Minersville was a community located in northern Kansas near the northern border of Cloud County and southern border of Republic County. With wood in short supply, settlers were thankful when coal deposits were discovered in 1869, providing another solution for heating and cooking. This brown coal, buried at various depths under the sandstone, did not burn as cleanly as black coal from other parts of the state, but it was affordable and accessible through strip and shaft mines. Those fortunate enough to own lands along the vein of coal quickly established mines and hired local farmers as workers in their off season.
The national labor union took notice of Minersville and encouraged miners to join for improved working conditions and safety. The Knights of Labor lodge built a hall in 1882, which served as a community center where speaking, musical, and dramatic productions were presented. The state established coal mine inspectors to enforce safety procedures.
Minersville lured families from across the region to purchase coal, which they hauled away in wagons. While they were in town they shopped for groceries and provisions at the local stores. Minersville flourished with a post office, churches, hotels, saloons, and restaurants to serve local customers. The area also included a cemetery, dugouts, quarries, and kiln; a school district opened in 1878. The 28 mines eventually employed up to 500 men.
Alexander Henderson was among those who moved to the area and took advantage of mining opportunities. He had worked as a stone mason in Scotland before he and his family moved to Cloud County, Kansas, in 1871, where he soon purchased a mine. Henderson, like other miners in the area, farmed during the spring and summer months. After harvest, he opened his mine shaft, cleared out water that had collected during the off season, and began production. The Henderson mine was located just south of the Republic County border.
During an annual inspection of Henderson’s mines in 1892 one 60-foot shaft was determined “not in a condition for any man,” for it lacked ventilation, railing, and a second opening. The hoisting cable was an “old hemp rope, almost broken in many places.” Henderson promised to make the necessary improvements to his mines so he would pass the next inspection. Several years later Henderson died, and the mining operation was taken over by his sons.
As the railroads began service to towns in the area, farmers had more fuel options available to them. They preferred the cleaner black coal, which cost more but left less residue than the brown coal. They burned the higher grade in their homes and the lower grade for farm and industrial purposes. While these mines continued operation into the first half of the 20th century, the town of Minersville began to decline. The last of the area mines closed in 1945. Today only a few reminders remain of the town that once powered the region.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2017
Date Modified: March 2017
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