Sprague was a Cranberry Fuel Company mine, named after company co-founder Phineas Sprague, that opened in 1906. Later the New River Company assumed responsibility for the Sprague mines (and the other Cranberry Fuel facilities), and closed them in 1952. Sprague is right in the middle of Beckley, WV, yet much of it was never annexed by the city. It is a "doughnut hole" in the city limits.

Image courtesy of Google Books

This is what Sprague coal camp looked like when it was new. Photo was taken from the alley behind the mine superintendent's house or from the hillside below.

October 2001 image by author

Company houses at Sprague in various states of alteration from their original appearance. The metal roofing is original, though. I have seen it at other Cranberry Fuel/New River coal camps like Skelton, Cranberry, Wickham, and Carlisle.

October 2001 image by author

More company coal camp houses at Sprague, along the well known Beckley shorcut Ewart Avenue. This same house design can also been seen at Sprague's sister coal camps Skelton and Cranberry, which not only were also owned by the New River Company, but serviced by the C&O Railway's/Virginian Railway's Piney River & Paint Creek subdivision, which didn't run along either Piney or Paint Creeks.

Image source forgotten

Across the hollow from the Sprague coal camp, and behind what used to be the tipple site (but is now an asphalt plant), can be found the Beckley Exhibtion Coal Mine. This tourist trap was opened in 1962, and has been a popular attraction ever since. It is shown here when it was new. Visitors ride on a mantrip into the mine and are taught various historical and geological facts about WV coal mining. When I was a child the man trip entered the main drift portal, went all through the mine, and came out another portal on the other side of the hill. Now, though, it goes in and out the same portal.

The mine was originally a drift mouth punch mine operated by a family named Phillips, who purchased the 50 acre tract on which the mine is located from Alfred Beckley in 1850. They discovered an outcrop of Sewell seam coal on their property, and circa 1889, began to mine coal for their own use. Later Cranberry Fuel purchased the property and upgraded the coal mine. It then became part of the Sprague operations.

September 2009 image by author

Shown here is the "coal camp" exhibition of the Beckley Exhibtion Coal Mine, in New River Park in Beckley, WV. In the center of the photo is the Visitor's Center, museum, and gift shop, designed to look like a company store. To the right is a coal camp church, which was moved from its original location in Pemberton, WV. Between the church and the Visitor's Center, is an authentic company house, moved from its original location across the hollow in Sprague. To the left of the photo are a coal camp school (from Helen, WV), and also a superintendent's house from Skelton, WV. The rails lead to the centerpiece of this tourist attraction: the coal mine, also out of site in this photograph.