The Old Town McAlester Mine
Located in what is now called North Town, the Old Town mine was at 8 west Park .St. It opened in 1870 with men from Pennsylvania. Thus the reason later for the name of Pittsburg County. In 1874, the miners from Italy started to arrive and they formed the town of Krebs, itself a major coal mine town. The Old Town Mine was a diagonal shaft mine where men went down on coal cars suspended by a steel cable. As they got deep into the coal seams, they would then trench sideways until they hit rock. The coal was hauled out on the same cars they used to go down and out. The cable system pulled out coal all day long. One of the worst mine disasters happened in Decemer 1929. 53 men and boys died in a gas explosion. 25 of those men were Mexicans. They were buried in a long trench in a nearby cemetery. This was a James Jackson McAleseter mining operation although he eventually sold it. The coal was primarily used by the railroad. He had heard about the coal seams reaching the surface by an Indian Territory land surveyor sent by John D. Rockefeller. The Choctaws did not believe it was right to dig into Mother Earth. When JJ married a Choctaw woman, it gave him right to a coal concession. To this day, the trains still go by the entrance. There were several other mines near Old Town and throughout the area. J.J. McAlester paid people in mine tokens. They could only redeem them at the J.J. McAlester Merchantile. The tokens were worth 1 dollar. The original merchantile building still stands on north Main (business 69). The J.J. McAlester Feed Store was tore down several years ago to make a transmission shop. That's the bad part when famillies own historic properties and choose to sell than maintain. Thankfully, the mansion is now owned by the city as a trust and it has a better future ahead.
In this photo on the right, you see the slant main shaft. The cars were lowered into it with the cable system. You are looking to the east toward the south of Old Town or what is now called North Town. This is part of the disaster photo set. This disaster was caused by a methane explosion. The miners used carbide lamps. If they hit or came in contact with a concentration of natural gas, it touched off horendous explosions.
The location of the Old Town mine is in the official registries as 204 Park Avenue. The property is currently owned by KTMC-AM 400. You can barely make out the spur line that took coal to the main KATY line. X marks the spot of the main mine complex. You can make out the same track detail as you see in the photo above looking to the east.
These are the 25 Mexicans who died in the December 1929 explosion. Most of them had no family to claim them. They had come to Indian Territory on the promise of work. Mexicans still flock to McAlester to work at one of the many factories such as those operated by the tribe. Many came during the chicken factory that operated in the late 90's until it shut down. Some stayed and went to work at the other factories while others opened up retail or restaurants. Yet, many moved to Arkansas to chase the chicken processing jobs.
The Samples Coal Mine
The Samples coal mine was locacted at the intersection of D street and Electric. A youth rodeo arena now sits on that spot. In 2006, they had a collapse of a shaft that swallowed a section of the parking lot. It was fixed with state funds. This was another diagonal shaft mine where they went down the hole in cars at roughly a 45 degree angle. These were the most accident prone types of mines due to the collection of explosive natural gas. Ironic that the coal is no longer mined yet the gas has made land owners into millionaires. This mine is part of the dozens spread out all over the area as they all were in search of that never ending seam. Indian Territory mines were the most dangerous in the nation, mostly due to Oklahoma's natural gas fields.
Title. Double click me.
Governor Henry Bellman inspects a shaft
Governor Bellmon went into a shaft at one of the McAlester mines. This would be a horizontal shaft away from the main shaft. Imagine having to spend a 10-12 hour shift cramped up like that. You carried your lunch and snackes into the hole and spent the whole time down there. Ventilation was not good and almost everybody died of black lung or related illnesss. They loaded coal on tiny rail cars then transferred to bigger cars that were pulled up the slant shaft to the surface. Imagine pulling out 16 tons using this method.
Samples Mine, Electric Ave & D Street
This is the Samples mine that was responsible for the collapse of the McALester Youth Rodeo arena in 2006. It is a classic example of the slant shaft used by so many of the Little Dixie mines. The powerhouse provided for the lift energy and ventilation. This was a more cost effective way to pull out coal than a vertical shaft system. It was also considerably more deadly because the main shaft was always under the threat of collapse and gas buildup.