Several years ago, I attempted to put together a short article, on one web page, and about Ken Mine, and move on to other mines. I kept receiving material and information which led to several pages about Ken Mine. Let's face it; There is enough material and information in the minds of Ken personnel, family and friends for a book. I have a standing offer to purchase that first book about Ken Mine. Until then, and in re-writing and trying to correct the mistakes in the original pages, I have come up with this new section for the Rockport/Echols Web Site. To my knowledge, the material is correct, but correctness may be in the mind of the beholder or of a different opinion that what I hold. None-the-less, if you, as a reader, see something that you think is not factual, please contact me with the correct information and I will attempt to make the necessary corrections. That being said, hope that you can enjoy the new web section about Ken Mine. Thanks for looking.
In the mid-forties of the twentieth century, A "Northern" miner/operator by the name of Ken R. Bixby, purchased some mineral rights from the Beaver Dam Coal Company and enough land to build a large storage shed. This storage shed became the first office for the new mine that would soon become know as Ken Mine. It would aptly be named after Ken R. Bixby. Mr. Bixby persuaded a few of his "Northern Illinois Miners" to follow him to Kentucky to open a new mine. Jim McDowell was one of these miners that followed Ken R. Bixby to Kentucky and he became the second superintendent. The first superintendent was Howard Frisbee. This original "Ken Mine Office" was located further up the hill from the office that served Ken Mine for over fifty years. Originally, access to this office was a county road near Jim Dowel Fulkerson's house. This narrow access road was only used for a short period of time as a more desirable road was being built. This storage shed, where original plans and ideas of Ken Mine were formed, served a second purpose after the new office and garage complex were built. This shelter was used as a "Oil and Lubricant" storage shed for many years and probably still standing when Ken Mine was closed.
With a shelter to work out of, Mr. Bixby, Howard Frisbee, and Jim McDowell started formulating work plans and hiring men. Several fronts were started in the same time frame and building a wide access road from Number 19 School Road to the new office site was a top priority. A coal tipple and a rail line to a main railroad line were also high on this list as well as obtaining mechanical equipment.
Bob Snodgrass, along with Tom Allen and Pete Watkins worked for a small construction company located in Centertown. This company owned a Marion 40D dragline. As far as I can determine, this company became a part of the new Ken Coal Company. Bob Snodgrass became the foreman and was given the responsibility to move the Marion 40D diesel shovel to Echols to help start up the new mine. This small dragline was to be used in the construction of the new access road as well as the building of the new railroad. At about this time Frank McClain joined up with the new team and the move was started. Later, Bob Snodgrass was the foreman of a crew of men that built the rail spur line from the tipple to the main line of the I. C. Railroad.
Old Century Mines in Hopkins County owned a Marion 350 shovel that was originally a steam shovel. This shovel was operated on railroad type tracks instead of the normal caterpillar type cleats. This was not before the use of caterpillar type cleats, but just the way that the old 350 was made. The 350 was converted to an electric operated shovel and Ken Coal Company purchased it from Old Century Mines. This shovel was disassembled and shipped to Ken Coal Company. It was reassembled just off Number Nineteen School Road a mile or so from the bottom of Chinn Hill. In later years, this general area was used as a large dump. Herbert Welborn was one of the first hires to work with this new shovel.
The new Ken Coal Company Mine was off to a good start, but before any coal could be dug, and in the early part of 1946, the United Mine Workers of America placed a picket line in the area of Number 19 School Road and the new access road to the mine, and all mining activity ceased. The picket line was just past Harvey Robinson's grocery. This bitter and long-lasting strike put a stop to any type of mining operation. This strike was a "Do or Die" type situation for the union and definitely not wanted for the company. After months of being idle, Ken Coal Company and United Mine Workers of America signed a contract and the mine became a union mine in the fall of 1946.
In a relatively short time after the agreement between Ken Mine and UMW of A was signed, more miners were hired and the resumption of starting up a new mine was well under way. Jimmy Blair, Frank McClain, Ed Whitehead, R. E. Denny, C. Watkins, Hugh Ashton and a few others, that I am not aware of, were charter members of the new contract that was signed on 11/25/46. R. Chinn signed on 12/4/46 and H. C. Boyd signed on 12/16/46. Other miners were being hired at a rate of about four or five a month in the year of 1947 included, but not limited to, were G. W. Drenon, C. Curtis, R. E. Adams, J. T. Southard, E. J. Addington, M. Hill, S. H. Patterson, George Devine, and Everett Key. Early projects included the rail tipple, more access roads, starting the Marion 350 Shovel, a new office, a garage, and the rail line from the tipple to the main I. C. Railroad line near Echols. At long last, the first of coal production occurred in December of 1947. A few years later, in 1948, another shovel was added to Ken's machines. A new Marion 5561 was purchased and assembled in a work area behind the rail tipple. It was a 40 Yard shovel. But this and other stories are listed on other web pages. Please click on the selection boxes below to view other web pages concerning Ken Coal Company and thanks for looking.
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