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A Black Utopia in the Heartland, An Expanded Edition

Dorothy Schwieder, Joseph Hraba, Elmer Schwieder

Publication Year: 2003

From 1900 until the early 1920s, an unusual community existed in America's heartland-Buxton, Iowa. Originally established by the Consolidation Coal Company, Buxton was the largest unincorporated coal mining community in Iowa. What made Buxton unique, however, is the fact that the majority of its 5,000 residents were African Americans—a highly unusual racial composition for a state which was over 90 percent white. At a time when both southern and northern blacks were disadvantaged and oppressed, blacks in Buxton enjoyed true racial integration—steady employment, above-average wages, decent housing, and minimal discrimination. For such reasons, Buxton was commonly known as “the black man's utopia in Iowa.”

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. v-vi

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A Buxton Retrospective: Introduction to the 2003 Edition

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pp. vii-xviii

In 1980, when we began to research the history of Buxton, a coal mining community that existed in southeastern Iowa between 1900 and the early 1920s, it quickly became apparent that the Buxton story was unusual in several respects. Buxton had been, after all, the largest unincorporated coal mining community in the state. Most important, however, was that Buxton's population of 5,000 contained a majority of...

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pp. xix-xx

We are grateful to many people for assistance with the Buxton project.First, we would like to acknowledge and thank the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service of the Department of the Interior for a grant for the period June 1, 1980, to May 31, 1982, which under wrote the cost of the interdisciplinary research for this study. The...

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pp. 1-12

In 1881 the Chicago and North Western Railroad purchased the Consolidation Coal Company in Muchakinock, Iowa. This move marked the beginning of an association between the railroad and the Iowa coal industry that lasted almost half a century. Through its subsidiary, the Consolidation Coal Company, the Chicago and North Western dominated that industry, controlling the state's three...

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1. Muchakinock: Buxton’s Historical Antecedent

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pp. 13-39

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, thousands of people arrived in Iowa, seeking work in one of the state's nearly four hundred coal mines. Many newcomers, foreign-born and native-born alike, would find employment in small coal camps like Smoky Hollow, Foster, and Enterprise, while perhaps an, equal number would settle in larger, incorporated communities such as Seymour...

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2. The Creation of a Community

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pp. 40-63

N September 1903 the Bystander presented the "Buxton Souvenir Edition" to inform its readers of the wonders of a most unusual coal camp. The beautiful town of Buxton, the newspaper proclaimed, was "the model mining camp in Iowa, and perhaps in the United States." The community heralded by the Bystander had come into existence only three years earlier, when officials of the...

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3. Workers in a Company Town

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pp. 64-87

The Consolidation Coal Company constituted the central focus of life in Buxton. Consolidation operated the mines and controlled the town. As employer, Consolidation determined who would work, the type of work to be done, and the conditions under which the work would be performed. But the nature of the coal industry, which...

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4. The Consolidation Coal Company

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pp. 88-112

For residents of Buxton, life began and ended with the Consolidation Coal Company. Because Consolidation founded the community and because Buxton remained a company town throughout its existence, Consolidation made the decisions that either directly or indirectly controlled all aspects of community life. In light of this pervasive...

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5. Family Life

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pp. 113-147

Individuals arriving in Buxton in the early twentieth century would find a community where family life dominated all social and economic activities. Most residents traveled to Buxton in family units, and once there, like coal mining populations elsewhere at the time, the great majority of residents lived in household units. As a result, the family served as the basic unit of social...

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6. Ethnicity

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pp. 148-184

In 1902 the editor of the Bystander observed: "Buxton is a new mining town.... Old Muchy used to be the most thoroughly colored town in Iowa, but now Buxton wears that mantle, for she is destined to be when completed, the largest, nicest, and most modern mining town in Iowa and perhaps in the United States." In the next eight years, the Bystander editor was to see his prophecies...

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7. Buxton and Haydock: The Final Years

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pp. 185-209

Fourteen years after its founding, the death knell began to sound for the community of Buxton. In 1914 a series of events took place that produced a leveling off and then a decline in the town's population and business life. In that year Consolidation opened Mine No.18 ten miles west of Buxton and created the coal camp of Consol. Some Buxton families relocated there immediately. The same...

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8. A Perspective

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pp. 210-222

In 1963, Hubert Olin, who was then engaged in research on the history of Iowa's coal mining industry, spoke before a reunion of Buxton residents. Olin asked his audience: "What was the quality of that old camp that sets its traditions so much above those of a hundred other ghost towns?"1 Olin's question goes to the heart of the Buxton story. In the first two decades of the twentieth...


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pp. 223-240

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 241-246


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pp. 247-256

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298950
E-ISBN-10: 1587298953
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877458524
Print-ISBN-10: 0877458529

Page Count: 276
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 551774738
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Buxton

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Subject Headings

  • Coal miners -- Iowa -- Buxton.
  • Buxton (Iowa) -- Race relations.
  • Buxton (Iowa) -- Social conditions.
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