Royalton, Illinois U.M.W.A. Miners’ Hall By Toni Coppi

It stood for many years a landmark, as a tribute and a status symbol for the miners who worked the three coal mines in the small village of Royalton, in southern Illinois.

The Miner's Union Hall was the finest building on the main street of this small community, and it stood out from and above the structures in a two-block business district of the town that prospered from 1908 until 1952.

Besides being the site where the miners held their union meetings, it was used for many other activities, such as fund raising events, dances, graduation exercises, political rallies and children's Christmas parties. Everything 'big' from band concerts to prom dances, was held in the ballroom which occupied the top floor of the three-story building.

A Rebecca Lodge met in the hall for some time and, before the first Catholic church was established in Royalton, the parishioners held their religious services in the ballroom.
A former member of John Phillip Sousa's Marching Band, David Love, was the conductor of the Royalton Town Band. The band held their Friday night practices in the ballroom. Miners and their children were invited to hear music sessions free of charge.

During the Depression, the state of Illinois sent truck loads of nonperishable food to the Miner's Hall for distribution to the needy. Bushel bags contained rice, potatoes, powdered milk, flour, canned beans and macaroni.

One large room, a combination of a library, a parlor for playing cards or just idling around, occupied the second floor which was surrounded by outside open roofed porches.

The coal miners of the three mines were members of the United Mine Workers of America and once had the president of the union, John L. Lewis, as one speaker. There was an overflow crowd representing some of the 625 miners who worked at Old Coal Mine #7, the most prosperous of the three mines.
South Mine #5, was another shaft mine, and was sunk in 1906. Due to an excess of water seepage it closed in 1920. A slope mine, called Lyda B, opened in 1949 but worked out after three years.

On the lower floor of the building there were two larger rooms. One was a 'company store,' where some miners purchased groceries and other items with tokens or 'coupon-like money.' An adjoining room served as the city morgue and funeral parlor.

A monument was erected on the small lawn in front of the famed hall in memory of the miners who were killed in two explosions at Old Coal Mine #7. Fifty-two men lost their lives in an explosion on October 27, 1914, and another 21 were killed on September 28, 1918.

The population of Royalton, within a ninety-minute drive southeast of St. Louis, peaked to 3800 inhabitants during the good years but, after the closing of the mines, the numbers decreased to its present count of 1300 people.

After the mines closed, the historic Miner's Hall was no longer the renowned center of activities, and the monument that honored its many miners who were killed 'down below' was moved to the Miner's Cemetery which is located near the grounds where Old #7 had been.
 

 

 April 10, 2003
Miners' Hall As Seen Today.