Mining Stories

Goll and Fry, Strip Miners Who Were Problem Solvers

Written by: Debby O. Close


The following two accounts were submitted to Miners’ Memorial by Wendell Dean Goll and his wife Marilyn JoAnn Widmier, and daughter Phyllis M. Fry, respectively.

My name is Wendell Dean Goll. I was born on July 12, 1933 in Dawn, Carroll County, Mo.

I went to work for Mackie-Clemens Coal Company in Mine No. 22 in Mulberry, as tipple boss on Feb. 1, 1972. Mine No. 25 southeast of Pittsburg was also in operation.

We would bring the coal from Mine 25 up to Mine 22 by Frisco Railroad so that the coal could be washed. The coal from Mine 22 was dug out by a shovel and a dragline and brought to the tipple by trucks.

We had a hopper that we ran the railroad cars over. Under the hopper was a metal pan conveyor. This conveyor carried the coal to the third floor of the tipple where it would go through a crusher and then drop into a wash box which was operated by water and air.

The water came from a reservoir that was close to the tipple. When the coal went through the wash box it had three discard chutes. One elevator was to separate the rock from the coal, the second elevator had rock and coal mixed together and would drop by conveyor into a hammer mill. The third was for the finer coal which floated to the top. On the second floor of the tipple there was another wash box with two elevators where the coal would go to different conveyors with shaker screens that would size the coal.

It would then be taken outside the tipple by conveyor to the railroad cars to be shipped to the power plants at Asbury and Kansas City, Mo.

The refuge would go on a different conveyor to a holding tank that was hauled off by a refuge truck.

There was also a scale house where we sold custom coal to the public. The coal cars were moved to the scale house by a small locomotive engine called a dinky. We sold three grades of coal: lump, nut and stoker coal.

Anytime there was a break down in the tipple everyone pitched in to get things running again.

We produced about 20,000 tons of coal a day. Because the coal in Kansas has a high sulfur or BTU content, in the 1980s, the government put regulations on the company. This made selling the coal more difficult.

I spent twenty-one years working for Mackie-Clemens Coal Company. I retired in June 1993.

Harold (Dobby) J. Fields was my dad. He was born in Yale in 1895 to B. J. and Georgiana Fields.

His folks had homesteaded in Kansas, coming from Virginia after the Civil War. He was known affectionately as Dobby. He worked in the coal fields of southeast Kansas for over 43 years as a strip miner.

As a very young man, he was working for the Crowe Coal Company when his friend, Rue Fenimore, approached him to help solved a problem with the Chinese pumps at the Scammon Coal Company.

This was the beginning of a friendship with the Fenimore family that lasted the rest of his life.

Although Dad worked for Crowe, he and Rue often worked out problems that arose at the Scammon site.

Dad worked at Crowe until 1917, when he volunteered for the Army.

He returned to Crowe after the War in 1919, as a shovel operator. In June of that year he married Margaret Quinn and moved from Scammon to Pittsburg.

It was shortly after that when he began working for the Litchfield Coal Company at Yale. At that time he was operating the loader.

About 1926 he went to work for the Commercial Fuel Company (Clemens Coal Co.) located on West Fourth Street. Just before they closed he moved to the Mackie-Clemens Coal Company which was located at Foxtown.

He worked there until 1942 as a loader operator. He left the coal business for a few years to work at Jayhawk Ordinance Works, where he stayed for three years. In 1945, Dad once again returned to the coal business, working for Pittsburg & Midway Coal and Mining Company at Hallowell. He worked there as a shovel operator until his retirement.

When I began piecing together the list of companies that Dad worked for, I had to call on my eldest brother, Harold, to fill me in on the details.

Dad would take my brothers, Harold and Joe, with him to visit mining sites and his miner friends around the area, but as a girl I was never allowed on those excursions. Before his retirement, Dad took my younger brother Gene and my husband, Tom, to show them around the shovel.

In those days it was common practice for the mines to work for six months and be shut down the other six.

When he was off, Dad would work at other coal sites on construction.

At the time of his retirement, the shovel he operated had a bucket capacity of thirty-two cubic yards, and was the biggest in the world.

When P & M brought in Big Brutus, it had a bucket capacity of over ninety cubic yard!

Dad died in 1986 at the age of ninety-one.

Coal Lump