The façade of an old Spanish mission-style Catholic church, which can still be seen today along Interstate 25 about twelve miles south of Trinidad, is all that remains of one of CF&I’s busiest mining towns. Previously known as the Swastika mine, the property was purchased by CF&I in 1906 and renamed Morley after a Locator for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad named William Raymond Morley. Within the first year of operation under CF&I the town of Morley sprang to life with over a dozen houses and a Colorado Supply Co. store, followed soon after by the Catholic church, a YMCA, and a grade school.
Early coal production from the Morley Mine was sold commercially as fuel for locomotives but, being a high-grade bituminous coal, it was later shipped almost exclusively to the steel mill in Pueblo to be processed into coke, a high-carbon fuel that burns hot enough to melt down the raw materials needed to produce steel.
After the coal seam on the eastern side of the canyon was depleted, the much larger seam on the western side was opened up to mining. This seam, however, was much more difficult to work than that on the eastern side. The Coal was gassier, which made it more dangerous and hindered the use of modern electric trams, mining machinery, and even explosives. Mules had to be used in place of electric trams, and most of the mining had to be done by Pick. The Coal pulled from the mine by cart required teams of up to seven mules at a time, and consisted of twenty carts each.
By 1927 Morley employed five hundred and forty workers and over one hundred and thirty mules. The company mules were well taken care of with plenty of oats, hay, and clean water, and were considered by some to be more valuable than the workers themselves because they were actually more difficult to replace. They even had the luxury of an eight hour work day years before the employees did. The miners worked side by side with the mules on a daily basis, sometimes for years on end, and formed a bond with them similar to that of a family pet. They would even feed the mules from their own lunch pails at meal times. Having so many animals on site required a stable boss and handlers to help manage the needs of the animals.
The Morley mine was officially closed on May 4th, 1956 after producing over eleven million tons of coal, making it one of the largest and most significant coal mines in Colorado history.