Fieldworking: San Toy, Ohio

Google Maps did not take me to San Toy, Ohio. It gave me a general approximation but in the end I had to guess. I saw a street sign that said Santoy Road and I turned. San Toy was a rough coal mining town established by the Sunday Creek Coal Company. At it’s height it had a population of approximately 2500, several saloons, a theater, a baseball team, and by some (apocryphal) accounts, a murder every day.

Construction of Mine No.2 San Toy, The Little Cities Archive
Construction of Mine No.2 San Toy, The Little Cities Archive

San Toy only had two mine shafts aptly named Mine No. 1 and No. 2. In September, 1924, a group of disgruntled miners set Mine No. 1 on fire. Three years later when it was time to renegotiate union contracts Sunday Creek decided it was better to abandon the operation than go through negotiations and pay to upgrade equipment. They opted instead to shut the mine down.

Burning of Mine No. 1 San Toy 1927, The Little Cities Archive
Burning of Mine No. 1 San Toy 1927, The Little Cities Archive

Now the area is covered with no trespassing signs, which I am always more than happy to abide by. I was still able to get some nice images from the roadway. The Jailhouse is the most intact building. It is small and squat and sits just off the main road. It is really difficult to reconcile the historical photographs of clear cut landscape and company houses…

San Toy deserted, 1927, The Little Cities Archive
San Toy deserted, 1927, The Little Cities Archive

…with the overgrown, tucked away landscape of today. There are no views at all, only sight lines to the next tree or beyond that to where the horizon rises sharply into another hill. And it is quiet. There are private residences close by, with in walking distance, but it is still very quiet and sound seems to be muffled.

Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead
San Toy Jailhouse, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead

The people who live on the road aren’t officially a part of San Toy. The town was unincorporated in 1931 when a majority of the few remaining residents voted to dissolve it. It had the ignoble distinction of being the town in the United States whose population had decreased the most per capita since the previous census (976 in 1920 to just 128 in 1930). My favorite part of the ghost town is the brick roadway peeking through the more recent pavement on Santoy Road.

San Toy Road, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead
San Toy Road, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead

I love this. It is like the past is literally pushing through to the present, demanding to be noticed. The opposite is true of the buildings that remain in the area. While these bricks under foot seem to be a sturdy and stoic reminder of the community that used to be here, the scattered foundations and crumbling walls just off the road are folding back into the landscape, slowly and steadily.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead
Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead

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