Finding abandoned mine shafts in central Tulsa

Tuesday, June 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A long time ago - coal miners worked underneath what is now a midtown Tulsa neighborhood. When they left, they covered over the entrance at 2300 S Toledo. And eventually someone put a driveway right on top of it.

But a few years ago, the dirt started to give way. Now the state of Oklahoma plans to start digging, hoping to follow a mineshaft discovered underneath the driveway. News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan has one man's story of discovery underground.

Joe Ethridge, homeowner: "I want to know where this things going." It's a simple request but a big problem. Several years ago Joe Ethridge found a hole in his yard. “I thought this thing was a raccoon or a possum under the driveway and I would throw a little dirt on it and go on. And it got a little bit bigger and I stuck my head under there, then I dug it out a little and then I crawled under there.”

And he took a camera - to get some pictures of what he figures is a mineshaft underneath the driveway. “Surprise, surprise.” The hole is just a couple of feet wide, but anyone who cares to can peek underneath and see a piece of Tulsa's history. It's a 10 by 10 room connected to a deep shaft.

Souvenirs of mining occasionally wash up inside. The neighborhood sit atop an area dotted with mines that once stretched across Tulsa, between Lewis and Sheridan. Coal mining stopped by 1950 as neighborhoods sprang up. In the late 1930's the fairgrounds area was busy with underground coal mining. There's a big mine underneath Drillers stadium, another under Target and Sears across the road - and the mine shafts extend all way south to 31st Street.

And apparently - one is underneath Joe Ethridge's driveway. The state plans to dig it up to find out. The state of Oklahoma’s maps don't have this shaft on it - so no one knows for sure how big it is or where it leads. They'll dig it up soon to find out.