Soon after the toll-bridge was built, coal was discovered nearby during the drilling of a water well. Mines resulted, which brought a wave of immigrant families to the area, making the community lively and diverse. Oil and gas, rock crusher, and trucking/hauling operations are the modern-day industries that still support the town’s families.
Coal, Oil & Gas
The coal mines in Bridgeport date back to the middle 1800's. Frank Bordner is one of the few Bridgeport residents whose father worked in the Coal Mines. Little data was collected about these early mines, even though they were instrumental in forming a base for early Bridgeport economy. Most of our information has come from individuals who remember stories told to them by friends and relatives. The elder Bordner verified the location of fourteen mines and consequently, Frank mapped them. He has supplied much of the mining history of Bridgeport.
History of Coal Mining in Bridgeport, Texas
Coal, Bridgeport's "black gold", was discovered in 1860 as Charles D. Gates was digging a water well. However, mining did not begin until the late 1880's with the first mine named Wise County Coal #1 in the northeast part of town. "Drift # 1" came next in the southeast part of town. Around 1900 the "Bridgeport Coal Company was formed in west Bridgeport. After that, mines 2, 3, and 4 were sunk operating until about 1929. The " Cockle Burr Mine", sunk in the early thirties was never operated because water flooded the chambers.
There are 14 mines which can be identified today. There were probably more mines than this but they cannot be verified.
From 1931 until 1941 Tom Byrnes, a former Bridgeport Coal Company foreman, owned two coal mines. The first one was “the Dead Rat” and the second was “the Byrnes and Byrnes“. There are no known photos of the Byrnes & Byrnes but a replica was made by Frank Bordner and is shown in the photograph.
Two other mines on the outer limits of Bridgeport were the Grill and Carrier mines. These two mines lasted about one year.
The Singleton Mine, shown above, operated for about two years. It was abandoned in 1942.
During the operation of these mines there were 500--600 miners of which 75 % immigrated from Mexico as far back as 1901 (according to the Dallas Morning News). Most of these Mexicans lived in Company houses, traded at the Company store which was stocked with groceries, hardware, clothing and a meat market. In the corner of the store was a small bank where the miners could exchange their company “scrip” for U. S. money so they could go to “town” and make purchases .
Coal from the Byrnes & Byrnes mine was taken to Fort Worth to detect tar and sulfur leading to the manufacturing of new products. It seemed so promising that Mr. Byrnes had a double shaft mine sunk on the Lake Bridgeport Road. This was just before 1942. Then, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the declaration of World War II, many workers left the mines to work in defense plants, trains were converting to oil, natural gas was being used to heat homes, and no workers were left to continue the back breaking work of the miners. The coal shale tailings were hauled away to the local brick company for new brick. There is no evidence today of coal mining ever existing in Bridgeport.
On 9 December 1997, Melissa Majka, interviewed Frank Bordner on his memories of the Coal Mine Industry in Bridgeport, Texas. Melissa prepared a paper reflecting Franks thoughts. Read this paper to get a better understanding of the coal mine years in Bridgeport. Click on the document to the left in order to read the interview with Frank.
Frank."Petie" Bordner was constantly being ask questions about the coal mines of Bridgeport. Since Franks father had passed on his coal mining knowledge he decided to put a little bit of this data on paper. In the summer of 1994, Frank prepared an article titled " A Little Bit About The Coal Mines and The Company". You can read this article by clicking on the document on the left.
The veins of coal in the Bridgeport area were small so the miners had to work on their hands & knees and sometimes had to lie on their backs. The tools that the miners used were very small due to the limited work space. To view photos of the tools and understand how they were used click on the photo on the left.
There are a number of photographs from the coal mine days shown on a page titled "Memories From The Past". Some of the photographs are identified and some are not. Click on the title and view some of the past coal mine history.