Centerville, Iowa

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Centerville is a city in and the county seat of Appanoose County, Iowa, United States.[1] The population was 5,924 at the 2000 census. After the turn of the 20th century Centerville had a booming coal mining industry that attracted many European immigrants. The city today remains the home of many Swedish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Croatian-Americans, Albanian-Americans and others descended from immigrants who worked in the mines.



Founded in 1846 by Jonathon Stratton under the name of "Chaldea," the city was planned around a unique two-block long city square. The name was later changed to Senterville, named after Dewitt Clinton Senter, a prominent Tennessee politician. When incorporation papers were filed in 1855, someone mistook the name for a misspelling and corrected it to Centerville.[2]

A mining town

The first coal mine in Centerville was opened in 1868, with its mine shaft about one-half mile from the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot. Horse-power was used to raise coal from the mines until 1872, when the Watson Coal Company opened a mine equipped with a steam hoist. The Centerville Block Coal Company, organized in 1894, consolidated the operation of numerous mines in the region to become the dominant mining company. In 1914, Centerville Block Coal produced over 100,000 tons of coal, ranking among the top 24 coal producers in the state. Centerville Block's largest competitor, formed around the same time, was the Scandinavian Coal Company, organized by a group of Swedish immigrants.[3][4] By 1938, coal production in the Centerville region was 600,000 tons per year.[5] The mines were in the Mystic coal bed, 125 feet below ground in Centerville but exposed at the surface in Mystic, 5 miles to the northwest.[6]

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