Coal Mining

99 Counties | FIND Iowa
Jul 24, 2024 | 02:48

What role has coal mining played in Iowa’s history?

As far back as the 1850s, coal mines were part of Appanoose County. Experience what an Iowa coal mine was like and how the coal was used.


[Abby Brown] Our history and farming here in Iowa is easy to see with corn, and soybeans, and tractors. and silos lining our current landscape. But one of the first products taken from this land is something you can't see at all: coal.

Appanoose County is just one of several southern Iowa counties that would have had coal mines. Here at the Appanoose County Historical and Coal Mining Museum we can experience what one of those coal mines would have been like and see just how much the county has changed. As far back as the 1850s, coal mines were part of this county. Coal could be used to heat homes and to fuel trains on the railroad. There are pictures, artifacts, and coal mine replicas in this museum, and even people who can tell their own family histories from the coal mining days. Both of your grandfathers were miners, who else was doing this work?

[Dave Kauzlarich] Well a lot of, so-called, farmers.

[Abby] Okay.

[Dave] Because the mines only worked from about September to March or April, and then they shut down through the summer months.

[Abby]  Okay. Why?

[Dave] Well there wasn't as much use for it for heating.

[Abby]  Okay, sure. So the workers would crawl inside these mines, which were like tunnels.

[Dave] Yes. Around here, for the most part, is around 33, 35 inches high and that's what you were in except for what they called an entryway which was the main way in and out and that was five feet high.

[Abby]  Oh nice!

[Dave] Yes you know I was no problem there. But otherwise it was this low area and that's why these cars are not very tall.

[Abby]  The last coal mine in Appanoose county closed in 1971, but all that coal mining has had a lasting impact. The immigrants who came to work in the mines created families that are a valuable part of the community and still live here. And this museum gives us a glimpse into what life was like in the coal mining era.

Every county in Iowa has an amazing story to tell. Thanks for exploring Appanoose County with me.