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Stark County, Illinois
History and Genealogy

Featuring Coal Mining
 
      Stark County is a county located in the northern part of the State of Illinois.       41.09° N, 89.79° W
As of 2000, the population was 6,332 and in 2010 the population was 5,994.
The county seat is Toulon.
      Stark County was formed in 1839 out of Knox and Putnam counties, and was named for John Stark, who served during the American Revolutionary War.
 
      Stark County has eight townships
Elmira, Essex, Goshen, Osceola, Penn, Toulon, Valley, West Jersey
 
      Some of the Cities, Villages and communities are :
Bradford, Castleton, Duncan, Elmira, La Fayette, Lombardville, Modena, Osceola, Saxton, Speer, Stark, Toulon, West Jersey, Wyoming
      also in 1875 there were these communities :
Camp Grove, Lombard, Pleasant Green, Slack Water, Wady Petra, Waldron
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Coal Mines History Coal Mines
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Fatalities
Reference Sources

 
History
Excerpt from : Stark County, Illinois, and its People; 1916 2
Coal Mining
      In the first chapter of this work some account is given of the coal deposits, in their relation to the geology of the county. Probably the first attention to the coal beds of Stark County was attracted through the report of Professor Wilbur, who made some investigations in this part of the state and gave the product the name of "Spoon River" coal. Professor Wilbur predicted a profitable business in mining coal. Says he: "The fortunate position of the Spoon River coal field gives us occasion to make a few remarks as regards its future value. It is situated near the Mississippi River, whose coal trade in barges northward will soon equal its lumber trade southward, distributing these mining products at the depots of 15,000 miles of shore, on either side. It is bounded on the north by the Silliman district, which occupies 17,000 square miles of Northern Illinois, all of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and Northern Iowa. This vast area is entirely void of coal, depending solely upon transportation from the nearest coal deposits.
      "The limit of workable coal may be safely put at eighty miles northwest and southeast by thirty miles northeast and southwest, giving an area of 2,400 square miles. In this field there are two veins of coal, having a combined thickness of nine feet. To measure the amount in tons we must take one cubic yard for every ton as a measuring unit. A stratum of coal three feet thick would therefore give a cubic yard for every square yard of surface. Hence, an acre of three-foot coal would contain 4,840 tons; but in this field we have a thickness of nine feet, and an acre here must therefore contain 14,520 tons. The aggregate of tons contained in the field, whose limit we have assumed as eighty by thirty miles, is 22,302,720,000 tons. Now, if we distribute 1,000 tons per day, it will require 75,000 years to exhaust the supply, allowing 300 working days per year."
      These predictions are certainly optimistic enough, but subsequent developments demonstrated that Professor Wilbur was somewhat mistaken in his calculations, both as to the area of the field and the thickness of the deposits.
      So far as can be learned, the first coal mined in the county was about 1854 or 1855, when a few of the early settlers commenced taking coal in small quantities from the outcrops along Jack Creek and Jug Run. A little later David and William Howard opened a mine in section 23, Toulon Township, about two miles and a half north of Wyoming and not far from the Spoon River. About the same time the Howards opened their mine, John Robinson and Richard Howarth (commonly called "Shanty Diek" by his neighbors) did some mining on section 25. about a mile and a half southeast of the Howard mine. A shaft was sunk in this locality some years later and a considerable quantity of coal was taken out. The passenger on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad can still see the ruins of the abandoned mine from the car windows.
      In 1857 James Fraser came from England and settled in Stark County. He was a practical miner, having previously worked in the Newcastle collieries in his native land, he formed a partnership with Thomas Tunsall, another Englishman, and the two leased a part of section 14, Toulon Township, from Elisha Dixon. Their mine was worked systematically, the slack and sulphur being taken from the coal, and the product of the Fraser & Tunsall mine found a ready sale. In 1858 this firm purchased a part of Section 23, near the Howard mine, opened a mine there and that year sold about one thousand tons.
      About the beginning of the Civil war in 1861 John McLaughlin was carrying on a successful mining business at what was called the Foster coal bank, two and a half miles west of Bradford, near the East Fork of the Spoon River. North of that about two miles was the S. C. Francis mine, mentioned by H. A. Green in his geological report of the county for 1870, and between the McLoughlin and Francis mines was the Bradford shaft, in section 21, also mentioned by Green in his report.
      Shortly alter the close of the Civil war the Lathrop Coal Company began mining on a more extensive scale than had up to that time been attempted in the county. The mines of this company were constructed on the most approved plans known to that period, being provided with steam hoisting apparatus, pumps for keeping the mines clear of water, escape shafts for the miners, side tracks, screens, chutes, etc., and tenements and boarding houses for the miners. It was operated in the vicinity of Wyoming and the products of its mines were shipped to distant cities, so the local miners had no opposition from the big concern. In 1874 the output of the Lathrop mines was about three hundred and fifty tons daily. At the same time the local miners, who were operating on a smaller scale and supplying the local market, were turning out about 7,000 bushels of coal every week.
      Among these local operators were Fred Charleston, Peter Herberger, William and Hemy Newton and John Cummings, whose mines were situated at different points in Toulon Township. William Newton's mine, known as the "Coe coal bank," was opened about 1866 and at one time employed about fifteen men. Around Modena Avas also a favorite field for the operator with small capital.
      In Elmira Township the outcrops along the West Fork of the Spoon River were worked at an early date by some of the settlers, who thus obtained a supply of coal for their own use. So far as can be learned, the first shaft sunk in this township was that of Thomas Oliver, which was opened late in the year 1885. It was located about a mile north of the village of Elmira and turned out a large block coal equal in quality to any produced in the county.
      When Green made his geological survey of the county in 1869-70, he found a number of workings around Modena, in Osceola Township, along Jack Creek and near Cox's mill in Essex Township. But in recent years many of the mines have become "worked out" and have been abandoned, the great piles of shale and the ramshackle buildings standing as mute monuments to a bygone industry. Some mining is still carried on in the county, the largest single working probably being the "Big Hit" mine, which is situated directly east of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, between Wyoming and Castleton.
 
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Excerpt from : 1884 Coal Report 4
Stark County.
      The mines in this county all depend on local trade ; most of them are located on the Spoon river, between Wyoming and Modena. One at Bradford, and one on Walnut Creek, in West Jersey township. The coal mined is from seam No. 6, and is of fair quality, but a great deal of coal is wasted by "clay veins" or "horse backs" running through it. The only exception to the above, is the mine found in West Jersey township. According to the "Geology of Stark County" it has been pronounced seam No. 4 of the Illinois section. The coal is about 6 feet thick. The four feet next the bottom, seems to be of first class quality, and is considered the best coal in this part of the country for blacksmith purposes; the upper two feet is of inferior quality, a great many thin slaty streaks or veins running through it. About a foot of coal is left in position to form a roof, the overlying stratum being composed of a soft, rotten soapstone. The coal is underlaid with 18 inches of black slate, the upper 6 inches of it might be called cannel coal, which it resembles very much; it is hard and smooth, and the ordinary tracks are dispensed with in the rooms. The mine is owned and operated by John Catton, West Jersey.
      The mines at Bradford are the deepest in the county, being over 100 feet in depth. The one operated by Mathias Oxberger is 130 feet deep, it was stopped January 10, 1884, for the want cages, etc., and bad order generally, and considered unsafe.
      Previous to the passage of the mining law of 1883, no cages were used in this county ; now, all the shafts are supplied with them and with safety catches also. Four escapements have been completed during the year, namely, James Higby's, Stephenson's and Watson's, and John McCarty's at Wyoming, and Thomas Aitkin's at Bradford, and three more will be completed in August, 1884, namely, John Scott's and G. L. Talbot's at Modena, and William Shaw's at Toulon. Copper tools have also been introduced, and all the principal mines have got them.
 

 
Fatalities
ALBERSON
Another fatality that occurred at a coal mines in this couny during the year, but owing to the circumstances under which it occured it is not thought advisable to enter it on the tabular forms, nor charge it upagainst the mine at which it took place. Yet it seems necessary to mention it in this report. The facts are substantially as follows:
December 24, 190319, Nicholas Alberson, miner, of Princeville, Peoria county,was severely crushed by falling down the shaft, 134 feet, at the Wyoming Coal company's mine, located at Wyoming, Stark county. Deceased came from Princeville to Wyoming on a visit. He was not an employee of the Wyoming Coal company. He went to the mine to visit the engineer and others employed there with whom he was acquainted. He walked to the doors at the ground landing and opening the south door deliberately stepped into the south cage-way and fell to the bottom of the shaft. He was conscious when brought to the surface and stated that he was going into the engine room. He died from the injuries one hour after being brought from the mine.
 
FREELAND
October 21, 190218 , Robert Freeland, of Wyoming, top man, aged 63 years, married, was killed instantly, by having his head crushed and neck broken, being caught between the bottom of the cage and the lower landing at the Wyoming Coal company's mine, Wyoming, Stark county. This mine, at the time of the accident, had just been sunk; eight miners were employed driving the entries and opening up the mine. The deceased being a top man, was at work on a temporary platform, about 12 feet below the top landing, where the coal was being delivered. The north cage was at the top landing, when the deceased gave the signal to the engineer to hoist, then he walked to the shaft and kneeling down commenced a conversation with a man at the bottom of the shaft; in this position his head projected forward over the shaft, the cage descended striking him with the result as described. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
GAVIN
January 6, 190520, John N. Gavin, of Wyoming, miner, aged forty years, married was severely crushed by a fall of roof at the face of his working room in the Wyoming Coal Company's mine. Wyoming, Stark county. Deceased and his partner were working a room. Gavin was in the act of loading a car with coal, whena large mass of roof seven feet long and nearly five feet wide, with an average thickness of six inches, suddenly fell crushing him underneath. He died one hour after the accident. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
McDANIELS
December 19, 192137, Charles McDaniels, of Wyoming, miner, age 61 years, married, was killed in Kingen and Greenwell Coal Company's mine by a fall of slate. He leaves a widow and three children
 
ROBERTS
March 17, 190924, Wm. Roberts, of Modena, aged 56 years, employed as a miner at the mine operated by James Scott, near Modena, Stark county, was injured by a fall of rock sometime early in the month of November and from which he never recovered. He leaves a widow and six children, four of them married and two at home.
 
STURM
November 23, 190016, Daniel Sturm, of Modena, miner, aged 48 years, married, leaves a widow and four minor children, was killed instantly by a fall of roof at the face of his working place in William Rennick's local mine, located near Modena, Stark county. Deceased was working with his son, they had fired a blast and went outside to the top of the shaft to rest and wait until the powder smoke had cleared away. After staying there about 30 minutes they returned to their working place in the mine. The blast they had fired had evidently been drilled too high, and, as a natural consequence, had shaken and loosened the roof; they had been working but a short time when a large mass of roof that would weigh about a ton, suddenly fell, crushing the head and body of deceased, killing him instantly.
 
SWOPE
January 31, 193550, Elton J. Swope, of Elmira, top man, aged 19 years, single, killed by explosion of gas engine tank at mine of H. Bates. No dependents.
 
TAYLOR
January 22, 191227, Hezekiah Taylor, of Wyoming, miner, aged 57 years, married, was instantly killed by a fall of rock at his working place in the Andrews Coal Co.'s mine, Wyoming, Stark County. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
WESTERFIELD
January 12, 190419, Charles Westerfield, of Wyoming, miner, aged 21 years, single, was killed instantly by being struck on the head and body by coal flying from a premature blast in the Wyoming Coal Co.s mine, Wyoming. Stark county. The deceased with his brother, were working in a room: they had drilled a hole about five feet in depth and had charged it with powder, and had commenced to tamp the blast, they had about two or three inches of tamping on the powder when the explosion took place. A copper needle and copper tipped tamping bar were used in accordance with law, just how this accident could take place under the conditions stated at the inquest, is quite difficult to determine. The brother of the deceased was severely injured.
 

 
Sources :
1 Coal Mines in Illinois, Stark County
                Illinois State Geological Survey, 615 East Peabody Drive, Champaign, IL. 61820

2 Stark County, Illinois, and its People; A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement.
                J. Knox Hall, Supervising editor; Chicago, The Pioneer Publishing Company; 1916

3 Statistics of Coal Production in Illinois, 1883,
                A Supplemental Report of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics,
                by John S Lord, Secretary; Springfield, ILL: H. W. Rokker, Printer and Binder; 1883

4 Third Biennial Report, Bureau of Labor Statistics of Illinois, 1884
                Springfield, ILL; H. W. Roker, State Printer and Binder, 1884

5 Statistics of Coal In Illinois 1885 -- A Supplemental Report; State Bureau of Labor Statistics
                Reports of Mine Inspectors; For the Year Ended July1, 1885 -- Springfield, ILL; H. W. Roker, State Printer and Binder, 1885

6 Statistics of Coal in Illinois, 1887
                A Supplemental Report of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics       Springfield, ILL.; H. W. Rokker, State Printer and Binder, 1887

7 Sixth Biennial Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of Illinois, 1890
                Springfield, ILL.; H. W. Rokker, State Printer and Binder, 1891

8 Statistics of Coal In Illinois 1893
                Twelveth Annual Report - Springfield, ILL.; H. W. Rokker, State Printer and Binder, 1894

9 Statistics of Coal In Illinois 1894
                Thirteenth Annual Report - Springfield, ILL.; Ed. F. Hartman, State Printer, 1895

10 Statistics of Coal In Illinois 1895
                Fourteenth Annual Report - Springfield, ILL.; ED. F. Hartman, State Printer, 1896

11 Fifteenth Annual Report of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1896
                Springfield, ILL; Phillips Bros. State Printers, 1897

12 Sixteenth Annual Report of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1897
                Coal in Illinois - Springfield, ILL; Phillips Bros. State Printers, 1898

13 Seventeenth Annual Report of the State Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1898
                Coal in Illinois - Springfield, ILL; Phillips Bros. State Printers, 1899

14 Eighteenth Annual Report Prepared by the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1899
                Springfield, ILL; Phillips Bros. State Printers, 1899

15 Nineteenth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1900,
                also the Second Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                October 1, 1900, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1901

16 Twentieth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1901
                also the Third Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                October 1, 1901, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1902

17 Twenty-first Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1902
                also the Fourth Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                October 1, 1902, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1903

18 Twenty-second Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1903
                also the Fifth Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                October 1, 1903, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1904

19 Twenty-third Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1904
                also the Sixth Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                October 1, 1904, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, Illinois State Journal, State Printers, 1905

20 Twenty-Fourth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1905
                also the Seventh Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                September 30, 1905, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, Illinois State Journal, State Printers, 1906

21 Twenty-Fifth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1906
                also the Eighth Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                September 30, 1906, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1907

22 Twenty-Sixth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1907
                also the Ninth Annual Report of the Illinois Free Employment Offices, for the Year Ended
                September 30, 1907, David Ross, Secretary; Springfield, -- Springfield, ILL.; Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1908

23 Twenty-Seventh Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1908
                Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1909

24 Twenty-Eighth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1909
                Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1910

25 Twenty-Ninth Annual Coal Report of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1910
                Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1911

26 Thirtieth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1911
                State Mining Board -- Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1912

27 Thirty-First Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1912
                State Mining Board -- Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1913

28 Thirty-Second Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1913
                State Mining Board -- Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1914

29 Thirty-Third Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1914
                State Mining Board -- Springfield, Illinois; Illinois State Journal Co.. State Printers, 1914

30 Thirty-Fourth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1915
                State Mining Board -- Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers, 1915

31 Thirty-Fifth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1916
                State Mining Board -- Springfield, ILL.; Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers 1916

32 Twenty-Sixth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1917
                Department of Mines and Minerals; Year Ended June 30, 1917
                Printed by authority of the State of Illinois; Springfield: Illinois State Journal, State Printers, 1917

33 Thirty-Seventh Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1918
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Springfield, ILL.; Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers 1918

34 Thirty-Eighth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1919
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Springfield, ILL.; Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers 1919

35 Thirty-Ninth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1920
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Springfield, ILL.; Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers 1920

36 Fortieth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1921
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Phillips Bros. Print, Springfield, Illinois; 1921

37 Forty-First Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1922
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1922

38 Forty-Second Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1923
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1923

39 Forty-Third Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1924
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1924

40 Forty-Fifth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1925
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois State Journal Co., Springfield, Illinois., 1926

41 Forty-Sixth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1926
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1927

42 Forty-Sixth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1927
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1928

43 Forty-Seventh Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1928
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1929

44 Forty-Eightth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1929
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Journal Printing Co., Springfield, ILL., 1930

45 Forty-Ninth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1930
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1931

46 Fifieth Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1931
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Illinois Printing Co., Danville, ILL., 1932

47 Fifty-First Annual Coal Report of Illinois, 1932
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Journal Printing Co., Springfield, ILL., 1933

48 Fifty-Second Coal Report of Illinois, 1933
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

49 Fifty -Third Coal Report of Illinois, 1934
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

50 Fifty -Fourth Coal Report of Illinois, 1935
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

51 Fifty -Fifth Coal Report of Illinois, 1936
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

52 Fifty -Sixth Coal Report of Illinois, 1937
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

53 Fifty -Seventh Coal Report of Illinois, 1938
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

54 Fifty -Eighth Coal Report of Illinois, 1939
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

55 Fifty -Ninth Coal Report of Illinois, 1940
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

56 Sixtieth Coal Report of Illinois, 1941
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

57Sixty First Coal Report of Illinois, 1942
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

58 Sixty Second Coal Report of Illinois, 1943
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

59 Sixty Third Coal Report of Illinois, 1944
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

60Sixty Fourth Coal Report of Illinois, 1945
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

61 Sixty Fifth Coal Report of Illinois, 1946
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

62 Sixty Sixth Coal Report of Illinois, 1947
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois


 
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