During the 9-month Hocking Valley Coal Strike beginning in June
1884, tensions between the Columbus & Hocking Coal and Iron
Company and striking miners led to violence and destruction.
Starting October 11, 1884, unknown men pushed burning mine cars
into six mines located around New Straitsville to protest being
replaced by "scab" workers. Mine operators attempted to plug all
fissures to no avail. As years passed, ground collapsed under
buildings and roadbeds, and mine gases seeped into schools and
homes. Residents were evicted and homes demolished. Potatoes
baked in the heated soil and roses bloomed in winter. At times,
the fire soared 100 feet in the air and could be seen for five miles.
Ripley's Believe It or Not broadcast a radio report on the fire and local landowners marketed "The World's Greatest Mine Fire." Thousands of tourists paid 25 cents to see guides cook eggs over fire holes and make hot coffee directly from a well. By 1936, the fires burned all the coal in a 36 square mile area. In 1938, the Works Progress Administration tried to create barriers to slow the fire by replacing coal and wood with brick and clay. Journalist Ernie Pyle reported on the fire for NBC Radio and in his syndicated newspaper column. The Wayne National Forest purchased many ruined fire lands in the 1930s.
In the 1970s, the State of Ohio shifted a sinking Route 216 to more stable ground. Steaming ground areas stay green and snow free in the winter. The World's Greatest Mine Fire endures.