To recognize the 300+year history of North America’s first commercial coal mines and to provide educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities through the preservation, reconstruction, and interpretation of the historic coal mining and railroad sites in and around the village of Midlothian.
The Richmond Coal Basin, stretching through western Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover Counties and eastern Amelia, Powhatan, and Goochland Counties, was the earliest site in the U.S. where fossil fuels were extracted and exploited commercially. By 1730, numerous commercial coal pits were producing tons of coal, which was shipped throughout the eastern seaboard during the colonial era. Coal production fueled foundries that armed Revolutionary armies, and it was significant enough to attract British attack.
As the new country took shape, Thomas Jefferson cited the Richmond Basin’s “excellent” coal in Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) and requested it for use in the White House after he was elected. In the early nineteenth century, Chesterfield County was the center of commercial coal production, drawing another British attack during the War of 1812 and prompting investments in innovative transportation (Virginia’s first graveled road and railroad) and other technology. “Company towns” sprang up around the mines, bringing together experienced Welsh, Scots, English and German miners with native whites and blacks, some slave and some free.
The Grove Mine Shaft ruin in Midlothian Mines Park is the last structure standing as a reminder of a nearly forgotten chapter in Virginia and U.S. history. We want to shine a light on stories of dirt and danger, risk-taking personalities, new industry and technology, social issues, geology, and physics. You’ll have a broader view of U.S. and Virginia history once you hear.
Mid-Lothian Mines Park, a unique reminder of Virginia’s early role in industrial development, represents:
North America’s first commercial coal mines
Virginia’s first graveled road (Midlothian Turnpike) to haul coal to the docks at Manchester
Virginia’s first railroad, to bypass turnpike tolls
A source of fuel for all the eastern colonies, Jefferson’s White House, & foundries making weapons for the Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War
Dirty, dangerous work for immigrants, native whites, slaves , and freemen, often in debt to “company” housing, stores, schools, doctors, and blacksmiths.
Our Foundation made great progress in 2014. We worked closely with Chesterfield County to develop a partnership agreement to add critical additional land and amenities to the Park. The landowner built parking, a lovely amphitheater near the lake and mine headstock replica, and trails throughout. We expect the painstaking operating agreement to be finalized in 2015, opening the way for much expanded educational outreach and fundraising for a museum in the shape of a “company store.”
In 2015, in partnership with the County and thanks to $805,000 from DMME, major park improvements, safety features, and educational signage will be installed.
Research and educational outreach continue to expand. We spoke to groups including more than 900 individuals, informed newspaper and radio patrons, and hosted our first events in the amphitheater. For 2015, we will develop materials for our first “travelling trunk” of educational materials for schools and clubs, thanks to grant support, and expect to convert the director position to fulltime to increase opportunities for outreach, research, and education.
2014 saw expansion of our Board to be more representative of the community and the beginnings of private fundraising to support educational activities and prepare the way for a future capital campaign.
The area’s plentiful coal was shipped to all the Eastern colonial capitals, supplied Thomas Jefferson’s White House at his request, and fueled foundries that supplied our armies during the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. That’s why a miner is pictured on the Chesterfield County seal.
Midlothian itself was called Coalfield until a particularly destructive explosion and subsequent accident that flooded the Mid-Lothian Mine drew national attention.
The Mid-Lothian Mines and Rail Roads Foundation is committed to preserving and telling this nearly forgotten story. Mid-Lothian Mines Park on Woolridge Road in northwestern Chesterfield County, Virginia, gives us that opportunity. The relics of mining were preserved and enhanced, its history researched and the land donated to Chesterfield County by Tom Garner and his family. We are deeply grateful for Tom's dedication and generosity.
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Copyright © 2014 The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia7501 Boulders View Drive, Richmond, VA 23225804-330-7400 | www.tcfrichmond.org