First Coal Mine in Illinois
Image Courtesy of Elaine Shemoney Evans
The marker is located on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn (10th and Chestnut Streets), Murphysboro.
The Illinois Coal Association, Jackson County, and the Illinois State Historical Society
The first coal mine in Illinois was located one-half mile south of here along the south bank of the Big Muddy River. William Boone and his indentured servant, a man name Peter, loaded a small raft with coal from an outcropping and, after floating down the Big Muddy and the Mississippi, they unloaded the coal in New Orleans on November 10, 1810. The coal was used for blacksmithing. In the next two years they repeated the venture six more times and others soon joined in the operation, including Joseph Duncan, a future governor of Illinois.
While there had been earlier sightings of coal along the Illinois River, historians credit Boone’s mine as the beginning of the industry in Illinois. Until 1823 Jackson County was the only county in Illinois to produce coal and all the mines were in the immediate area of Boone’s first mine. The mines were drift mines where coal was removed by tunneling into the banks along the river. During the first five years about one hundred tons were being mined annually.
Following the Civil War the mines along the Big Muddy were consolidated into the Grand Tower Manufacturing, Mining, and Transportation Company. Coal was transported by rail, which came to be called the “Granny Line,” to Grand Tower for the iron blast furnaces there and to supply fuel for the Mississippi River steam boats. The Big Muddy mine was the genesis of the mammoth coal industry in Illinois which brought prosperity and thousands of jobs to the state.
Print marker information