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M. F. Smith Parsons Kans Info
In Response To: Working In A Coal Mine! ()

Many at the outing found the cast brass miner’s checks with “M. F. Smith” over the hole, “Parsons, Kas.” under the hole, and a one to three digit number, so I am posting this information again.

M. F. Smith was the check manufacturer, not the mine company. Some of them had the cast number chisled off and another number stamped on the check. The reason for this is when a miner would come to work at the mine and he had checks from a mine he worked at previously, if the employee number was already in use he could not use them as is. So it was either buy a new number set of checks from the “company store” or improvise. To save money they would chisle the old number off of all their checks and stamp them with a new employee number not in use at that mine. Each set of checks would number 10 to 20 checks.

I have read accounts of mines where a hearty miner could load 20 coal carts a day. In the Choctaw Nation and later Oklahoma the pay per ton of coal was 75 cents to $1.75. As hard and hazardous the work was, this was good pay for those days. Hope everyone gained an appreciation for what it meant to be coal miner in the Choctaw Nation and early Oklahoma. Gives some meaning to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “You Load 16 Tons”.

Below is a little history on M. F. Smith from a 1901 Labette County History:

MILLARD F. SMITH, manufacturer of, and wholesale dealer in, coal miners' supplies, is probably best known by reason of his invention of the M. F. Smith Double and Single Post Drilling Machine, which is widely used in the mining states of the West. He is a practical man, and has met with success in his business ventures.

Millard F. Smith attended the common schools until he was thirteen years of age, after which he was obliged to clothe and support himself. He worked in a woolen mill at Grasshopper Falls, Kansas, now called Valley Falls. He was left in Wilson county, in 1870, and was employed in the grist-mills owned by Beam & Sons. He purchased a farm in Wilson county, which he rented, and in 1870, located at Parsons, and was employed by G. W. Chess, who built the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway shops. His first work there was in guarding around the machine shops, and he helped Foreman Burns to carry the first ladle of iron in the shops. He had begun to work as fireman when a lad of but fifteen years, and by 1870 was a good engineer.

In the early "seventies," he ran the engine, in the old Parsons flour mill, owned by Knox, Chess & Matthewson, and then went to Lake City, Colorado, where he operated a shingle-mill and sawmill by contract, until 1877, for Gibert, Hall & Company. In the fall of 1877, he returned to Parsons, and ran a flouring-mill engine for one year. He returned to his farm in August, 1878, and remained there the following winter.

He then engaged as engineer for the National Mill & Elevator Company, of Parsons, for eighteen months, and in 1882 bought a patent-right for Nebraska and Dakota, of a rotary pump, which did not prove a success. In Plattsmouth, Nebraska, he worked in a foundry and was also fireman on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, from Plattsmouth to Omaha and Hastings. He also put the machinery into a grist-mill in that city.

In March, 1884, he returned to Parsons and engaged with the Parsons Coal Company, putting in machinery and running their engines at the Daisy Shaft, Weir City, at which work he remained for three years. It was while there he invented the Smith coal mining drill and brass checks, of which he has since manufactured many thousands, selling them in Indiana, Indian Territory, Arkansas and Colorado.

In 1889, the Smith Manufacturing Company was organized in Parsons, with Mr. Smith as president and general manager, a position he held until 1895, when he withdrew, taking with him the iron and brass departments. The company still turns out the woodwork, handles, etc. The plant was destroyed by fire in 1894. Mr. Smith now owns the building which he occupies, and manufactures Smith drills and coal miners' supplies. He is the only manufacturer of brass checks with raised figures. He owns all the machinery and employs five men.

He also handles coal, and is the only dealer in Parsons who sells Piedmont blacksmithing coal, in car lots. He is the inventor of various novelties, among which is the Eclipse Embroidery Frame and Embroidery Hoop Holder, adjustable to chair, table or bed rail, and used to hold embroidery and fancy work.