Landreth Coal Mine

In the fall of 1870, Rush Floyd Landreth, wife Arenia and their two children, Elsie and Joseph arrived by train from Carroll County, Virginia. In 1882 they bought 80 acres of land located just west of Marceline, from the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad Company.

In 1886, preliminary surveys for the Chicago, Santa Fe and California Railroad, which, when completed, was to become a part of the great “Santa Fe System.” Construction began at both ends of the line, and in 1887, the Missouri division point was platted, and on the 28th day of January 1888, the first town lot was sold in the new town of Marceline. On the 6th day of March 1888 the new town was incorporated. The new town was growing by leaps and bounds. Fuel was needed for the 2,500 people who came to Marceline to live.

So after many hours of discussion and planning and hours of labor, cutting white oak timber for curbing, the memorial and historical day arrived for the Landreths. Rush Floyd and son, Joseph, assisted by their neighbor, Mr. Anthony Eligman begin the task of sinking a coal mine. This was the second coal mine in the Marceline Vicinity.

At first they used an old gin mill which was pulled by a horse which walked in a circle that pulled and wrapped the steel cable around a large wooden drum. This was used to raise and lower the cages, on which the coal, men and water was brought to the surface. As the vein of coal was removed, tracks were laid and pit mules were used to pull the cars of coal from the face to the main shaft where they were put on to the cages and hoisted to the surface.

Joseph was pit boss, and worked down in the mine. Rush F. worked on top. As soon as Stephen Albert was old enough he joined the firm. He worked on top running the machinery and unloading and loading coal, emptying water, etc. In later years he became the superintendent.

As soon as Enoch was old enough he started working. He helped on top, delivered and collected. He also spent most of his winters working for the coal mine for many years.
The mine was located just west of the city limits. It was one of the oldest of the coal mining developments in the State. It was also one of the important institutions to the early residents of Marceline, and those seeking new homes in the town. The firm had a superior grade of bituminous coal and sold it wholesale to the residents of the city and vicinity. There was no freight costs to be added so they could quote lower prices. The daily output was 100 tons per day and they employed between 60-70 skilled miners who constantly were busy getting out the coal and delivering it. They had a market for every pound that could be mined.

About 1904 they had a cave-in which destroyed the tipple and several feet of the shaft curb. It was repaired and a steam power was installed. This was used for many years. Early each morning the fire had to be built so they could have steam to run the machinery.

Around 1918 the air shaft caved in. The shaft was repaired and the mine was wired, new elec­tric machinery was installed. A digging machine was bought to cut coal. The machine cut along the bottom of the coal vein and during the night it would loosen making it easier for the miners to take the coal out.

We always dreaded to hear the news of a mine cave-in. Then! February 12,1926, about 11am, the news came. While Joseph Landreth and Frank Ellis were repairing the roof of an entry about 100 feet from the shaft, a cave-in started, and they were buried under rock and dirt. Joseph was killed in­stantly. Frank Ellis was seriously injured but later recovered.

On July 17, 1934 a fire of undetermined origin caused approximately $10,000 in damages. The blaze was discovered in the engine room of the mine. No water was available for fighting the fire, so the machinery on top was greatly damaged. This included two steel cables, a hoist, three transformers, 10 or 12 cars, many feet of curbing, and a set of scales. The main shaft was again re-curbed, with just a few feet left to go, the bottom of the shaft caved in. Due to the great risks involved, the ex­pensive machinery, cables, track, and coal cars in the mine were abandoned.

The Landreth mine proved to be very helpful to the new town of Marceline and furnished many early residents a living, although early wages were very low. Thus ends the narrative of the Landreth Coal Mine which only lives in our memories.

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