Friday, 29 July 2011

Coal County, Oklahoma - Day Two

We only had another day and a half to spend in Coal County before the schedule said we had to be in Oklahoma City.  My list included a trip a few miles north to Cottonwood.  Talking about life in Lehigh, Mom's cousin John Jr, had told me his father (that's the big land-owner) always had time to go up to Cottonwood and chat with the old men there.  

The Cottonwood General Store

When we arrived, there was in fact an old man out in the heat of the day with his dog.  The dog perversely seemed to want to cross which ever road we were trying to drive on. I was committed to avoiding the dog, but the man seemed annoyed that we were taking up space in his little town and I wasn't brave enough to roll down my window and speak to him, not that I had anything to say (other than would he please get control of his dog.) 

We turned the car around very carefully headed right back to Coalgate, but I did manage to snap this photo of the Cottonwood General Store.  That's what says it right there on the window, partially obscured by...plants. I imagined John Sr rocking with the town's old men on the porch of this place. I have a pretty good imagination, don't I?  We left the dog barking up a tree; I hope he was happy.

When John Jr, or more rightly his daughter Colleen, gave me the photo of Patrick at his mine, we were told he owned this mine.  We four cousins have often pondered how a person could go from being a lowly miner in Scotland to being an owner in Oklahoma and it's a mystery that remains today.  

It so happens that the Oklahoma Historical Preservation Society did a review of old mines and included the location details for these, which included the Shamrock (isn't the internet wonderful?).  

See that hill?  Bill says that's old mine tailings... 

Just like we had hunted down and found the likely place that these same ancestors had lived in Dalry, Scotland, we thought we'd look for Shamrock Mine. 

My rules were No Trespassing and No Wading in Grass More than Ankle High; I remember insects and snakes from my childhood. Also we were looking for a pit mine. I had a mental picture of Bill falling down a great hole and me trying to figure out how to get a British mobile to ring who knows where for help. So we only got a lot of very general photos, unlike those in Dalry.

It's a good thing that Bill likes doing this sort of thing. Being involved in town planning / real estate / surveying / building assessments and all sorts in his first career, he has loads of useful knowledge. We both like a puzzle to solve as well. 

I enjoyed the driving around (as much as I could with a toothache) for reasons other than finding a specific plot of land.  I discovered that SE Oklahoma was pretty in its own way.  

Also, though there were some older run down houses around Lehigh, there were also fairly prosperous looking cattle ranches and farm houses.    I was delighted to see what looked like Scottish thistles.  Also, Black Eyed Susans and Daylilies are flowers I associate with my Mom, who will have spent her early childhood in this area, where her parents met and married.  She always had a large bed of Daylilies in her back garden (the leaves make great rooster-tails) and the Blackeyed Susans are one of the first flowers for which I learned the name.  I was probably just delirious with fever or something, but between those and the Scottish Thistles, I practically felt my ancestors were speaking to me.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the pit mine has been reclaimed? I know that there were many former coal mines in my area of Kansas and western Missouri, but I am often surprised when they are pointed out to me because most of the evidence is gone now.

Shelley said...

Terri - I'm thinking that is probably the case. That said, because of all the fences there wasn't much to examine. I've been in a coal mine once at the Beamish museum near us

I don't know if land owners are required to put things back once they stop extracting coal or whatever, they certainly would have to here in Britain, but things are different in the US of course.

Rick Stone said...

Most of the old underground coal mines were just sealed up and abandoned. Eventually many just collapsed into themselves. My maternal grand father worked the mines down by Poteau, when he was not roughnecking on oil derricks. LeFlore County was pocketed with the mines but they are all long gone.