History of Mining in Alabama Coal Mining History The discovery of coal along Alabama’s rivers can be traced back towhen several veterans of the Battle of New Orleans made their way into present-day central Alabama.
Early accounts suggest that numerous citizens of Bibb, Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, Tuscaloosa, and Walker counties collected coal from this region as early as the ‘s. Ultimately four coal fields developed in Alabama, the Warrior, the Cahaba, the Coosa, and the Plateau. These deposits represent the southern end of the Appalachian coal field, which spans nearly 70, square miles and extends from Pennsylvania and Ohio to central Alabama.
Later historical summaries, based on reports by state geologist Michael Tuomey in the s, indicated that the first systematic underground mining occurred in the Cahaba field near Montevallo in Clair, Tuscaloosa, and Walker counties. Alabama’s coal and iron industries were devastated in the spring ofhowever, during a series of cavalry raids by Union forces under General James H.
Despite numerous attempts to rebuild the state’s industries, coal mines remained relatively dormant until the mids, when Alabama’s economy began to recover. Railroad officials hoped to link Red Mountain iron ore with the coal of the Cahaba field to promote iron production. Inindustrialist Daniel Pratt and his son-in-law Henry F. DeBardeleben purchased the Oxmoor furnace in an effort to rebuild central Alabama’s industrial economy. Shortly thereafter, ironmaster Levin S.
Goodrich and the Eureka Mining and Transportation Company of Alabama initiated tests to increase production efficiency by reducing the consumption of coal and expanding iron output.
He found that coke—a light, porous by-product created when coal is baked for 48 to 72 hours at high temperatures in glazed firebrick beehive-shaped ovens—was a better fuel for producing iron. These experiments culminated in the production of coke iron on March 11,and in Goodrich’s determination that Warrior field coal was the most suitable for making coke.
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DeBardeleben, together with other early Alabama industrialists Truman H. Aldrich and James W.