Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

May 18, 2006

Truck mines north of Rathbun

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

There were several coal mines drilled in low spots in the Chariton River Valley to the north of Rathbun, some in Chariton Twp. Some of these are now covered by the Rathbun Lake. These mines were primarily truck mines, built after the turn of the century when trucks became available to haul the coal from the mine to a railroad terminal or to the ultimate market.

One of these mines was the Harbour Mine (Rathbun Coal Co.), about a mile north of Rathbun from about 1926 to 1942. At first it was a slope mine very near the Chariton River. Water problems were pretty bad so they drilled a 75-foot shaft further upstream, just west of the present highway J-29 and a little south of the Chariton Valley Rural Water plant, to intersect the underground diggings. This undermined 95 acres. Later the river broke through and flooded the mine. This mine had more than its share of fatalities.

In 1926, Sam Pozavich, age 51, was killed in the Harbour Mine when struck in the back by a pulley that came loose when a rope broke. It happened on the first day the mine was opened up again.

Then in 1942, 27 year-old Robert Harbour, the son of L.V. Harbour, the mine owner, was electrocuted after something went wrong with the fan, and he came in contact with electrical wires. Also George Van de Van was killed that same year by a fall of black bat.

Going on north, there were several mines clustered within a short distance of each other on the west side of the old Chariton River bottom, a Riverside Mine little north of where the dedication center is now. Kaster Coal Co. (Section 27) and Duff Coal Co. (Section 26) were slope mines, both located just north of Island View Place, one on either side of the west side of Islet Loop.

There was also a strip mine called the South Iowa Strip (S. part of Section 26) just to the east on the north end of what is now Isthmus Place (the boat dock road). I think some of the outcropping can still be seen on a nearby island where the Canada Geese like to nest. Coal from these small mines was trucked away. Harold Heckman once told me he had trucked some coal from there to the Interurban Railroad stop at Dennis, presumably with a destination of the Iowa Southern Utilities coal fired electric plant in Centerville.

Finally there was one more mine way up in Chariton Twp. called Riverside Mine. This was located on the north edge of Section 29, west of West Island view. It was just northwest of the present Shaeffer Cemetery which now commands an impressive view of the backwaters of a finger of the lake, about where the mine was located. Charles Fox was the owner and operator of this mine. He had purchased the mine after having worked in Sunshine No. 1 for some years.

The mine was a slope mine dug into the side of the hill. There was a seepage of water that required constant pumping. Charles Fox was a talented individual, able to fix almost any kind of equipment, a talent very important to the operator of a small mine.