Joseph E. Bevins, a prominent coal operator and well known old citizen of Pittsburg and Crawford county, has the distinction of being among the first to mine coal in this county and thus open up the resources upon which have depended in great measure the material and industrial wealth and activity of the county. His life since boyhood has been spent in this county, and his diligence and intelligent endeavors, his capacity for working straight ahead to the goal of his ambition, and his long continued efforts in the right direction have placed him among the influential and well-to-do class of citizens. He has been acquainted with southeastern Kansas when it was an unbroken stretch of prairie still the haunt of the deer and buffalo, and has progressed with the country's development to a highly desirable state of material prosperity. He is well liked throughout the county and among his many business associates and friends, and has gained and merited their esteem by a public-spirited and generous career.
Mr. Bevins was born near Perry City, Illinois, in 1853, a son of Thomas and Mary (Kirkland) Bevins. His parents were both natives of England and were married there, and shortly after came to this country. They settled in McDonough county, Illinois, in 1845, and were prosperous farmers there until 1870, when the family all migrated to the state of Kansas, taking up their home in Crawford county. Mr. Thomas Bevins purchased a farming tract four miles northeast of where Pittsburg now stands, his farm being a part of the "Joy" land. In the first years of their residence there the nearest house to the Bevins homestead was two miles away, and it was incumbent on them to develop a farm from the virgin prairie before attempting a settled course of agriculture. Thomas Bevins is now deceased, but his wife is still living in Pittsburg.
Mr. J. E. Bevins was reared to manhood on the Illinois farm, but after moving to Kansas with his father he became interested in coal mining as a side line, at first spending his winters in the mines and working on the farm in the summer. There were no mines at that time, however, in Crawford county, and when he took employment as a coal miner in the fall of 1870 it was in the mines at Fort Scott in Bourbon county. He was among the first to realize the profit of the coal industry in this county, and his practical experience as a miner led him in 1874 to begin getting out coal in the Pittsburg district. He leased a piece of land at the point where now the Litchfield bridge crosses the east prong of Cow creek, and here he uncovered the coal deposits by "stripping." He carried on a custom trade with the farmers of the neighborhood and from across the Missouri line, and at that time he sold coal for a cent and a half a bushel. He continued his dual work as farmer and coal operator for several years, and then gave up farming, and has since devoted all his time and energies to the coal industry in this district. In that time many improvements have been wrought in the manner and effectiveness of mining, and the coal industry has long since become an important element in the country's wealth. For twenty-two years he took out coal from the tract of land where Midway is now located. He also did contract work in connection with the building of the first railroad through Pittsburg, the Joplin and Girard Railroad, now a part of the Frisco. At the present time Mr. Bevins is operating a mine a mile and a half north and half mile west of Pittsburg. He also owns two good farms in the western part of the county. He is well known as a pioneer coal operator, and a citizen who through nearly thirty-five years of residence has performed an honorable part in all spheres of activity to which he has been called.
Mr. Bevins affiliates with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America, and he and his wife are also members of the Rebekahs and the Rathbone Sisters. Mr. Bevins was married September 16, 1877, to Miss Mary Spragg, and they have two children, Mrs. Etta Locke and J. A. Bevins.Pages 381-383 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Sean Miller and other students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in April, 2003.
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