The WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas
published 1984


Tour #13:  In Arma, (934 alt., 2,004 pop), a coal-mining town spread over a large area, many of the residents have been thrown out of work during the past few years by the substitution of strip mining for deep shaft mining  

South of Arma, thick coal deposits are visible in roadside embankments that were cut in building the highway.  


FRANKLIN, (900 alt., 1,683 pop), is a mining town even more attenuated than Arma. A large part of the population in Franklin -- as in all towns between Arma and Pittsburg -- is made up of Italians.  At the south edge of Franklin is the junction with State 57 pave.

INTERESTING FACT:  In this area, known as southeast Kansas or Pittsburg district, geologists estimate that there were 295,622,000 tons of coal, half of which has been removed (1938).  these beds produced approximately 2 million tons or about 60 percent of the State's output in 1936. The coal occurs in a deep layer about two and one-half feet thick and approximately 100 feet underground, and in a parallel upper layer from 12 to 18 inches thick.  As strip mining was not practiced when the field was open, and the upper layer was not thick enough to permit men to work in the galleries that would have been formed by removing the coal, the deeper layer reached by shafts was mined first.  Main tunnels were dug and posts or beams put in to support the roof. Next, side rooms were scooped out of the coal strata; first dynamite was used and then miners pried out the residue with picks.  Extraction, at present, is by means of steam and electric shovels that strip away the earth from above the coal deposits and pile the clay, rock and shale into miniature mountain ranges, which are visible in all directions from the highway and are reached on byroads. Operating here is one of the world's largest shovels four times the size of those used in digging the Panama Canal.  The huge scoop lifts 20 cubic yards of earth and rock more than 100 feet in the air and drops the load on a dump pile.

The groups of irregular green mounds are abandoned dumps, now covered with trees and wild blackberries.  The pits have filled with water, creating chains of lakes with rocky banks.  Many of them have been stocked with crappie, blue gill, channel cat, ring perch and bass, and some have been cleared of brush.  

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