Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 12, 1995, pg. 2
In 1910, a new firm called the Jackson Coal Company was formed by investors, and later became known as the Calhoun County Coal Company. After about two years of preliminary work, the company sunk a new shaft, this time on the west side of 29 Mile Road, on Boyd farm property. The firm went bankrupt in 1915, and the mine was closed for several months. It was then purchased by new investors, including A. Knapp of Saginaw. The mine then became known as the Albion Coal Mine. The firm rented offices on the second floor above Wochholz & Gress Grocery, at 101 S. Superior St.
It should be noted that Albion’s coal was low grade Kennel Coal. Scientific analysis showed it was high-ash, high-sulphur, and semi-bituminous coal. It was lower in fixed carbon and higher in ash and sulphur content at 7.64 percent. Several railroad carloads of coal were shipped out each day from the Albion mine. It was used mainly in factories and served an important purpose during World War I when coal was very scarce and even rationed. 25-30 men were employed at the Albion Coal Mine.
The Albion Coal Mine lost money, and in 1922 was forced to revert its assets to the Albion State Bank, which had invested considerable funds in the project. The bank then leased the coal company to a new group of investors, headed by George W. Schneider. It then became known as the People’s Coal Mining Company. Offices were located at 202˝ S. Superior St.
Still unable to pay its bills, the company went bankrupt in February 1925, and the mine was closed. An attempt was made to reorganize the company as the Southern Michigan Coal Company the following month, but investors backed down. It is thought that the losses incurred by the Albion State Bank (located at 302-304 S. Superior St.) in the coal mine ventures was a major factor in the bank’s low assets which resulted in its closure in 1931.
One long-time miner throughout the various periods of ownership was John Shimkus (1897-1982), a native of Erzvilkas, Lithuania, who came to Albion in 1913 from Bay City. He had been a miner there. Shimkus worked at the Albion Mine for many years, and was the company’s most valuable employee.
He purchased the James Harris property, his in-laws (formerly the Philo Clark farm), and started his own private coal mine in the 1930s. In January 1938 he leased it for possible commercial use. Coal produced from the Shimkus Mine was sold in Albion and Battle Creek.
It is surmised that the Shimkus Mine was one of the very last coal mines to operate in the state of Michigan. It was located in the lane next to the road, on the east side of 29 Mile Road, just south of the Shimkus barn. The entrance is cribbed up with railroad ties, now rotted.
Due to space limitations, we cannot go into the many fascinating details about the Albion Coal Mine, its history, the coal market, and personnel who worked there. Before anyone gets any ideas however, it should be noted that the main shaft of the west side of 29 Mile Road was purposely filled in many years ago when it was found that Albion College fraternity men were using the mine for the hazing of new members. From our Historical Notebook this week we present February 1931 photographs of the main shaft of the Electric Coal Mine on Sandstone Road, two miles north of Michigan Avenue in Jackson County on the Ernest Jackson farm; and miner Jimmie Woodburne taking the elevator up with a carload of coal from 100 feet below the ground from the same mine. [NOTE: These pictures were in the original Morning Star article when it was thought they were of the Albion Mine. They were originally pictured on page 3 of the February 15, 1931 Jackson Citizen Patriot as part of a story on the Sandstone Mine]
1923 Electric Coal Mine on Sandstone Road
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic