Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

July 14, 2006

The Milwaukee comes to Brazil

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

I have been following the Milwaukee Railroad as it passed from Moravia through Rathbun and Mystic. It dipped down southward from the south central part of Mystic and entered Brazil and turned west, following a course along the northern edge of Brazil, parallel to the south city limits of Mystic.

The Egypt Mine was located along Walnut Creek in the northeast part of Brazil. It was three quarters of a mile from the Mystic business district. It was south of the railroad and on the east side of the road interconnecting Mystic and Brazil and terminating in 6th Street in Mystic.

The mine was a slope mine on the east side of Walnut Creek going underground at the tracks of the electric railroad. It was a slope mine with 103 acres and operated from 1901 to 1926.

An elaborate trestle was constructed from the mine mouth across the creek and to the tipple located on the Milwaukee Railroad. It was about 600 feet long and up to 65 feet high at its highest point. The mine had steam power. In 1912 Luther Howe, age 50, was killed by a fall of rock in this mine.

The Harmon Subdivision of Brazil was probably developed at the time the Interurban Railroad came through the eastern edge of Brazil on the way to Mystic in 1910. It went near the entrance to the Egypt Mine and had 14 lots. The mine went underground at the tracks of the electric railroad. The Interurban Railroad operated on an hourly schedule and these miners and their families had easy connections to Centerville as well as a short walk to the mine. Before the days of the automobile, this was very important.

I don’t know whether the Egypt Mine was actually in Brazil or in Mystic. The older maps show it in Brazil but the modern Mystic map shows a city limit further south, possibly a later incorporation. I wanted to see the mine for myself it at all possible.

I walked down the old road from Mystic toward Brazil, which is now South 6th St., to the point where the road is now closed, near the old Egypt Mine. Regrettably it was in late spring after a recent snow melt, and the forsaken road had absolutely no drainage. The road was pure soup, very slippery, and I slipped and fell down in the mud. As I lay prostrate in the slippery goo, I reflected on my situation. This old man could hardly even get up to an erect position again. It was not a pretty sight. I never did get to see the Egypt Mine.

Egypt Mine about 1901: I thought back to the days when the young high school students had to walk down the road past the Egypt Mine every day to catch the Interurban Railroad to go to High School. I hope the road had better drainage 100 years ago. They had a much better incentive to have a good road when the mine, in its heyday, was such an economic success.

The Lee Brothers Coal Co. Twin Mines was the next operation along the route of the Milwaukee Railroad in northeast Brazil. Tom Lee was another enterprising operator, a reminder of the days when coal operators were so prominent. The Lee brothers are synonymous in the development of the coal mines in Brazil and Mystic. James E. Lee and his wife Mary S. Lee came from Taylor County, and he signed a coal lease in 1882 that became the Hawkeye Mine of Brazil. His brothers followed. They were David A. and his wife, Jennie, Thomas E. and his wife Laura B. and William, believed to be unmarried. Peerless Coal Co. was organized in 1892 and at least part of the Lee Bros. holdings operated under this name.

Through the years James Lee had part interest in the Walnut Block Coal Co., the Phoenix Coal Mine, the Lone Hickory Mine, the Number Six Coal Mine, the Old Sterling Mine and the Enterprise Mine.

James died July 30, 1896 leaving two children, Edith L. and James Forest Lee. James left an estate of approximately $24,000. The Lee operations closed in the early twenties.

The Twin Mines were so named because there were two shafts, one on either side of the Milwaukee Railroad as it began to pass through the northern edge of Brazil. Both these shafts were 40 feet and led to long tunnels to the two mines proper, which were both located in the extreme southwest corner of Mystic. The two mines were sunk in 1893. Fred Baker was killed in the Lee Bros. Mine in 1907 when caught by a fall of coal. There was a waste dump on either side of the railroad tracks for some time. The dump on the south side of the tracks caused dirt to fall into Big Walnut Creek, causing it to flood. Richard Campbell owned some land on the south side of the creek so negotiated with the Lee brothers to desist dumping dirt there. At that time, they joined the two shafts together underground so no more waste was dumped in Big Walnut Creek. The two mines covered 87 acres by the time they were closed in 1919.