We are asking you to join Miners Hall Museum Foundation in preserving a unique piece of coal mining history in Southeast Kansas.
This Page 618 Walking Dragline when restored, will be the second and largest dragline preserved for public display in the United States. This destination will benefit Southeast Kansas, bringing visitors, tourists, authors, and students from across the nation, creating local business revenue and interest in our unique coal mining history
Keith Haddock, co-founder of the Historical Construction Equipment Association in Bowling Green, Ohio, is the leading expert on earthmoving and surface mining equipment. He is a professional engineer, author, freelance writer and TV guest. Mr. Haddock states:
"I still believe that saving the Page dragline is of the utmost importance and the top of the list for all items to be preserved in America."
Donors will be recognized on our Page 618 Walking Dragline Donor Recognition digital wall. Additional giving level recognition includes donor names engraved on the donor plaque at the dragline site, and invitation to the dedication dinner, a signed picture, a MHM lifetime membership, and a signed copy of the limited edition book, 'Coal Mining Days' by Debby Ossana Close while supplies last.
Your support is crucial to our efforts! Become a Part of History by Preserving the Past for Future Generations!
Wilkinson Coal Company - Page 618 Walking Dragline
William Wilkinson was born in Pelton Fell, England, in 1862. He worked the mines from the age of 10 and came to Weir City, Kansas, in 1883 at the age of 20 to continue mining. In 1917, he started his own deep mine a mile south of Fleming, Kansas. Wilkinson Coal Company, Weir City, Kansas, operated from 1917 to 1979. William Wilkinson died in 1932 and his sons continued the mining operation.
A Walking 618 Page Dragline with a 110 foot boom was purchased in 1953 from Alexandria, Louisiana, and shipped by rail to Weir City for the strip mining operation. The dragline was later used for clay mining by the Mission Clay Company. It later came back tot he Wilkinson family when Wendell Wilkinson purchased it from Mission Clay.
John W. Page invented the dragline in 1904. A walking mechanism was developed a few years later, allowing draglines mobility free of rails and rollers, and was adopted by the Chicago-based Page Engineering Company in the 1920s. The company introduced its popular 600-series draglines in the mid-1930s.
Wendell and Lynda Wilkinson are pledging to donate the Page 618 dragline to Miners Hall Museum for the restoration project. Out of the eighteen built, this will be the only known Page 618 to be restored.
The dragline, shown at its current location to the right, will make the 30.4 mile trip to Franklin, Kansas, intersection of US 69 Hwy and KS 47 Hwy, also known as Ginardi's Corner.
Once restoration begins, the project will be followed by the donor plaque and information signage, sidewalks, lighting, seating, fencing, and parking for cars and buses.
Please print, complete, and mail the following document to link arms with us in preserving a piece of history for future generations: Contribution Form. If unable to print, a check can still be mailed.
Send to Miners Hall Museum, 701 S Broadway Street, Franklin, KS 66743-8501
You can also donate with a credit/debit card straight off this website
We are an exhibition located within the Franklin Community Center & Heritage Museum in Franklin, Kansas. The public is invited to visit and view the mining artifacts as well as other historic items.
701 S. Broadway
Franklin, KS 66735
Hours of Operation:
Please call to schedule tours.
Donations of mining-related artifacts or photos may be dropped off Monday through Friday, 10 - 4pm.
Visit Miners Hall Museum before this special exhibit closes. Several special events taking place. Follow us on Facebook so you won't miss them and please share with your friends. Daily stories are posted on our page which are currently in the Morning Sun. Be sure to pick up your copy or subscribe to be assured of receiving them all.Over three fiercely cold December days in 1921, thousands of southeast Kansas women marched in support of striking coal miners. On December 12, 2021, Linda O'Nelio Knoll will present "The March of Amazon Army" at the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin to commemorate the women's march on the site where it began exactly 100 years ago. Read more on the Kansas Stories blog: bit.ly/3rwTgOG #movementofideas #amazonarmy ...
Article appearing in today's (December 3, 2021) edition. Be sure to subscribe or pick up your copy today.AMAZON ARMY CENTENNIAL1921 Fight for Justice in the Kansas CoalfieldsEditor’s Note: This is the third installment in a series on the centennial anniversary of the Amazon Army March of December 1921.Women came in groups of 8 and 10 from Camps in Radley, Dunkirk, Frontenac, Arma, Croweburg and as far north as Mulberry and south Cherokee. When the day dawned Dec. 14 5:00 a.m. the crowd of women was miles long. No one had dropped out and as we left the Miners Union Hall in Franklin, hundreds more joined us behind the American flag. — Mary Skubitz When Joe Skubitz handed me his mother’s journal twenty-one years ago at his home in Wichita, I had already been collecting information on the women’s march for some thirteen years. Reading Mary’s journal entries, however, was a revelation — knowing that she and the thousands of women with her during those eventful three days could not have anticipated what lay in store for them. Especially so after learning three troops of Kansas National Guard Calvary were ordered down from Topeka to “Keep the peace” along with a request from the county sheriff for a deputized force of a thousand to deal with the emergency. Joe, a retired long-serving congressmen who was 93 at the time, beamed with pride some 80 years later, when interviewed about his mother’s involvement in the protest. In April 2000, when Army of Amazons was being performed along with the unveiling of the mural Solidarity by Wayne Wildcat, Joe brought his son Dan, a retired attorney, and his grandchildren, from Wichita to the Performing Arts Center in Girard to see the play. The house was packed with an audience of over 400. Afterward, Joe, who was visibly moved by the performance, as was his family, spoke to the crowd. Later that evening, I was to discover that Joe’s son and grandchildren had never heard this story and knew nothing about their grandmother and great-grandmother’s part in it before that night.I came to realize that this was the norm as I interviewed those who had lived during those hard-scrabble mining, strike-ridden days. There was a recurring sense that, in difficult times, you did what you had to do and went on. Standing up against injustices became part of the fabric of their lives. In 2018, I received a call from the niece of Mary Youvan Skubitz who lived in Phoenix. She had discovered my website and wanted to know more about the march. Later that year, she traveled to southeast Kansas, and I interviewed her. I discovered that her family had spent summers here with the Youvans and she knew her Aunt Mary well, but she never heard Mary, or any other family, speak about this history. In 2019 a young woman from Colorado contacted me as she was putting together a family history to surprise her father. Andy Kennedy was not only to learn that she had relatives in southeast Kansas that she was not aware of, but also that her great-grandmother Elena Purgatorio had taken an active part in the march, was arrested, and reported to have said that she would do it again. Elena would lose her husband six months after the march, murdered at a party by opponents of the strike. In 1922, Elena moved to Chicago where she ran a large boarding house and raised her daughter, Pearl. Pearl would later become a teacher and celebrated educator working with children on Chicago’s southside. This history gave Andy a new understanding of her great-grandmother, born in 1891, who came from Umbria, Italy with her father and brother to mine coal. Elena died in 1981 at the age of 90. With her newly discovered Purgatorio relatives, Andy visited her great-grandfather’s grave, in Frontenac, which bears the inscription Elena created those many years ago which serves 100 years later as a testament to those times: “To our beloved husband and father, cowardly murdered during the miners’ strike of 1921- 22, for having loyally upheld the cause of justice.” ---Linda O’Nelio Knoll ...
Article appearing in today's (December 2, 2021) edition. Be sure to subscribe or pick up your copy today. AMAZON ARMY CENTENNIALUnion Maids & Rebel DamesEditor’s Note: This is the second installment in a series on the centennial anniversary of the Amazon Army March of December 1921. The phrase “A man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done” aptly describes the life of a woman who during the first half of the twentieth century would find herself taking care of her family in a coal camp; life there was very, very hard. Things we take for granted – running water, electricity, refrigeration, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, central heat, washing machines, permanent press clothes, and cleaning products were rare or nonexistent during the early 1900s. Most women devoted up to three days each week just for washing and ironing, including washing the miners filthy black clothing “by hand” on a wash board along with the family’s laundry. Many made their own soap and starch. Bread, a staple, was homemade daily. A chicken dinner started not at the grocery store but with catching the chicken and killing it. Beyond the long hours of toil packing miners lunch pails at 4 a.m. to tending to children, gardening, cooking, milking a cow (if you were lucky enough to own one), the lives of these women were caught up in a world of shifts, strikes and underground disasters. Whistle blasts, like the tolling of monastery bells, announced the miners' work schedules and, in the event of a malfunction at the mine, tragedy. Four blasts indicated an accident or cave-in. Women had to be steadfast in their reserve to carry on despite the daily hazards and hardships, ultimately adding their voices to a group chorus protesting the labor struggles facing their men in an occupation that left little in the way of protection, safety, or security. Meet two such women, Marie Merciez and her daughter Clemence, marchers in the Amazon Army. Clemence Merciez DeGruson was born on Mar. 1, 1903, in Roseland, Kansas to French immigrants Jules and Marie Merciez. Jules was a coal miner. Marie Bezinque Merciez, born in France in 1873, had worked as a cook for a coal baron’s family in Africa before coming to America in 1881. When Camp 50 was established in 1915 by the Central Coal & Coke Company, Marie dismantled her independent grocery, which was built in direct opposition to the company store in Carona, and, with her husband, moved it board by board to the newly established coal camp, a distance of 25 miles. Clemence recalled, “Pa sawed it in half and horses dragged it on logs to the site where he had built a cellar and foundation, and we opened up the store there. For us to sleep, he built some rooms about fifty or sixty feet from the store. We would have to run through the snow to go to bed in the wintertime.” Clemence, who was 17 at the time, attended the first meeting of the women marchers at the Union Hall in Franklin on Dec. 11, 1921, with her mother. The plan was to march on the mines and barricade them from nonunion workers. The women were to sing and drum on pit buckets, throw red pepper into the eyes of anyone who tried to stop them, and join hands at the mines entrance. Marie volunteered to supply the red pepper from her store. (Black pepper when the red ran out.) 65 years later, Clemence's son, Gene DeGruson, director of the Special Collections Library at Pittsburg State University — and nationally known scholar and poet — wrote of his mother's experience in a poem titled "Alien Women.” It lives on in his book “Goat’s House,” as a testament to her and all the women who once took a brave stand in history. — Linda O’Nelio KnollAlien Women For Clemence Merciez DeGrusonIn '21, my mother still herself at seventeen marched for Alexander Howat to bust the scabs who worked the mines in place of the fathers and husbands of the thousand women who marched with her carrying their men's pit buckets filled with red pepper to throw in the eyes of the poor scabs who cursed back in English to their Slovene, German, French, and Italian over the State Militia's rifle fire. It's all dim in her mind now. She remembers only that she was hungry and frightened. She does not remember Judge Curran, who said, "It is a fact that there are bolsheviki, communists, and anarchists among the alien women of this community. It was the lawlessness of these women which made necessary the stationing of the State Militia in our county for two months to preserve law and order." She does not remember they were called an Army of Amazons ...
Call for vintage aprons! For an upcoming exhibit, we are looking for vintage aprons, pictures of people wearing aprons, or stories about people who wear aprons. What industry do you know that uses an apron? We all know about early housewives wearing aprons almost all day. What about welders, bakers, butchers, storekeepers, blacksmiths, etc. Please private message us or call 620-249-9333 if you have an apron, photo, memory, or story that you’d be willing to loan for a 3-month exhibit. ...
Do you like fun projects? Do you have basic carpenter skills? We’ve got a small 2-3 hour project that we need help with. Our beautiful “outhouse” has been blown over by the wind. We need a simple base around the bottom (very simple and not a huge thing) then attach that to the concrete base. We can get help to lift the outhouse once the base is attached. If you or someone you know can help us with saving this wonderful local artifact we would appreciate it. Call Phyllis at 620-249-9333 or reply to this post. ...