Fulton County
Fiatt Mine


My parents, E. Styles and Verna Ely were married in October, 1933 in Iowa and lived, for a time with my father's sister, Maurine and her husband Jack Elliot in Missouri. These were the hard years of the Great Depression. Later they traveled in a Chevrolet truck he converted into what they called a "House Car", an early version of a motor-home. While my mother cleaned and cooked and made their little travel home comfortable my father worked on a highway construction crew near Bismarck, ND.

To the best of my knowledge, around 1935-1936, they moved to Lewiston, IL from Bismarck, ND, where he continued to work for the same road building company whose name is unknown to me. I remember him saying that he was a "Cat Skinner", or one who operated a Caterpillar Tractor, working on the section of IL Rt.78 downgrade south of Little America into the Illinois River Valley toward Havana. According to Maurine, they lived in at least one other house in Lewiston other than the one we are familiar with at 1024 North Main Street.

Pop was already employed at the Truax-Traer Coal Mine at Fiatt, IL before I was born in November 1937, so I would guess he started immediately after the highway construction job. I think I heard him say that when they found out I was on the way they began looking for a permanent place/site to live and work.

As far as I know, he started out driving "River Trucks", hauling coal from the mine to the river near Liverpool where it was transferred to barges for shipment. (I later saw one of his pay check stubs for one week; it was for $7.00!) This was before there was a railroad spur to the mine in Fiatt. Sometimes he went through Cuba to Lewistown and then to the river. He continued driving the trucks later through Canton after we moved there in March of 1943. I can recall seeing him come through Canton on Rt. 9 (Locust St.) on at least one occasion. At the time we lived at 259 West Chestnut in Canton, a block south of Locust St.

When he quit driving was perhaps the time they finished the rail spur. At that point he started working in the heavy equipment shop as a diesel mechanic and all-round repairman.

This mechanic's job lasted for several years until he landed the promotion in about 1951 to Oiler on a dragline - not the 9-W, that came later on.

I can also remember how pleased he was with that new position on the 9-W because it surely had to come with a pay raise. He had many stories to tell about the 9-W and working on the point shiv out at the far end of the boom - waaayyyy up there in the icy cold and wind!

In about 1952-53 while still an oilier Styles was given the responsibility of assistant operator for relief of operators Ralph Deushane and later Bill Raker. He would spend hours at home seated in a straight chair making foot and hand movements that would equate to the operation of the dragline i.e., swing-dump-swing-drop hoist rope-pull drag rope-raise hoist rope-swing, repeat, repeat, repeat. He said it was sort of monotonous but it was sure a lot warmer in the cab than out on the boom! He said at the time that on different shifts he would operate more than just during their lunch breaks to take up some of the time and that it also was a "challenge" for him.

And there he stayed until his retirement in 1963 at age 62. So, all together, I guess he spent about 26-27 years at the Fiatt coal mine.

What a story! He would be amazed to see the latest heavy equipment in use today as well as that tremendous seam of coal in Wyoming! The coal seams at Fiatt were, on average, perhaps 5 or 6 feet thick and buried under maybe 90 feet of overlayment.

And to think he always wanted to write but passed that up to maintain a steady paycheck and raise a family.

Styles Ely, my dad, died in October, 1983 in Mesa Arizona.

Submitted by:

Don M. Ely
1205 Sheridan St.
Port Townsend, WA 98368
 

 

 

Please click on images for a larger view...

All photos below were contributed by Don M. Ely

 

Retired miner E. Styles Ely in a working pit at the Fiatt Mine.
Photo by Verna Ely about 1964

 
 

Open pit at the Fiatt Mine
Photo by Verna Ely, about 1964

 
 

Fiatt Mine Spoil Banks #1:
Entering the back roads to the closed pits at the Fiatt Mine

Photo by Verna Ely, about 1964

 
 

Fiatt Mine Spoil Banks #2:
Spoil Banks or "Gob" Banks at the Fiatt Mine

Photo by Verna Ely about 1964

 
 

Fiatt Mine Spoil Banks #3:
Seeded Spoil Banks at the Fiatt Mine

Photo by Verna Ely about 1964

 
 

Fiatt Mine Tipple Area:
Photo by Verna Ely, about 1964

 
 

Styles Ely & Friend:
Retired Miner E. Styles Ely (on right) with unidentified miner
at the 9-W Dragline bucket - Fiatt Mine

Photo by Verna Ely, about 1964

 
 

The 9-W at Sunset:
The 9-W Dragline in Operation at the Fiatt Mine

Photo by Verna Ely about 1964

 

 


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