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Coal Boom and Coal Mining

eThe discovery in 1866 of coal in Vienna Township turned a rural agricultural community into a boom town. More than 20 mines were opened in the following decades.[1] Vienna's population mushroomed in the 1870s, from 1,132 in 1870 to 1,994 in 1880. Speculation caused land prices to skyrocket. Entrepreneurs, including Vienna-born Chauncey H. Andrews, Job J. Holliday, and Ira B. Mackey, Sr., invested in the coal mines and in the construction of railroads.

The built and social environments of the Township were altered. At Vienna Center (also called Vienna Village), 32 saloons, bar-rooms, and billiard halls catered to a drinking work culture. In response, a group of Vienna citizens formed several temperance associations and a temperance hotel (Mackey's Temperance House) was opened. Sandstone was harvested from Vienna's four quarries for the construction of new houses and railroad beds on which new railroad companies' locomotives and cars transported coal from Vienna's mines. As one correspondent, "RHODA," observed to the Western Reserve Chronicle, "Coal is almost the all-absorbing topic of interest throughout the town, and drilling is the order of the day--in some localities with apparent success."[2]

The coal boom in Vienna was one of many that occurred throughout the United States in the late nineteenth century, as Americans sought energy sources to fuel what some historians have termed the country's Second Industrial Revolution. In 1858, petroleum was mined at Titusville, Pennsylvania. The method of drilling a well employed by Edwin Drake (1819-1880) spurred further exploration for oil, natural gas, and coal. The first explorations for coal in Vienna occurred at this time. The article reproduced at the right appeared in the Western Reserve Chronicle on January 31, 1866.) Pockets of coal at depths just beneath the earth's surface were found in the southeast quadrant of the Township. Ohio mines in the southern and eastern parts of the state began producing coal--some five million tons in 1872 alone, and twice that by 1886.

Just as quickly as the boom appeared, however, it just as quickly ended. In an 1882 history of Trumbull County, the author noted of Vienna:

The mineral resources of Vienna have been found most valuable. A good quality of coal is found, and mining has been carried on quite extensively from 1868 until very recently. Quite a large mining village, which sprang up east of Vienna center, is now in a state of dilapidation, partly deserted, showing plainly that the coal interest is now on the wane, the best mines having been worked out.[3]

By 1890 the Township's population had dropped, as miners and their families left, looking for new work elsewhere.

Striking "Black Gold"
The coal in Vienna is composed of thin multiple layers of a thickness of 1/16" or less. It was commonly found at depths of less than 100 feet below the surface, and usually between 60 and 70 feet. It is classified as "Sharon Number 1," indicating it is similar to the coal excavated at Sharon, Pennsylvania. It is the coal closest to the earth's surface in Ohio and, in Vienna, erosion caused by the many streams and creeks exposed the coal deposits.

The first mine in the Township, called the Shoo Fly Mine, was opened in 1866. Its location was on a corner of Hampton Kerr's farm, a site now behind the Mathews High School building. (The west branch of Squaw Creek has its origin here.) The Shoo Fly Mine's seams of coal measured up to 4'6" in thickness and were located 60" to 70" below the surface. The mine produced an average of 250 tons of coal per day, helping Trumbull County to be the leading producer of coal in the state of Ohio in the 1870s. The mine's tunnels were 5' wide with side rooms from 25' to 50' in depth. The total length and location of these tunnels and chambers beneath the surface is unknown, but they may extend for miles. Two airshafts were listed for this mine.

The Shoo Fly's success lend to more mines being excavated. Besides the high quality and volume of coal produced, Vienna's mines had another feature in common: water. From the beginning, the mines were plagued with massive ground seepage and the flow from springs beneath the surface. The mines required pumps manned around the clock. All the mines are now massive reservoirs of water waiting to be tapped.

Mines in Vienna

Mine Name
Shaft mine; operated by Evan Morris

Shaft mine, opened by Chauncey Andrews and W. C. Andrews [7]

Shaft mine

Shaft mine; produced 100 tons daily

Shaft mine

Shaft mine; operated by George Chamberlin
Corn Cob

Slope mine

1937; reopened 1939; closed permanently in 1941
Shaft mine; last shaft opened in Vienna

Unknown type of mine; in 1876 producing 200 tons daily
Shaft mine
Slope and shaft mine; produced 400 tons daily
        Opened by W. C. & Chauncey Andrews [7]

Shaft mine

Shaft mine

Shaft mine; produced 80 tons daily in 1880

Slope mine; produced 30 tons daily
Powers New Shaft
Shaft mine

Shaft mine
Rogers; Rogers Bank; Vienna
Shaft mine
Shaft mine
Shadyside; High Shaft

Shaft mine
Shoo Fly Mine
Slope mine; produced 250 tons daily
Stewart No. 2; Stewart
Shaft mine
Strip and At It

Shaft mine; produced 50 tons daily
Vienna No. 1; Vienna, Shoo Fly
Slope mine; operated by the Vienna Coal and Iron Company; produced 250 tons daily
Vienna No. 2; Vienna
Shaft mine; produced 250 tons daily
produced 250 tons daily
Walls Kerr; Blue Ribbon

Shaft mine

Table based on information from Ann Harris, "Mines in Vienna Township," Abandoned Coal Mines.

For a list of Vienna coal mine data sheets from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, see the attachment section below.

On January 29, 1868, the Western Reserve Chronicle noted that Trumbull County in 1867 had produced over one-fifth of the coal in Ohio--some 7,140,440 bushels. "With the new and rich mines lately discovered in Vienna, Hubbard, and Brookfield," the editors observed, "we may look for such an increase during the present year as will materially add to the already large supply, while the figures will tell a story of greater magnitude than the majority of our citizens anticipate."

On May 15, 1872, a new slope mine was opened by Vienna entrepreneur Ira B. Mackey, Sr., on the Wheeler farm, located one-half mile south of Woodford's Corners and one-quarter mile east of Sodom-Hutchins (now Sodom-Hutchings) Road. Soon after, twenty new "block" houses were built for the miners and their families.

The place where Coal Road intersects Sodom-Hutchins Road is very near where several mines and aforementioned miners' houses stood. A school for the workers' children was constructed near this intersection and still stands as a storage shed.

Map of the former Coal Mines in Vienna Township
Courtesy of Bob Smith

The Miners and Their Work
Many miners were not born in Vienna, but resettled in the Township to find work. Many of the miners were foreign-born, hailing from the European countries with histories of coal mining. Individuals from Wales, France, the German States, Scotland, England, and Ireland and accounting for much of the population increase in the 1870s.

Mining was dark, damp, and dangerous work. Electricity as a power source was not widespread, and illumination by incandescent light or carbide (invented in 1898) was not possible. Candles, lanterns, oil lights with wicks, and torches could have been used. Mining accidents were reported, though the historical record is spotty. At the Holliday Mine, for example, August Henry was injured as he fell on his picks in 1877, Edwin Hebrew was injured by a falling stone in 1880, and Salvo Mathis and William Gross died as the result of a collapsed mine ceiling in 1877.

Future State of Ohio Inspector of Mines Andrew Roy visited a Vienna mine in 1871, noting problems in ventilation and the use of only one portal for entering and exiting the mine.

Miners were paid not an hourly wage but rather for the number of tons of coal they produced. They were also given store orders for foodstuffs, meaning that Vienna's stores worked with the coal companies to control prices on commodities such as flour and sugar. In 1879, Vienna miners were paid between 50 and 80 cents per ton of coal mined. On February 25, 1880, 65 miners at the Blackberry Mine struck for a 15-cent increase per ton on the advance they received for their labor. The strike ended at March 1, with a compromised increase of 5 cents per ton. Rising food prices, decreasing coal to mine, and the lack of alternative employment in Vienna Township created the necessity for children to enter the mines.[5]

With the advent of coal mining in Vienna, railroad companies were formed and began purchasing property. In 1868, the Liberty and Vienna Railroad was chartered, and in 1869 the line was built from the south of Girard to near Churchill in Library Township to the Shoo Fly Mine in Vienna. In 1872, the Mahoning Coal Railroad Company purchased land for line that started at Tyrrell Hill and ran south, just west of and parallel to Sodom-Hutchins Road. This line paralleled the road for three-quarters of a mile south of Tyrrell Hill until it angled southwesterly and eventually south again until it intersected the Liberty and Vienna Railroad line just east of the Shoo Fly Mine.

The Mahoning Coal Railroad Company purchase property for an unheard of price of $200 per acre, part of the boom mentality of the era. One of the sellers, Stephen Greenwood (Charles Seymour Greenwood's father) was permitted to harvest the timber from the 60-feet-wide strip that he sold to the Company.

Reopening of the Mines
In 1884, the State of Ohio noted that the Vienna coal fields had basically been mined out, with every farm having been tested by borings. Nevertheless, investigation for new traces were still occurring.

The 1899 Trumbull County Atlas indicates that the Mahoning Coal Company Railroad had been abandoned. At this time, coal mining in Vienna had all but ended. The shafts that had brought so much prosperity to some were filling with water.

The Great Depression led to the reopening of two mine in Vienna, by brothers William and James Walls. As many as 15 men were employed in the search for coal at the former Scoville and Stewart mines.

Not much coal came from this attempt. Its closing came when the water pumps used to clear the mines failed. The workers were paid less than 30 cents a day. The Scoville mine was closed when workers were forced to leave in haste because of the rapidly rising water. Today, loaded coal cars, railroad track, and mining tools from this venture remain buried in the mine.

All large mining operations have been for some time suspended in Vienna township, but a deposit of considerable value is now undergoing development by Morris, Sampson & Co., at a point about 1 mile southeast of Vienna Center. The coal of this township has never had as good a name as the coal to the south and east, but the new mine, Shadyside, has at present an excellent reputation. The coal is counted of the highest quality.[6]

The coal boom in the Mahoning Valley was quickly studied and placed in its important historical context. In 1916, Arthur John Cauffield dedicated his Master's thesis to the economic development of Trumbull County and said of coal:

Of all the natural resources which contributed to the concentration of early population and the perpetuation of industries in the Mahoning Valley, the coal was first in importance. It was the mainspring within this small physical unit, which extended thru [sic] the southern part of Trumbull County and the northeastern part of the adjacent Mahoning County. There were many coal beds on either side of this valley; but the most valuable coal was located within the block of nine townships—Youngstown, Austintown, Boardman, and Poland in Mahoning County; and Hubbard, Liberty, Weathersfield, Vienna, and Brookfield in Trumbull County. All these townships contain Block coal, which was sufficiently free from sulphur to be used in the raw state for smelting iron ire. This Block coal gave the valley a conspicuous and honored place in the history of coal mining in Ohio. The geologists once pronounced the Block coal the purest and most valuable coal known in the world. Many analyses and varied trials showed it to be the highest grade in the state.[7]

Since 1866, airshafts of various mines have presented a danger to the unwary person or animal. Airshafts are square holes open at the surface and flush with the surrounding ground level. Their original purpose was to supply air to the miners below. They are not always marked with a barrier or sign. The vertical shafts connect to the horizontal tunnels below, and are always filled with water. When the mines were abandoned, so were the shafts, unguarded and hazardous.

Updated 9/21/2020

This entry is adapted from James Bradley, "Boom Times," in Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), 133-140. Additional research provided by Shirley T. Wajda, March 2012.

Additional Sources and Links
Camp, Mark J. Roadside Geology of Ohio. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2006.
Cauffield, Arthur John. “The Geographical Factors That Have Affected the Economic Development of Trumbull County, Ohio.” M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1914.
"Coal." Ohio History Central, July 1, 2005,
"Coal Mining." Ohio History Central, July 1, 2005,
Harris, Ann. "Mines in Vienna Township." Abandoned Coal Mines,
"Railroads." Ohio History Central, July 1, 2005,
[1] A slope mine is opened by a "slope" or an incline that travels downward towards the coal seam. Tunnel floors are thus slanted. A shaft mine is a vertical or near-vertical tunnel from the earth's surface down to the coal seam.
[2] "From Vienna," Western Reserve Chronicle, December 25, 1867, p. 3.
[3] History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches (Cleveland, Ohio: H.Z. Williams & Bros., 1882), Volume 2, p. 448.
[4] From the obituary of Chauncey H. AndrewsYoungstown Vindicator, 26 Dec 1893, p. 3.
[5] Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Made to the General Assembly of Ohio, for the year 1879 (Columbus: Nevin & Myers, State Printers, 1880), pp. 89, 97, 100.
[6] Geologic Survey of Ohio, Report of the Geological Survey of Ohio (Columbus: G. J. Brand & Co., State Printers, 1884), Volume 5, p. 173.
[7] Arthur John Cauffield, “The Geographical Factors That Have Affected the Economic Development of Trumbull County, Ohio,” M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1914, p. 20.

Christine Novicky,
Jun 14, 2020, 3:29 PM