Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


November 9, 2006

Coal mining in the Hilltown area

Last week I finished my discussion of coal mines along the Rock Island Railroad. Today I am jumping to Wells Township in the extreme southeast parat of the county where there were quite a large number of small coal mines, some of them located across the line in Missouri.

Colonel James Wells was one of the earliest pioneer settlers in the area, way back in 1841. He soon had a sawmill and a flouring mill in operation the east bank of the Chariton River. He built his town of Hilltown up on the hill to the east in 1851. In those early days, the Chariton River was very winding and the rich, fertile valley flooded easaily. Travelers could cross the river on rock at one point in the river. In 1851 a ferry was operating on the river.

Early settlers in the area found outcroppings of coal in nthe southeast corner of Appanoose County. They would pick up coal for heating their homes, and small hand-worked drift mines were established, one of the earliest and largest being the Guinn mine.

The opening of a drift mine was accomplished by simply tunneling into a bluff or hill. The angle was very carefully determined to be slightly uphill. This was so thata a string of cars (either slag or coal) would not be too great a load for the little mules to pull (usually just one mule for each string). The grade had to be shallow so the cars would not run away.

The Ira Guinn Mine (Ryate and Yaggy Coal Co) was a slope mine, located on the east bank of the old Chariton River before the river was straightened and relocated to the west. It was just down the hill to the west from the Hilltown Church and Cemetery. It was almost two miles south of Dean.

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