a trilogy: animal, vegetable, mineral.
For posts on minerals quite different from mine, check out Francesca's

 I decided to do my post on coal.

You may want to do some selective reading.  I put some information in larger font and/or in bold and/or in italics to draw your attention to what I deemed more important and more interesting.

 My personal intro/history:
 Coal has been a vital and controversial part of Ohio's economy and history.
I have lived in four towns that have been a part of or affected by coal mining.
In my small town of Barnesville, the culprit has been strip mining.  The town's residents thought our green belt protected us from the strip mining coming into the outer edges of Barnesville.  Wrong. 
The coal company owned the mineral rights, so the green belt was in name only and useless.   The nicest and richest neighborhood in Barnesville has had the walls of their expensive homes shake with the digging, and the noise has become a way of life.  What is worse is what it has done to our beautiful fields and hills---reclamation is a poor substitute for the original.
Yet, many jobs are supplied by both strip mining and the new revival of underground mines. We have family and friends who work in both.

My husband's father worked at Hanna Coal Co. and was a welder on the huge bucket of the enormous Silver Spade. 

The first youtube VIDEO is of it.

Just take a peek so you can see the actual size of these 'monsters'.  You don't have to watch the whole video; in fact I skipped through one of them.

The second VIDEO gives you the history of the Big Muskie which was the biggest dragline.  Silver Spade was a digger bucket (in my simple terms--my husband could explain it so much better).  Slide through a little to where it starts about the Big Muskie.

Here is background on the Big Muskie.  Skip to the bottom for a short history of coal mining in Ohio.
McConnelsville, Ohio

"Big Muskie" was once the World's Largest Earth Moving Machine. What remains today is a monstrous metal bucket, vaguely resembling a robot dog head. The bucket sits on a rise, overlooking the beautiful valley that it once mined and destroyed, which has been renamed "Re-Creation Land."

Built in 1969, Big Muskie could move 39 million pounds of earth and rock every hour, revealing rich coal seams 100-150 feet down in southeastern Ohio. BM could swing its boom 600 feet, creeping across the landscape on four giant shoes. The immense dragline machine was churning along at full production until 1991, when power demands and other factors convinced the owners to shut down.

Big Muskie in the glory days.

For several years, visitors could tour the innards, and Big Muskie postcards could be found around Ohio. Then a bill called the Surface Mining Reclamation Act required its removal in the late 1990s. It was a familiar threat scenario. In other cases there have been happy endings: arch rival Big Brutus still stands today, a popular southeastern Kansas "heritage attraction."

Big Muskie Vital Statistics                                 Dedicated May 22, 1969

Total Weight 13,500 tons                                   Total Height 160 feet

Boom Length 310 feet                                     Scoop Capacity 325 tons/220 cub. yds

Overall Length 151 feet                                        Crew Seven

Best Job Oiling the boom by hand                    Top Speed 1/10 mph

Used enough power for... 27,500 homes

The "Save Big Muskie" campaign failed to raise the millions needed to maintain the goliath, despite pledges of funding from several sources, including "The Wilds," a animal preserve built over land once mined by Big Muskie. The area was closed to the public as of March 1999, when salvage started. My husband and I took my son's kids there last summer. It is an awesome place as far as what they are doing, though the land is not nearly as pretty as it was before the strip mining.

In May 1999, Big Muskie was destroyed. The slow walking, surface mining behemoth was dismantled for scrap; high explosives used to blow off its five inch thick cables. Muskie land owner American Electric Power turned the remaining giant bucket into the "centerpiece of a display about the Big Muskie, surface mining and reclamation ... to memorialize the men and women who helped mine and reclaim the area."

The park, a roadside pull-off on a slope along the valley's edge, is well maintained, with its own groundskeeper, by AEP. Covered garbage can lids at site have "No fish" written on them, maybe going too far in the other direction. There are picnic tables.

An interpretive display tells Big Muskie's story. One photo shows an entire high school band playing inside the bucket.

Big Muskie's Bucket               Miners Memorial Park

State Route 78, McConnelsville, OH

I-77 exit 25 (Caldwell). Head west on SR 78 -- a winding, hilly, two-lane road -- 16 miles to the Bucket in Miners Memorial Park.

This last is a brief bit of the history of coal mining in Ohio.  You may not find it fascinating, but I did.  I learned a lot last night when researching this topic. I have highlighted the spots that relate to where I live and to me personally.


Ohio is located in the northern portion of the Appalachian Coal Basin, which is one of the largest coal fields in the United States. Ohio’s coal region covers thirty-two counties, and is located to the south and east of a line that would stretch roughly from Portsmouth through Zanesville to Youngstown. It is estimated that Ohio has 11.5 billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves

The first European settlers in Ohio recognized the presence of coal in natural outcrops in stream and river banks in the eastern part of the state. As the industrial revolution began, Ohio’s coal resources became increasingly important. The first reported commercial mining of coal in Ohio was in 1800 in Jefferson County, with just 100 tons being produced. Since 1800, 3.7 billion tons of coal have been mined in Ohio, 2.3 billion tons from underground mines and 1.4 billion tons from surface mines.

Most of Ohio's coal mines existed in eastern and southern parts of the state. Commonly, people migrated from coal regions in other states, such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, to work in the mines.

In 1828, a Portage County man, began to ship coal on the Ohio and Erie Canal to Cleveland. Development of the Ohio canal system in the 1830’s and 1840’s permitted easy transport of coal from mines to markets. By the mid 1800’s, railroads began to replace the canals, allowing for faster and more efficient delivery of coal to consumers. By the late 1800’s, mechanization and improvement of mining methods led to a steady increase in the production of Ohio coal. Much coal was used to make coke to fuel the many steel mills that dotted the upper Ohio River valley.

In 1872, Ohio mines produced more than five million tons of coal. Production increased to ten million tons by 1886.
During the early to mid twentieth century, coal's value to Ohio's economy began to decline.
Much of the coal in Ohio has a high sulfur content, making it less desirable compared to other coals.
Until the time of World War I, coal mining in Ohio was conducted almost exclusively underground.
Currently, there are about 90 active coal-mining operations in 15 eastern Ohio counties that produce coal worth about $626 million annually. In recent years there has been a trend to return to underground-mining methods, particularly long-wall mining.

MY NOTE: We have friends and family working in those coal mines.

The Appalachian Field, considered to be one of the best veins of coal in the world was located in Guernsey (where I used to live)and Noble (where I teach) Counties.
 Deep coal mining was well known in the Appalachian Mountain areas. The Appalachian Field was located under Jackson, Center, Valley, and Cambridge townships. This vein also ran under Richland and Spencer townships in Guernsey County and on into Noble County.

The Ideal Mine was the most productive mine in Guernsey County. It is believed that this mine produced enough coal to fill a train 1,000 miles long. One train car could haul 50 tons of coal. In Noble County, deep coal mines were also very productive. During the years 1910 to 1913, Noble County was ranked in the top 15 of counties to produce the mot coal in Ohio.

MY NOTE: Noble County now ranks 6th in unemployment of all of Ohio’s counties.

Marietta and Pittsburgh Railway was built to haul coal out of this rural Appalachian region. Initially, the railroad was 103 miles. The rail for this freight train began in Marietta. This line traveled through Caldwell, Byesville, Cambridge and Newcomerstown. These are all towns in Ohio.
[MY NOTE: I lived in Cambridge--my son still does--in fact his dad was instrumental in saving the old train depot.]
For the entire article and cool photos, please click below.
Ohio mines

So folks, that's my take on the mineral topic.  I may have bored you, but I had fun.  Hopefully some of you will find at least some bits interesting. 


  1. Wow, now you really have done your research here! I don't have time this morning to check out everything (too many errands to run whilst the kids are at camp). but I will pop back as I imagine there is some great stuff here.

    As a child we had an open fire in our living room and there was a very old 'coal bunker' in the back garden which used to be stocked with piles of coal. I'm not sure how long my parents kept it for but eventually it was sadly switched to something more economical and 'modern' - a ugly electric fire! I do love the real thing.

  2. Hi Beth, This is so interesting ---and reminds me of my hometown in Southwest Virginia. That area of Virginia is a coal-mining area also. My Dad didn't work in the mines --but he worked for the railroad... I knew alot of people whose parent(s) worked in the mines...

    SO--as you can imagine, that is why I found your articles very interesting.. Unfortunately, our current administration in Washington DC is trying to totally get rid of coal in our country. SO SAD..


  3. thanks for the little history lesson. I didn't know that about Ohio. When you think of coal one tendst to think of West Virginia. Have a great weekend.

  4. That machine is HUGE! My goodness! Thanks for sharing your research. I never would have known about this.

    Thanks, also, for sharing your dream over at my place. I love that you didn't hesitate. :)

  5. Beth, you've shown me a different aspect to Ohio that I didn't know about and especially in relation to your family connections. My mother's side of the family worked in underground coal mining for generations and before that in the Cornish tin mines, so I can relate to the industry. South Yorkshire (where I live now) once had many open cast coal fields as coal fueled the steel industry in this area.

  6. I had no idea coal was still mined (true!)!

  7. Growing up near Chicago, a highlight of elementary school field trips was a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, which always included a trip down into a "real" coal mine. It was great fun, and only second fiddle to the agriculture exhibit, with an incubator of live chicks. (But I know that to the actual coal miners, mining was NOT fun!)

  8. I appreciate all the work you have done on this. My grandparents burned coal and had a special place where it was shoveled into the basement.


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