Oral History of Forgottonia – Mining in Western Illinois: Braxton Humphrey’s Interview with David Lidwell


“The two most dangerous occupations were agricultural, and mining. I was raised on a farm and worked on the mines.”

David Lidwell

As part of our Oral History in Forgottonia series, Cuba High School junior Braxton Humphrey interviews former miner David Lidwell, about his knowledge and experience working in the mining industry. Mr. Lidwell is a 5th generation coal miner raised on a small farm just outside of Lewistown, Illinois.  His first job as a coal miner was for the Truax Traer Company in Fiatt, Illinois.  From there, he moved into management and began work as a nightshift supervisor for a coal company in southern Illinois.  Two years later, he moved back to the western Illinois region and worked for Midland Coal Company out of Trivoli, Illinois.  In 1990, David and three others acquired the Rapatee Coal Company. This company ceased production in 1996 and finished reclamation work in 1998.  


  • The typical day for the life of a miner
  • Various mining companies in the region
  • The Social Impact that Mining had on Western Illinois
  • The Dangers of Mining
  • Mining Unions & Labor Strikes
  • Why young people in the area should learn about their mining history

Braxton Humphrey BIO

Braxton is a junior at Cuba High School and the son of Justin & Rendy Kass, and Sarah Humphrey. Braxton is involved with history club, football, basketball, baseball, and e-sports. He enjoys Texas Roadhouse and rooting for the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Cardinals. After high school, Braxton is thinking about becoming a mechanic.

This image from the IL Mining Interactive Map located in the heart of Cuba, IL (Western IL) seems to support Cuba’s claim as the Coal Mining Capital
One of the aerial photos of Cuba from 1935 that Braxton & David mention in their conversation
David & Braxton’s conversation referenced the new co-op between Lewiston, Spoon River Valley, & Cuba High Schools and the decision to go with MINERS as the mascot. Braxton was part of the 1st LVC Miners football team this past fall.


Our ORAL HISTORY of FORGOTTONIA series is part of the NCHE Rural Experience in America grant in partnership with the Western IL Museum, and the Western IL University Archives.  In 2021, the National Council for History Education (NCHE) recruited teachers nationwide to participate in free and open professional development that occurred asynchronously and synchronously online, focusing on rural history and historical inquiry using Library of Congress sources. Teachers traveled to Norman, Oklahoma to collaborate with a community partner selected from their hometown to create a public history project.

These community-based, service-learning public history projects enable students to investigate their local and regional histories deeply and to connect their own histories to the larger human experience. A key purpose of this project is to link rural communities and their histories to national narratives and primary source collections, and the targeted focus of this proposal provides an avenue for such purposeful connections.

Our project, The Oral History of Forgottonia, is one of several throughout the country featured by the NCHE. To learn about other projects featured by this grant, check out this list and visit the links at the bottom of this post.


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