Colchester Quadrangle


Mining in the Colchester Quadrangle

The Colchester Coal was mined in this area. The seam was thin, ranging from 1.5 to 3 feet thick. The coal was shallow in many areas, cropping out in ravines and along hilly areas. As in many other areas of the state where the coal was shallow, drift openings gave easy access to the coal. It was easier to construct a new drift entrance than to clean out old mines that were idle during the warmer months. The underclay was soft and plastic, ideally suited for undercutting and then wedging out the coal. Very little powder was used in this area, since it tended to shatter the coal and roof. Otherwise, the roof was good. ISGS Bulletin 30 noted that comparatively few timbers were used, but in spite of this and the cramped quarters, very few deaths from roof falls were noted in the Coal Reports. The coal was noted as being exceptionally clean and relatively undisturbed by horsebacks, rolls and clay slips.

The earliest recorded mining began in 1853, by James Roberts, who began shipping coal to Quincy by rail in 1855. According to The History of McDonough County, there were 60 to 70 two-and-three-man mines, most of which were closed by 1880. In 1866 and 1867, 500,000 tons of coal were shipped from the town of Colchester. Part of the town was undermined, and it was said that one could travel underground from a point midway between Macomb and Colchester to Tennessee. Although this is an exaggeration, it does illustrate how heavily mined the area is. Very few mines maps exist for this area.

The thin seam lead to innovations not required in other parts of the state – notably, the use of dogs for haulage. Rippetoe & Rundle Mine (mine index 758) used about half of the dogs reported for the county (15 of 31). The Coal Reports indicate that dogs were used for haulage from 1902 to 1905, but since the tables and items reported changed through time, this practice may have continued longer. Another practice that was developed more fully here than in other regions was a style of mine development by the Quincy Coal Company. This company operated four to six shafts concurrently by using two shafts to mine 40 acres. Each set of two shafts was connected underground and operated from three to five years. Two shafts were constructed each year and two other shafts were abandoned.

Clay was also mined in this area. As coal production decreased, clay production increased. The clay products were bricks, drainage tiles, silo blocks and sidewalk pavers. In the Baird Brothers’ clay mine a half mile northwest of Colchester, the clay was 8 feet thick, and mules could be used for haulage. Generally the upper two feet was left because there was a thin sandstone that added stability to the roof. By 1930, the tile companies were generally importing raw materials instead of mining locally.

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Coal Mines In Illinois Colchester Quadrangle

Mines that Appear on the Colchester Quadrangle

Unlocated Mines

McDonough County