Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
The Passing of an Era, From Buffalo Chips to Natural Gas and Electricity
When mention is made of the fuel used by the early settlers in Eastern Montana, if a person has read much of the early history of this state, the first thought would be of "buffalo chips". However along the streams it was not necessary to resort to that type of fuel as wood was in abundance. After Miles City was moved from "old town" to its present site, the inhabitants became interested in obtaining a more substantial form of fuel than wood. There were outcroppings of coal along streams and creeks and soon numerous prospectors were "digging" coal and hauling it to town where it found a ready market. The first record at the court house of the filing of a "coal entry" was the recording of the receipt issued by the Receiver of the United States Land Office at Miles City on January 5, 1883, to one Hugh H. Linn covering a tract of about 21 acres of land on the north side of the Yellowstone River right where the north abutment of the present Yellowstone bridge is. The receipt states that it was "Coal Entry No. 1". The mine was located not far from the bank for the river and the coal was hauled across on the ice in the winter time. There was neither ferry nor bridge at that time, so until the river was frozen over solid, no hauling could be done. This mine dubbed the "Red Jacket Mine" and was operated by Samuel H. Linn and John J. Coleman. Owing to the uncertainty of the delivery of the coal on account of the freezing over of the river, the operation did not last too long.

On checking the record, it is found that "Coal Entry No. 2" was entered by one Charles E. Case under date of December 19, 1885, and according to the record, Case paid $20 per acre for 43.81 acres of land on the north side of the Yellowstone River about a mile below the site of the present Yellowstone bridge on Fifth Street. That there was mining activity on this tract before the the turn of the century, there is little doubt, but very little appears of the record concerning it.

However, the taxes were not paid on this tract for the year 1896 and it was sold to the county for taxes. It was later sold by the county and in 1907 became the property of one Charles F. Hedges. Hedges formed a mining corporation under the name of the Yellowstone Coal Company and this concern started development of the property. The stockholders of this company were, besides Hedges, Pierre Wibaux, the builder of the Wibaux building and President of the State National Bank, George K. Foster, the founder of the Foster Drug Company, A. J. Schrumpf, a prominent dentist, and Charles F. Kline, who was undoubtedly the "mine boss". Kline had considerable experience in the mining of lignite coal. Of course, there was no bridge across the Yellowstone River at any point convient to the mine, and the same problem confronted the Yellowstone Coal Mine Company that bothered the owners of the Red Jacket Mine. There was no trouble in the winter, when the river was frozen over solid, but during the spring and fall seasons, difficulty was experienced in getting the coal across the river. This problem was partially solved by the installation of an anchored cable across the river from which a cable car was suspended and operated. However, this mine developed too much water seepage to make its operation profitable so it was abandoned after a short time.

The mining of coal in this vicinity was not limited to the north side of the Yellowstone River. In the 80's, there were two, if not three, mines operating on the south side of the river. In 1886, one Augustus P. Flanagan filed on a tract of 120 acres just south of Carbon Hill and extending west to the present Haynes Avenue. He conveyed a portion of this tract in August, 1886, to Harry Speight, who opened a mine and operated it for several years in conjunction with John and Thomas Gibb. Tom Gibb later served the community well as postmaster and also as police magistrate. John Gibb was also police magistrate for many years. There was another mine, just south of the Speight mine. This was operated by the Weaver Brothers, Sam, Hugh and Chance. Sam purchases a part of the Flanagan tract in 1891. This Weaver mine was rather a family affair, for a number of the younger generation, including Bert Weaver, now of Ashland, "dug" quit a bit of the coal out of this mine.

Another mine was at the extreme end of Leighton Boulevard, just south of the irrigating ditch and ran under the large butte just of the Industrial School. A man by the name of Andrew J. Maxwell filed on this quarter section in the 80's. Maxwell was a man of many vocations. He operated the stage line to the Black Hills. He also built the original building which now houses the Foster Drug Company. There is no record available that he operated a coal mine on this tract, but he leased the land to Joseph and Samuel Bateman for coal mining purposes in March of 1893. Joseph Bateman was afterwards street commissioner here in Miles City, was also the county coroner and served Custer County as a commissioner. In 1897, Samuel Bateman assigned his interest in the lease to James Kenney. Joseph Bateman and James Kenny continued to operate the mine for several years. No doubt folks who have driven along Haynes Avenue and Leighton Boulevard have noticed piles of old coal slack at these two locations. Well, that is how they came to be there.

The lignite coal story would not be complete without some reference being made to the mine that was known as the "Kircher Mine". Along about the turn of the century, Albert Kircher, who afterwards became register of the United States Land Office at Miles City, obtained title to 160 acres of land just north of the present highway No. 12, about a mile east of where it leaves the Yellowstone Valley. A tunnel was sunk on this tract and a good vein of coal encountered. While Kircher owned the land, the mine was operated under the direction of "Scotty" Elder, an uncle of Dr. D. J. Elder and Mrs. C. M. Miller of this city. While "Scotty" operated the mine, the hauling of the coal was entrusted to the McFarland Brothers, Bill, Tom, Bob and Hugh. The McFarlands hand some of the finest horses that ever tightened a tug in the valley. They were mostly bays and chestnuts, with an occasional grey, and it was a sight worth seeing, to watch one of those four horse teams lay into the collar with a five ton load of coal and move it into town with the mud nearly hub deep. There were no hard surfaced or gravel roads in those days. In 1916, the mine was sold to Charley Sankey, who continued to operate it for several years. In the latter years of its operation, an electric hoist was used to bring the coal to the surface, theretofore the coal had usually been hauled up the slope with a mule. Sometime in 1921, Sankey conceived the idea that there were not sufficient places of amusement in Miles City, and built a dance hall out near the mine, where periodical dances were held for several years. The title to the property afterwards passed into the name of John Herzog, and the land is now enclosed in one of his pastures. No visible remains of the mine nor of the dance hall can be seen from the private road.

There were many lignite mines in the vicinity, the most prominent ones in later days being the "Paddy Creek" mine operated by Tom McFarland on the west side of the Tongue River on Paddy Creek, the Crow Rock mine at Crow Rock and the Storm King mine in the Pine Hills presently operated by Burl Conner.

During most of the time since the turn of the century, Red Lodge, Bear Creek and Roundup coal has been handled by the lumber yards or some company dealing in fuel. This coal was harder than the lignite mined locally, and commanded a better price.

When the Minnesota Northern Power Company (now the Montana Dakota Utilities Co.) was granted a franchise by the city in 1927 and brought natural gas into town it severely affected the coal industry, as many residences and business houses connected up with the gas. Lignite and other coal is still being used by a few, but most of the cooking and heating is done with electricity or natural gas.