Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bates County News "headliner"

Rich Hill is known as the town that coal built.

Tonight's blog came from the Bates County News "headliner," Thursday, June 6, 1974. page 12.

One of the largest of these was the Southwestern, Lead and Zinc Smelting Company, that located on eleven acres of land at the northern edge of the city, (where the city dump is in 1974) A spur of the Missouri Pacific railroad, was run into the plant to bring the ore for smelting and the coal for fuel. The 11 acre plot was almost solidly covered with buildings pertaining to the operation. It was a spectacular sight, drawing visitors every day of the week and throngs on Sundays.
There was a two story brick engine house and crushing room with a huge Fairbanks scale adjoining it and a large elevator used in hoisting the ore. Coal brought in by the loads was dumped in large bins. There was the pottery and a drying room, the house used to clean sulpher and a brick house floored and lined with fire clay and iron, used for the ore.

But the most spectacular of all was the mammoth furnace house with its two furnaces, each 70 feet long. The smoke stacks were five feet in diameter and one hundred feet high, lined with fire brick from the ground to the top. The flames from the furnace were so great that nothing else could withstand the heat.

The smoke and fumes were damaging to the vegetation and trees over a vast area around the smelter.

There is no sight on earth that could be likened to the furnaces with their roaring flames and intense heat, so one writer likened them to the neather regions. But, for all that, it was a beautiful sight! One look into the fiery depths revealed the angry, gassy flames chasing each other in fiendish glee, while from the tubes, or condensers on the side, a blaze of rainbow, colored lights would burst forth making a colorful display with all the blues, greens, reds, yellows and orange tints og god's great bow! It was a spectacular sight and the visitors were awed by the magnificent show.
While the railroads were still building and almost before the town was laid out, two pioneer farmers and stock raisers opened a brick yard in the southeast part of the city. John Greenhalge and J. S. Craig built huge ovens and burned building brick under the name of Craig and Greenhalge Brick Company," which grew into a huge manufacturing enterprise. They burned the brick used in so many of the buildings put up in those frantic days of the town's beginning.
Neighbor of the smelter, located directly on the Missouri Pacific Railroad was a brick and tile company which opened in 1890 by Major D. H.Wilson, T.B. Farmer and Ben Evans. They were all pioneer families of Rich Hill and their brick and tile was of fine quality, but the lack of finances forced them to sell. The business was bought by Booth of Hedges who ran it a few years, then sold it to Walter S. Dickey of Kansas City about 1900. Dickey
was a prominent and wealthy citizen in Kansas City.

There were seven huge ovens in operation and clay was shipped from St. Louis until a suitable mixture was discovered near the plant. Blue clay found in small deposits over the country was also used in finer products. They turned out paving brick and drainage tile, that was shipped to distant places.

The site is owned today by Ed Link and there is one of the ovens still standing and brick, wife the name Dickey Brick and Tile. Company imprinted on them, are still scattered along the building sites.
Early in the history of the city, R.T. and J.C. Young saw the necessity of a mill in the village and selected a site south of the Gulf Railroad, between Fifth and Sixth Streets. They erected a frame structure with a rock engine room, where they milled flour and ground grist. They were fine millers, honest in their dealings and had the respect of the community, who felt the mill was an asset and they did a thriving business.

Another fine industry was added to the growing city when, Elias Falon and his two sons, Norman and Charles, came down from Illinois in the fall of 1881 and bought a site in the southeast section of town with easy access to both railroads and built a five story elevator and flour mill.
They came with plenty of capital and had the mill in operation by November of the following year. They bought the finest equipment and machinery they could find and easily turned out 200 barrels of flour every 24 hours. They proved to of great advantage to the farmers and townspeople alike. By paying the farmers the highest prices for their wheat and giving the citizens the best flour without these extra freight charges. Looking to the future they bought themsleves large farms and cattle ranches in Vernon County a few miles south of Rich Hill.

Another timely addition to the growing city was, the Rich Hill Foundry and Machine Shop. Two gentlemen by the names of Gawcett and Stealey had W. N. Newton erect the building and the business became known as the Star Shop. They did plant work in wood and iron. The plant was at the junction of the railroads and on the banks of Twin Lakes (coal pits filled with water) but it was an eye-catching site appreciated addition to the city's industries.

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