The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

January 11, 2006

Jan. 11, 2006 – The Beginning of Coal Mining

Although Springhill was first settled by farmer it was the discovery of coal that made it a boom town in the 1800’s.

It is not known exactly when coal was discovered but it is said that Lodewick (Ludwig ) Hunter was operating a small mine in 1835. He would sell the coal to the blacksmiths. In 1863 William Simpson opened a small mine. Nathan Parks started another mine after his wife kicked a piece of coal while walking through the woods.

In 1870 Charles Black, Alexander MacFarlane and C.J. Stewart started the Springhill Mining Company. They hired John Anderson and James Hickman and they opened the Anderson shaft in the west slope. They traced the seams and found that the Cumberland Coal Measurements were of great extent. Preparations were made to work the mines on a large scale and it was formally opened in 1873.

As the industry started to flourish the town started to grow. When the first settlers came they settled in Miller Corner but with the opening of the mines, more people moved here and houses were built closer to the mines to accommodate them.

The Mining Company invited Dr. John William Cove to be the first resident doctor.

In the early days mining coal was slow work and afterwards the coal had to be carted through the woods to Athol and Salt Springs. The greater part of the coal mined was used by the locomotives, which were ballasting the Intercontinental Railroad between Amherst and Truro . The need of shipping facilities brought about the formation of the Spring Hill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company. Coal was then shipped to Parrsboro and in the other direction to Springhill Junction to meet up with the Intercolonial Rail Road . This was completed in 1873 and opened up many new markets for the coal. The first shipment of coal to the Junction was made in 1873 and the first shipment to Parrsboro was in 1877.

By the 1880’s Springhill had 5 mines in operation: No. 2 West Slope opened in 1873; No 1 East Slope (1883); No. 3 North Slope (1881); No. 4 the “Syndicate” (1885 – abandoned in 1887) and No. 5 (1887) Aberdeen - which was later taken into the West Slope workings. The West Slope was sunk to a depth of 400 feet and the East Slope to 800.

In 1874 the population of Springhill was 200 and by 1886 had grown to 5000.

The Springhill Mines employed many men and young boys. Boys as young as eight years old worked in the mines until an act was passed in1923 prohibiting boys under the age of sixteen from working in the mines.

There were 3 major disasters in the Springhill Mines over the years beginning with the Explosion on February 21, 1891 , with a loss of 121 men and boys. This was in the East Slope No. 1 seam. On November 1, 1956 , there was an explosion in the No. 4 mine with a loss of life of 39 men. Two years later, with the Bump on October 23, 1958 which saw the loss of 75 men, these mines were closed for good.

However, this did not bring about the end of mining in Springhill, as the miners who remained in Springhill started numerous illegal ( bootleg) mines on the old mines outcrop. One of these bootleg mines was on Black River Road where they ran into the Syndicate Mines working which had been abandoned in 1888. From this, a new company, The Springhill Coal Mines Ltd, was formed. It began operations in 1960 and was worked until 1970 when water from the workings of the No. 3 mines forced it to close. This brought about the end of coal mining in Springhill forever.

Two other mines had opened after 1958 but only lasted a couple of years. One was at the site of the Aberdeen Mine and the other was in Rogers Field.

The mining industry in Springhill brought about great prosperity for the town of Springhill but with it also brought a great loss of life to the men and boys who worked them. A total of 424 men and boys lost their lives in the Springhill Mines from 1873 until the final closure in 1970.