Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

January 11, 2007

McConville Midway Mine No. 2

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

Besides the Roosbrook Mine, there were three other McConville mines in operation between the years 1913 and 1946, the North Mine (No. 1), the Midway Mine (No, 2) and the Laneville Mine (No. 3). In 1931 McConville North Mine set the coal mining production record of 895 tons of coal in one day. On that same day, Midway produced 661 tons and Laneville West Mine produced 369 tons for a total of 1,925 tons in one day. At that time the McConville brothers employed 475 men in the mining business.

McConville Mine No. 2 was the first mine on the Interurban on the way to Mystic. It started out to be the Midway Coal Co. in 1920. It was located on 497th St., one mile west of 200th Ave. It was purchased by the McConvilles in 1926 and became the New Midway Coal Co. in 1940. It was a large mine of 108 acres and had a 141 foot shaft. In 1931 the Midway mine procuced 661 tons of coal.

There was a huge cave-in one night at the Midway Mine, but aside from the picture, very little is known about it. Lyle Kesterson has told me that his father, William Noah Kesterson had once worked in the Midway Mine. When the mine closed down in 1946, Mr. Kesterson went into the mine to get his tools and took young Lyle down into the mine with him. That is more than I can say for myself, having never been in a mine.

I have told you, in a previous article, about the rich coal mining heritage of the McConville family, dating back to John McConville in Ireland and Scotland, and how Edward and Nancy McConville and seven children arrived in Mystic in 1888. The story continues as follows:

The McConvilles worked in coal mines owned by others until 1897 when the miners went out on strike. Since most miners were out of work, Edward McConville, Sr. opened a small mine in 1897 that he named “Irish Settlement” in the Mystic area (exact location unknown), which they ran until 1912.

In 1907 the company name was changed to McConville and Sons Coal Co. Edward’s six sons, James, John, Owen Joseph, Ben and Edward were given jobs in different capacities, and production continued to increase. Owen was appointed as General Superintendent. The McConvilles acquired the Rosebrook Mine near Darby in 1908 and ran it for a time. Then they ran their North Mine No. 1 from 1913-45, the Midway Mine No. 2 from 1920-38 and the Laneville Mine No. 3 from 1923 -33.

Edward McConville’s seven children produced many offspring and left a legacy of many descendents in Appanoose county. One of the older boys of particular interest was Edward McConville, Jr. Edward married Edith Birk in 1903. They had thirteen children, nine sons and four daughters. One son, James Patrick McConville, was born in Mystic in 1814 and lived in Centerville. He married Marjorie Bradley and they had three children, Joyce, Patricia and Dr. Brad McConville. Dr. Brad is a scholar in Civil War history pertaining to Appanoose County.

The Midway mine continued until 1942 at which time the Mc Convilles had moved to Knoxville to continue their tradition of coal mining in strip mines instead of shaft mines in the Bussey area.

Passenger service on the interurban line to Mystic was discontinued in 1933. By that time, enough people owned automobiles to make the venture unprofitable. Freight service was continued. The interurban track had been laid with very few tie plates. Rails had been spiked directly to the ties and the ties tended to wear out quite rapidly. During World War II, manpower shortages caused there to be virtually no maintenance of the track.

On July 1, 1944 the west 2.63 miles of trackage serving Brazil and Mystic were abandoned. Service was still maintained to Sunshine No. 3 and the McConville Midway coal mines so that coal could be delivered by hopper cars to the Centerville powerplant, its largest cunsumer of coal.

Unfortunately freight revenue continued to decline, and the coal mines were closed or began shipping by truck. In 1958 another 1.44 miles were closed. The remaining 2.37 miles remained in operation to serve the Hadite plant of the Carter Waters Co, located just east of 200th Ave., about a mile east of the former Midway mine. Hadite was an aggregate manufactured from shale clay to produce a light weight block similar to concrete. The blue clay in this area was quite suitable for that purpose. The hadite plant discontinued operation about 1964 and the Centerville to Mystic Interurban was no more.