Sheridan Area
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About This Site

Carneyville, Wyo., 1914

Carneyville, also north of Sheridan, was founded by timber and coal magnates William J. Carney (1855-1927) of Chicago and his brother Bernard J. Carney (1852-1908) of Omaha in 1903. The following year, the brothers established the Carney Coal Company.

Wm. J. Carney

In 1919, the town was the scene of a major dust-up involving the Army engaging in an unauthorized use of force against civilians. In 1919 following the end of World War I, Throughout the West, coal miners had gone on strike. In October, a settlement was reached at the behest of the federal government. The government regarded the strike as a violation of the Federal Food Control Act which made it a violation to interfere with the transporation of food. The government was still "administering" the railroads. In its operation of the railroads, federal goverment was operating a deficit. Therefore, the strike in the mines was an act of treason against the federal government. As expressed by the Philadelphia Public Ledger:

It is profoundly unfortunate that the present emergency finds the head of the Federal government temporarily handicapped by illness from the full and energetic exercise of his powers; but the people may have full confidence that those powers will be used and that his warning is backed by a dertmination to put down treason whereever it shall be found. Under the circumstances, a strike of the miners would be treasonable, and should be treated as such. As quoted in the New York Tribune, November 2, 1919.

The settlement, however, was more favorable to miners in the larger coal areas of southern Wyoming and in Colorado. Thus, the miners in Carneyville went out on strike.

On November 1, a contingent of the 15th Cavalry under the command of Major Warren Dean from Fort D. A. Russell reached Fort Mackenzie outside of Sheridan. The reassignment was allegedly at the request of Governor Carey. On November 26, the strike was broken by use of the newly reassigned troops pursuant to orders of Brigadier General Benjamin A. Poore. The troops invaded the town with fixed bayonets, surrounding the pool hall where some of the stikers had gathered. Leaving the miners at the pool hall under guard, other troops, without warrant, then conducted a systematic house-to-house search of all the dwellings in the town, ordering all male occupants at bayonet point to the pool hall where a new "election" was held calling off the strike. fifty-two of the men were then taken as prisoners to Fort Mackenzie including one who was held in solitary confinement when he refused to sweep out the army guard house. The miners were theatened with deportation on the basis that they were "agitators," "Reds," and were conspiring to continue an unauthorized strike. The same process was then followed in Monarch where all of the men in the town, including one taken away from his dinner table, were marched at the point of bayonets to the Union Hall where another "election" was held which also predictable called off the strike.

According to the New York Times, November 27, 1919, Secretary of War, Newton Diehl Baker, Jr., found it to be "inconceivable" that an army officer would order the arrest of coal miners for their failure to return to work. Major Dean argued that he was acting under the authority of Sheriff Dolph Thomas. Sheriff Thomas argued that he acted under the authorty of Major Dean. Sheridan County prosecuting attorney M. L. Baker stated that he had received no request from Sheriff Thomas for any charges to be filed nor did he believe any state laws were applicable to their cases.

Carneyville Red Cross Volunteers supporting World War I efforts, approx. 1918.

The use of the regular army to break the strike was, of course, a violation of Section 15 of the Posse Comitatus Act of June 18, 1878:

SEC. 15. From and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress; and no money appropriated by this act shall be used to pay any of the expenses incurred in the employment of any troops in violation of this section And any person willfully violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding two years or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Carneyville Tipple, undated.

In 1923, the Carneyville was renamed "Kleenburn" after the brand of coal the company sold for household use." At its peak the town had a population of about 2,000 of which half were employees of the coal company. In 1933, newspapers announced that Kleenburn would be abandoned. The location of the mines are marked by subsidences caused when the pillars supporting the mine roofs were removed in the abandonement of the mines or by mine fires which were burning as late as the 1970's. Today, little remains of the town except the St. Thomas cemetery which was located behind the St. Thomas Catholic Church. The church itself is now gone. After the church burned in 1924 it was rebuilt in the nearby coal town of Monarch. At its peak, 450 men were employed in the Carneyville mine.

St. Thomas Cemetery, Carneyville, Wyo.

The cemetery in December, 1908, with the first burial that of a two-month old boy. The cemetery is reflective of the harsh conditions in the coal camps. One gravestone bearing a lamb marks the grave of of seven-month old girl who died in 1916. The last burial was in 1940, the year than many of the ines in the area were abandoned. In 2009, theWyoming Department of Environmental Quality commenced a $395,000 clean-up of a portion of the former site of Carneyville.

Other coal towns in the area included Kooi, named after Peter Kooi who came to the area in 1904. Kooi (pronounced "Coy.") originally was employed by the Wyoming Coal Mining Company at Monarch. He opened his own mine in 1907.

Carneyville Tipples, approx. 1910

In 1920, the Sheridan-Wyoming Coal Company was incorporated under the laws of the State of Deleware. The new company acquired the various mines operated by the Sheridan Coal Company, the Carney Coal Company, the Acme Coal Company, the Monarch Coal Company and the Kooi Coal Company. The Acme Coal Company had establsihed its mines in 1910. Like the other companies, the town of Acme was a company town. Sheridan-Wyoming operated seven mines and owned 875 houses occupied by the miners and had the capacity of mining 5,000,000 tons of coal a year.

Acme, approx. 1910

The Acme mine before it closed on April 1, 1940, employed 150 men. In 1963, the town was purchased by Merlon Bond. At the time the town consisted of a general store, post office, and a three-room school house as well as various cottages rented out to residents. In 1968, the town was sold for $100,000. With new owners there was a hope for a rejuvination of the town. In 1966-1967 a new 185 ft. high coal silo was constructed. In January, 1977, the town was sold to Peter Kiewit Sons Mining Co. Five months later, residents received a letter advising that everyone in the town needed to move out by September 1 so the town site could be cleared of all housing and the small trailer park in order to construct a warehouse, shop, office, and parking lot. The residents appealed to the Board of County Commissioners for assistance in vain. After all efforts at recourse failed, one resident commented, "We will all go quietly."

Acme Tipple, undated.

Thus, Tom Tiede wrote in the Prescott [AZ] Courier, Sept. 13, 1977, "The lights will wink off, the water will be cut, the bulldozers will swarm in, and the village will be leveled. It can't be otherwise here. Some towns in the west have been too tough to die; Acme, Wyoming is too weak to live."

Acme Power Plant, 1913.

In October, a spokesman for the company, Dean Skalla, admitted that the May letter was not quite the whole truth. It was almost as if the company was doing the residents a favor, "It's not a very good place to live with a 24-hour mining operation right in your backyard, almost," Skalla said. Gadsden [Ala.] Times, October 24, 1977. A major reason for the mass eviction was, he said, was because the company could not afford to renovate the sewer and water works. He explained it was not necessary to spell out reasons in the May letter. Acme today has an open pit mine. In September, 1999, the coal silo was removed. The first effort at blowing it up was less than sucessful, it remained standing, leaning at an angle, almost as if to say, "I am really too tough to die."

Next page, Hudson.