Throughout its history, Colorado has had many coal mines. The Frederick Mine was the most productive coal mine in the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The mine was located west of Trinidad, Colorado. Being the most productive, Frederick was arguably the most important coal mine in the company. The type of coal mined at Frederick, bituminous coal, was used in the process of making steel. Frederick Mine was surrounded by lush coal fields, and half a dozen other mines near Trinidad. Coal mined in Frederick was transported via locomotive north to the steel city of Pueblo, Colorado. The work here is a 'digital humanities' project that aims to bring Frederick Mine to a wider audience through photographs and analysis of the photographs. Frederick ought to be remembered as much for its place in the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, but also the diverse groups of men that risked their lives, spent many hours underground, and devoted themselves to making Frederick something special.
Entrance to Frederick Mine.

Under the guidance of John D. Rockefeller Sr., Colorado became a focal point of labor both in good and bad ways. By the time Frederick Mine was built, Rockefeller and CF&I already had a great many mines operating in the area. Transporting coal from areas like the Purgatoire River Valley where Frederick Mine would eventually be built, required the use of railroads. The river itself has an interesting history having been the location of several Native American tribes living in the area.[1] Teeming up George Jay Gould, Rockefeller monopolized the coal and steel industry. During the Gould-Rockerfeller Era (1903-1913), the CF&I expanded throughout Southern Colorado.[2] In 1913 came disaster for Rockefeller as a labor dispute, known as the Great Coalfield War, gripped Colorado and the nation. In 1914 Rockefeller and his company was involved in the Ludlow Massacre. Historian John K. Winkler writes, "In 1913 and 1914, it will be recalled, there were violent labor disturbances and much bloodshed in Colorado on the property of the Rockefeller-controlled Colorado Fuel and Iron Company."[3] The Colorado coal strike of 1913 had a profound effect on the Frederick Mine. Operating as one of the few mines that did not recognize the United Mine Workers Association, Frederick Mine was boasted Powers Hapgood to have been one of the better of two mines he worked in. Hapgood said of Frederick, "The living conditions at Frederick Mine of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company are excellent."[4]
Coal miners Eloy Cruz (left) and his brother-in-law Leandro Vigil pose near the entrance to the Frederick Mine in Valdez (Las Animas County), Colorado. c. 1920.

CF&I itself was incorporated in 1880 from the Colorado Coal Company.[5] By the early twentieth century, steel making had been perfected through the use of the Bessemer Process. Because CF&I had surveyed the land that would once host the Frederick Mine and found it full of coal perfect for making steel, the company moved to purchase the land. Closing the deal on the Vigil and St. Vrain Land Grant, CF&I looked west of Trinidad to place Frederick. Already a mine in the area named Segundo, Frederick Mine was opened nearby. The nearby town of Valdez, Colorado hosted the miners and the company owned houses for both Frederick Mine and Segundo mine. Valdez, Colorado was located at Latitude. 37.10028°, Longitude. -104.68°[6] in the Picketwire Valley. The coal found at Frederick for 52% of the 'hard coal' variety. "The coal production of Colorado in 1921 was 9,141,947 tons, a decrease of 3,372,746 tons as compared with the output of 1920."[7] Hard coal, the type found in the Fredrick and Segundo Mines, have specific properties when use is concerned. Interestingly enough, much of this is dependent on how many BTUs are in the specific type of coal being mined that will determine what the coal is used for.
Topographical map from USGS showing Frederick Mine in relation to the Purgatoire.
In many ways, geography determined trends in labor movements as unions found voice for change in mines located where specific coals were most effective in steel making. The labor dispute that engulfed Colorado had little effect on the Frederick Mine and In the years following the massacre, Frederick Mine grew to become one of the top producing mines for the company. "Although a general boom lasted from 1890 to 1920, the pace of production at the Pueblo mill was susceptible to many influences, including overproduction."[8] By World War II mechanization transformed the way coal was being mined in Colorado and elsewhere.
When World War II broke out, production at the CF&I steel mill in Pueblo, Colorado ramped up and production in Frederick Mine grew. There were many Land Grants used by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company to acquire land for the purposes of mining coal.
[9] In the early 1900's CF&I began to prospect for new areas on coal beds to open mines. The company chose Las Animas county to open the Frederick Mine. Las Animas county is located on land that was purchased by CF&I through The Vigil and St. Vrain Land Grant.
Frederick mine was located between the cities of Segundo and Valdez, Colorado.
Topographical Map of Frederick Mine and surrounding towns of Segundo and Valdez

In an ironic twist, the only mention on the map is the smaller mine of Segundo found west of Frederick Mine and no mention of Frederick or Valdez, Colorado where workers for Frederick and Segundo lived and worked.
Operating for nearly 60 years, Frederick Mine was one of the largest producers of coal for CF&I opening in 1907 and closing in 1960.[10] While in operation Frederick Mine produced 29,688,794 tons of coal, the most out of any mine that CF&I operated.[11] Frederick Mine was an important establishment in CF&I and pioneered some aspects of mining. Historian H. Lee Scamehorn writes, "The Frederick Mine at Valdez, in the Southern District, was, according to the company, the first to apply rock dust, a nonflammable material manufactured locally by the Ideal Cement Company, to hold coal dust in place on roadways, walls, and ceilings of underground workings."[12]
Everyday, miners that lived in Valdez, Colorado made the 3.8 kilometer[13] journey to the mine and began the process of mining coal. The process has been detailed by historian Thomas G. Andrews who writes, "The basic process usually began when a miner swung his pick against the lower portion of the coal face. He next picked up an augur and drilled several holes in the shelf of coal he had just undermined. After filling some of these whole with cartridges, - hand rolled and either filled with black powder or giant powder taken from kegs placed in the crosscuts or side entries where miners from adjacent room congregated for meals and breaks - a collier proceeded to light wicks or "squibs" that hung out from the cartridges, then hurried to a relatively safe spot to wait for the powder to explode (by the early twentieth century some collieries used electric shot-firing systems operated by specialists."[14] Often, the miners were not able to get away from the explosion fast enough, and became a causality of their work environment. Andrews continues in describing the process,
A miner stands by a small train leading to the entrance at Frederick Mine.

An aerial shot of Frederick Mine showing the entrance.

Once inside the mine, workers had lights provided overhead via electrical underground systems that proved to be a source of light and danger.
Here, tipple is take out of the mine where it will be dumped into waiting railroad cars prepared to take the coal to Pueblo.

A 300 kilowatt Westinghouse Ignitron Rectifier installed at the Frederick Mine
Coal cars entering the Frederick Mine.

Miners in Frederick Mine worked together in essential tasks. Here, two miners work together to connect a pipe to the ceiling of the mine. Things to note are the obvious age of the miners and the cramp space in which the miners are working. It might come as a surprise to some that the miners who toiled away in Frederick Mine, and many other places also, did not simply walk into the mine the first day as a miner and instead had to work their way up to that position. Historian John Stuart Richards describes this by saying, "The miner started his career as a breaker boy, picking slate in the breaker at the age of 10 or 12, and then went underground as a driver boy."[15] What comes to light when reading into what Richards writes is that mining was not only very difficult work, it was work that the miners had to be committed to from an early age.

Working in Frederick Mine yielded little light to the worker.
Same workers from previous photograph.

Often times miners worked in areas with little or no lighting. Here, this area in a corner of Frederick Mine is lit up by the flash used on the camera as three men work on laying electrical pipe.

Miners at Frederick had a wide variety of tools available to aid them in mining coal, one of them being the coal car which was powered by an electric power grid that ran through the mine. As Andrews described, the coal cars were essential in the everyday work of miners.
Little is left of Frederick Mine and the surrounding area, but that does not diminish the role or the impact Frederick played in the history of Colorado. "The Frederick Mine, which employed 673 people in the late 1940's, began to phase out its operation after the Allen Mine was opened and began to gear up toward full production."[16]

Miners in Frederick Mine.

Workers on mine car in Frederick Mine.

Even after the coal boom of the early twentieth century and fallen and places like Frederick Mine closed, the world's consumption of coal was actually rising. New technologies and methods of coal extraction means fewer mines can produce more coal and countries like Russian and China soon caught up with and surpassed the United States in coal production.

All images used on this page, otherwise where noted, were used with permission from the Bessemer Historical Society. Reproduction or redistribution is allowed only with permission from the Bessemer Historical Society. Please contact the Bessemer Historical Society at:

©Bessemer Historical Society, 215 Canal Street Pueblo, CO 81004
Phone: (719) 564-9086Fax: (719) 564-9681

  1. ^ James E. Sherow, A Sense of the American West: an Anthology of Environmental History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 91.
  2. ^ H. Lee Scamehorn, Mill & Mine: the CF&I in the Twentieth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 21.
  3. ^ John K. Winkler, JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER: A Portrait in Oils (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), 200.
  4. ^ Powers Hapgood, “Paternalism Versus Unionism in Mining Camps,” The Nation 112 (January 21, 1921 to June 30, 1921): 661.
  5. ^ Harvard Business School, “Colorado Fuel and Iron Corp.,” Harvard Business School, (accessed April 5, 2012).
  6. ^
  7. ^ James Dalrymple, Ninth Annual Report of the State Inspector of Coal Mines (Denver, Colorado: Eames Brothers, State Printers, 1921), 1.
  8. ^ Rick Clyne, Coal People (Arizona: CHS, 1999), 72.
  9. ^ Carl Ubbelohde, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith,A Colorado History, 9 ed.(Colorado:
    Pruett Publishing, 2006), 44-45.
  10. ^ H. Lee Scamehorn, Mill & Mine: the CF&I in the Twentieth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 201.
  11. ^ H. Lee Scamehorn, Mill & Mine: the CF&I in the Twentieth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 201.
  12. ^ H. Lee Scamehorn, Mill & Mine: the CF&I in the Twentieth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 33.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Thomas G. Andrews, Killing For Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 128.
  15. ^ J. Stuart. Richards, Early Coal Mining in the Anthracite Region (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002), 9.
  16. ^ William H. McKenzie, Mountain to Mill: the Colorado and Wyoming Railway (Colorado Springs, Colo.: MAC Pub, 1982), 115.