HOME>SOUTHERN WV>KANAWHA COALFIELD>CABIN CREEK

SCENES ALONG CABIN CREEK



Classic old photo of an unnamed coal camp in the Cabin Creek vicinity. The houses look unpainted, and are still uniform in appearance. If this photograph was taken in the 21st Century some of the porches would be enclosed, other houses would have additions, there would be different colors of paint and siding, and there would be gaps in the rows of houses where some had been demolished. (Jun. 1974 Docuamerica image by Jack Corn)


The CSX Railway (formerly C&O) Cabin Creek rail branch is the concrete bridge in the center of the photo. It has just branched off from the former main line of the C&O, shown in the foreground. The WV Turnpike is in the background. (Apr. 2007 image by author)


What looks like company houses in Cabin Creek, WV. (Apr. 2007 image by author)


Ronda, WV coal camp. A resident of the village told me that it was once owned and operated by Truax-Traer Coal Company. As this photo shows the historic layout of the town is not as apparent now that residents have added outbuildings and garages, single wide mobile homes, and porch enclosures. Truax-Traer also operated mines farther up the creek at Kayford, and on the other side of the mountain at Marfork. (Mar. 2009 image by author)


Part of the town of Leewood, WV with a portion of the Catenary Coal Co. mine in the background. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


The remaining coal camp houses in Leewood. Arnold Miller, former president of the UMWA, hails from Leewood. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


There are only a handful of houses left in the coal camp of Red Warrior, Kanawha County, on Cabin Creek. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


Cabin Creek running full of acid mine drainage. Many streams in southern WV used to run orange with coal mine pollution. Along with burning slate dumps and strip mine mud slides, they were the results of lax environmental regulations that existed before the 1980's. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


A few of the remaining company-built houses in Decota, Kanawha County, where the Carbon Fuel Co. Carbon No. 3 mine was in the 5 Block seam of coal. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


This post is one of the only reminders of the largest coal company that operated on Cabin Creek - Carbon Fuel Co. The other companies that owned major coal mines along both forks of Cabin Creek include Truex-Trayer Coal Co., Republic Steel, and Bethlehem Steel. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


This concrete machine gun bunker was once used by the Baldwin-Felts mine guards, and is still in existence. (Image courtesy of the defunct website "Boom Days of Coal")


Ancient view of the town of Kayford, WV. This is the original Kayford tipple, when the mine and town were probably owned by the Cabin Creek Consolidated Coal Co., not the large steel one that Truax-Traer Coal Co. built in the 1950s for their Racoon mine. (Image courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives)


From a September 1985 A.P. article titled "Cabin Creekers Now Mine Junk Instead of Coal" by Strat Douthat: KAYFORD, W.Va. - At the Bethlehem Steel bathhouse, where just a couple of years ago hundreds of miners washed the underground grime from their bodies each day, rats and lizards scamper across the floor. Flies buzz through the shot-out windows and vines choke the gaping doorway.

Once a proud prototype of the Appalachian coal industry, this Cabin Creek valley town southeast of Charleston is now a place where desperate, dispirited men spend their days drinking beer and scavaging the abandoned mines that used to employ them.

One recent hot summer afternoon, several men sat outside the Bethlehem complex in the parking lot, downing six-packs and discussing how their world had collapsed. They also talked about what piece of abandoned, rusting mine equipment to attack next with their acetylene torches. One, a middle-aged man with a gray stubble of beard, shruggled philosophically as he discussed the pastime of Cabin Creekers called "junking." "We don't figure they're ever going to be using it again, anyway," he said. "A fellow can make $300 to $400 a week junking if he's got a truck to haul the stuff away."

Hundreds of loaded railroad cars used to rumble down the valley each day, carrying out coal and pumping in money to the communities built around each mine. Now, as one life-long Cabin Creek resident says, "It's the people that are pouring out of this hollow." Pearl Harrison, postmaster at Leewood, three-quarters up the creek, said she had seen a steady exodus in recent months. "Kayford's just a ghost town now," she said. "Lots of young families have left from around here."

Thirty years ago 10,000 miners worked along Cabin Creek. 10 years ago the figure had dropped to 5,000, and two years ago it was down to 2,500. Now, only one small deep mine is operating along the 20-mile long hollow, employsing about 25 miners.

The man with the stubble, who said he preferred not to be identified, is a former mine electrician whose services once were in great demand. Now, as he sees it, he's too old to start over, too young to draw a pension, and just right for junking. "This is all I have to do since they cut me loose" two years ago, he said. "It used to be I couldn't be out of work for two days unless they were calling me. And now there's nobody left to work for here."

Quin Morton III, whose father and grandfather helped develop mining along the creek [And who tried to murder the miners on neighboring Paint Creek from the Bull Moose Special train - author), well remembers when 10,000 miners labored deep beneath the steep hills. Morton, retired president of the now-defunct Kanawha Valley Coal Operators Association, said plenty of coal remains along the creek and that the mines will be productive again - someday. His optimistic view is not shared by many Cabin Creek residents. "Buddy, things will never be the same around here, not like they once were," said David Pullen, who has spent all of his 60 years at Giles, just below Ohley, the onetime home of former United Mine Workers president Arnold Miller. Pullen, who operateds a service station, said Cabin Creek was dead. "Buddy, I can remember when they pulled 550 to 600 coal cars out of this hollow each day," he said. "now they haul about 50 cars out a couple of times a week, and it's the people that are pouring out of this hollow. William Carroll of Ohley nodded as Pullman talked. "I've lived on Cabin Creek since 1938 and I've never seen things this bad," the 69-year old retired miner said. "Used to be the coal trucks and the coal trains ran 24 hours a day. Now it's real quiet."

The men stood in front of a gas station-grocery operated by Pullen and his wife, sho said at least half of her grocery customers paid with food stamps. "That's what is keeping us going right now, food stamps and pension checks," Pullen said. "The older folks help out the young'uns. The boys bum enough money for a couple of beers, and the old folks sit on the porch." One young man who doesn't bum beer money is 23-year-old Bruce Stanley of Eskdale. A former miner, he now works for a rental car company. "I was laid off about a year before I found a job," he said. "But I made more in two days in the mines than I make in a week now. I started at the top and I'm working my way down." As he spoke, a teen-ager strolled past. "Kids like him will never know what it was like to make $500 a week," Stanley said. "I got in the tail-end of it, but it's gone now. Even junking is not as good as it was a couple of years ago."


SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA COALFIELDS


APPALACHIAN COALFIELDS HOME

History of coal mining. History of West Virginia. History of Kanawha County West Virginia. History of Fayette County West Virginia. History of Raleigh County. History of Wyoming County. History of McDowell Couinty. History of Beckley WV. Pocahontas Coal Seam. Historic Pictures. Historic Photographs. Historic books. Historic Maps. Bluefield History. Beckley history publications. History. Polish immigrants. Slovak immigrants. Italian immigrants. West Virginia immigrants. Appalachian music. Appalachian culture. Historic architecture. Historic buildings. Historic towns. Organized labor. Unions. United Mine workers. Archives.