West Virginia Coal Towns I Would Like to Visit
Thurmond, WV~Population 8
Coal Mines "Fuel" My Curious Side
Being from northern West Virginia, I have memories of the mountains, the Ohio River, barges, and trains. I miss seeing those images almost everyday. However, I was not introduced to the coal towns of WV as much. What I remember seeing in those barges and trains was the coal that came from those towns that I would one day be fascinated with.
After high school, I enrolled in a college in Southern West Virginia, and it was an eye-opening experience. The towns and cities in the southern part of the state are interestingly different, with a rich history of the coal mining business and the way of life of the miners' families. Many of the towns in southern WV are run down, some are almost non-existent, but when driving through them, it is as if history comes to life. I cannot really put it into words. I suppose if you are from this state, you would understand the "feel" of being in an old coal town...to me it is like no other. A few years ago, we visited Thurmond, WV, and it was a wonderful and peaceful experience. Going into the restored train depot and reading about the history of that coal town made me want to visit other coal towns as well.
I have been to several counties that contain little blips of townage throughout. After reading October Sky, I had to go to Coalwood, WV. So on the way there and back we made some detours and went into neighboring coal towns.
In college, many of my friends were from southern WV, and I would visit their hometowns on occasion. I visited the whole area McDowell County, Boone County,and Fayette County, WV. Actually, my roommate was from Oak Hill, and her father was a miner. I partially visited Wyoming County, seeing the towns of Oceana and Pineville. But after visiting Thurmond, WV, an almost eery-like ghostown, it has fueled my desire to visit more towns similar to that one.
This is a list of WV coal towns that I would like to visit. They are in no particular order by location or ranking; I just want to go see them. I am sure when visiting these towns, I will come across other coal towns on the way, and will surely stop by and visit them as well.
- Winding Gulf ~ This coal field was located in Raleigh and Wyoming Counties. It is along the Winding Gulf Creek. This was once known as the "Billion Dollar Coalfield."
Cranberry ~ Cranberry is located in Raleigh County, WV. It was one of the only shaft mines in the vicinity. This mine closed in the late 1950's but was then reopened for a little while. It permanently closed in 1973.
Wickham ~ This coal mine was located close to Beckley, WV, and close to Cranberry. It closed in 1930.
Red Jacket ~ I don't really know why I want to go here, maybe it is because of the cool name. The mine here operated until the 1940's. It is located in Mingo County.
Kaymoor ~ Kaymoor was a coal mine and was built in 1899. The coke ovens burned until the mid 1930's. This was a larger mine at one time, employing well over 1,000 men. It closed in the 1960's as the population dwindled.
Kopperston ~ Located in Wyoming County, this mine did not close down until the late 90's. This once was considered the "Nation's Model Coal Camp," and employed most of its men from nearby Oceana, WV.
I really do not understand what the deal is with my fascination for coal mines or the camps. I just love the feeling of being down in the WV closed-in "hollers", a midst the rail tracks, the mountains, and the coal. Maybe is the my curiosity about the lifestyle of the families that lived in the coal camps, in the cookie-cutter homes, and their experiences working and living for the coal companies. I hope to take a long drive this summer and visit some of these places and learn more about the history of these (and other) coal mining areas.