Coal (ancient swamps) has been mined in the following townships of Trumbull County: Hubbard, Brookfield, Liberty, Vienna, and Weathersfield. Trumbull County led in the State of Ohio in production in 1875 (1,065,000 tons). The main production years were from 1870 to 1884. The first commercial mine in the county, as reported by the State Inspector of Mines, was the Curtis (No.1) drift-entry mine at the State line in Brookfield Township, which had begun operations in 1843.
On the average the depth of the coal in Trumbull County's mines was approximately 100 feet, and the vein thicknesses around four-to-five feet. Three methods of getting to the coal-beds were utilized: drift, slope, and shaft entries. Few of Trumbull County's mines (approximately thirty in 1874) were the drift-type, whereby entry could be made straight into a hillside. Primarily the entry methods were by a vertical shaft or a slope (in which an entry was dug or blasted at a thirty-degree angle into the ground). Slope entries were generally ten feet wide by six feet high, accommodating a single track to raise and lower the the small mine cars and a gangway for the miners. Shaft entries were commonly rectangular, eight-by-sixteen-foot openings with a double up/down hoisting system for the mine cars and the miners.
Water had constantly to be pumped up and out of the slope and shaft mines. Steam-powered pumps were capable of discharging as much as 500 gallons per minute if necessary.
The mining was accomplished via the "room and pillar" method. Depending on the condition of the roof (overlaying strata, in geological terms), wood post-supports were often necessary. Rooms were approximately twenty-five-feet wide by as deep as 300 feet. Simple wood and/or iron track, often three-feet gauge, was used in the rooms and along the main entries to move the coal to the base for hoisting to the surface and tipple. The mine cars held approximately one ton of coal, and were often pulled along the entries by mules. Entries generally had higher roof heights than rooms.
Miners worked in pairs for safety. Proper air ventilation was essential. Each mine had at least one air-shaft in addition to the main shaft or slope. Furnaces or large fans were used to produce a sufficient air draft. Doors constructed at various passageways within the mine served to direct the air movement to the work areas. The air-shaft was constructed so, in the event of need, miners could use it as an emergency exit.
The most strenuous part of the miners' work was undercutting the coal face to allow for blasting the coal loose. The coal was hand-shoveled into the mine cars in the early years, until mechanized loaders were developed. Today, virtually all aspects of underground mining are mechanized, minimizing risk.
How was coal found? The earliest mines were the results of found outcroppings of the coal along steeper hillsides. But the majority of Trumbull County mines were "prospected" by the drilling of test holes, from which experienced mining engineers could plan the main shaft or slope and estimate the extent and amount (value) of the coal.
Coal mined in Trumbull County was known as "Briar Hill block," a high-quality, well-burning type (geologically named "Sharon No. 1"). According to State records, 12,990,000 tons of coal have been mined in Trumbull County. By 1891, the output dropped below 100,000 tons annually. A few mines were re-opened in the early 1930s. Today (July 1998), there are ten underground mines operating in Ohio and they produced 16,188,000 tons in 1996. Strip mines produced 12,136,000 tons in 1996.
Today (July 1998), 89 percent of Ohio's electricity is generated by burning coal, of which 33 percent is Ohio coal. You might say our high-tech computers run on coal. Coal consumption is expected to continue.
Bob Smith of the Trumbull County Historical Society contributed this article. It was written in July, 1998, and is based on official State of Ohio government reports.