Ray County Coal Mines

"It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines,
It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mine."
-- Merle Travis

The first railroad, then called the St. Louis and St. Joseph Railway, came through Ray County in 1868. In 1869, Joseph S. Hughes, John Gibson and William Wilson, foreseeing the railroad’s need for coal, sank the first shaft near Richmond. Coal would become the largest industry in Ray County

Coal is a rock that burns. It is found in two principal types: bituminous and anthracite. Bituminous coal, which is also called soft coal, has a significantly lower proportion of combustible carbon than anthracite coal, which is harder and is often called hard coal. Bituminous coal also is made into coke by burning the coal under controlled conditions to expel impurities which impede combustion, leaving a higher proportion of combustible carbon.

Mining coal has long been dirty, dark and dangerous work and thousands have died to bring coal to the surface. Miners constantly faced death and injury.

Miners spent the work day hunched over in narrow seams.

The backbreaking work in the deep mines was done by hand, and a pick, shovel, and hand drill were the tools of the trade. Suffocating coal dust clouded the air as miners worked in shafts and tunnels lighted dimly by gal lamps. The dust settled in workers’ lungs, causing “black lung” or miner’s asthma, which invariable led to a slow, painful death.

The miners lunch bucket had three compartments, the top compartment was for deserts, the center section was for a sandwich and the bottom compartment was for drinks.

Carbide lamps replaced the “coal oil” lamps because they produced a
better and bigger light. The carbide is placed in the lamp and mixed with water. This made gas that was lit and formed a light for the miners.

The basic tool for the miners was a pick. The picks broke the coal loose from the veins.
A hammer and wedge was used to reduce the size of a large block of coal so that it could be loaded into the coal cars by hand.

I.D. tags issued to the miners were numbered. When a miner filled a coal car he hung his I.D. on the side of the car. When the coal was dumped the miner got credit for the weight of coal.

Comments 16

  1. One of the shafts to the Albertsons Coal mine in Albany is marked with a cedar tree straight behind Crossroads gas station on 210 Hwy.

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      Hi Bryan, Thank you for sending your comments. I am sorry for the delay in responding, this is a new website and I honestly didn’t know how to use it properly. I’m going to look for the cedar tree behind Crossroads. I’m fascinated by the coal mines in the county. Thank you!

  2. My grandfather James Hill worked in the mines . He worked in number 7 I think In Richmond off of Walnut St . That was way before I was born .

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      Hi Judith, thank you for your comment. I would’ve responded sooner but I didn’t quite know how to work the new website. Thank you! Cathy Gottsch

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      Floyd, I am so sorry not to have responded to your comment. I honestly didn’t know how I had to, it’s a new website and I’m apparently not up to snuff electronically. We are open this week, Wed-Sat, 12-4 pm. Next week however, we will be closing the museum for the season and reopen April 1st. If you’d like to come up during our winter closing, just call the museum (816-776-2305) and I’ll be happy to let you in for a visit. We starting closing for the winter season last year to clean and reorganize. Thank you, and again, I’m sorry for the tardy reply!
      Cathy Gottsch

      1. I may not understand correctly: Does this mean the museum is available for a scheduled visit while it is closed for the winter.

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          We’re not open or scheduling visits to the general public during our winter closing. But if you call the museum and I’m available I’ll be happy to let you come visit.

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  4. My Grandpa worked in coal mines in ray county. There is a video interview of my grandpa somewhere being one of the last coal miners. I was told it may be at richmond museum. His name was Charley Due.

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      Hi Charles, Yes, we have the video with your Grandfather in it. Unfortunately it cant be uploaded. If you’d like to see it, you can come to the museum and watch it. We also still have one for sale as well. Thank you for your comment as well. I’m going to write it down if you don’t mind. We’d love to have any memories you have too, written or recorded! Cathy Gottsch Musuem manager

  5. Joe Albertson was my Grandfather. My Grandmother told me many stories about our coal mine. During WWII Mama and I lived with them. The house was closet to the mine. I would ride with Gma (tucked up behind her shoulder) when she would pick up the miners and bring to the mine. She would take them home at night. There are times that I think I remember things but probably only what they told me.

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