CHAPLIN, WV

Chaplin Collieries Co. opened the Louise Mine in the Sewickley coal seam at Chaplin in 1919. This was at the high point of the Appalachian coal industry, right after the big coal boom during World War I, and all kinds of characters thought they could jump in, dig a portal, throw up a company town, and let the riches start rolling in. The problem was that too many people were trying this at the same time, and, by the early 1920's, there was more coal product than demand. But that didn't stop Chaplin Collieries from opening a second mine - named Virginia - in 1922. Virginia Mine production ended in 1926, and state mine records show the Louise Mine being closed by Chaplin Collieries Co. in 1936. These records also show the Louise mine being reopened in 1939 by the Louise Coal Company. This was their only mine in WV, and it produced as much as 855,531 tons of coal in 1943 before closing in 1947.


A remnant of the Chaplin coal camp still exists right off of I-79 to this day. (Image by others)


Another style of extant coal company houses at Chaplin.(Image by others)


By the time this photograph of Chaplin was taken in 1938, Chaplin Collieries Co. had been gone for two years and it is obvious that Chaplin was not being well maintained. Yet, in this series of Farm Security Adminstration photos, coal miners can be seen working around the mine (the whole series is not shown here). So perhaps the Louise Coal Co. had reopened the idled coal mine by September 1938 when these pictures were taken. Hopefully they later spruced up the dilapidated coal camp. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


Another view of a really shabby section of Chaplin, replete with live trolley wires snaking through the coal camp. These are among the worst company houses ever offered to Appalachian mining families. Note the miner with his dinner bucket going to work. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


This may have been a two-family company house. It looks like they were growing pole beans on the porch. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


A miner's wife and child go on an errand with a basket - perhaps to scavage coal from the slate dump. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


Coal miner, with a pick over his shoulder, walking home from his shift along trolly wires. An older miner told me that, when a man came into contact with a live trolly wire, it would grab hold of him, and his buddies would have to grab a non-conductive wooden board and knock him from the shocking wire. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


"We gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do."(Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


Lady walking home from the company store. Although this lady is living in a squalid coal town during the Great Depression, she still maintains a dignified appearance. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


Even the company store, only about 20 years old at the time of this photo, seems run down. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)


Hanging out in front of the company store on a Saturday afternoon. (Sep. 1938 image by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)

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