Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 5, 1995
Remember when you were a child at Christmastime, if you were bad you would get a "lump of coal" in your stocking? Well, perhaps the lump of coal came from the Albion Coal Mine. Thatís right--Albion once had its very own coal mine!
Our story begins in 1859, when on March 1 of that year coal was found in Sheridan Township north of Albion. The discovery apparently attracted much attention as news spread throughout Albion. Albion College student James C. Reed (1843-1893) mentioned in his diary, dated March 2, "Went to see the coal diggins discovered yesterday north of town." Apparently there are pockets of coal located in the vicinity of Rice Creek Stream as it flows across the center of Sheridan Township.
For example, in the 1890s, farmer James Barry found traces of coal on his property, located on the north side of F Drive North, about a mil west of 26 Mile Road, south of Winnipeg Lake and Rice Creek Stream. The vein was about 18 inches thick. Attempts to commercially mine this were made in 1902, but never saw reality.
Years ago while drilling a well for water at the White School on the corner of 28Ĺ Mile Road (Maple St.) and C Drive North just north of Albion, the driller hit a 4 foot deep vein of coal. So there is definitely coal in our area.
It should be noted that coal was once a valuable natural resource. It heated homes, businesses, and powered electric generators. A look at the 1890s Birdís Eye View of Albion will reveal numerous smoke stacks billowing black plumes of coal-produced smoke throughout Albion--a sign of success.
The purpose of our column this week is to focus on Albionís Coal Mine, located on 29 Mile Road (Clark Street Road), three miles north of Albion. In the late 19th century, on the east side of the road were the farms of Philo Clark (after whom Clark Street is named) and William Boyd; the former now owned by Mary Mac Moore, and the latter now owned by Mrs. Florence Carver at 15450 29 Mile Road.
Following a dry spell, the wells in the area went dry in 1883, and so Mr. Clark had a new well dug in the spring of 1884. Lo and behold, the driller discovered a two foot vein of coal at 75 feet deep. A coal company was formed and mining operations were commenced for a brief period of time. The operations were discontinued as the cost of pumping out water from the shaft proved too expensive. In 1896, investors decided to try again, and formed the Clark Coal Company. They started mining the old mine, and had a wooden tramway built from the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad one and one-quarter of a mile to the east, to haul the coal. Tram cars were used with mules to pull the coal up an incline, and into coal cars. The company decided to dig a new shaft, this time 400 feet north of the original one, on the property of William Boyd. Unfortunately again, they ran into water and quicksand, and abandoned the operation. CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present two photographs. The first is a February, 1931 photograph of an abandoned mine shaft on the F. C. Sackrider farm on Sandstone Road in Sandstone Township in Jackson County. The second is a February, 1931 flashlight photograph of the main tunnel of the Electric Coal Mine on Sandstone Road in Jackson County. The caption read that the blotches on the picture were caused by the acetylene torches worn by the men on their caps [NOTE: in the original published article, it was thought that these photos were of the Albion Coal Mine. No photographs of the Albion mine are known to exist].
1931 Sackrider Farm
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic