Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
From the 1880s to the Great Depression Hackett was a booming town. Coal drove the economy, but there was significant agriculture as well. Coal was king, though. Hackett coal is ideal for making coke, basically the coal counterpart of charcoal. Coke was and still is used in enormous quantities to produce steel, and during The Gilded Age the steel mills were running at capacity.
Not just any coal will make suitable coke. The particular kind of bituminous coal found at Hackett is ideal for coking and hundreds of men mined it there. There were rail lines to carry it away and it found its way up north to the steel mills.