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041314-nws-zeigler-focus

This two-story building sat in the center of the Zeigler Circle and housed administrative offices for the coal company on the first floor and private living quarters for the company's founder upstairs. 

ZEIGLER — The city of Zeigler was incorporated 100 years ago but the seeds of this Franklin County town were actually sown much earlier.

The roots of the town run all the way north to Chicago, where Levi Zeigler Leiter made his fortune through a number of ventures including real estate holdings and as a co-founder and partner in the dry goods firm that was later known as Marshall Field & Co., according to Allan Patton, historian and author of the book “In the Shadow of the Tipple: Zeigler, Illinois.”

Leiter turned his attention toward the southern part of the state near the end of the 19th Century and saw the promise of a land filled with rich coal.

When his initial efforts to purchase a mine in Carterville failed, he hired a geologist who found the same seam of coal ran north into Franklin County.

After purchasing more than 7,000 acres of land in the southwest part of the county, he sent an engineering team down to begin sinking a coal mine, the first in the county, Patton said, in 1903.

Construction on the Zeigler No. 1 mine was completed in 1904.

So confident was Leiter in his new venture, legend has it, that when the cornerstone was laid for the engine house, mortar was mixed with champagne instead of water, Patton said, and the stone engraved with 2904 rather than 1904 because “It was a mine a thousand years ahead of its time.”

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