World’s Greatest Mine Fire

Address: OH 93
New Straitsville, Ohio 43766

During the 9-month Hocking Valley Coal Strike beginning in June 1884, tensions between the Columbus & Hocking Coal and Iron Company and striking miners led to violence and destruction. Starting October 11, 1884, unknown men pushed burning mine cars into six mines located around New Straitsville to protest being replaced by “scab” workers. Mine operators attempted to plug all fissures to no avail. As years passed, ground collapsed under buildings and roadbeds, and mine gases seeped into schools and homes. Residents were evicted and homes demolished. Potatoes baked in the heated soil and roses bloomed in the winter. At times, the fire soared 100 feet in the air and could be seen for five miles.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not broadcast a radio report on the fire and local landowners marketed “The World’s Greatest Mine Fire.” Thousands of tourists paid 25 cents to see guides cook eggs over fire holes and make hot coffee directly from a well. By 1936, the fires burned all the coal in a 36 square mile area. In 1938, the Works Progress Administration tried to create barriers to slow the fire by replacing coal and wood with brick and clay. Journalist Ernie Pyle reported on the fire for NBC Radio and in his syndicated newspaper column. The Wayne National Forest purchased many ruined fire lands in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the State of Ohio shifted a sinking Route 216 to more stable ground. Steaming ground areas stay green and snow free in the winter. The World’s Greatest Mine Fire endures.

Marker Sponsors
Wayne National Forest
New Straitsville History Group
The Ohio History Connection


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