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MONTCOAL, WV

Colcord Coal Co. opened the Montcoal mines in 1918. Eventually there were Mines No. 1 through 5 , and Colcord operated them until 1944. In 1945 Armco Steel, who already had a captive coal mine in Nellis, W.Va., took over the Montcoal mines. Armco is probably the best-remembered owner of the Montcoal mines, and they owned them until 1984, when they were sold to Peabody Coal Co. About Montcoal daily life former resident Bill Bartlett remembered, "We had a store, a restaurant, a post office, a barbershop, a family doctor, tennis courts, shuffleboard, scout troops, and a men's baseball team. What a unique and wonderful experience to have grown up on Big Coal River in Montcoal.

When Peabody closed the No. 7 mine in 1991 some people may have thought that it was the end of coal mining at Montcoal. However, Performance Coal Co. (an A.T. Massey subsidiary) reworked the mine site and mines in 1984. This was a successful coal mining operation until one of the Montcoal mines - the Upper Big Branch mine - blew up in April 2010, resulting in the death of 29 miners. Apparently this was the beginning of the end of the Montcoal mines. Alpha Natural Resources, who bought out Massey Energy, closed them in 2013.



This was possibly the next to last coal company store to close in W.Va., and probably all of America. Standard Supply must have been a subsidiary that operated stores for the coal companies, and they were at various locations in the W.Va. coalfields. I don't know when this opened, but it was operated by Armco Steel for their captive mine at Montcoal, and lastly by Peabody Coal Co. The store closed in late 1991. The preparation plant can be seen in the background. (Image courtesy of Alan Nichols)

So many historians have focused on coal camp residents living in squalor and being oppressed by coal companies, but listen to these peoples' memories of the Montcoal No. 7 store from the Big Coal River Area's Facebook page: "If you walked away from that place hungry, you have a tape worm." "We loved going in there when we were little ... all the candy. Most of all those ham sandwiches." "Best sandwich I ever had and I have had many. Sad that others did not get to enjoy." "Sandwiches at the Robin Hood company store were even better [Another Armco mine on the other side of the mountain]." "Company store ham sandwiches were to die for." "Went there with my Aunt Loretta many times. They had a little bit of everything." "The ham sandwiches were the best! Spent so much time there. We waited for the school bus every morning." "We used to shop there every week. It was such a big deal to go to the company store." "Yes the ham sandwiches was to die for. [sic] I worked at #7 and when you worked over they would get you a sandwich." "I loved that place! My dad used to let me charge a treat each evening after school. It was like free to me! Sometimes it was a sandwich, sometimes a drink or candy, but it is a great memory for me!""I remember the fireworks Armco put off on the holidays, the tram up the hill, and the Christmas tree at the top of the tram." "I always got really happy when mom said we needed to go to the company store! Best sandwichs and salads. A lot of memories of that store." "When I was really little, I remember getting coal dumped into the back of my dady's truck over to the left of the company store. And, yes, the sandwiches were fantastic - something about that ham!"

In a 1991 Hometown News article titled, "Closing of Store Saddens Community," it is stated, "Giles Pettrey, the 83 year old onwer of the Standard Supply Company, has been offered another piece of land on which to rebuild, but his age discourages him from doing so. He still owns one remaining store in Boone County, but remarks, 'Progress removes the old and makes way for the new.'" So could the other store have been the one at Prenter, W.Va.? If so then that company store was opened even later than this one. Apparently Pettrey owned Standard Supply but was contracted by Peabody Coal Co. to operate these stores at their mines.


Inside the company store. (Circa 1991 WV SHPO image)


The Montcoal company store. In the background are the homes of mine bosses, and the name of that neighborhood was "Cigar Hill" or "Silk Stocking Row." (Image courtesy of John Pettry)


Armco's Montcoal tipple. (Image courtesy of Martha Peters Jarrell)


Another view of Armco Steel's tipple / prep plant. (Image source forgeotten)


Montcoal miner getting on or off the incline mantrip. (1970 image courtesy of Tammy Burdette)


Aerial tramway slate disposal at Montcoal. (Image by Charles Bradford)


Peformance coal mantrip entering the mine. (Image by Lyntha Eiler)


Aerial view of Peformance Coal Co. colliery with the Montcoal coal camp in the background. Although the company store was gone and the houses were no longer rented, Montcoal still was a fully functioning coal mining community. (1996 image by Lyntha Eiler)


Peformance Coal Company's Montcoal operation and Cigar Hill. (Image by Lyntha Eiler)


Performance Coal Co. (June 1996 image by Mary Hufford)


Coal camp houses at Montcoal, W.Va. (1996 image by Lyntha Eiler, Library of Congress)


By the time this photo was taken, the coal mine complex had been demolished and Montcoal was a ghost town. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


Abandoned 98 year old coal camp house and tube truss conveyor. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


Empty coal camp house and church. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


This home may have been recently occupied, but seems to be empty now. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


One of these homes was still occupied by what must be one of the last residents of Montcoal. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


The post office was replaced by these mailboxes. Structures in the background are the last ones from the mining complex. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


Old UMWA union hall along Route 3 near Montcoal. In the background is Goals Coal, which was originally built by Armco. (Feb. 2016 image by author)


This sign says the UMWA is "here to stay," but in the 21st Century the union has been emasculated in Southern W.Va. However, in the 1960s and 70s this area was strongly pro-union. (Feb. 2016 image by author)

From a Bluefield Daily Telegraph article dated October 20, 1994: "A T. Massey Coal Company, Inc., has announced that two of its subsidiaries, Performance Coal Company and Goals Coal Company, have completed the previously announced plan to acquire the operating assets of Peabody CoalCompany’s Montcoal/Sundial business unit. The operations are located in Boone and Raleigh counties. This week Performance Coal Company began operating the former Montcoal Number 7 deep mine, and Goals Coal Company began operating the former Sundial preparation plant. Additional operating plans are under consideration. Both companies will operate under the 1993 National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement. Massey Coal Sales Company, Inc., another subsidiary of A.T. Massey Coal Company, Inc., has acquired certain coal sales agreements in connection with the Montcoal and Sundial purchase. A major, long-term supply contract with AK Steel is one of those agreements."

So much of the old 20th Century way of life in America is this article - the union agreement, the sale of coal to midwestern steel companies - is now fading fast.


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