Hillsboro Illinois - First Coal Mine

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Hillsboro's first coal mine was located on School Street.

The community had its wagon factories, furniture factories, flour mills, and woolen mills; but a few determined men persisted in believing that the town would have a coal mine. They furnished the most potent factor in the ultimate transformation of Hillsboro from a country town to a center of commercial and industrial activity.

Efforts to sink a shaft were first made near the old mineral springs in 1869. James R. Glenn, I. H. Shimer, I. Fink, and Wooten Harris formed a coal company and invited contributions to the needed funds. "We will state for the benefit of any who wish to subscribe," said the Hillsboro Democrat on March 25, 1869, "that the books will be found at the bank with Wooten Harris." While the unsuccessful test was being made, the somewhat skeptical editor wrote that while others were digging for coal, "he would stick to scribbling."

Although other attempts to promote a mine were made during the next decade, it was not until 1887, after the city of Hillsboro had discovered a vein of coal while boring for gas and oil, that an organization was perfected to finance the venture. A stockholders meeting in February of that year elected as officers Wm. H. Brewer, Charles A. Ramsey, T. A. Paden, W. C. Miller, C. O. Brown, J. T. Maddux, and Amos Miller. R. L. Dingle of Troy, Illinois, signed a contract to begin construction of the mine.

Thursday, May 12, 1887, was a gala day in Hillsboro. Mr. Dingle was ready to break ground for the mine. All business houses closed their doors that afternoon, and a large delegation of carriages, wagons, and pedestrians, headed by Mayor S. H. McLean and the Silver Cornet Band, went to the site of the mine. Judge J. J. Phillips, in a brief address, predicted an era of industrial progress for Hillsboro. Other speakers included Col. Walter, Rev. Fr. Gesenhuer, and Charles Brown. William Brewer turned the first shovel of dirt.

With work started at the coal mine, Hillsboro took on the semblance of a boom town. The first creamery was built. The old American House, then owned by the city, was sold at a public auction; and title to the ground was conveyed to J. T. Maddux, W. A. Howett, Henry Scherer, Amos Miller, and Charles Ramsey upon their agreement to erect an opera house.

"The coal shaft is booming; the new opera house is booming: the creamery is booming - everything booms," announced the Journal on June 3, 1887.

"Everything is Booming" - The Journal - June 3, 1887
"Everything is Booming" - The Journal - June 3, 1887

When workmen at the mine reached a 8-foot vein of coal on Thanksgiving Day, 1887, the people of Hillsboro once more felt the need of a celebration. The Hillsboro Journal selected its biggest type to proclaim that "The silver lining in Hillsboro’s destiny is plainly visible."

Again, the citizens assembled at the mine. Whistles blew, dynamite exploded, and the Silver Cornet Band played stirring numbers. The American flag floated over the first wagon load of coal taken from the mine. Headed by the band and the load of coal, the long line marched to the courthouse. When the procession reached the public square, Col. Walter mounted the wagon and announced that the coal would be sold to the highest bidder. J. R. Glenn ran the bid to $150 and then gave the load of coal back to the coal company, which in turn donated it to the Hillsboro Journal and the Montgomery News.

Taken From "Hillsboro Guide" 1940"

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Jeff Dunn

Vice President

Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society