Today, most homes have modern heating such as natural gas, electric or propane.
There was a time, several years ago, that coal furnaces were used to heat the average home. This was a great improvement over fireplaces heating each room, but there were challenges with heating with coal.
One had to have an adequate furnace, and plenty of space to store the coal. Furnaces needed daily attention. The homeowner had to shake down and remove the old ashes, put additional coal into the furnace in order to heat the house. There were no thermostats, so basically, when the house began to be chilly, coal was added to the furnace.
When I was a child, my family had a coal furnace in the basement. A nearby room had been set aside for the coal storage, and a large truck would pull into the driveway, affix a chute to the truck and through the small basement window used for that purpose, and dump a few tons of coal. My father, being a tidy fellow would then spend several hours staking the coal in neat piles ready for use.
Coal was transported from the mining areas by train to coal companies in Greene County. Usually the coal was delivered to the house, but one could purchase small amounts as desired at the coal yard for self-delivery.
When the train cars came into the yard, the engineer would back the train onto the siding to be unloaded. Most rail companies wanted the train car unloaded within three days from the time of delivery. If the car remained longer at the yard, there could be a surcharge.
Delivery trucks were parked beside the train so that the coal could be loaded directly into the truck via a chute. The remaining order of coal was dumped at the yard for future deliveries.
In 1941, McNamee Fuel was located in the 300 block of South Detroit Street. The business offered coal, coke and stokers. John McNamee had been in business since 1932, and could be reached by phone at the number 66.
In 1946, the McNamee brothers, John and Charles announced the purchase of a nearly three acre tract at the junction of Home Avenue and South Columbus Streets. The track included four buildings at the time. A few years later a bulk cement plant, gravel bin and garages for trucks were erected, and the company became McNamee Ready Mix Concrete Company. Four mixer trucks, a weighing machine and a crane for excavation work were part of the equipment purchased for the new business. John continued the coal business along with managing the new cement plant, but by the 1950’s natural gas became popular, diminishing the need for coal.
In 1950, a ton of coal might have cost about $20 to $25 a ton, plus delivery. A medium sized home would most likely use eight to ten tons of coal a year, making the heating cost about $200 per annum.
The Stiles Coal Company was located at the corner of South Detroit and Hill Streets. George Stiles provided cement, lime, sewer pipe, fire brick flue linings and charcoal as well as coal. He had previously managed the coal yard at that same location when it had been owned by the Maddux Company.
The Xenia Farmers Exchange Company on West Main Street advertised flour, feed, grain and coal in 1927. That same year, the Stout Coal Company whose motto was “We Handle Only the Best” advertised coal, coke, building material, cement and tile. Their phone number was 22.
The Ervin Milling Company was located on West Second Street at the end of South Whiteman. Further out on West Second Street was the Ledbetter Coal Company.
In 1941, the Xenia Coal Company advertised coal and coke, “Dealers in Best Grades of Coal Cement, Sewer Pipe and Building Material”. The yard was located on West Second Street at the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Smith Coal and Ice Company, located on South Collier offered to keep the citizens warm in the winter and provided ice for lemonade in the summer.
Gilmore Fuel was located on Hill Street. Joe Canning on West Street and Smart, Thornhill, Heaton and Fleming were also listed as dealers in coal.
There were several coal yards in Jamestown including I. T. Cumming, Greer Bingamon, Al Haines and Roy Cline. Delivery coal wagons were provided by Toliver Winston and Grover Tidd.
In Alpha, the leading merchant for coal was the Alpha Seed and Grain while in Fairfield one could contact R. O. Routzong.
Cedarville residents enjoyed the services of Andrew Brothers and D. S. Erwin while in Yellow Springs; one could contact P. W. Drake who sold coal, lumber and wood.
F. W. Walker and Co. had offices at 27 South Detroit Street, but the yard was located on South Collier. Mr. Walker was a wholesale dealer in coal and coke. In addition, the company had a motor transfer line and would haul live stock to market.
The Wilson Engineering and Contracting Company offered coal, cement, lime, sewer pipe, drain tile, etc. at 33 South Detroit Street. This company had two telephones Bell 29 and Citizen 216.
Other businesses included C. O. Miller, Bell telephone 716, The Belden Milling Company and Bales and Harness located on West Main Street, dealers in flour, feed, cement, bale tiles, grain and general feed along with the sale of coal.
Heating with coal was very satisfactory, but having to stoke the furnace and remove the ashes was something of a chore.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and long-time historical columnist.