Cables in the coal mine
Coal in the early days was valuable for heating homes and powering railroad engines. The first attempt to mine coal locally was in 1860 in Leavenworth, and in 1869 after countless attempts, miners reached a vein 20 to 28 inches thick. The vein was 710 feet deep.
In 1861, the state of Kansas selected an area for building a state penitentiary. A tract of 40 acres on Seven Mile Creek was purchased for $600 from Almira Budlong. The name of this area was "The Town of Progress." The need to keep inmates occupied caused the state to sink a coal shaft in 1881, also to a depth of 710 feet.
By that time, the city was growing and the need to transport the coal brought in the railroad. Our town was considered a railway crossroads and many people and businesses moved in from Delaware City.
This coal industry was the source of jobs for many people, including my dad and grandfather, who both worked as hoisting engineers.
From its start in 1881 to 1947 when it closed, the mine operation did not have an accident, due to strict attention paid to the wire rope cable that brought the cages to the surface. There were two cages to bring up coal and workers and when one went down, the other would come up. Dad was very safety-minded and would say "75 percent of your confidence comes in knowing your cable is right."
The 1 1/2-inch plow steel hoist cables used at the coal mine had hemp cores and were about 1,000 feet long. On a weekly basis, Dad would clean, inspect and lubricate each cable in less than one hour. Cable that received this care would last twice as long, because it reduced the friction generated by the metal strands rubbing together.
On Aug. 24, 1947, because of low demand for the product, the mining of coal was discontinued when Gov. Frank Carlson ordered Warden Robert Hudspeth to cease operation on the 68-year-old mine.