Inspection of Several Vienna Mines, 1877

Mine inspection was legislated in Ohio in 1874, at the height of the coal boom in Vienna Township. The State was especially concerned with the miners' safety and working conditions.
The official inspections of the mines of Vienna Township reveal to the historian many aspects of the physical locations and environments of the underground chambers as well as working conditions and business practices.

This report describes the mines of the Hamilton Coal Company and the Vienna Coal and Iron Company in 1877. Although the inspectors found one mine nearly "worked out," other mines were producing coal. They found that some safety measures in the newly dug Vienna Coal and Iron Company's No. 3 mine were being taken, but they were also concerned about the lack of proper ventilation.

From Annual Reports Made to The Sixty-Third General Assembly of the State of Ohio, at the Regular Session, Commencing January 7, 1878, Part II (Columbus; Nevins & Myers, State Printers, 1878), pp. 56-57:

The Truesdale Mine of the Hamilton Coal Company is situate[d] one mile north-east of the center of Vienna township, in Trumbull county. The shaft is eighty-two and a half feet deep, and was sunk in January, 1876. There is but one opening, though, as less than 15,000 square yards are excavated; the time required by law for providing the second outlet is not yet due. Ventilation is provided by means of exhaust steam from the pump at the bottom of the pit. The main entry at the date of inspection had just got through a horse-back, and the air was poor in consequence, but air-courses were being made.

Where this shaft goes down, the material covering the coal is sandstone, containing the pebbles of Conglomerate. In the swamp entry this roof is supplanted by the ordinary grey shale cover. Coal No. 2 is not present in the shaft.

There is no workable coal north of this opening, and the only coal discovered by the borers is a seventeen inch seam on the coal level, on the farm of Gad Andrews, one mile north-east of the shaft.

The workings of the Vienna Coal and Iron Company’s Slope, No. 2, were finished up during the forepart of the present year, the last car being raised on the 19th of February. No. 1 was inspected in May last; it was also fast approaching exhaustion; only one entry was running, all the others being worked out, and the greater part of the pillars withdrawn. This mine was also finished during the summer. Both mines, No. 1 and No. 2 of this company, are now abandoned.

The basins or swamps in which these mine[s] were opened, lie on the margin or out-crop of the coal-field, and much of the coal appears to have been partly or wholly removed by denuding forces, by currents of water in rapid motion, or by shore waves, probably the latter—during the first stages of the subsidence of the coal marsh. Five mines, the Truesdale; the Tyler; No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 of the Vienna Coal and Iron Company, were opened on one original basin or swamp, and yet none of these mines connect with each other. The swamp or basin connects beyond a question of doubt; but the coal between the several mines, invariably meets with a white roof in the swamp; as the entries are pushed under this roof, the coal gradually but surely loses h[e]ight. The thin coal will not pay the cost of extraction, and is left unwrought in the mine.

The new shaft of the Vienna Coal and Iron Company, No. 3, was commenced on the 19th of January last, and was sunk to the coal in twenty-four and a half days—the depth being eighty-seven and a half feet, the size of shaft eight by sixteen feet. The hoisting engine of this pit is Crane Brother’s patent, the engine instead of being located to face the front of the shaft, as in ordinary winding practice, is placed at the end. The shaft is divided into upcast and down-cast compartments by a wooden brattice, and a steam pump at the bottom of the upcast serves to rarefy the air.

This mine was visited twice during the year, once in may after coal was reached, and once in September, after the entries had got well under way, and a good force of men at work underground. The main swamp in which the face entries are opened, appears to split into two branches in the south, and the two swamp entries are advancing on this side of the pit, and one on the north side. The main entries are already advanced several hundred feet, and from off them several butt entries are opened up. The face and butt entries are made eight feet wide. Along the swamp entries small air-courses were being driven but too near for the easy flow of air. The rooms of the mine are started at eleven feet, then widened to twenty-five and thirty feet, pillars six to eight feet in thickness being left between rooms. On the occasion of the last visit the cages of the shaft were covered, safety catches and safety gates were applied, but the mine had but means of ingress and egress, and the ventilation was miserable. As less than 15,000 square yards had then been excavated, the mine was working within the limits of the law in this regard, but not so as regards ventilation, and being a new mine there was no excuse for bad air.

In one of the hills in a butt entry, a second opening, consisting of a slope, was commenced a few days after my last visit, the steam pump was also lowered to the bottom of the shaft to assist the ventilation, and the leaking places in the brattice stopped up. But the ventilating power is still deficient, and a furnace or fan is needed and must be applied. A new mine should have a ventilating fan, with ample power to increase the current many times beyond the requirement of laws, so that when the workings extend, and the frictional resistance increases, there may still be ample power to the end.

Contributor: Shirley T. Wajda