the burning earth

somewhere between New Straitsville, Murray City, and Shawnee, a fire is burning, burning the earth beneath, unquenchable. way back in 1884, a group of striking miners, sent a “take-this-job-and-shove-it” message to their bosses by sending several coal cars with oil-drenched timbers deep into the mine. at that time, the known vein of coal there was at least 14 feet thick, but nobody knew where it stopped, where it branched off, nor when nor how it would die out…

finding the evidence of the still-burning fire is like a patchwork mystery, especially since much of the surface now is under the authority of Wayne National Forest, and the government would rather you not off into the woods hunting for signs of it…


….but it is still burning. I know, I smelled the sulfur coming from what at first looked like a cave…

but when I stepped near the entrance and took a look inside, I knew I had discovered a mine. so now, over a hundred years later, I knelt down near white sand and saw a tree limb covered in an ashen-like material inside the mine opening.



less than a mile down the road, mounds of coal still lay exposed on the ground, and I caught a whiff of the pungent scent of burning coal…


a few locals- descendants of miners- told me over the years that you could tell where the fire was if you went looking for steaming patches of ground not covered by fresh snow in the winter time. but asked if I could find remnants of it any other time of year, they said that it was unlikely anyone would find it today.

do you think they may still be embarrassed that their ancestors set the earth on fire?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: