Switchback and Maybeury are two coal camps that kind of run together. Shamokin Coal & Coke Co. built Maybeury circa 1890, and it was named after coal operators James May and William Beury. Maybeury also housed the workers and their families of Norfolk Coal & Coke Company's Norfolk, Angle, Delta, and Lick Branch mines, which began production in 1897. In 1905 Pocahontas Consolidated Collieries Co. bought out Norfolk Coal & Coke, opened the Shamokin mine (probably named after the Pennsylvania anthracite coal town), and built the Switchback coal camp. After 1916 the company was renamed Pocahontas Fuel Co., and they operated these mines until they closed the last one, Angle mine, in 1958.

50 men died in an explosion in the Lick Branch coal mine on December 29, 1908. About two weeks later, on January 7, 1909 the Lick Branch mine blew up again, this time killing 65 men. Both were attributed to "operator errors" of the miners.


One of the last wooden company stores in WV was this one in Maybeury. Allowed to fall into ruin, it has been demolished.(Mar. 2005 image by author)

This is the company store at Maybeury as it looked over 25 years ago. There was even a portion of it on the right front that later came completely off. (Circa 1991 WV SHPO image)

Although Pocahontas Fuel Co. closed the company store in the 1950s, as you can see here, it still functioned as a local convenience store into the 1970s. (Image courtesy of elkhornhigh.com)

Tipple foundations near Maybeury were probably from the Angle mine tipple. (Nov. 2000 image by author)

Scant remains of coke ovens near Maybeury. A 1918 article in The Black Diamond stated, "Of the 2,700 beehive coke ovens originally owned by the company but 300 are now fired and it is the intention of the management to discontinue their use as soon as existing contracts can be terminated as they realize the enormous waste of burning Pocahontas No. 3 raw coal in the old-fashioned beehive ovens." (2002 image courtesy of Mick Vest)

Nice brick company houses in a section of Maybeury that may have been known as "New Row" because it was built later. It has been suggested that these were constructed from fire brick from the coke ovens when they were removed. If so, then someone did a heck of a job cleaning the sooty fire bricks up. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Other styles of coal company housing in Maybeury. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

A few years ago these Maybeury homes were still occupied. Too many people have had to leave McDowell County, either by outmigration, death, or even imprisonment, and there aren't enough people moving in to take their place. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Abandoned railroad siding bridge? (2009 WVDEP AML Program image)

This big train trestle runs over Route 52 in Maybeury. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

These coal camp houses along Route 52 in Switchback sit behind cut stone walls that were probably built by Italian stone masons. The black arrow points to a remaining "coal house," where the company would deposit the coal that the families in the company houses would use to heat and cook with. (April 2014 image by author)

Another "coal house" in front of a company house at Switchback. (April 2014 image by author)

A once magnificent house - probably for a mine official - in Switchback. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

These Switchback coal camp houses were probably for the families of the miners of the Delta and Shamokin mines. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Someone took one of the original "coal houses" and made a shed of sorts. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

This was probably a row of management houses at Switchback.(Feb. 2017 image by author)

This is a well-kept little cottage on the hillside in Switchback. In the background is the former mansion of coal baron James Ellwood Jones. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

This was once the Pocahontas Fuel Company Switchback store. I saw it from Route 52 when I was riding in a car in 2000. Next time I was through there it was gone. (Circa 1991 WV SHPO image)

This forlorn Switchback structure was once Elkhorn District High School. (Apr. 2014 image by author)

This defunct old power house overlooks the Switchback community. This power station, which came on line in 1907, was originally built to power the Angle, Delta, Lick Branch, Norfolk, and Shamokin mines; and even the Sagamore mine several miles away in Mercer County. Later it also powered Cherokee, Rolfe, and Caswell Creek mines; and even mines in Tazewell County, Va. A 1918 article in The Black Diamond states, "The central power station of the old Pocahontas Consolidated Collieries Company, Incorporated,located at Switchback, was taken over by the Appalachian Power Company at the time of its entry in the field and is now reserved for emergency uses. The company's power comes in from its hydro-electric power stations on the New River, in Virginia, over 88,000 volts long distance transmission lines and at the Switchback sub-station a step down is used for securing a voltage of 13,000 volts for distribution over the field." (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Front wall of the power house. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Behind the powerstation lies a clue about its origins. Red arrow points to what was probably the coal mine portal. Pocahontas Consolidated/ Pocahontas Fuel originally fed this powerhouse right out of the ground from the Delta coal mine via conveyor or mine locomotives. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Detail of a door on the power house. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Another view of the Switchback power house. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Detail of an infilled window on the power house. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

This little old building in Maybeury was once a pump station for the town's water works. (Thanks to Alex Schust for identifying this for me.) (Feb. 2018 image by author)

From the other side of the pump house a tower on the roof is visible. (Feb. 2018 image by author)


Schust, Alex P. Billion Dollar Coalfield: West Virginias McDowell County and the Industrialization of America. Two Mule Pub., 2010.



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