The coal mine have always been an important part of Coulterville’s history. The first coal shaft in the area was the old Halliday mine, sunk about 1868, located close to the Randolph-Perry county line. There was later also what we know locally as the East Mine, the West Mine and the Granny Mine.
Through the years, the mines in this area have had different owners and management. Most of the time, conditions were dangerous. One such explosion happened on January 8, 1883 because of faulty ventilation and explosion at the Granny Mine killed 10 men. The explosion was a news item of nationwide interest and a direct effect upon better legislation governing working conditions of coal mines in Illinois.
Management wasn’t always fair to the miners. In February 1895, the management of the Coulterville Mine decided to change the basis of the miners pay. Until this change, drillers received $2.00 per day, loaders 8 cents per box, drivers and shift hands a sliding scale ranging from 75 cents to $1.25 per 9 hour day. The new rule was for each man to load his own coal, do his own shooting and do all other work usually done by shift hands. They were to be paid at the rate of 25 cents per box for coal shoveled by a fork. The cars called boxes were computed to hold 1132 pounds of coal. When scales were put in at a later date, these same boxes held one long ton of 2200 pounds of coal.
Most of the mines used tokens and distributed them to the miners. One company built a number of houses. These they rented to their employees. The houses were all in the same area. They were 4 room frame houses that were well built. Employees were allowed to buy the houses and many are still standing today.
We still have mines in the area. One is the Peabody Mine southeast of town and another is Prairie State Generating Company, located near Lively Grove, north of Coulterville. Illinois Coal is coming back!
(An unedited version of this article can be found in the book “Recipes and Remembrances” by Betty Gimber and the late Virginia Vancil)