Down a back road in southern Ohio lies the remains of a once bustling, rough coal mining town. If you looks to the left and to the right, the woods will reveal evidence of a town that existed a hundred years ago. A small section of cobblestone street and sidewalks peek out to those who drive by. Brick foundations stand silently as reminders of the past. The miners houses that once doted the hillside have long been torn down and the trees have once again reclaimed the land. However, if you listen closely, you can hear what the remnants of the town are telling you – the story of San Toy.
The mining town of San Toy grew rapidly. Between 1900 to 1927, San Toy prospered and the population grew to over 2500 almost overnight. The two mines were situated a mile apart with the town centered in the middle. At its peak, San Toy had a company store and offices, railroad offices, post office, clubhouse, amusement hall, church, three schools, drug store, cafes, seven saloons, theatre, hospital, two hotels, jailhouse, and several smaller stores. The streets were made with cobblestone and in the middle of town was a working traffic light, now overgrown as if trying to nestle itself in the past. Presently all that remains is the pump house which is located near the remains of the amusement hall and the jailhouse.
San Toy had a reputation for being rowdy and tough, unruly and wild. It is said that if you walked down the railroad tracks at night with a lantern, someone would shoot it out. Countless robberies, murders, and gunfights were common. A man was shot during a dispute over whiskey. Another man was killed while preventing a robbery. A peddler that came to town was killed for his goods. A saloon owner was killed after he refused to allow a young boy to be served alcohol. A gunfight in the street over a $20 dispute took the life of one man and critically wounded the other man. San Toy was full of men who had little to do when they weren’t working other than drink and fight.
San Toy and its two mines were originally owned by the New England Coal Company until 1915 when the operations were taken over by the Sunday Creek Coal Company. Mining continued until March 25, 1924 when some miners, angry over union contract negotiations, piled railroad ties into a coal cart, set them on fire and rolled them into mine #1. The fire spread rapidly, destroying not only the mine but also the theatre and hospital. Mine #2 continued operations until 1927 when it was decided that rather than modernize the mine and equipment, they would simply close the mine. This marked the beginning of San Toy’s collapse.
The town tried to survive for a few years after the mines closed with no avail. The mines were the main thing that had kept the town alive. By 1930, less than half of original population remained. In 1931, there weren’t many residents still living in the shell of what had been San Toy. In a vote of 17 to 2, the residents decided to abandon the town.
From booming mining town to ghost town, San Toy offers a glimpse into the history of long ago. To check out San Toy for yourself, take State Route 555 in Perry County to San Toy Road. At the end of the road, you’ll notice some cobblestone streets peering up through the gravel and an old traffic light in the middle of a small grassy patch. Look to the left side and the right side to see what is left of San Toy.