By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent
Sometimes there were as many as 30 coal mines operating at the same time in Mystic. Each might have its own railroad spur. There might be 40 carloads of coal per day hauled out of Mystic. Some of the old-time coal operators were Lee Bros., the Lodwick Brothers, Horridge, Orr, Porter, Vennell, Calgan, Barrett, Beggs and Mc Grann. Mine owners would generally submit plats and apply for their land to be incorporated into the city. This was usually granted and caused the city to grow very fast geographically as well as in population. Today the town is still two miles wide and one and one half mile high.
Most of my information about the many coal mines in Appanoose County comes from a very informative book titled “Underground Coal Mines of Centerville, Iowa and Vicinity.“ It was published by Donald L. Koch, the State Geologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in about 1986. The book has detailed information on 228 mines and includes a map which shows the area undermined for each of these mines.
The book shows 36 mines in the town Mystic and about 10 more in the surrounding rural area to the north and west. I am going to describe about half of the more significant mines and skip over some of those mines which operated for only a year or two and ended up with small or unknown acreage mined.
I am attaching a modern map of Mystic with the one-time locations drawn in for the main line of the Burlington Railroad, as well as the spur tracks to some of the larger mines. Walnut Creek is also shown as it meanders through the south part of Mystic. The map shows the location of the mine tipples as well as the approximate underground area of some of the larger mines. The scale is three inches to the mile. My readers should keep this map for reference for the next several weeks as I describe the various mines.
Mystic is extremely hilly, particularly in the vicinity of Walnut Creek. Mine owners would often locate the shaft of the mine in these gullies and low areas to reduce the depth of drilling. Since the coal depth was very shallow in the Mystic area, they would often start in one of these gullies and use a slope entrance right into the side of a hill. Today, most of the mines in the gullies are a wilderness, overgrown with slag and young trees.