Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

COAL SHORTAGE CLOSED BUSINESSES AND SCHOOLS 100 YEARS AGO

Morning Star, January 21, 2018, pg. 12

January, 1918, 100 years ago, was not a good month for our local factories and businesses. A severe coal shortage crippled our country in the midst of World War I. Coal was a major source of fuel which powered generators, furnaces, factories, and other important aspects of our country back then. A nationwide 5-day "work holiday"was declared by the U.S. Fuel Administration beginning on January 17. Locally, about 2,000 workers were affected by the "holiday,"which was continued afterwards on Monday for several weeks. In addition, Albion was hit by a heavy blizzard on January 12, which delayed deliveries of precious fuel by rail or other means.

Albion College was closed from January 18 to January 29 in order to save additional fuel. The Albion Public Schools eliminated afternoon classes. Albion High School operated from 8 am to 1 pm, while the elementary schools closed at noon daily. The High School ran out of coal on February 2, and arrangements were made for the delivery of two carloads a day from the Albion Coal Mine to keep the heating plant at the school in operation.

The Albion Coal Mine north of the city was in full operation, shipping railroad cars of coal to area communities desperate for fuel sources. The Albion coal had too high a Sulphur content to be practical for home furnaces, however it was very usable in factories and institutions. News articles in the Albion Recorder indicate how desperate communities were for our coal. The January 18 edition reported: "The Albion mine is now working to full capacity and is turning out about 120 tons a day. Yesterday a carload was shipped to the Jackson City Hospital, which along with the Nichols Hospital in Battle Creek, is entirely dependent upon the Albion mine for fuel supply. Thursday the president of Litchfield village telephoned the mine office making an urgent appeal for help. He stated that there was not a pound of coal in the city. A car may be sent them."

Another article published on January 30, stated: "Two carloads of coal were shipped from the Albion mine yesterday on the order of O.H. Gale, fuel administrator. Mr. Gale took pity on the Marshall dealers who have been asking for a car for weeks without getting it, and one car was sent them. Another was sent to the mayor at Battle Creek, to help the situation there. Several teams were also loaded up, among the Albion places supplied this way, being the Hotel Albion and the Hayes Wheel Company."

The Consumers Power Company had to reduce its electrical output to our community due to a lack of coal which fueled its generators. Heavy snow helped prevent cars of coal from reaching their destinations. Area residents turn to cutting wood as a fuel source, which was readily sold in order to keep furnaces going.

The crisis began to turn in early March 1918, when Albion received 14 carloads of precious coal; they were distributed among the local coal dealers, and to factories.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a drawing dated June 1, 1923, showing the entrance to the Albion Coal Mine along 29 Mile Road north of Albion. We've added various identifications on this map. The main shaft went under the road to the right, and under the Boyd farm where the rest of the map (not shown here) shows numerous underground mining shafts.


1923 drawing of Albion Coal Mine Map close up

Next: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO WESLEY IRMA DORRIS?

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