Albia was incorporated as a town in 1856. On Feb. 14, 1893, there was a coal mine explosion in Chicago and Iowa mine, about 2.5 miles west of Albia.
This room and pillar mine opened around 1877, and by the time of the explosion, mining extended more than 1000 yards from the hoisting shaft and the mine employed 60 miners and 20 other men. One miner was killed outright and seven died later of their injuries, after a “shot” (gunpowder charge used to bring down the coal) ignited a dust explosion in the mine. This was one of only two major mine disasters in Iowa between 1888 and 1913.
In the early 20th century, the region around Albia was dotted with coal mining camps and company towns. Of these, Buxton, 9 miles north, is the most widely studied. Other former coal camps in the area include Hiteman, Bluff Creek, Lockman, Coalfield, Hocking, and Hynes. Membership in the United Mine Workers union is a useful measure of the importance of mining in the region.