By D. Craig Asbury
Special to the MMI
Posted Mar. 26, 2014 @ 12:01 am
It is not uncommon for ancient cities to have disappeared and been forgotten, only to be found centuries later. Progress, natural calamity and abandonment have all created lost cities. Think of Pompeii, Machu Picchu, Angkor or Petra. It makes one wonder how many other lost cities are out there waiting to be discovered.
It was almost 130 years ago, and Moberly was truly the ‘Magic City’. In less than 20 years, the town had grown from a single family to well over 6,000 individuals. Railroad tracks radiated out from the city, and the Wabash Railroad Shops were located there. In just a few years, the town was carved out of the prairie into a formable city of pride and stature. Coal was the power of the day, fueling train engines and power plants. It was also a common source of heat for homes. As Randolph County sat on top of vast coal deposits, and with the railroad criss-crossing though the county, coal was a valuable resource that was ready to be exploited. Scores of men with time and land would tunnel deep into the earth in search for the black rock gold. One such man was Tim Collins.
MOBERLY DAILY MONITOR – Moberly, Missouri – May 17, 1884
Tim Collins will soon have his coal mine in working order. He has more grit and less money than any man in town, and will soon have working the bonanza of North Missouri.
While Moberly was a young city, it was not unknown throughout the country due to its prominence on the railroad line; but a remarkable event would propel Moberly and Tim Collins’ Coal Mine to the headlines of major newspapers nationwide.
The Evening Chronicle – St. Louis, MO – April 8, 1885
A LOST CITY
The Most Startling Discovery of the Age Made by Citizens of Moberly, Randolph County, Mo. While Sinking a Shaft for Coal Mining. A Veritable Pompeii 360 Feet Below the Earth’s Surface Containing Unquestionable Evidence of Human Habitation. Statuary, Utensils, Table, Skilled Masonry, Etc., Attest a Remote But Advanced Age of Civilization. A Human Skeleton of Mammoth Size Discovered. A County Recorder, City Marshall and Other Prominent Citizens Pay a Visit to the Wonderful Subterranean City.
Special Correspondence of The Chronicle.
MOBERLY, MO., April 8. – A singular development has been made in this community within a few days that baffles the theories of scientists and experience of delvers in the earth. Several years ago, Mr. Tim Collins opened a shaft in the northeastern part of this city for the purpose of securing coal, and with the expectation of reaching a six-foot vein of bituminous matter believed to underlie all this section of country. In fact, it has been penetrated in some portions of the county, but its dip is so irregular that it is mere guess work as to the depth at which it may be reached. Mr. Collins is an experienced and skillful miner and so strong was his faith that he exhausted all his means in the prosecution of the work. The hole in the ground stood for a long time, when Briton A. Hill, of your city, was induced to take in interest in the shaft and supplied the means to still farther prospect for the black diamonds. But the hole got deeper and deeper without exposing the anticipated wealth, and finally Mr. Hill refused to further pursue the seemly hopeless search. Mr. Collins, however, is not a man to be intimidated by adverse circumstances. Parties living in Sedalia were interested in the matter and supplied the funds necessary to go deeper into the earth to lay bare the golden stratum. In the meantime the shaft had filled to the depth of 150 feet with water, and new and expensive machinery had to be employed to exhaust the water and allow the borers to go down after the coveted wealth. All this took time and money, both of which were very precious to Tim Collins. He struck several veins of bituminous coal, but the particular vein had not been reached.