By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent
The first coal used in the Numa was secured from the Joe Hall mine slope. The first coal mine was the Hueston Mine, northwest of Bellair. The first railway mine was sunk by Al Jones and B.F. Bradley near the west edge of Numa, later known as the Diamond Mine. It had a vertical entrance shaft of 145 feet.
The Diamond Coal Co. No. 2 was dug in 1893. It was located just inside the west of city limits of Numa on the north side of the old railroad right of way. In 1895 it was purchased by Centerville Block and became their Mine No. 2. It had a 145 foot shaft and utilized the longwall method of mining. At one time William Allen was Mining Superintendent in charge of 75 employees.
Later A. Dargavel was superintendent, William Allen pit boss, Bert Arbogast top boss and Walter Davis engineer. This mine turned out 250 tons of coal a day and employed about 160 men at that time. The haulage was done by the tail rope and mule process.
In May of 1923, there was a tragic and spectacular accident in connection with the Numa west mine. A small boy, Freddie Lacabue, age 9, was playing on top of the dirt dump. With boyish curiosity he had made his way to the dizzy top of the pyramid where Fred Hockman, age 21, was at work. The cable rope that pulls the dirt cars up the dump was at rest. Little Freddie took hold of the rope in spite of having been warned not to. The rope began to move. In an instant, Hockman saw the danger. In a frantic effort to save the boy from having his hands ground through the pulley, the young man grabbed the boy, trying to extricate his hands from the pulley and was himself caught.
Man and boy were thrown together over the dump, both with hands crushed and bleeding. The boy went tumbling down, all the way to the bottom and got up wringing his lacerated hands. Hockman was hurried to Centerville and had his hand dressed. It was found that a portion of the right thumb was gone, also one of the second fingers, and the first finger was badly mashed. An effort was made to save it and he was taken to his home in Numa, to be nursed by his mother. The boy was taken to his own home and given medical attention.
The mine was closed in 1928 with 300 acres mined. Neil Doggett showed me where the mine used to be, at the west city limits. Access to the area is gained by going west on the road that was formerly the railroad right of way. The mine was just north of the railroad, now covered by many trees. What was once a very busy scene is now merely vegetation. There is a high voltage power line where the railroad used to be.
This concludes my coal mining articles along the fourth railroad across the county, the Rock Island. I first covered the mines on the Burlington and Southwestern Railroad from Moulton through Sedan, Exline, Cincinnati, Pearle City into Mendota. Mo. Next I followed the Keokuk and Western Railroad which became the Burlington. This took me into Centerville from Sedan and went on to service mines in southwest Centerville, Sunshine, Brazil, Garfield and Plano. The third railroad I followed was the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul which I abbreviated to the common nomenclature of just the Milwaukee. This line took in Darby, Rathbun, Clarkdale, Mystic and Jerome. It is the only “through” railroad still in existence albeit for freight service only. Finally I followed the Chicago and Southwestern, later known as the Rock Island, coming into Centerville from the northeast and going south and west through Thirty, Galleyville, Shawville, Streepy and Numa.
You have probably guessed that I intend to put all this in a book eventually, although in a modified form and with more pictures etc. But first I must complete the journey through the rest of the railroads as well as a number of truck mines around Centerville, which were in operation in the later years. The next railroad on the list is the Iowa and St. Louis Railroad through Coal City, Sedan and to Centerville. This railroad operated for only a few years and the only coal mines are in the Coal City area
Finally I will take up the mines along the Electric Interurban Railroad. The railroad from Moravia to Centerville was first called the Centerville, Moravia and Albia Railroad was built in 1880 and electrified in 1914. This line served Main and Forbush and was switched into the Burlington Railroad at the west edge of Centerville. The Interurban from Centerville to Mystic was built in 1910. There were a few large mines on this line, mostly McConville and Sunshine mines. I will conclude the coal mining era with the truck mines around Centerville. What will I write about then? I will try to find more historical events from around the turn of the century.