Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


October 12, 2006

New Block Coal Co. west of Streepyville

The Rock Island Railroad continued west from Streepyville toward Numa in 1871. Isaac F. Streepy had died in 1926 at the age of 88, but a new mine was started on Streepy land in 1929, shortly after his death. It was owned by the New Block Coal Co. It was on the south side of the track, about three fourths of a mile west of the Streepy Mine. It had a 160 foot shaft and used the longwall type of operation. Frank Casale was Superintendent.

Since the Prairie Block Mine had closed shortly before the New Block Mine was started, many of the miners still lived in Streepyville. From there it was only about three quarters of a mile to walk along the railroad track or to drive on the Numa road. However, a new mining camp was also started in the vicinity of the mine. It is pictured here. The people in the picture are the family of a coal miner, George Lassaretto (1891 to 1948), who came to this country from northern Italy in the early 1900‚s. His wife, Margarita Lazzeretto is shown in the picture with four of her children. This family information came to me from Johnny Tagliapetra whose mother Cora was the daughter of George and Margarita Lazzeretto. How can one possibly visualize the traumatic transition from life in northern Italy to that in a crowded hut in a remote coal camp in southern Iowa!

In 1935 Anton Tometich was killed in the New Block mine by a fall of black bat that broke his back. Three of the other miners were also injured. In 1943 George Grenco died after being caught between the cage and the mine shaft. The mine operated until 1967 and mined an area of 100 acres. The railroad discontinued operation in 1978.

When ISU Co. transferred me from Ottumwa to Centerville in 1958, many of the huge slag piles were still in evidence, but disappearing rapidly. I remember driving south from the Numa road J46 on 185th Ave. and seeing the bustling work of slag pile removal off to the east. With my abysmal lack of knowledge of coal mining at that time, I hardly knew at that time what was going on. By now, the steel rails have been removed and finally, even the telegraph wires and poles are gone. We soon forget how the landscape has changed. Only the old right of way is still visible because of the embankment and all the trees that now occupy the right of way.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
B. I do not support the ordinance
C. Not sure
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