Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

October 19, 2006

The Numa Coal Co. in Martinstown

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

The Chicago and Southwestern Railroad (later called the Rock Island) came to the Martinstown area, about a mile east of Numa, in 1871. The Numa Coal Co. was not started until 1911. It had a 150 foot shaft and mined 96 acres. The mine employed 155 men and hoisted 300 tons per day. They loaded an average of 175 cars per month. It loaded three grades of coal, commercial chunk, railroad egg and nut. The main shaft was 8 by 14 feet by 150 feet deep.

The mine caused the village of Martinstown to be platted on May 14, 1913, named after Mr. Wesley Martin. There were 40 or 50 houses. The village was more commonly known as Shantytown. There was a large foreign element among these miners.

The Italians, many of whom came from the same villages in the Florenzo and Bolomi provinces of northern Italy, have all been good coal miners, as well as active citizens. There were also immigrants from Austria, Croatia, Germany, England and Belgium. Most came from large families and, after serving their military duties, came here to seek a better life. Many went back to Europe after awhile to return with their families or future brides.

William Fox died in this mine in 1916. Then in 1920, George King, age 63, was kicking away some sprag from under the coal and was killed by falling drift.

By 1923 it was called the Numa Coal Co. It closed in 1937 after undermining 96 acres. Mr. Martin then began a truck mine called the Martin Coal Co in Section 9 of Bellair Twp. Dr. J.L. Sawyers was president, J.W. Martin was general manager and H.W. Fox superintendent. Bert Arbogast was Supterintendent in 1943.

The Rock Island Railroad discontinued passenger service and then removed the tracks in 1978. The streets and houses are now gone, and the only road remaining is on the west side of town.

I enlisted the help of Neil Doggett of Numa to show me the various mines in the Numa area. His father, Raymond Doggett was a coal miner in the New Block mine for 37 years and ran an electric mining machine. Later he ran the Doggett gas station on the south end of Numa for 12 years. It has since been converted to a tavern and meeting room.

Neal took me down a lane to see the remains of the Numa Coal Co. mine in Martinstown. The railroad right of way, angling through the abandoned town, was still very evident from the line of trees. There was still a blackened area on the ground that used to be the slag pile. There was also a large pond for making steam.

Neal also took me to the location of the Grundy Block mine on 160th Ave. about one-half mile south of Numa., on the north bank of Shoal Creek. This mine is believed to have been the same as the Fred Kauzlarich mine. It was also known as the “Blind Pig” mine because a pig fell down the shaft 140 feet to his death. The Grundy Mine had a short life of only four years because it had been dug too close to Shoal Creek, and so much water got into the mine that it had to close.

There was a very large mine on the east side of Numa called the Numa Block Coal Co., Numa mine. It was about a quarter mile south of the Numa road but was completely inaccessible to us as the whole area was planted in corn. It had a 150 foot shaft.

The Numa Block mine operated from 1908 to 1915, undermining 240 acres during that period. In 1915 Harry Combs was killed as he fell into the air shaft fan while oiling it. He was whirled about by the fan until his feet were worn away clear up to his knees. That sounds like a gruesome accident.

Several other mines in the Numa rural area were the Coal Valley mine of 5 acres with a 132 foot shaft, the Walnut Grove Coal Co. with a 64 foot shaft and the New Deal Co. of 10 acres. These mines were in the early 1900‚s but did not have railroad access.