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American Dream: 1936

American Dream: 1936

May 1936. "Home of worker in strip coal mine. Cherokee County, Kansas." Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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The Balkans of Kansas

My home town of Columbus, Kansas is the county seat of Cherokee County so I am very familiar with the history of coal mining in that county and also the lead and zinc mines in the southeastern corner of that county. Coal production in that area began shortly after 1865 and was in full production by 1900. Cherokee and Crawford counties were often referred to as " The Balkans of Kansas" due to the number of immigrant coal miners into that area. The original mines were deep shaft mines but, later on, the coal was recovered by strip mining. The old strip mines have filled with water over the years and have been used for recreational fishing and camping for a number of years. Others have been reclaimed and are now farmland again. One point of attraction in Cherokee County is Big Brutus which was the worlds largest shovel and has been restored as a museum of the coal mining days. For more information about Big Brutus go to

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