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The Osage Coal and Mining Company became the first commercial mining company in Indian Territory and continued a large operation into the twentieth century. In 1872 Joshua Pulsey leased a mine three miles east of the original town of McAlester to the Osage Company. This created legal turmoil for the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. At that time, under Choctaw law the discoverer of minerals controlled that resource for one mile in each direction and could lease it to another party. However, both the nations wanted the royalties paid to them. In 1883 an agreement declared that the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations and the "discoverers" would each receive a royalty percentage. The Osage Company, together with the Atoka Coal and Mining Company, both original subsidiaries of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, paid around two million dollars in royalties from 1872 until 1897.

No. 5 Osage Coal and Mining Company, McAlester, IT 1899

The Osage Coal and Mining Company operated in Missouri and Kansas as well as in Indian Territory. In 1875 the company leased a mine from William Pulsey at Krebs, where it headquartered. James J. McAlester, Daniel M. Hailey, and Tandy Walker also discovered and leased early mines to the Osage Company, which shipped coal to Texas towns and as far south as Mexico. In 1888 the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway acquired the full stock in the company. In 1894 the company mined 226,523 tons of coal; this number mounted to 269,580 by 1900. In 1895 the Osage company employed eight hundred men, behind only the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railway Company in number of miners. In 1896 the Osage company paid seventy-five cents a ton for mining screened coal and sixty cents a ton for raw coal. This company was the first to manufacture coke in Indian Territory and by 1898 annually produced more than eighteen tons of coke. In 1896 William Cameron, superintendent for the company's mines, invented the long-wall system of mining, which was a safer, more productive open-face mining technique. This method spread into most of the larger mines.

As they organized, striking miners hampered company operations, most notably in the 1894 strike that shut down most Indian Territory mine operators. The Osage Coal and Mining Company may be most remembered for the 1892 mine disaster at its Number Eleven mine in Krebs. Differing reports counted between sixty-seven to one hundred men killed and around another two hundred injured. Between 1885 and 1934 at least 144 mining deaths occurred in the course of Osage operations. The Great Depression triggered in 1929 caused the company to shut down the mines at Krebs and auction its equipment.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gene Aldrich, "A History of the Coal Industry in Oklahoma to 1907" (Ph.D diss., University of Oklahoma, 1952). Don F. Badinelli, "Struggle in the Choctaw Nation: The Coal Miners Strike of 1894," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 72 (Fall 1994). David Bowden, "Toll Roads and Railroads: A Case of Economic Conflict in the Choctaw Nation, 1870-1876," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 74 (Winter 1996-97). Frederick Lynne Ryan, The Rehabilitation of Oklahoma Coal Mining Communities (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1935). Report of the Select Committee to Investigate Matters Connected with Affairs in the Indian Territory (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1907). Geoffrey Satter, The Grim Reaper's Visits to Oklahoma's Coal Mines (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Geoffrey Satter, 2000).

Larry O'Dell

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