William Wilkinson was born in Pelton Fell, England in 1862. He worked in the mines from the age of 10 and came to Weir City, Kansas, in 1883 at the age of 20 to continue mining.
In 1917, he started his own deep mine a mile south of Fleming, Kansas. He and his wife, Mary, reared seven children: Raymond, Clifford, Morris, Cecil, Bernice, Bill, and Jack. The siblings and their spouses were active in the mining business during their lifetimes.
In 1923, The Wilkinson Coal Company started another mine one mile north of Weir City.
William Wilkinson died in 1932 and his sons continued the mining operation.
Due to economic conditions and the advent of strip mining, the deep mine was closed. Cecil left the family mining operation and started working for the Kelce Brothers at the Peabody Coal Company, formerly known as the Sinclair Mining Company at Hume, Missouri.
In 1935, it became evident strip mining was more profitable and the company purchased a Marion Model #37 Steam Shovel from the Joe Klaner Coal Company in Detroit and moved it to southeast Kansas. The Steam Shovel was in operation until 1953.
In 1938, a 222 Page Dragline was purchased and moved from Louisiana to Weir City, Kansas where it was re-assembled and put into operation.
A Walking 618 Page Dragline was purchased in 1953 from Alexandria, Louisiana and shipped by rail to Weir City from the strip mining operation. The dragline was later used for clay mining by the Mission Clay Company.
In 1963, a grass fire touched off an explosion in a powder magazine at the mine. Four people were injured including Mr. and Mrs. Morris Wilkinson, and their son Bill. The fire department[s] from the communities of Pittsburg, Galena, Baxter Springs, Columbus, and Asbury came to the rescue. The explosion destroyed the tipple, machine shop, the scale house, two storage buildings and nine company trucks.
The Wilkinson Coal Company continued to mine coal in Cherokee County until 1979 when EPA regulations required blending Southeast Kansas coal with Wyoming coal for a cleaner blend. It was no longer profitable to continue operation.
The McNally Company and the Wilkinson Coal Company restored and preserved the Marion Model #37 Steam Shovel which rests at the Crawford County Museum. The 222 Page Dragline has been restored and preserved and can be seen at Big Brutus.
The Dragline Bucket that is displayed here has geniouslly donated by the Wilkinson family.