Gary, named after U.S. Steel Chairman Judge Elbert Gary, was the crown jewel in U.S. Steel's mining empire (though the people in Lynch, KY may disagree). Gary was the central part of the coal camp, and the surrounding towns like Elbert, Ream, Filbert, Thorpe, and Wilcoe were the satellite coal camps around the Gary nucleus. Amazingly this was a company operated town until as late as 1971. Still, U.S. Steel continuted mining here until the mid-1980s.


Former U.S. Coal and Coke Company offices in Gary. (Feb. 2018 image by author)

This coal camp portion of Gary, W.Va. is known as Wilcoe. (Image courtesy of Alan "Cathead" Johnston)

Coke ovens at Gary were part of the No. 3 Works. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

Homes on bosses row show what a major coal camp Gary was. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

Another part of the Gary camp with lesser, but still large, company-built houses. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

The prep plant at Gary was once the largest in the world (Image courtesy VT ImageBase, housed and operated by Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries; scanning by Digital Imaging, Learning Technologies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

When this photo was taken the Alpheus Prep Plant at Gary had less than a year left. The photographer noted, "This preparation plant is still in use, but only sections are still operated." (Feb. 1991 WV SHPO image)

Another part of the prep plant. (Feb. 1991 WV SHPO image)

This huge refuse conveyor coming off the mountain is so large that it has cable suspension. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

The Gary (Alpheus) prep plant - gone but not forgotten. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

Company-built houses for the workers of the Gary No. 1 Works. Note the official's house at the end of the street. (Nov. 2001 image by author)

Smaller coal camp houses up the hollow behind Gary. (Mar. 2004 image by author)

These are the same style of duplex houses that U.S. Steel was so fond of constructing at it's coal mining towns in Pennsylvania.(Mar. 2004 image by author)

This used to be the bank in Gary. The sign now reads "Coaldiggers Museum," but it doesn't appear to be accessible to the public yet. "Coaldiggers" was the school mascot in Gary. (Mar. 2004 image by author)

This church was an A.M.E. Zion Church, a primarily African-American denomination. It was unclear whether or not the church was still active at the time of this photograph. Update: I read that the top of the steeple shown here was stolen because it was made of copper. (Apr. 2006 image by author)

These former repair shops are located in the heart of Gary, and probably served all of U.S. Coal and Coke's mines that surrounded Gary. They are now owned by the Gary municipal government. (Apr. 2006 image by author)

A closer look at one of the cut stone repair shops. (Apr. 2006 image by author)

Detail of the rear of one of the shops. (Apr. 2006 image by author)

Sign reads, "No persons allowed in carpenter shop with out safety shoes and hat during working hours." (Apr. 2006 image by author)

This steel crossover was constructed around 1917 to allow the workers and citizens of Gary to cross over the busy railroad to reach the repair shops, coke ovens, and stores of the coal camp. A Norfolk-Southern employee is standing on the caboose passing under the walkway in this picture. (Apr. 2006 image by author)

Vintage picture of a Norfolk & Western train winding through Gary. (Image source lost)

This sign for "bone pickers" once hung on the wall at Gary but is now on display at the Eastern Coal Archives in Bluefield, WV. (Jul. 2009 image by author)

R. Tim sent in this photo and writes, "I am attaching a copy of a photo of the Gary Restaurant which is from a slide I found in my parents photos, etc. This photo was taken sometime the late 1800's or early 1900's. [The restaurant was actually built in 1913 - author.] There is a Gary Restaurant photo at West Virginia Archives made in 1920, when that photo was made the structure had expanded considerably. Enjoyed your web presentation, considering having grown up in Southern West Virginia, SW Virginia, and Letcher Co., Ky. Is really strange going back into these areas and seeing all those sub-surface mining operations closed, and all surface structures removed. I have a wide area photo of that area between Havaco and Gary, where U.S. Steel Coal Co., had its Tipple Cleaning Plant with its long conveyor extending from the bottom over the road way to the top of the mountain. My dad was Fed. Mine Safety Engineer having worked initially in Coalwood/Caretta, WV., then when Consol Coal Co. sold to Carter, we moved to Jenkins, Letcher Co., Ky, in 1934. Ultimately we returned to McDowell Co ... While in Coalwood, Dad was one of the Mine Foremen as was Homer Hickam, Sr., until the later became Mine Supt., when Carter Coal took over. We lived in the second two story house down from Capt. Carter's house where the Hickams moved, on Tipple Row in Coalwood." (Image courtesy of Tim Gilley)

Another picture from Mr. Gilley, which he describes: "I am sending attached photo taken in 1948, when the top of Wilcoe/Havaco Mountain was being readied for the conveyor belt extending from the prep plant to carry the waste to the impounding area. My brother, being a retired federal mine safety engineer, had this photo." (Image courtesy of Tim Gilley)

This rail yard still exists at the edge of Gary. I don't know if it is staffed anymore, but I would guess no. The concrete silo was a water tank for steam railroads (thanks to Gerald for identifying this). (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Crumbling old bunk house at the Gary rail yard. This is where rail crews could sleep between shifts. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Well, I don't ususally take pictures of sewers. U.S. Steel built this sewage treatment plant at the Wilcoe section of Gary around 1960. This was the first sewage treatment plant in McDowell County. U.S. Steel / U.S. Coal & Coke provided everything for these residents. Before that nearly all of the sewage was straight-piped from the homes into the nearest creek or river. With almost 100,000 people in McDowell County in the 1950s, those must have been some disgusting smelling waters. Now the plant appears to be unused, and the news reports that 67% of McDowell County residents don't discharge to any sewage treatement plant. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

The mine maps provided by the state on their Coal Bed Mapping website are hard to read, so I don't know for certain what this building was. An old USGS topo map identifies an air shaft near this spot, so maybe this housed a fan motor. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Not sure what this Gary/Wilcoe industrial-looking building was. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Also near Wilcoe is this burned-out abandoned building. From the 1930s until the 1960s it was the Kailing Grocery Store. This was a mom-and-pop store independent of U.S. Coal & Coke. As a matter of fact, even the parcel of land it sits on was privately owned. So the coal companies didn't own every square inch of land in this area, but probably owned most of it. Also, nearby was Scott's Department Store. (Thanks to Gerald for the information.) (Mar. 2017 image by author)

In 1955 U.S. Coal & Coke built the homes seen here for management. There were ten homes, I think, and the name of the development was Tallman Village. 1955 was a very late date for a coal company to be building houses for employees. (Feb. 2018 image by author)

A July 1932 Bluefield Daily Telegraph article titled "Lad Trapped in Slate Dump Dies" stated, "Charles Bristol, 14, colored, of Wilcoe, was smothered to death Saturday morning at Wilcoe when he was caught in a cave-in of a slate dump on which he was playing. The boy had dug a deep cave in the slate dump and crawled back into it when it caved in on him. About o ton of slate was found on the body when it was discovered an hour later ..."

For more detailed information about Gary see the book "Gary Hollow" by Alex Schust.



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