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CAPELS, WV

Capels was named after Martin Caples, an official with Norfolk & Western Railway. The spelling of the town eventually changed to Capels. Standard Pocahontas Coal Co. opened the first mine at Capels in 1910. Right off the bat, in 1911, before the colliery construction was even complete, the mine blew up, resulting in the deaths of six workers. The train pulled their first shipment to market in 1911. In 1919 Capels had a new owner: Central Pocahontas Coal Co., who opereated the mine and town until 1929. Some of the larger company houses at Capels may have been constructed during this time. In 1930 New River Pocahontas Conslidated Coal Co. purchased Capels and designated it their Operation No. 11. This firm also ran the coal mines at Berwind and Kaymoor, among other properties. This was a successful enterprise that lasted until 1960. Probably during this time the company houses were sold to individuals. From 1960 to '64 small companies intermittently leased the Capels mine. Then, in 1964, Semet Solvay division of Allied Chemical took over the Capels mines. They built a large preparation plant and mined coal from 1967 to 1980. 1980 was the year that the McDowell County coal industry really started to nosedive. Shannon-Pocahontas Mining Co was the final operator of the Capels mines from 1980 to 1985. Except for the remining of the coal refuse dumps from 2005 until 2010 by Reclaiming LLC, this was the end of coal mining at Capels. Or was it? When I was in the area in 2018 and 2019 I saw coal being loaded by a front loader into rail cars at the site of the old prep plant. www.addlikebutton.net


Aug. 1959 image by Bill Gordon

Capels, W.Va. coal company town in the mid-20th Century.


Apr. 2020 image by author

The same view in the 21st Century. Most of these houses are deserted now.


Feb. 2005 image by author

As this photo of the Capels coal camps illustrates, there is no place in McDowell County that someone won't put a house.


Feb. 2005 image by author

Large two family duplex company houses.


Feb. 2005 image by author

Just enough room for a row of company houses.


Feb. 2005 image by author

Historic coal mine sign defaced by sharpshooters.


Feb. 2005 image by author

This mine office and shop building, along with part of the slate dump, were the only remanants of the Capels coal mine. The structure was demolished when a landfill was constructed in Shannon Branch Hollow.


Image by others

A remining of the Capels slate dump (seen in the background) occurred between 2005 and 2010. At one point in 2008 I heard that they were trucking coal from this operation all the way to Gary, Indiana for 200 to 300 dollars a ton. That was at the height of the 2000 - 2010 coal boom. Crazy.


Oct. 2008 image by author

Farther up Shannon Branch Hollow, past all of the old slate dumps, was an independent section of Capels where people did not live in company houses. When a new landfill was being constructed here in 2004-2005 the remaining people up this hollow were bought out and asked to leave. Now some of the old abandoned homesteads can still be found along Shannon Branch, like the one pictured here.


Oct. 2008 image by author

Another abandoned house in the "independent" section of Capels.


Oct. 2008 image by author

This abandoned structre in Shannon Branch Hollow at Capels was, sadly, built for rooster, dog, and bobcat fighting. Inside the building are seats where the spectators would view these barbaric events. Also, some of the wooden holding pens for the animals are still there.


Apr. 2020 image by author

Norfolk & Western installed this locomotive coaling station next to Capels at a stop that the railway named "Farm." But the day I took this photo they had a sign naming the location "Wharf."


Apr. 2020 image by author

Another view of the Farm / Wharf coaling station, which is now obsolete.


Source(s):

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


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