Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

October 5, 2006

Prairie Block Coal Co. Mine

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

After turning west, the Rock Island Railroad continued toward Numa in 1871. It crossed old Highway No. 60 in the middle of Section 15 of Bellair Twp, the west half of which was owned by Isaac F. Streepy. It was here that the old Highway 60 turned south toward Cincinnati in those days.

This land was deemed good for coal production. Isaac Streepy leased 500 acres of coal land to a mining company in 1903. Two prospect holes were to be drilled on the Streepy farm at once. By the terms of the lease, Mr. Streepy was to receive a royalty of 5 cents per ton of coal mined, the total per year to be not less than $800.

The Prairie Block Mine went into operation along the railroad in 1905. It was mined by the longwall method and had a 160-foot shaft. The mine caused the development of the settlement of Streepyville along the Numa road on the west side of Hwy. 60. It was platted in 1913. At one time there was a store, school, pool hall & tavern, blacksmith shop, filling station, four boarding houses, miners‚ hall and 30 to 40 homes for the miners.

There was a fatality in the mine in 1910 when Clarence Campbell died pushing an empty dirt cart into an open shaft with a drop of 160 feet. Also in 1915 William Sanders, the top boss fell down the shaft. Then in 1918 John Furlin, an Italian of age 36, was killed by a fall of rock.

In 1927.Ed Johnson, foreman under Harry Stamos, was loading shale for the Rock Island Railroad at the Streepyville mine dump when he received fatal injuries. Workmen were busy loading shale into railroad cars on the siding near by. It was necessary to set off a stick of dynamite to blow more shale to the foot of the dump where workmen could get at it with wheelbarrows. Johnson had climbed up the side of the shale pile to a small hole made ready for the blast, carrying a stick of dynamite in his hand. He had reached a spot near the hole when loosened black dirt above him began to fall. The fall of dirt and shale carried Johnson to the foot of the dump.

Apparently a large rock also came down with the shale and might have had something to do with his death. At any rate his chest was practically crushed, the breast bone and ribs having been broken, sometime during the fall.

The hand holding the stick of dynamite was lacerated, but the dynamite did not explode. Tom Kirby stood guard to warn any trespassers or workmen away, as it was thought that the heat of the shale or rolling fragments might set off the dynamite at any time. Johnson was quickly taken out of the debris of dirt and shale and carried to the mine tipple. However, he breathed but a few times before doctors arrived. Mr. Johnson was a 59 year old bachelor and had been a resident of Streepy for 20 years. There was a mine cave-in in the late 1920‚s. This may have been the beginning of the end of the mine. There was also a spectacular fire of uncertain date in the mine. The billowing black smoke rose to the sky and could be seen for miles. Some of the material for the fire might be the wood in the tipple and in the guides for the hoist, but I believe the extremely black smoke must have come from burning coal in the cars and scattered around in the mine and tipple.

The mine closed down in about 1929 after undermining 270 acres and Streepyville began to disappear. A few of the houses still remain today. Highway No. 60 was later relocated to the east and became Highway No. 5. The old road south through Streepy later became the road to the city dump.