Montgomery County Illinois History
In the book HILLSBORO A HISTORY by Dorothy Bliss - based on the writings by Tom Bliss, approximately one full page is devoted to giving a brief history of the Hillsboro Mine. The Blisses describe how, in 1869, four men, James R. Glenn, I.H. Shimer, I.W. Fink and Wooten Harris formed a coal mining company. These men were not able to raise sufficient funds and it would be eighteen years before the dream of a Hillsboro Mine would come to fruition.
In 1887, while boring for gas and oil, a vein of coal was discovered and an organization was formed to finance the mine. Stockholders met in February, 1887 and elected as officers: William H. Brewer, Charles A. Ramsey, T.A. Paden, W.C. Miller, C.O. Brown, John T. Maddox and Amos Miller. R.I. Dingle of Troy, Ill. was given the contract to construct the mine.
Harold Blizzard wrote in his 1940 Hillsboro Guide, that Thursday, May 12, 1887 was a "gala day in Hillsboro" as the ground would be broken for the mine with the firm, first shovel of dirt being turned by Mr. William Brewer at the new site of the mine at the north end of Eccles St. City businesses were closed for this event which included a large delegation of carriages, wagons and pedestrians, led by Mayor McLean and the Silver Coronet Band.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1887, workmen reached a five foot vein of coal. The Hillsboro Journal newspaper, in bold type, proclaimed that “THE SILVER LINING IN HILLSBORO'S DESTINY IS PLAINLY VISIBLE!!!”
Once again, celebrations ensued - whistles blew, dynamite exploded and the Cornet Band performed. The first wagon load of coal (topped by an American flag) was hauled to the courthouse to be auctioned to the highest bidder. J.R. Glenn ran the bidding to $150 and gave the coal back to the company, who donated it to the Hillsboro Journal and the Montgomery News.
The Blisses write of how the mine operated for over fifty years and closed in 1941 while employing mostly English, Scotch and Welsh miners over that time period many who became leaders in the community and in the labor unions.
The Hillsboro Coal Company was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois on February 22, 1887. It received from the City of Hillsboro a franchise for the exclusive rights to mine coal from under the streets and alleys within the corporate limits. At the same time, other civic minded citizens in the area donated the rights to mine coal under certain tracts of land.
Because of the limited resources of the Company, the major stockholders acquired and gave their notes for additional coal rights which the stockholders later deeded to the Company in return for the authorized increases in Capital Stock. Other coal rights were acquired by the Company over the following years.
The sinking of the main shaft began in 1887, and production was on a rather small scale through 1889. The first air shaft failed due to it being located in quicksand and the second shaft was sunk in 189l with another added at a later date.
Mining was done by hand at first with the use of mules for hauling. By 1897, the mine was electrically equipped, chain breast machines were installed and the mine eliminated the use of mules in 1900 when a system of "tail rope" haulage began. This "tail rope" haulage was eliminated in 1906 and was replaced by electric locomotives.
Freight cars were loaded and/or unloaded by being "tipped" to allow for easier access using a device known as a tipple. The original wooden tipple was rebuilt in 1904 with changes to allow for the use of shaker screens and self-dumping cages. This tipple was used until 1918 when a steel tipple was erected.
During the building of this steel tipple in 1918, the United States was at war and the country could not afford to lose the production of coal at any of its mines. Therefore, the Hillsboro Coal Company could not shut-down to erect the new tipple. This caused the price of the new tipple to virtually double in cost with the contract awarded to the Roberts & Shafer Company.
By 1901, Amos Miller was the President of the Hillsboro Coal Company. However, Rice Miller, Secretary and Treasurer assumed all active duties and was totally in charge of the working functions of the mine in 1901.
The above ground portion of the mine was situated on approximately seven and one half acres within the corporate limits of the City of Hillsboro in Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, and 18 of Township 8 N R 3 W, and Sections 1, 11, 12 and 13 of Township 8 N R 4 W.
The No. 6 coal seam, at a depth of approximately 450 ft. was the major seam and most profitable. No serious rolls or faulting were encountered in No. 6. It can also be noted that the mine was considered "abnormally dry" as only one pump was used to remove water. The average height of coal was seven feet six inches containing two partings, one the characteristic "blue band" — about one and one-half inches thick;  the other, a one—half inch "steel band" which was found about one foot from the top of the seam. Twelve inches of coal was normally left at the top to form the roof of the mine.
Estimations as of March 1, 1913 were that 6,290,000 tons of coal were recoverable. The Company owned other contiguous rights that were classified as unavailable wherever the average haul exceeded two miles. Records indicate that 5000 tons per acre were being mined by March of 1924.
Over the years, an analysis of the sales of the coal shows that approximately 25% of the output was required for local consumption, 33% for railroad fuel and 42% to supply domestic and steam requirements of customers located along the C.C.C. & St. Louis Railway from Mattoon, ll. to St. Louis, Mo. and other scattered areas.
 The Hillsboro Coal Company as well as the large numbers of industrial plants that were situated within the vicinity of the mine benefited from each other greatly. The mine was able to sell vast tons of the smaller size coal to supply the industrial needs and could sell the desirable larger lump coal to citizens for domestic use.
The Schram Glass Manufacturing Company, which was built in 1904, contracted for a five year period. Then in1909, contracted for another twenty years for all of its plant requirements. The Eagle Pitcher Lead Company (formerly the Robert Lanyon Zinc & Acid Company) located in Hillsboro in 1911, and contracted for a five year period for full plant requirements before construction work started and renewed its contract for years to come. Hillsboro coal supplied the American Zinc Company with all of its coal as well as the Illinois Power &·Light Company (formerly the Southern Illinois Light & Power Company and the Hillsboro Electric Light & Power Company). The Company was able to maintain normal output even during the poor coal industry timeframe of 1923 and 1924.
Two shafts were in use and were timbered with oak. The shaft bottoms were heavily timbered for a distance of about 300 ft. on each side of the shafts with an automatic sprinkler system connected to a surface water supply for fire protection. It was the policy of the Company to drive its entries and air courses twelve ft. wide and fifty-two ft. centers. The cross cuts were driven ten ft. wide and sixty ft. apart. Stoppings were normally made of earth and plaster with abandoned areas sealed with permanent masonry stoppings.  
While researching for this article, the date of March 1, 1913 kept appearing in relation to mine values, mine income and expenditures including wages paid to workers, developmental costs and audit etc.  I wondered what was so important about this date to have it appear so often. The answer — the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified on February 3, 1913. Uncle Sam wanted a share in the profits of American enterprise and declared through this amendment "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived....."
Mr. Rice Miller hired Edwin F. Herold-Certified Public Accountant of St. Louis, Mo. in 1925, to perform a retrospective appraisal of the Hillsboro Coal Company using the March 1, 1913 date as the starting point to derive the actual value of the Company and some of the facts obtained follow.
·         The Union pay scale provided that a below ground miner in 1913 be paid at a rate of $2.84 per day and a yard worker $1.92 per day.
·         The cost to the Company per ton of coal mined in 1913 was .9423¢. The selling price per ton was $1.0208 per ton for a net profit of .0785¢ per ton.
·         349,876 tons of coal was mined at the Hillsboro Mine in 1913 at a profit of .0785¢ per ton for a profit of $27,465.26 for the year.
·         The analysis of the coal mined in Hillsboro showed moisture content of 8.02%, volatile matter 39.68%, fixed carbon 42.47% and a B.T.U. of 11,644.
·         Daily maximum mining capacity was estimated at 2,500 tons. If this maximum daily capacity had been mined a lifespan of 17 to 19 years could be expected.
·         The estimated value of the Hillsboro Coal Company as of March 1, 1913 was $688,446.38 with an unexhausted tonnage of 6,290,000 tons.
·         Prior to March 1, 1913 there was 3,566,154 tons of coal mined at the Hillsboro Mine. Only 11,295 tons were mined in 1889 but 331,396 tons were mined in 1911.
·         After March 1, 1913, between the years of 1914 and 1924 the low annual total was 209,550 tons in 1922 and the high annual total was 366,020 tons in 1917.
·         Between 1889 and 1924, the Hillsboro mine produced 7,147,092 tons of coal.
As of March 13, 1913, the Hillsboro Coal Company was comprised of the mine and 20 buildings which included:
Main Office - Built in 1912. One story brick 34' 5" x 36' 2". Building still in use today for the Veteran's Assistance Commission just SE of Hough Funeral Home. Is the original white stone inset reading "Hillsboro Coal Co." still beneath the metal roofs?
Hoist House (Air Shaft) — Built in 1906-Contained the chimney, boiler, piping and electric lighting.
Fan House — Built 1906. One story brick bldg.-held concrete fan housing and connection to the air shaft. 20’ x 7' Crawford and McCrimmon fan.
Boiler House - Built 1887. One story brick 48'x72’. Contained boilers, smoke stacks (5) 30"x60' steel stacks with individual breechings, pumps, heaters etc.
Power House — Built 1898. Irregular one story brick bldg. Later housed generators, engines etc. 150 K.W. 250V 600Amp Morgan Gardner generator.
Hoist House #1 — Built 1890. One story frame 25' 3"x28’. Hoist was 18"x32" Duplex with 8’ drum (Litchfield).
Machine Shop — Built 1898. One story brick 18' 3"x22' 9". Contained 16" lathe and shaper and various tools.
Timber Framing Shed - Built 1898. Partially enclosed 20'x34' with belt driven cut-off saw, tools etc.
Wash House — One story brick, fireproof 24' 2"x48' with 20 shower baths and suspended lockers for the miners.
Tipple — Built 1887. Three track, oak frame tipple. Iron clad, remodeled in 1904. Hopper type tipple scale.
Blacksmith Shop — Built 1908. Irregular one story frame with ship-lap siding. Dirt floor. Contained drill press, grind stone, misc. tools, 2 brick forges with individual brick stacks.
Retail Office — Built 1891 and later moved and reconditioned in 1912. 12,000 lb. Fairbanks Wagon Scale with concrete lined pit.
Powder House — Built approx. 1890. 9'x14' iron clad frame. Used to store explosive materials.
Carpenter Shop — Built 1888. One story frame 12'x16'. Contained saw tables, tools etc.
Stable — Built approx. 1888. One story frame 24' 4"x26' 6", dirt floor with stalls, mangers, feed boxes etc. 50'x50' corral. `
Hay Barn - Built 1894. One story frame 16'x26' with wood floor.
Granary & Corn Crib — Built 1910. One story frame with wood floor and ship-lap siding.
1 Hose House — Built 1910. 8'x8' frame structure with wood floor. Held 150' -2 ½” fire hose, nozzles etc.
Car Pull House — Built 1910. Frame 8'x12' with 8”x14” Duplex geared hoist on concrete foundation. Approx. 1000’ of 1 1/8 steel cable, sheaves etc.
Pipe Shed — Built 1912. 6'x20' open sided shed to store pipe etc.
Other Miscellaneous outside implements and improvements including:
Track Scales — Purchased in 1900. U.S Scale Company 100 ton capacity.
Reservoirs — The upper or main reservoir as it was known was owned jointly with the Hillsboro Brick and Tile Co. (not to be confused with the Seymour Brick Yard west of town) and is still there today.
Well — 3 ½’ diam. x 30' deep, brick lined (was located near the Power House).
Cisterns (2) — 8' diam. x 20' deep. Brick lined and brick arch and another one 6' diam. x 12' deep.
Water and Steam Pipe Lines — Thousands of feet of each kind. The steam lines were added in 1912.
Industrial R.R. Tracks — Installed 1887. 660 linear ft. of #16 track with 4'x6' oak ties, 160 linear ft. of #30 track with ties and 5 #16 switches.
Yard R.R. Tracks — Installed 1909 with 6900 linear ft. of track and ties.
Mine (underground) Tracks — 23,000' of #16 track with 4'x6' oak ties, 20,000' of #30 track with 6'x8' oak ties and 18,000' #12 track with 4'x6' oak ties, 214 #16 switches complete and 23 #30 switches complete.
Telephone System --11 mine phones with approx. 13,000' #14 Duplex telephone cable.
Also used were:   Four 7 ½ ton Goodman electric locomotives, nine Morgan-Gardner Breast Mining machines and one Jeffery Breast Mining machine, 300 mine cars with 2 ton capacity and wood sides,  two 500 gallon steel tank cars.
Although the use of mules below ground stopped in l900, they were still of great use on the mine yard. There were two mine stables, each having a ten mule capacity with room for grain storage, water connections etc. The 1913 inventory showed that there were 20 mules with harnesses at the stable.
This article only covers the Hillsboro Coal Company from its beginning until about December 31, 1924. The Company continued beyond these years until it closed in 1941. Certainly there are many citizens in the Hillsboro area whose relatives labored in the Hillsboro Coal Company Mine. Their stories would probably be able to continue this history beyond the end of 1924 with much interest.
When a permanent location is found for the use of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, a special section will be devoted to the mining history of the county and I hope that others can provide information about the mining in their areas of the county through copies of photos, articles, memorabilia etc.
Many of the towns in the county have created wonderful museums with photos, stories, etc. that include the history of mining in their communities.  lf mining interests you, please visit these museums. You may have some material that can be displayed by them. Take pride in your town and all of its history!!!
Mike Rappe`    9/11/09
Posted in: Hillsboro
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