Iowa History Daily: May 27 - Closing Iowa's Largest Coal Mine


Iowa History Daily: On May 27, 1949, Iowa’s largest production coal mine, the Shuler Mine near Waukee, closed. Featuring the state’s deepest mine shaft at 387 feet, the mine employed up to 500 men and utilized a reported 32 mules to mine roughly six hundred tons of coal daily.

Coal mining followed the development of steam powered transportation, first on rivers and later on rails, throughout Iowa starting in the mid-1800s. While other Ottumwa crowned Old King Coal at the Coal Palace during the 1890s, the first surveyors reports on coal in Dallas County identified deposits suitable for future mining. Not until the Harris Mine opened in 1920 did production start throughout the area west of Iowa’s capital city.

In 1921, the Shuler Coal Company opened operations on the deepest shaft in the state, hiring workers at $5.50 a day to mine, sort, and load bituminous coal. A diverse community developed mainly of immigrants from countries including Croatia, Italy, and Sweden, while a significant African-American population also worked at the mine.

Workers lived along Alice Road in the camps called simply the “North” and “South” camps, respectively. Later on, the combined camps took on the moniker “Stringtown.” The Shuler Coal Company helped fund a school for children of employees called the Waukee Mine School, and the Shuler Coal Baseball Team competed against teams from throughout the area. A general store offered goods, and a tavern also wet the whistles of weary miners up from the depths at the end of a hard day. Alice’s Spaghettiland, opened in 1947 just north of Hickman Road, served the hunger miners and their families during the final years of operation.

As time progressed, the area mined under Dallas County widened: by 1947 the Shuler Mine stretched over a subterranean area measuring 1.25 miles wide and 3.75 miles long. Coal prices declined and the seam wore thin, eventually pairing with new energy sources to lead to the Shuler Mine’s closing in 1949. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar



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