Saturday, February 17, 2018

The death of Jake Baux in the Number 1 Mine

Find a Grave photo by Doris Christensen
Jake Baux came from a long line of coal miners, a line that stretched back several generations in the native land of his parents, Jacob and Jane (Flower) Baux --- in and around Timsbury, Somersetshire, in southwest England.

During 1870, Jacob and Jane brought their family to the United States to work in the Midwest's expanding coal industry, landing in Illinois --- but sorrow awaited.

After surviving many years of hazardous work as a miner, Jacob died of typhoid fever two years later, on Nov. 10, 1872, at Illinois City, near Rock Island. Jake --- Jacob Jr. --- was born five months later, on April 24, 1873.

His mother remarried another miner soon thereafter and kept the family together. Young Jacob went to work in the Illinois mines as soon as owners would hire him --- about age 13 --- and followed that line of work along with brothers and brothers-in-law west to Iowa --- to Mystic in Appanoose County, then to Hiteman, in Monroe.

He was married at age 27 to 18-year-old Rosa Belle Phillips at Hiteman in 1900 and they had one son, Clarence, born in 1905 --- 10 years before Rosa divorced Jake and moved herself and their son elsewhere.

Most likely that divorce was a major factor in Jake's move soon after to Chariton, where he went to work in the Central Iowa Fuel Co's No. 1 mine, catching a rail car on workday mornings at the new Rock Island depot and riding the mile or two to the mine just northeast of town. He was, by all accounts, greatly respected both by his fellow miners and the company that employed him.

Death came in that mine on Monday, the 18th of February, 1918, when he was 44, through no fault of his own. 

Here's The Chariton Leader's Feb. 19 account of the accident, resulting from the carelessness of others, that killed him:

"Jacob Baux, who was a trap rider in the Inland Mines, was killed by a fall of slate Monday. A trap rider is the conductor of the string of coal cars as they are brought from the rooms to the shaft, and his position is on the rear car. The timbermen had worked in this entry the day before and had taken out one of the top timbers and had replaced it with a new one which projected beneath a couple or three inches lower than the old one. Prior to this there was only sufficient room for the loaded cars to pass beneath and as these cars are propelled at the speed of 12 or 15 miles an hour, it may be seen that any obstruction might result disastrously.

"The cars had all passed through except the third one from the end, the coal being piled higher on this, and when it struck, the timber was dislodged, besides several others and some uprights, and this loosened a section of the roof, which fell by the time the last car came directly underneath, with the result that the trap rider was crushed to death."

Funeral services were held two days later, on Wednesday, Feb. 21,  at First Baptist Church.

"The United Mine Workers attended in a body," The Herald-Patriot of Thursday, Feb. 21, reported, "marching to the church, which was completely filled by friends of the deceased. By special request, Mr. Giles sang a solo in addition to the hymns sung by a large choir. In his remarks, Mr. Donovan repeated the comments which all of Mr. Baux's acquaintances, as well as friends, made concerning his unfailing good nature, sterling manhood and his fidelity to every duty. The Central Fuel Company confesses that it has lost one of its best workmen; a man whose interest went beyond his own immediate affairs, and always included the care of the company's interest.

"Mr. Baux was born at Belleville, Ill., April 14, 1874 (sic), and died February 18th, 1918, at Chariton, Iowa, at the age of 43 years, 10 months and 4 days. Interment was in the Chariton cemetery."

The United Mine Workers had arranged for and conducted Jake's funeral, and most likely was responsible, too, for the substantial stone that continues to mark his grave in the Chariton Cemetery today --- ensuring that someone now largely forgotten is at least commemorated.

His ex-wife, then living in Des Moines, brought their son to Chariton for the funeral. Clarence married and continued to live in Des Moines, worked at a variety of jobs and finally moved to California during World War II perhaps to work in war-related industry. He died at age 40 in Los Angeles during 1945.

The Central Iowa Fuel Company's No. 1 mine continued to operate until 1925, when it closed and its miners went to work in newer mines in Pleasant Township.

You still can drive through the area of the old mine by turning right off Highway 14 onto the graveled 510th Lane a mile or two north of Chariton --- just before the highway curves and descends into the Little White Breast Creek valley. The shaft was some distance off the road to the south; deep beneath the ground, however, chambers and passages that have not collapsed remain.

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