FRANKLIN — What do you know about Frontenac? Do you know about the 100-year-old businesses in Frontenac which are still in business today, how the Frontenac Raiders got their name or how teachers managed to teach students of different nationalities in the 1800s?
For the last several years the Frontenac Homecoming Committee amassed an array of artifacts from the coal mining days.
There are so many, in fact, the committee can’t show them all off at once at the Miners Hall Museum, Committee Member Linda Grilz said.
Although the committee often displays their work at their local town hall, the group had an opportunity to partner with the Miners Hall Museum.
The exhibit is part of Miners Hall Museum’s 2019 First Quarter Exhibit, “Little Balkans Coal Camps – Celebrate Frontenac.” The exhibit is open from Jan. 2 through March 30.
Frontenac became a city in 1886. Different nationalities converged into the city and many if not most, worked in mining camps.
The different nationalities had little communities or “societies,”  Grilz said, who they would turn to and they would pitch in together like a family.
“The sense of family and community was there from the very beginning and continues today,” she said. “Were like a big family.”
“It’s a neat thing that has carried on in our community for well over 100 years.”
Speaking of family, lifelong Frontenac resident Grilz’ mother was born in Frontenac, Grilz’ grandparents immigrated from Italy.
Coal mining is part of her family history, her grandfather worked in the underground mine in Frontenac and her father worked in the strip mines for most of his working years.
“Coal mining was very rich in our lives,” she said. “Back in those early days — not that I was around for it — there wasn’t much use for coal in the summertime, and there was no way to support themselves,” Grilz said. “My grandfather farmed and gardened and sold milk and some people bootlegged, women took on ironing and washing.”
Her grandfather also made homemade red wine.
Memories of Grilz’ grandfather and father during her grade school days still come to mind.
“I can remember as a young child going to school in the morning in the winter time you could smell the smell of coal from the heat stove,” she said.
Grilz said the neat thing is, is how the museum has connected so many people when it came to coal mining.
She found a photograph of her grandfather in a photograph at one of the exhibits at the museum.
“There was Louis Baima with a half a ton of grapes, it was so cool to see that, he was here and he did this,” Grilz said. “Now it’s part of a permanent display. I even still have his old mining pants — jeans with a sewn-in inner tube on the knees to protect his pants.
“It makes everything in life come to full circle.”
The connection to coal mining in Frontenac reaches further than southeast Kansas, Grilz said. One of her relatives from Texas visited with another resident while waiting for a haircut — they found out both of their families mined in southeast Kansas.
“There they are 400 miles away sitting in a line getting to get their haircut find out their father and grandfather worked in the same place,” she said. “It brings you back to what an impact coal mining had not only in this region but in the country.”

Upcoming exhibit events
Seth Nutt of Frontenac Heritage Hall will present “Frontenac, A Town of Immigrants” at 2 p.m. Jan 20. The coal town of Frontenac sprung to life in 1886 with the hard work of immigrants who came to America from all over Europe in search of a better life.  Many became miners, railroaders, and local business owners.  As the town continued to grow, churches, fraternal organizations, and the educational system began to take shape.  Doors open at 1:45 p.m.
Debbie Restivo will present “Americanization through Education” at 2 p.m. on Feb. 17. As immigrants poured into Frontenac, bringing the customs and traditions from their native lands, schools were a way to bring citizens together as Americans.  Children gathered together each day to learn and celebrate their success, while adults gathered to prepare for naturalization.  Although citizens came from around the world, and had many differences, the school united the town and still does so today. So much so, the town's citizens still celebrate the ethnic heritage of Frontenac each year with Festa Italiana. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.
“That has been brought forth today through the Education Foundation,” Grilz said. The community community has continued to embrace education.”  
And, at 2 p.m. on March 10, Seth Nutt of Frontenac Heritage Hall will present “The Taste of Frontenac.” The aroma of Italian sausage cooking mixed with hints of simmering garlic and tomato sauce awaiting their partnering with the rigid rigatoni as you walk into the infamous Palluccas. The smell of fresh baked bread just out of the Vacca Bakery oven. These are the smells that every Frontenac native has grown up with. Palluccas Grocery and Butcher Shop founded in 1909, and the Vacca Bakery in 1900, are two Frontenac staples that are still in operation today. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.
Artifacts, photos, or stories relating to this exhibit are welcomed to be loaned for the exhibit or future display at the museum.
The homecoming committee is also looking to create a permanent place to store its artifacts. People can help preserve Frontenac history by mailing artifacts to the committee’s post office box #986 in Frontenac or contact Frontenac City Hall and ask for the Frontenac Homecoming Committee.
“I think it’s important for young kids to know the history of the community the live in,” Grilz said. “The saying it takes a village to raise a child, this village really does appreciate the kids and have embraced them over the years.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.