NORTHERN WEST VIRGINIA COALFIELDS

DEDICATED TO ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE NORTHERN WEST VIRGINIA COAL INDUSTRY

FAIRMONT-PHILLIPI COALFIELD MONONGALIA, MARION, HARRISON, PRESTON, BARBOUR, AND TAYLOR COUNTIES

ELKINS COALFIELD RANDOLPH, UPSHUR, LEWIS, GILMER, BRAXTON, & WEBSTER COUNTIES

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER COALFIELD MINERAL, GRANT, AND TUCKER COUNTIES

PANHANDLE COALFIELD MARSHALL, OHIO, BROOKE, AND HANCOCK COUNTIES

UPPER YOUGHIOGHENY COALFIELD PRESTON COUNTY AND GARRETT COUNTY, MD

(There are also the Winding Gulf, New River, Kanawha, Flat Top, Williamson, Logan, and Greenbrier Coalfields in Sorthern West Virginia.)

This is a presentation of historically significant coal mining towns in Northern West Virginia. A coal camp is a town where everything was built and owned by a coal company, including schools, churches, stores, theatres, and residential structures. Coal camps in Northern West Virginia generally date from the 1890s through the 1920s. They are fast disappearing.

High quality bituminous coal is still mined in Northern West Virginia, and the state is the No. 2 coal producer in tonnage in the nation. (The reason Wyoming is No. 1 is because the low quality coal seams there are 40 feet thick.)

If you would like to visit these mining towns, keep in mind a few things:

1. STAY OFF OF THE PROPERTY OF ACTIVE MINES. THEY ALL HAVE GUARDS WHO WILL RUN YOU OFF. ALSO, IT'S DANGEROUS, SEEING AS HOW YOU PROBABLY WON'T BE WEARING A HARDHAT AND METATARSALS.

2. BE CAREFUL OF TRESPASSING. JUST BECAUSE A MINE IS CLOSED DOESN'T MEAN NO ONE OWNS IT. YOU MAY ALSO HAPPEN UPON SOME LOCALS WHO ARE RANSACKING THE PLACE. THIS COULD BE A PRECARIOUS SITUATION.

3. THE RESIDENTS OF THESE MINING CAMPS MAY NOT APPRECIATE YOUR "INTRUSION." GIVE THEM A LITTLE RESPECT AND YOU'LL PROBABLY BE ALL RIGHT.

4. THERE AREN'T MANY RESTAURANTS IN COAL CAMPS. EAT AND GAS UP BEFORE YOU GO.

5. SOME ROADS ARE UNSUITABLE FOR LUXURY AUTOMOBILES. A FEW ARE UNSUITABLE FOR ANY AUTOMOBILE.

6. I WOULD STRONGLY DISCOURAGE ANYONE FROM ENTERING AN ABANDONED DEEP MINE. THE TIMBERS ARE PROBABLY ROTTEN AND THE ROOF WILL PROBABLY FALL ON YOU. IF YOU SURVIVE YOU WILL PROBABLY BE HANDICAPPED FOR LIFE. JEFF WRITES IN TO SUGGEST ANOTHER REASON NOT TO ENTER ABANDONED MINES: BLACKDAMP, A DEADLY LOW OXYGEN CONDITION THAT OCCURS WHEN ORGANIC MATERIAL OXIDIZES IN A RELATIVELY CLOSED CONDITION. THE TIMBERS AND THE REMAINING COAL EAT UP THE AVAILABLE OXYGEN IN CERTAIN CONDITIONS. BESIDES BEING DANGEROUS, THERE'S PROBABLY NOTHING INTERESTING DOWN THERE.

NOTE: I'VE NEVER HAD ANY OF THESE PROBLEMS (EXCEPT MAYBE THE BAD ROADS). I'M JUST MENTIONING POSSIBLE PITFALLS.

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