City of
Frontenac, KS





 

One of the Mount Carmel Mines, formerly the Cherokee and Pittsburg Coal and Mining Company, located in the Frontenac area.


History of Frontenac


Established in 1886 Frontenac, Kansas has its roots in the mining industry. As part of the Cherokee-Crawford Coal Fields it drew a large part of its workforce from European immigrants. In the early decades the population was largely made up of Italian and Sicilian immigrants along with Irish, Scottish, Belgians, and Germans. The diverse culture encouraged numerous ethnic grocery stores and social lodges. Despite the severe ban by the State of Kansas on the distribution, sale, and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, drinking parlors and saloons catering to the various ethnic populations also thrived.

Frontenac was home to the worst mining disaster in Kansas history. On November 9, 1888 a miner setting explosives accidentally ignited the dry coal dust drifting through the mine. The burning coal dust exploded the full keg of gun powder he was working with, killing the man immediately. The explosion spread to additional gun powder kegs. The mine itself was largely undamaged, but 44 men and boys were killed. Two of the miners who died were only thirteen years old. The tragedy resulted in stricter state regulations on use of mining explosives which changed the entire industry.

The economic collapse following Black Thursday in 1929 set up the decline of the coal market Frontenac relied on. At the end of World War II, as the demand for coal dropped severely, the mines closed. Frontenac did not disappear as many old mining towns have done, however. Today the convenient drive to cities such as Pittsburg, Joplin, Kansas City, and Springfield allow residents the amenities of a large city while preserving the close ties of a small town. Frontenac has also preserved much of its ethnic roots in its local businesses.