of Jefferson County
"COALPORT. A village in the central part
of Sec 34, Lockridge Township, about one mile west of the present
town of Lockridge. Plat, p. 19, 1909 Atlas. Coalport thrived and died with
the nearby coal mines. It had a church, post office, store, tavern and
several houses. Remembered as the home of the "Coalport Home Guards"
in the early days of the Civil War. (Ledger Nov. 2, 1957.)"
The above information was compiled by Mary Prill and published in the Hawkeye Heritage, July 1967.
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This story was originally
one of a number of articles in the Fairfield
Ledger which was later included in the
book Villages and Towns of Yester-year
in Jefferson County by William R. Baker.
We hereby include it on this page with the permission of the Fairfield
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
Thomas C. Evens; Luther Simmons; James Bankhead; Abraham Crew; Charles Monhonrick; Ward Lamson; Major Pierce; Clarence Mickey; Frank Flanders; John McGregor; Mrs. Brown; John McLain; Billie Bankhead; Brice Mickey; Chester Hickenbottom; Birdie Pence.
Coalport, an early thriving
little community a short distance west of Lockridge, was exactly what its
name indicates. It was the central point for shipping coal from the numerous
mines that dotted the landscape north and west of Lockridge.
Reports also state it was one of the major coaling stations for the railroad. All engines used coal and were steam operated at that time.
An item which appeared in the Fairfield Ledger September 23, 1923, with the headline "Coalport As It Was In 1875" related many pertinent facts concerning the early history of the little community.
It states the settlement began in 1856 or 1857 as early settlers began to move west across the state. A few settled where Coalport was finally established.
Thomas C. Evens, one of the first settlers, built and operated the first store. It also became the first Post Office and Evens was named postmaster. Luther Simmons operated a tavern across the road.
About the same time a few coal mines were opened just north of the town. James Bankhead and Abraham Crew were the first mine operators.
Charles Monhonrick opened the first blacksmith shop which was a great benefit to the mine operators as well as the farmers in the area.
The railroad reached the area from the east in 1858. The first train that arrived in Coalport from the east left a coal car on a siding.
While the train traveled on west to Fairfield where a big celebration took place, the coal car was loaded by hand at Coalport.
When the train returned east to Burlington it picked up the car load of coal. It was the first train car load of coal out of Coalport.
Later Coalport became one of the major refueling points for the railroad. Coal from the nearby mines was piled on a platform close to the tracks. From there it was transferred by hand and shovel into the coal tenders at the rear of the engines.
By the year 1865 Coalport had become a thriving town but still had no depot. Ward Lamson, Fairfield, owned a considerable amount of land around Coalport and was interested in its growth.
He and others made application with the railroad office at Burlington for a depot to be located at Coalport.
Major Pierce, a member of the state senate, also owned land at Lockridge and made efforts to have a depot located there. The subject became quite heated.
Finally a representative of the railroad came to Coalport in his private car and heard both sides of the argument. Later the railroad ruled in favor of Lockridge. Many said that was the beginning of the downfall of Coalport.
During the boom years at Coalport the Big 4 Mine, the largest mine in the area, was one of the main suppliers for the State Mental Hospital at Mount Pleasant.
Clarence Mickey, retired rural mail carrier out of Lockridge for 46 years, remembers going with his father to the Big 4 Mine, loading their wagon and hauling coal to their home as well as some customers in Mount Pleasant.
Mickey said the railroad spur or sidetrack was built from the main line of the railroad extending in a northwest direction to the Big 4 Mine, approximately one mile. Rail cars were loaded at the mine, pulled onto the main line, and taken to Mount Pleasant and onto another sidetrack to the state hospital.
Mickey said the Big 4 Mine was the deepest and only mine in the area with a shaft connecting with tunnels at lower depths. Miners were taken to and from their work underground by an elevator or cage traveling up and down the shaft. The other mines were closer to the surface and were entered by a tunnel.
Coal from the smaller mines was hauled to the rail yards at Coalport by team and wagon. It was loaded and unloaded by hand and shovel. "When the mines were at their peak they shipped out as high as three rail cars of coal a week and employed a number of men," Mickey said.
Coal was the main object for Coalport's existence. As the veins played out and more modern methods of mining took over, Coalport slowly faded into the past.
Mickey remembers where certain buildings and homes were located. Recently driving westward along old Highway 34, he pointed to the locations where the Frank Flanders and John McGregor homes once stood, also the home of Mrs. Brown, an elderly lady who lived alone in a big house.
The Free Methodist Church was located where the John McLain home and the Johnnie Clock Museum are now located. Billie Bankhead lived on the south side of the road, Brice Mickey, Clarence Mickey's grandfather, lived nearby.
Brice Mickey was born August 6, 1826, in Ohio. He was a veteran of the Civil War and a pioneer resident of the Lockridge Community. He died May 26, 1912.
Clarence Mickey's father owned and operated a steam powered grist and saw mill for a number of years at the east edge of Lockridge.
Chester Hickenbottom, 91, Fairfield, remembers Coalport. He was born at Parsonsville, his family lived in the area when he was a boy. He believes there is still a lot of coal in the area and believes that mines will again be opened.
Clarence Mickey was born in 1896 at Lockridge and has spent most of his life in that community. He carried mail from the Lockridge Post Office for 46 years before his retirement in 1968.
He and his wife, the former Birdie Pence, have lived in their home a short distance east of Lockridge for over 60 years.
While the mines operated, Coalport was a busy little community. When the mines died the village began to fade away. When the depot was finally located at Lockridge, some businesses moved to that community. Now Coalport is only a memory.
The only indication that a community did exist at that point are two small signs located along old Highway 34, one at the east edge of the area and one at the west with the word "Coalport".
Few if any of the homes located along old Highway 34 in that area today date back to the days of busy little Coalport.
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