Coal Valley Township And Village, Illinois
Coal Valley dates its staple history from the spring of 1857. Large deposits of coal in the vicinity, and the opening of mines, fixed its location. The first small coal mine was known as the “Bailey Coal Bank.” In 1856 Ben Harper, S. S. Guyer and David Hakes acquired a large tract of land containing large deposits of coal; they organized a company to mine coal and construct a railroad to get it to market-the railroad being completed from Coal Valley to Rock Island in October, 1857. The first coal loaded on a railway car at the Valley was handled by Robert Lee, afterwards superintendent of the mines of the Coal Valley Mining Company at Coal Valley, Cable and Sherrard; and considered one of the best coal mine experts in the state. At present he is resting on the laurels of a good honest busy life. Opening the mines gave a strong impetus to the new town. The first business house was a general store, owned by Mr. Herrick; afterwards by Bailey and Boyle, then by Cable, Lee and Bardsley. The building is quite a landmark. The first physician to ideate was Dr. Thomas Martin, coming from Camden Mills. The first meat market by Mr. Grantz, then by Thomas Corns, who came from Camden Mills and to Rock Island County in 1851. The first lumber yard was owned by Frederick Weyerhaeuser, the great lumber and timber king. The first blacksmith was David Rowland, who was assisted by Murty Connor. The first carpenters and builders were John Petty, William Myers and Richard and P. Callahan. The first hotel was kept by L. Evans, and called the Coal Valley House. The first brick were manufactured by John T. Hass. About 1859 Philander L. Cable of Rock Island purchased an interest in the mines of Harper, Guyer & Hakes, and later acquired entire control, with R. R. Cable an interest. The Cables never having any trouble with the miners; helping them to get their homes; and it is understood, dividing with them the market price of coal-one-third to the firm, one-third to the railroad and one-third to the miners; which would seem mutually equitable and just. The first shoemaker was Peter Schroeder, a German. The first settlers in the Valley were largely foreigners-Welch, English, German and Irish; but a more hospitable community was never known. Latch strings of all the homes were always on the outside. The first mail to Coal Valley was by stage. Mr. Dack of Rock Island was carrier. Mail was received once a week. The first post office was kept in what is now J. K. Stenstrom’s shoe store. The first postmaster was Thomas Jones, who was also mine boss for Hakes, Guyer & Harper. After the railway was built the mail was brought twice a week, then three times a week, and in the early sixties became daily. At one time Frederick Weyerhaeuser was postmaster; the present incumbent being Thomas J. Murphy, who has filled the position for ten years. The Coal Valley Mining Company’s mines being nearly exhausted, the company sought a new field at Cable. After the removal of the company from the Valley, a number of other mines were opened by the Black Diamond Coal Company; John J. Pryce and others. There is a vast field of coal, within a radius of two miles of the town; the owners of which are the Guinty heirs, the Hillier heirs, Robert Sommerson, Thomas Lees, the Black Diamond Coal Company, Dr. W. F. Myers and the Banner Coal Company. Besides the coal mines they have a fine farming country; merchants of all kinds; a grain elevator; two large general stores; two meat markets; grocery stores; two black-smith shops; shoe store; drug store; barber shop; restaurant; livery and feed stable; brick yard; and all to make up a flourishing wide awake community.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908
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I am interested in talking to people with knowledge of the “Irish settlement” just south of Coal Valley in the mid- to late 1800s. Is that possible?