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The Avery Album

Tony Humeston

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Monroe County, Iowa was at the center of a bustling coal-mining industry. Hundreds of mines of all varieties dotted the landscape of southeastern Iowa. When a new vein was discovered, people came to work it and when the coal was exhausted, the people moved on. Coal camps came and went with the rhythm of mining. Some became towns. Others became mere memories.

The town of Avery, originally known as Coffman because of an early settler, was an exception. Established first as a real estate venture, it thrived on the promise of becoming a railroad town. When the railroad bypassed the town, coal became its lifeblood. But Avery was far more than a coal camp. The four pillars of the community church, school, family, and neighbors ensured that the town survived even the end of mining as attention turned away from Iowa mines to lower-sulphur deposits in western states.

Much of the documentation of Avery was lost in a fire in the 1920s. But photos and first-hand stories survive.

Tony Humeston is a native of Monroe County, Iowa. He is also the author of Shenanigans, a memoir of growing up in Albia, Iowa.

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