Reprinted from the Delta County Independent-April 17, 1969
Coal mining operations have been carried on in the foothills of Grand Mesa for around 85 years. Some of the mines operated only a short time, while coal was taken from others for many years.
Several Cedaredge area residents delved into their memories and came up with interesting facts which were used in this story. Some of the dates given are approximate as the exact dates are not known now.
The Rollins Mine
Located west of the Fairview mine on the southwest side of Grand Mesa, was probably the first coal mine opened in Delta County. Frank Fickes, father of Mrs. Helen Mitchell and Mrs. Dorothea Shoup of the Eckert area, came to Delta County in 1884 and he worked in the mine soon after he came. This mine had a very thick vein of very good coal which caught on fire from an unknown cause and the mine was closed.
It is an unusual coincident that Fickes’ granddaughter Doreen Shoup-Wellman was hanging out clothes at the Carl White ranch in 1947 and just happened to look toward Grand Mesa in time to see the old mine explode. The cracks in the mountain where smoke had been escaping for many years were sealed up was sealed up after the explosion.
The Fairview Coal Mine
Was opened northeast of Delta about 1901. It is believed that the late Charles States discovered this coal vein and helped with the early operations of the mine. The road to the mine went over the ‘dobes to Delta.
Very little is remembered about the Coonley Mine except that it was opened up west of the Rollins Mine. But the old dump testifies to its existence in the by-gone days.
Davis Mine the tunnel for was opened about 1895 on the road that now east of the Homer Elliott house. Dolph and Clay Davis are believed to be the sons of the original owner. The Joseph Fickes family lived at the mine about 1900 and 1901. Mrs. Mitchell remembers that they were living there the year President William McKinley was assassinated.
Old timers will remember that a trip to any of the coal mines in the upper valleys, took two days from Delta. Most of the mines had bunkhouses where the men could spread their bedrolls to spend the night and there were corrals where they could keep the hores.
Old Coalby Mine
Was operated by Andy Watson (Father of the late Del Watson) in the early 1900’s. The mine was located above the Black Diamond Mine. Which was opened several years later.
Mrs. A. T. (Effie) Peterson said that her father, John C. Myers and his son, Clarence bought the Coalby Mine around 1910 and operated it several years. They not only mined the coal, but hauled coal to Delta. They used two wagons. The first one had sideboards and was piled up with coal. The tail wagon had only the wagon-box load. Two horses were used to pull the coal wagons to Delta as the road was mostly downhill, crossing the hot ‘dobes.
Mrs. Peterson especially remembers coal hauling because one year after she had worked in the fruit all fall; she rode with her father to Delta to do some home shopping for her and the family. She stayed overnight with their friends, the Andy Watson family, who had move to Delta before this time.
The Old Church Mine was operated by Tom Wand around 1903. Its location was on the point of the hill, above Wigram Hill on the States’ property. This was a very difficult mine to work as the vein of coal was on 25 inches thick.
The Winton Mine, later renamed the Tomahawk Mine, is believed to have been opened before 1900. Chester Bowerman worked the mine in the early days. Helen Mitchell said her father operated the mine about 1903 or 1904 and the family lived in the big house near the mine. Helen especially remembers her days at the mine as she and her sisters and brother had to walk about four miles to attend the Chipmunk School. She added that they were sometimes frightened by mountain lions, wolves, and coyotes as they walked to and from school. Some of the miners boarded with her parents.
Dorothy Shoup said that her husband, the late Sid Shoup, operated the mine from 1939 to 1941. After that, Gene Yellco ran it several years, until it was abandoned.
Perhaps the coal mine that gained the most national prominence is the States Mine. In 1905 Charles States noticed a black streak on the hillside where snow had melted. (It was black enough to use for ink). The mine he opened had one of the thickest veins of coal in the region.
The mine did not become known for the 14-foot vein of coal, although it was some of the best coal in the area, but for the 75 or more dinosaur tracks States discovered embedded in the sandstone in the ceiling of the mine. They were of different sizes and made by different kinds of prehistoric animals.
The vein tips down six to seven percent in the northeast. The CO-OP Mine, opened up on the other side of Red Hill was also known as the Hall Mine as it was operated for many years by A. W. Hall. The two mines were on the same coal vein and the tunnels came together and were joined in 1935, although they were always operated separately.
IN 1937, Dr. Bernard Brown, curator of Fossil Reptiles at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York, and Ronald T. Byrd, an explorer and writer for a scientific journal came to Cedaredge, Colorado, and removed several of the tracks which are now on display in the museum in New York City. They also took a number of slabs of sandstone formations from the room in the Hall Mine, which contained many different tropical leaves.
“The Tropical Room” where the leaves were taken, has long since caved in. The Old State Mine developed too much water to make mining advisable. Coal in one of the rooms of the mine caught fire in 1952 and it was sealed off and mining operations abandoned. Welland States, son of Charles States, said that he believes that the fire is still burning, as the snow on the hillside above the mine always melts off quicker than in other areas.
Charles States made another coal discovery on the hill above the old States Mine in March, 1937. During that summer he worked with a pick and shovel and wheelbarrow and by fall, he and his son, Welland, developed it enough to sell coal. This mine, known as the Top Coal Mine, has been in operation until just recently.
George Patton was prospecting and found the vein of coal that was developed into the first Green Valley Coal Mine. He helped Charles W. Rhinehart open the first entry on the east side of the road, and south of Rhinehart’s home in 1916. The late Ira Brooks worked for Rhinehart in the mine the winter of 1920. The next year, Brooks helped Rhinehart open another mine on the hillside northwest of the first mine and the first hole was abandoned. Brooks was gone a few years but came back and works as foreman at the mine for nine years.
The following ad was carried in the local newspaper for many years:
“The wise man sits by his fire with ease;
He knows very well that he will not freeze.
He knows it takes but very little toll.
To fill his bin with Green Valley Coal.”
The rhyme of the second verse was about the Foolish Man who failed to lay in his supply of coal before the winter winds came, but it has long been forgotten.
Raymond Clipp, now living in Delta, worked for Rhinehart from 1921 to 1926, without missing a shift. In his work of shooting down the coal Clipp shot into an old room which opened a water vein that flooded the mine. He said recently that he worked in water waist deep, stringing pipe on the mine ceiling for a quarter of a mile to try to get a pump to the source of the water, so it could be pumped out. This was not successful and the mine was closed. Clipp mined in the area for 41 years.
A few years after the old mine was closed, Ira Brooks and Lyndon Fogg made the entry for the present Green Valley Coal Mine in 1949. This mine is now closed.
Lloyd Patton and Quals Bruton opened the Red Canyon Coal Mine about 1915. According to information received from Florence William and Dorothea Shoup, Frank Fickes bought it from them about 1919 and sold it to William Wade in 1923. Wade operated it for a short time and then sold it back to Patton.
The Pattons raised their family at their home near the mine and as soon as Earl was through with school he worked in the mine until 1947. Their son, Lester Patton, operated a retail coal business for the mine for a good many years. Lloyd Patton ran the mine until he retired and sold it to Lyndon Fogg in 1952. The mine entry was changed and the new tipple built while Patton owned it. Leonard Belden and Sons have owned and operated it since 1967. The Red Canyon Mine has been in continuous operation the longest of the mines in the area…although now closed.
The Western Starr Mine was opened by Charles W. Rhinehart on the point of the hill west of the Charles Aldridge property. Walter and Bill Boyd were working it when it filled with water and was abandoned in the 1940’s.
Black Diamond Mine was opened west of the present home of the G.G. Carson, by Bill Carston. It was run seven or eight years, but was finally abandoned because of the water problem n the mine. A room was dug in the hills ide where the boiler was set up to furnish power to pump the water for the mine, but it was not very successful.
The Old Blossom Mine was opened on a cliff on the Blossom Ranch about 1904. There was no road to the mine at first and the coal went down a long chute to the loading area. This was not successful and the mine was operated only two seasons. Frank Hinchman and Nat Thomas stopped working when they ran into ash.
McGruder Mine opened was opened above Cactus Park by Mr. McGruder, in the early days, but it was not developed much.
The Independent Coal Mine was opened in 1924 by Peter Clipp and his two sons Frank and Raymond. It was operated two or three years during World War II by Lewis Clani, but it flooded and was closed in 1947.
The Ideal Mine, east of the Red Canyon Mine was opened by Raymond Clipp about 1942 or 1943. It was east of the Red Canyon Mine and he worked a few years at it until he came to the Lloyd Patton lease line.
Director, Delta County Historical Society and Museum