Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

June 8, 2006

Mining in Mystic by Eva Quist

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

Eva Quist wrote a very descriptive story about mining in Mystic and a little about the town of Mystic. Eva was the daughter of a coal miner, John Quist, in Mystic who was killed by a fall of coal in a mine in 1927. Eva was a long time school teacher for the fifth grade in Mystic. Her sister Marie was a seamstress and her sister Louise was a watchmaker. The three lived together in their later years. Most of this article is a reproduction of the tribute to the miners written by Eva Quist. This is how it goes:

Accounts of old timers differ but the city of Mystic had a past of adventure and industry. It would have been remembered as a sleepy little village, but located under these scenic foothills was a rich coal vein that would make Mystic a boom mining town.

The first large mine was opened in 1858, and the first railroad mine operated in 1887. The coal miner’s pay was small, but the cost of living was low. The miner cashed his paycheck and paid the store bill. Some miners drew advance money at the coal office.

A miner’s day began before daylight. He ate a hearty breakfast by lamp light. His house was heated with a coal burning stove which was red hot while the windows were cold with frost. He filled his carbide pit lamp while his wife filled his lunch bucket. The steaming coffee in the container was cold by noon.

He took his bucket and mining pick and was on his way. It was a long walk to the coal mine entry. The miners went down into the shaft in a rocking cage to the mine roads. The mined coal was loaded into pit cars pulled by little ponies and mules, which were kept underground during the mining season and brought up to pasture in the summer. The coal carts were raised to ground level and loaded on cars on the railroad tracks.

The miners came home with dirty faces and clothing and with hands bruised and calloused. The miner’s evening was spent reading or talking with his family or a visit on Main Street with other men. There were a few newspapers, but no radio or television.

Miners were sometimes killed by coal falling and their crushed bodies brought home to grief stricken families. My father was brought home to die after such an accident.

During World War I, young miners were drafted and the old miners had to work two shifts to get the coal out. The local hillsides were dotted with miners’ homes and shanties. There was a company store and the United Mine Workers local meeting hall. The miners had to charge groceries and supplies during the summer when the mines were closed.

Then coal sales diminished. There were other coal fields and markets for coal. Some coal mines were closed and mining machines removed from mines. The coal mine dumps became grass-covered, mine whistles ceased blowing for work and pit tools became collectibles.

But Mystic had become a modern town. Brick buildings were built on Main Street, and nice homes were erected with electricity and telephones. Later city water was installed. The population increased to approximately 2,000. The boom town had three doctors, two drug stores, two banks, two dentists, three filling stations, a motion picture theater, a city hall and jail, three school buildings, five churches, two cafes, two depots, two hotels, funeral home, three boarding houses and a total of 33 home-owned businesses.

The coal industry made Mystic an active, prosperous city, but led to its decline. The farm market promised a lucrative future for the city, but competition with nearby cities deterred prosperity. Families moved away, but some of the workers commuted to their work in cities.

Coal miners were often the sons of coal miners. The son whose life I will follow was James A. Seddon, one of the first to subdivide lots for houses in Mystic and also to serve as one of the first mayors of this town.

Ralph and Mary (Armstrong) Seddon were natives of England who married in the county of Lancashire in about 1831. The former was born in 1807 and died in 1859.

The latter was born in 1810 and died in 1874. They spent their entire lives in the country of their birth and Mr. Seddon was employed as a coal digger up to age 22 when he became a manager of mines. They were the parents of 15 children, three of whom came to America:

One of these three emigrants was James A. Seddon. James was born in Lancaster, England in 1851 and began working in the mines at the age of 8. He came to the United States in 1869 and obtained employment as a coal miner in Boone County From 1870 until 1886, he traveled all over America, always engaged in some capacity of mining. He spent time in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, several towns in Iowa and even returned to England, but he returned and settled in Mystic where he became prominent in the mining industry. Mr. Seddon and his brother Thomas opened the second mine in Mystic, which was knows as the Seddon Bros. Coal Co.

The Seddon Bros. Coal Co. had a number of different mines in the area at different times including a truck mine west of Brazil and about a half mile south of the Milwaukee tracks which was in operation from 1934 to 1942. James Seddon was engaged in building many houses for the miners in Mystic and had about 225 men in his employ. In 1899 he also opened a general store in the west end of town. When Mr. Seddon returned to England for the first time, he married Anna Morris there. She died in 1892 and James then married Hannah E. Hughes. There are still many living descendants of James A. Seddon in the Mystic area.