Coal haulers

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Coal haulers are a class of pioneering prospectors active in the Birmingham District before the advent of large-scale commercial mining. As defined and described by Mary Gordon Duffee in her "Sketches of Alabama":

"Soon we began to meet a new and distinct phase of population in the 'coal haulers,' the true pioneers of the coal trade. They lived in humble homes built of pine logs, cultivated small patches of corn, peas, and yams, and dug coal wherever it was 'handy to git at,' never more than one wagonload at a time. They spent the whole day going to town to sell the coal for groceries and the necessary jug of liquor. To see one of the these coal wagons was to see them all; generally two oxen pulled a small wagon driven by a gaunt, swarthy man, sitting upright in front, energetically bent on arriving in Tuscaloosa. On the return trip a slow plodding pair of oxen drew a wagon with no visible sign of life within. Of course, there were exceptions of thrifty men who brought home other things than the jug, but, on the average, they were a peculiar type of simple-minded humanity. The coal haulers knew nothing of geological science or research connected with the coal measure. They simply dug coal were it was most clearly exposed and estimated its value by the good it would render them in a trade with Maxwell or Glasscock."

Duffee refers to the general merchants Glascock and Foster and T. J. & R. Maxwell, operating in Tuscaloosa in the 1850s.


  • Brown, Virginia Pounds and Jane Porter Nabers, eds. (1970) Mary Gordon Duffee's Sketches of Alabama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press ISBN 081735011X