Keystone was founded in 1892 by the Keystone Coal & Coke Company. The first mine there was Keystone No. 1, which produced for 94 years until it was exhausted in 1986. At that time it was the oldest coal mine in the Pocahontas Coalfield. On April 2, 1928 eight miners perished in an explosion of the Keystone No. 2 mine caused by a carbide light. In 1936 Koppers Coal Co. took it over and they mined 1,189,000 tons of coal three years later. By 1967, Eastern Associated Coal was the phoenix from the ashes of Koppers and they mined almost 2 million tons of Pocahontas No. 3 coal at Keystone. Recently the coal processing plant and related mines, but no longer the town, were owned by Jim Justice's Bluestone Coal Company, and then the Russian-owned Mechel Company.

Apparently Keystone had a wild and lawless atmosphere in its early days. I have read more than one vintage publication depicting the scandal of racially integrated brothels and saloons in Keystone. I imagine that after World War 2 the town was somewhat propserous, and a period of normality ensued. It's possible that the town really started to decline after the 1980s. In 1999 the First National Bank of Keystone collapsed under the weight of it's own corruption. During the 21st Century many of the remaining business in Keystone have closed and the town is now in steep decline.


Part of the coal processing facility at Keystone. Note the steam from the thermal dryer, a piece of equipment used in the "smokeless" coal fields to dry the fine and ultrafine particulates of soft low-volatile coal that a centrifuge cannot. I understand it is now impossible to get a permit to build a new thermal dryer in WV. (1999 image by others)

Diagram of a typical thermal dryer installation. (Image from 1953 Coal Mechanization annual)

Still using an aerial tramway in Keystone to haul refuse (Dec. 2006 image by author)

Support tower and tram cars of aerial tramway. (Dec. 2006 image by author)

Steel coal silos are seldom seen anymore (Nov. 2000 image by author)

Parts of the Keystone preparation plant are of various ages. Parts of the plant may date back to the 1950s because of the prescence of blending bins, and the plant has been modernized with additions and updates, though there has been some kind of coal mining complex on this site for 120 years.(Dec. 2006 image)

While the prep plant was idled I thought it was a good time to take a photo of the old power house. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

Behind the power house are old beehive coke ovens made into a retaining wall. It was the cinders from these that was dumped at nearby "Cinder Bottom." (Mar. 2017 image by author)

These old mine shop buildings on the other side of the mountain, probably dating to the 1940s or 50s, were probably built when the Keystone coal mine progressed back this far. (Mar. 2017 image by author)

I was told that these red brick coal camp houses were built by Eastern Fuel and Gas Company, and that this particular street was mostly populated by Italians. One Keystone resident still remembered all of the Italians buying a rail car full of grapes together to make wine. (Mar. 2004 image by author)

Some more of the distinctive brick homes in Keystone. (Mar. 2004 image by author)

The building on the left - the one with the "KH" sign - was once the coal company store. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

The white structure is the union hall for UMWA Local 6196. The UMWA has been vanishing in Southern West Virginia, and now West Virginia has become a right-to-work state. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

A nice old building in Keystone. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Keystone storefronts and homes, with the idled prep plant in the background. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

This Keystone neighborhood was once a notorious red light district called "Cinder Bottom" (Feb. 2017 image by author)

One of the last remaining buildings that was once a brothel in Cinder Bottom. (Aug. 1987 WV SHPO image)

How would you like to carry groceries up these stairs? (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Brick homes with the prep plant behind them. I wonder if Koppers Company built these for mine officials? (Feb. 2017 image by author)

The Blessed Virgin Mary on one of these homes. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Almost no one in Keystone gets a large yard around their house. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

This once-grand building used to be Keystone City Hall. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

At the eastern edge of Keystone someone set up this sign and huge block of coal. (Feb. 2017 image by author)

Keystone prep plant in the 1970s. (Image courtesy of Randy Davidson)

This feature of Keystone is known as "Dead Man's Cut." A 1912 publication about Keystone titled "Sodom and Gommorah of Today" stated, "Bounding Keystone on the East is 'Dead Mans Cut' which is a narrow cut through which runs the Norfolk and Western Railway. It is situated about midway between Keystone and Northfork and the place derived its name from the number of men who have been found dead in it. From the first beginning of the town this cut has been noted for the number of men who have been held up and robbed and the number who have been found murdered therein. In the early life of Keystone this was a very dangerous place for a traveller to pass through alone and today a man is taking his life in his hands if he attempts to pass through this cut after dark. Every pay day this cut claims a victim, who after being murdered is robbed and his body then placed upon the railroad to be mutilated by the first passing train." (Feb. 2017 image by author)

(Feb. 2017 image by author)



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