Rushville Republican

Columns

May 27, 2014

Coal and Rushville

With all the yelling and screaming about coal fired power plants, those individuals should have been around Rushville in the late 30’s early 40’s. Coal was truly King during this period. There were, at the time, four railroads going through town all with coal fired engines, and boy did they put out the smoke and cinders as they either crawled or sped through town. And periodically one of those engines would spend some time in town switching cars from one place to another and then taking what needed to go along with them to the next town and once again switching. And there were many more trains coming through town daily at the time. Almost all the homes in town were either gas or coal heated,the majority being coal.

The city owned and operated the electrical power plant on Second Street and yes, it was coal fired. International Furniture the cities biggest employer was coal fired, especially in the old Innis Pierce plant. All the downtown business were coal heated and in the winter smoke hung over the city until the wind finally pushed it away. Southeastern Power, on Fort Wayne Road and Second Street, was oil fired, but that was the exception at the time. Besides that, it was on a rail line and could use the tanker from the railroad as a holding tank making it easier on them. Many farmers used coal for heat on their farms the home and barn it needed was usually coal fired, no electricity was readily available out in the county at the time.

There were four lumber yards in town and all of them also sold and delivered coal to the city and county. Many others made a good living hauling coal for the many customers in town. Coal was a necessity and something I would guess about 90% of the homes and business’s used for heating. The downtown business buildings had metal doors on the sidewalk in front of the stores. For the business to get their coal for heat and merchandise in the shop, those doors were indispensible. They were an elevator type of thing and when a delivery was made, the business would open up the doors and the elevator would go to sidewalk level. The merchandise would be put on the elevator, taken to the basement usually, then to the shelves or store room out of the danger of dampness of the basement.

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