Fulton County has enjoyed a rich history of mining bituminous coal. In the 1820s outcroppings of the mineral were discovered in streams cut through the soil exposing coal in their banks. Slope mines developed as settlers dug deeper into the exposed veins of coal. By 1880, deep or shaft mining was employed because it could cover several acres by sinking into a vein of coal vertically and expanding horizontally. Mining was primarily done underground until the 1920s when strip mining began on a large scale.
In 1928 there were 137 coal mines in the county, and by 1965 Fulton County was the leader of coal production in Illinois. Coal mining provided many jobs and was widespread throughout Fulton County. The last of many coal mines closed in 1997. The many lakes and ponds visible to the traveler today are the legacy of this surface mining past.