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ELKINS COALFIELD

The Elkins Coalfield was a geographical designation by West Virginia geologists for a huge area between southern Webster County all the way to Mineral County. Conley's "History of the West Virginia Coal Industry" also adheres to this definition. However, the USGS, other states, and mining literature of the time did not always agree. The portion in Braxton and Gilmer Counties was called the "Coal & Coke Coalfield," presumably because the Coal & Coke Railway served the mines there. The part around Elkins was called "Junior Field" or "Roaring Creek Field" outside of WV. And the Thomas to Elk Garden segment of the Elkins Coalfield actually goes with the Upper Potomac Coalfield. It's almost as if the West Virginia Geological Survey needed a coalfield to link the Southern WV Coalfields with the Pittsburgh/Sewickley/Freeport/Kittanning seam coalfields of Northern WV, so they created the Elkins Field (because both Pennsylvania-named northern seams and Kanawha/New River southern seams are both present here). I believe that the Upper Potomac Field should be separated, but, other than that, I will go with the WV delineation.

This coalfield was served primarily by the Coal & Coke Railway and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In the 21st Century there were still operating coal mines like Carter-Roag, Brooks Run, and Evergreen.

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Copen Creek Coal Co. mined coal at the now-vanished Vanwith Mine, shown here, from 1911 until 1927. The mine produced 67,504 tons of Pittsburgh seam coal in 1924, which they marketed under the name "Copen Splint Coal." According to the company, much of it went to the Industrial Heartland states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. (Image courtesy of others)

Evidently, the Pittsburgh coal seam was economically mineable around the Gilmer - Braxton County line, because there was a cluster of several mines exploiting this coal vein, which was around 84 inches thick in this area. These mines were Glimer, Vanwith, Copen, Bower, and Braxton. In the 1950's Rochester & Pittsburgh came down from Indiana County, PA to open a Pittsburgh seam mine, called O'Donnell No. 2 (O'Donnell No. 1 being in Marion County), which produced from 1959 to 1967.


Another view of the Vanwith Mine, showing lousy conditions of the company housing. Perhaps the coal company, which for a time changed its name to Copen Gas Coal Mines, decided to put most of their money into the mine rather than the company town. In 1918 The Black Diamond glowingly wrote, "In the Vanwith mine, the management has omitted nothing in the way of modern engineering practice, the latest mechanical appliances and tipple devices to insure the efficient and economical operation of the mine, the proper preparation of the coal for market and the best type of construction, with automatic feeder, shaker screens, equipped for making three sizes of coal, and has a capacity of 1,000 tons a day." (The Black Diamond image via Google Books)


The last two company houses at Gilmer, WV, domain of the Davis Colliery Co. Gilmer was the only coal camp to be located in Gilmer County. (July 2004 image by author)


Tipple and a few coal camp houses at Copen, WV, as they looked many, many years ago. The Copen and neighboring Bower mines and company towns were started by Davis Colliery Co. as No. 10 and 11 mines. They were later the No. 10, 11, & 12 mines of West Virginia Coal and Coke Co. (Mines and Minerals image via Google Books)


There are only a few people still living at Copen today. (Google Street View image)


Abandoned coal mine at Adrian in Upshur County. Coal mining at Adrian dates back to 1917 and the W.H. Green Coal Company. A 1918 issue of The Black Diamond described the Green Coal operations as shipping five or six rail cars full of coal per day; a 500 ton per day tipple with a 300' incline to the mine portal; and that mining was in the Upper Freeport coal seam, which the magazine said was "a high grade coking coal." Also in 1918, W.H. Green Coal Co. had built 16 company houses, and had planned to built ten more. (Sep. 2003 image by author)


Another view of the abandoned preparation plant and associated buildings at Adrian. As far as I know, these mine structures had nothing to do with the old W.H. Green mine. Rather, this was a much more recent mine. The last operator of this facility was Glady Fork Mining. (Sep. 2003 image by author)


A train hasn't been up this track at Adrian for a long time. (Sep. 2003 image by author)


Coal miners and their coal hauling pony at the portal of Laurel Hill Mining Co. at Arcola, Webster County, WV. (WV Geological Survey image via Google Books)


Laurel Hill Mining Co. tipple at Arcola, WV. (WV Geological Survey image via Google Books)


A coal train idles on a rail siding at Burnvsille, W.Va. while the engineer climbs aboard. The little railroad office to the left has since been demolished. (Dec. 2003 image by author)


CSX Railway work train at Burnsville. (Dec. 2003 image by author)


One of the remaining company houses in Parcoal, WV, Webster County. Except for the window toward the rear, house seems mostly original. Parcoal was one of Pardee & Curtin Lumber Co. coal-lumber combo company towns (such as Bergoo). (Dec. 2005 image by author)


Abandoned coal stockpile area and rail loadout on the edge of Norton, WV in Randolph County. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


With it's wide street, clean yard, and white fence, Coalton, WV was an attractive mining town. (Mines and Minerals image via Google Books)


A few of the coal camp houses that the Davis Colliery Co. built at Coalton, WV. In addition to a coal mine the company also operated coke ovens at Coalton. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


Vintage picture of the tipple and coal bin at Coalton. (Mines and Minerals image via Google Books)


A new mine entry is being driven at Mabie, WV in this old photo. (The Black Diamond image via Google Books)


Davis Colliery Co. also constructed the same style of house at the nearby Norton coal camp as they did at Coalton. Norton and Coalton were later owned and operated by West Virginia Coal & Coke Co. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


This street in Norton is called Brick Row. A resident of the town told me that these were for the formen, and the one hired most recently lived in the lowest house. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


This is the house that company would have provided for the typical coal miner to live in at Norton. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


This vintage photo taken at Norton shows what these houses originally looked like. (The Black Diamond image via Google Books)


This was originally the bank for the coal camp, and is now a private residence. The company store used to be located next door to this but has been demolished. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


This dynamite house is the last vestige of the Norton coal mine. The tipple and associated structures were demolished some time ago, and the slate dump was reclaimed as well. The main coal seam mined in the Norton-Coalton-Harding area was the Upper, Middle, and Lower Kittanning seams, associated with Northern Appalachia. Interestingly enough, the Sewell seam, associated with Central Appalachia, is also present in the area. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


Houses remaining from Davis Colliery Company's Harding coal camp. The improvements to US Route 119 must have taken out the remaining coke ovens. In 1906 the Harding coke ovens had a capacity of 150 tons of coke per day. (Dec. 2005 image by author)


The tipple and coke ovens that were originally at Harding, WV. (Image courtesy West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries)


Extant coal company housing along the road between Junior and Belington at Dartmoor, WV. (Google Street View image)


Coal mine and tiny company town of Red Rock, Upshur County, WV. The owner was the Red Rock Fuel Company. Some Appalachian coal mines had no housing, some had full blown towns, and some had just a few houses, like this one. This makes it impossible to know how many coal company towns there were, and where they all were located. Indeed, some were so ephemeral that they were hastily thrown up to cash in on an upswing in the coal market, and then removed in a few years when the coal market slumped (although this particular mine lasted from 1906 until 1922 - when the coal market crashed). (Circa 1910's WVGS image)


An auger coal mine near Jane Lew in Lewis County that was operated by Compton Coal Co. Note the auger holes in the coal seam in the background. (1935 Bureau of Mines image)


One of the modern coal mining operations in the Elkins Coalfield is Brooks Run. (Image by others)

Lori writes, "My relatives are from the Junior/Belington area of WV. There is still a coke oven in the side of a hill in Junior, and some company houses in Dartmoor. Junior didn't really want them in the town and preferred private ownership. My grandad was a mine foreman but I don't know the company name. He was born in 1884 and was active in the mines until about WWII. There are some good mine sites and plenty of old strip mines in the area. The coke oven is especially interesting."


One of the coke ovens at Junior, W.Va. Previous operators of the ovens were the Miller Coal Co. and Gage Coal & Coke Co. (Circa 2002 WV SHPO image by Jeff Davis)

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