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FLAT TOP / POCAHONTAS FIELD - MERCER COUNTY


I know its hard to see, but this caught my eye. These are two train tunnels near Matoaka with a large steel structure above them. I believe tunnel 1 on the left was built by the Norfolk & Western Railway, and tunnel 2 on the right was constructed by the Virginian Railway. The steel structure probably supported part of the infrastructure from where one or both of these railways was electrified. (Dec. 2006 image by author)


A vintage view of the coal town of Goodwill, WV, where coal mining started in the 1880s and ended in 1958. The town is best known as the property of Winding Gulf Collieries. (Image courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives)


Mill Creek Coal and Coke Company store in Coopers was built in 1924 to replace one that was built in 1884. The Cooper coal mine, opened by John Cooper, was the second mine to ship coal from the Pocahontas Coalfield. (Pocahontas, VA was the first.) Some of the coal camp is still extant. (Mar. 2005 image by author)



The first photo above shows the tipple at Arista many years ago, and the second photo shows how the site looks today. Arista was originally operated by the S.J. Patterson Pocahontas Company from 1916 to 1922, and later the Weyanoke Coal Company from 1923 off and on until 1960. In the late 1960s the C&M Coal Company mined coal in the Arista vicinity. The town has vanished - not even a chimney. (May 2001 image by author)


The company store at Springton, I presume. This coal camp was the property of Solvay Collieries from 1915 to 1922. The Kingston Pocahontas Coal Co. then ran Springton from 1923 until 1942. (May 2001 image by author)

Bill Morefield writes, "My family moved to Springton, WV., Mercer County, in 1942. The mine was 'worked out' some time in the late 1930's. My father was responsible for maintaining four coal camps, Smokeless and Springton in Mercer County, Tralee and Iroquois in Wyoming County. All four camps were owned by the Semet-Solvey Division of the Allied Chemical Corp. The coal and land was leased from the Pocahontas Land Corp. which is a subsidiary of the Norfolk Southern Corp. In reference to the Springton company store picture, the Springton post office was in the left front of the building, the store in the right front of the building extended all the way to the rear. The top floor was used primarily for store supplies and storage. Among other things stored were a few cases of 94 Winchesters that were used by payroll guards back when the mine was working. There was a railroad siding for the store and an elevator in the store to move supplies between floors My fathers office was in the left rear of the building, you had to go through the post office to get to it. His office had one of the two telephones in the coal camp. The other was in our house. Our 'ring' was three long rings."


The last few coal camp houses left at Ennis Coal Company's Hiawatha coal town. The mine operated from 1914 until 1936. (May 2001 image by author)


There are only a few company-built structures remaining at Piedmont, WV, and most of them are in ruins. They were built in 1915 by the American Coal Company, who closed the Piedmont mines in 1957. (Mar. 2004 image by author)


Coal camp houses at Weyanoke, an operation of the Weyanoke Coal Company. Dan writes, "I grew up in Weyanoke coal camp in the 1950's. Weyanoke was the white coal camp and Giatto was the black residential area, only about a half mile south of Weyanoke ... The rest of Weyanoke, including the school, the superintendent's house and the company store, were up the N&W track to the north. There are hardly any buildings left in Giatto at all. Weyanoke was always a small coal camp, but it used to have a big company store, and that picture is up on the net somewhere. It also had a theater, and my dad got his tickets paid for because he could read fast enough to read the subtitles for people during the silent movies. In the area right south of the bottom that you photographed between Weyanoke and Giatto, which was called the ball diamond, a circus used to set up every year. That was before my time, but my brother remembers them. Giatto is pronounced gi - to, with long vowels, and flat vowels in the southern mountain style." (May 2001 image by author)


This murky, foggy photo of Weyanoke / Giatto on a Sunday morning is more about the feel of Appalachia than a clear photo of the town. (May 2001 image by author)


Giatto coal camp a century ago. (Black Diamond magazine image)


The town of Matoaka under fog. Despite having the main line of the Virginian and and a branch of the N&W running through it, Matoaka declined to its present state shown here. (May 2001 image by author)


The big railyard at Bluefield still features a coaling tower, a row of sand (?) tanks, and the locomotive shop, all built by Norfolk and Western, now Norfolk-Southern. (May 2001 image by author)


Bluefield rail yard in the morning sun. (July 2009 image by author)


The seldom photographed upper end of the yard. (July 2009 image by author)


In this photo of the Bluefield train yard one can view not only a coal train, but a trip of orange cars carrying another imporant mineral export of the Bluefield-Tazewell-Peterstown area: limestone. (July 2009 image by author)


The Norfolk-Southern locomotive shop is in the center of the Bluefield rail yard. (March 2017 image by author)


Coal and Coke building in downtown Bluefield. (March 2017 image by author)


At one time Crystal Coal & Coke Co. had 150 beehive coke ovens in western Mercer County. I went to look for them and all I found was this miniscule remant that is probably part of the wharf where the coke workers stood. (Feb. 2017 image by author)


There are also these remains of the Crystal mine. I also saw one (occupied) house remaining from Crysal, W.Va. Crystal Coal & Coke's coal coal mines closed in 1954. Use of the coke ovens probably ceased many years before that. (Feb. 2017 image by author)


This photo of Lamar, W.Va. shows why they are called coal CAMPS. The housing in this mining town is probably so shabby because the company did not anticipate needing workers' homes for longer than the life of the mine. But the late date of this coal town's construction by Lamar Colliery Co. - 1930 - should indicate that it would be a nicer town than it was. The later-build mining towns were ususally nicer, because reforms in workers' rights, including efforts by coal companies to placate miners and forestall union organization - resulted in "model" company towns. Indeed, at the other end of the Pocahontas Coalfield the Pocahontas Fuel Company built their showplace town - Bishop - the same year. And the Bishop homes were much nicer than Lamar, and this is probably why Bishop still exists and Lamar has returned to nature. Lamar Colliery Company closed the mine in 1953. (Library of Congress image)


Kim writes, "I am looking for a place in WV that may not exist anymore called Thornhill, probably in Mercer Co. My aunt says it was a mining town. My great grandfather ran a store there and I want info but can't find any. My observation is this. I saw your page on mountain accents. My parents are from WV and moved to northern Ohio for work where I was born. There they, and all the other WV transplants, were thought to be extremely southern. The Italians teased them to death about being hillbillies. Heck, we even made apple butter in caldrons in the yard in the middle of the city and used real lye soap to wash things. Now I live in Tennessee and have to hear discrimination about my yankee accent every day. When I first moved here I tried to tell people that I may have a yankee accent but was raised very Southern by my WV parents. They would go through the roof, saying WV people are more Yankee than anyone! (See Civil War, still alive here, for explanation!) That is, to Tennesseans, the greatest insult they can give. Seeing your page confirmed what I knew. My parents talked just like these Tennesseans. I can understand all these people here because I grew up eatin' bisquits and cornbread with buttermilk and worshin' up after!"

Joseph wrties, "I am a West Virginia native and found your website. I am very interested in the coal mine towns and railroad history there. I saw where a lady named Kim was looking for a place named Thorn Hill. I don't know if she has found it yet but I know exactly where it's at. I grew up just a few miles from there and it is just outside of Montcalm WV. When you get into Montcalm on Rt.71 you take a left up Crane Creek toward McComas. It's the next little stop in the road past the community of Crystal. My grandfather said there was a school, liquor store and a company store there at one time. Most of the company houses are gone now but when I was growing up most of them were still occupied. I was up there during Thanksgiving and was surprised how much it had changed since I left the area in 1986. I'm not sure which coal company was there in it's heyday but Consolidated Coal was just up the road in McComas and I Know there was a Crane Creek Coal Company also."

Dee writes, "I was researching the internet for some facts about the Battle of Blair Mountain and a friend of mine referred me to your site for pics of coal camps and mines. While there I discovered a comment from a lady named Kim. She is looking for a place in WV called Thornhill and was not for sure if the town still existed or not. I don't know how old that comment is but I wanted to let her know that the town does still exist and the store is still standing. It was a very small coal camp but the remnants are still there."


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