Thursday, October 31, 2013

Land For One-Time Smelter Plant Now Preserved

Finally, after 56 years of being bargained and traded for, will the beautiful hills, rocky bluffs and lush  forests of the old Bells Mines community finally have their final destination in history?
Back in 1957 family homes and farms dotted the countryside as you went past Bells Mines church, which had been there since 1891.  Today many of the family names are in the old cemetery next to where the church house used to be.  The cemetery is all that is left of this once coal mining community.

These families sold their home and land to Alcoa and moved to different places.  The buying of all the land by Alcoa was the end of this community.    The Alcoa Company had first said they were going to build a smelter plant here.  But as time went on the dream of this happening faded.  

Finally in 1998 Alcoa states that due to existing domestic smelting capacity being reduced there was no need for a new facility of this kind, and they put the land up for sale.

Kimball International Inc., bought the Alcoa timber land.  One of the nations' leading furniture makers.  They kept the land and did some take some of the timber, and used the pasture lands for grazing a cattle operation.

Finally after years of not knowing what would happened to this beautiful and perhaps endanger natural forest area, it has earned it's place in history and it's final destination. 

On October 23, 2013 - 4,241 acres of this Crittenden County property (plus 2,571 acres just across the Tradewater River in Union County) was dedicated as the newest wildlife management area and state forest. 

The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, The Forestland Group, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forest Legacy Program, Indiana Bat Conservation Fund and the Stream Mitigation Fund, are incredible partners who made this outstanding area possible. 

After all these many years, the land is finally realized for it's beauty and importance to our area.

A nice legacy for the one-time old coal mining town and community of Bells Mines, started those many years ago in the very early 1800's.  May your history live on.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Fluorspar History

 Our Fluorspar industry, we thought last year,(2012) was on its way back but once again the hope of that dream has faded into the background.  The old mining districts were busy with the activity of men and machines making test drills and plans for another new beginning.  Now the land lays idle once again with the earth holding on to its minerals.
  The J. Willis Crider Fluorspar Mill in 1958.  
Located at Mexico, Kentucky
In 1958 the county was still represented by only a few companies who where active.  But this would be short lived for the American mined fluorspar was fast being replaced with huge tonnage being imported from foreign lands, and which was produced by cheap foreign labor.  The fluorspar companies urged Congress to increase the present tariff and to put stronger restrictions on import products.  But they didn't respond and we lost the fluorspar industry.

One of the companies that was still in operation but on a small scale was the J. Willis Crider Fluorspar Mill that was located at the small community of Mexico, about 7 miles from Marion.  They were processing fluorspar and bariate for the general market.  They produced gravel fluorspar and only one shaft was operating for fluorspar and there were stripping operations going on for bariate ore.

 My father, Billie Travis, at this time was office manager, and superintendent of the operation.  This picture was made in 1958 with him standing in front some of the spar gravel. 

Many old gravel drive-ways and parking lots in the area were lined with this spar gravel.  Most all of it has been covered with asphalt or concrete over the years.  But once, long ago, it was fun to search for these small sparkly pieces of purple fluorspar that was found in the gravel.   They looked like tiny jewels.  I have many.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our Fluorspar History

Our Fluorspar history goes back to the1800, some early items in The Crittenden Press tell of some of the activities of the mines.  In Dec. 1880, the Frances community iems tell that the Yandell spar mines are in operation again, and Mr. Yandell is washing spar and delivering it at Dycusburg for $5 per ton for the finest.  The Yandell Mine was the first to haul their spar to Dycusburg to be loaded on barges on the river.

Jan. 30, 1902 - Fluorspar mining was a much needed boost for the Frances community as it had no money paying jobs available for the men.  With the boom of the mining Frances became a veritable bee-hive of miners, prospectors and capitalists all in a rush to bet for their financial condition by developing the spar mining business.

Almost a stone's throw from Frances was located the Asbridge mines, which was opened about 1898.  This mine worked by four or five men, and the profit from this mine in a year was over $8,000.  

Within eight feet of the Asbridge mine is the McClelland mines, which promised to be even a great producer of spar than the Asbridge.  The mine was opened in December 1902 by Mr. F. A. McClelland.

The Hodge mine said to be the largest and best paying spar mine in the world is only one and a half miles from Frances.  It puts out from forty to sixty tons a day.  Mr. Johnnie Hodge, upon whose land this mine is located it is said gets three thousand dollars a year as royalty, while the owners of the mine receive from this property and some other mines in the county a net income of more than four hundred and fifty dollar per day.

The Yandell and Tabb and the Tabor are the names of some of the other mines, all within a radius of three miles of Frances, or Needmore.  They are all doing a fine business and new mines are being opened every week.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thomas J. Yandell, Marion Business 1894

Thomas J. Yandell, Jr., one of the best known men in the county in 1894.  He was born in Crittenden County
in 1859 and was reared on the family farm. 

He was the son of Mr. John A. Yandell, one of the pioneer citizens of the county.

At the age of twenty he left the farm and began teaching in the public schools.  In 1890 he was in the merchantile business.

In 1892 he accepted the position of assistant cashier in the Marion Bank, (Marion's first bank).

On Jan. 19, 1887 he married Miss Katie Franklin.  They had two daughters, Katherine and Mable.

Thomas J. Yandell, Jr. died Sept. 8, 1934 and is buried at the Mapleview Cemetery, his wife Kate Franklin Yandell, died Oct. 17, 1934.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Granville Franklin Clement, Early Crittenden County Settler

Granville Franklin Clement was born in 1808 in Virginia.  He was the eldest son of Isam and Sarah Rudd Clement.

In 1818, Granville's family migrated from Charlotte Co. Virginia, to western Kentucky to what was then Livingston County.  (Became Crittenden County in Jan. 1842)

Granville married Margaret Saline Phillips, in July 1833.  Shortly after their marriage, Granville and Margaret built their home on land which they purchased from her grandfather, Samuel Lofton.

This land was in the eastern part of the county, on what is today Hwy. 120.

The Grandville F. Clement home, was later known as the Earl Hurst homeplace, was located on Hwy. 120, approximately seven miles from Marion.

It was last occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Hurst and their family.  This was very fitting, for Mrs. Hurst was the great-granddaugher of Granville.

The home was a beautiful two-story home with large stone chimney's on each end.  Two beautiful front proches graced the front of the old plantation style home.

It was admired by all that drove by.  The house had stood gracefully for almost two hundred years.  It was known as one of the earliest and most beautiful old pioneer homes in the county.

The house had been vacant for several year in the early 1990's, and on a night in July 1992 it was destroyed by fire.

The cause was never known, but it was thought to be arson, probably amusement for someone to see it burn.  Vandalism of this kind has been known to happen many times in Crittenden County.  But another piece of our early history was lost, and the area where the house used to set is vacant and a sad sight to see, knowing the history of the once beautiful old home that sat there.