Coal tipple demolished
The coal tipple, all that remained to mark the presence of the old coal mine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, has recently been demolished. It was removed because of safety concerns. The project was managed and financed by the Department of Natural Resources.
Since the day Saint Mother Theodore and her companions arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods there was a need for a constant and stable energy source. In the early years the sisters used wood from the forest. But in 1893 coal was discovered on the property and by 1894 the sisters started their own coal mine operation.
The coal mine provided power to the entire campus without any outside power source. Inside the coal tipple was a metal bucket elevator that used gears to pull clamshell-shaped buckets along steel tracks, from the collection at the base of the elevator to the dumphouse at the peak, where the coal was distributed. Rail cars pulled by mules were filled with coal at the coal tipple and pulled to the power house which produced steam that generated electricity. The mules were later replaced by an electric locomotive.
Due to a nation-wide coal strike by the United Mine Workers of America in 1943, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, the solid fuels administrator during World War II, was directed by President Franklin Roosevelt to seize all bituminous coal mines in the United States. Saint Mary’s mine fell into this category. The government had possession of the mine from May 1 to Oct. 8.
The mine closed on August 31, 1954, because of the condition of the mine and change in economic conditions. At that time the mine covered 100 acres, had a depth of 250 ft and had an annual output of 14,000 tons of coal.