SCENES FROM PAINT CREEK

Kanawha and Fayette Counties, West Virginia


Paint Creek empties into the Kanawha River at Pratt. Also at Pratt stood this house where UMWA / labor organizer Mother Jones was held prisoner during the 1912-1913 Paint Creek / Cabin Creek Mine Wars. Unfortunately the house was torn down in 1996. (National Historic Landmarks image)


Paint Creek Collieries Co. miners and trip of coal cars at Mucklow, WV. The name of Paint Creek Collieries' two mines at Mucklow were the Paint Creek Mine (opened in 1902) and Scranton Mine (opened in 1907). (Circa 1906 C&O Railway image via Google Books)


Tipple at powerhouse at Mucklow. The powerhouse almost looks like it was of wooden construction. That wouldn't have been very safe. Later, for a few years around 1930, the Wacomah Fuel Co. ran the former Paint Creek Collieries mines on Paint Creek. (Circa 1906 C&O Railway image via Google Books)


Paint Creek Collieries Company store at Mucklow. In 1912 and 1913 there was a tremendous amount of violence between organized labor and the coal company management/private mine guards/public police force axis of evil around Mucklow. The "mine wars" story is too long to recount here, but it ranks down there with the Ludlow Massacre and Homestead Strike as a low point in industrial relations. The worst incident of the whole affair was when UMWA strikers shot at a coal company ambulance and the company store, followed that evening by an armored train, boarded by coal operators, mine guards, railroad police, deputies, and even the Kanwaha County sherrif, shooting up a tent colony near Mucklow where striking miners and their families were living in union-supplied tents. Sadly, fatalities were reported. The name of the coal camp was later changed from Mucklow to Gallagher, probably because of the bad reputation of the name Mucklow. By then the company was calling itself the Paint Creek Coal Mining Co. (Paint Creek Coal Mining Co. also changed neighboring Wacomah to Livingston, and Tomsburg to Whittaker.) (C&O Railway image via Google Books)


The now-vanished coal camp of Burnwell. Now, though, nothing remains of the town but memories. For more Burnwell see my Burnwell page. (Image from "Kanawha County Images, A Bicentennial History 1788-1988" by Stan Cohen)


What's left of the Paint Creek Coal Mining Company's camp at Collinsdale, WV. There appears to be a coal car in the yard of the white house. Sometimes you see things such as that when driving around West Virginia. (April 2009 image by author)


Superintendent's house at Mahan, Wv. Like nearby Burnwell, this was a coal camp owned and operated by the Christian brothers interests, in this case called Christian Colliery Company. Their Mahan Mine No. 1 was in the Powellton seam, and Mahan No. 3 was in the Eagle seam of coal. Mahan No. 3 & No. 4 mines closed in 1953. (April 2009 image by author)


A coal miner with his dinner bucket sitting down to lunch in the "dinner hole" in one of the Milburn Colliery Company's mines.(Probably 1970's image by others)


There is not much more than this sign left at Milburn, Fayette County. This coal mining town was opened in the early 1920's, and at that time was a concern of the Milburn By-Products Coal Co (mining the Powellton seam). By the time this sign was erected, Milburn Collieries Co. was operating the Milburn mines. Milburn Collieries kept the Milburn mines open into the 1980's. Around 1989 they leased the mines to Mountain Minerals Inc., who hired non-union miners. This brought about a wave of union violence resulting in the bombing of a mine portal, followed by the burning of the Milburn tipple, followed by a bombing of fan house, and finally an unsuccessful attempt to bomb the electric substation of the mine. Nine UMWA members were arrested in the Autumn of 1989, and that basically spelled the end of coal mining at Milburn. (June 2001 image by author)



I don't think Milburn was ever a very large coal town. In this photo part of the Milburn coal camp can be seen, with the tipple and conveyor crossing Paint Creek in the background. The large clearing going up the mountainside can still be seen along the WV Turnpike. (Image courtesy of Wanda Crouch via Dale Payne's "Fayette County The Early Years")


I remember this tipple along the WV Turnpike in the 1980's. By the time I went to college in 1990 it was gone. (Probably 1980's image courtesy of kathypig1)


Although the C&O served the mines along Paint Creek from that stream's mouth all the way to Kingston, a different railroad hauled the coal from Paint Creek mines upstream of Kingston. The Virginian Railway's main line entered the Paint Creek valley near Mossey and more or less followed Paint Creek all the way to its headwaters near Eccles. In this photo a Virginian locomotive stops for water at Pax. Pax, WV not only became a small commercial center for surrounding coal towns (Willis Branch, Weirwood, Long Branch), but was also the location of the junction of the Virginian Railway and the Kanawha, Glen Jean, & Eastern Railway. That shortline tunnelled under the mountain between Pax and Mount Hope, and building a tunnel under a large mountain was no small feat for a small shortline railroad. Later this railroad was taken up and abandoned. Then, in 2006, it was reconstructed to serve a new coal loadout at Pax. The author remembers driving from Mount Hope to Pax one Wednesday evening in July, 2006 and seeing a large group of men installing new rails. (Image courtesy of Walter Caldwell)


Here's the company store that used to exist at Long Branch, WV. Long Branch, near Pax, was opened in 1913 by the Long Branch Coal Co. with two mines - Long Branch No. 1 and No. 2 - in the Eagle and No. 2 Gas seams. A 2,050 incline brought coal down from the drift portal high on the mountainside down to the tipple served by the Virginian Railway. In 1923 the Long Branch mines employed nearly 300 men. From 1927 until 1933 C.C.B. Smokeless Coal Co. ran the Long Branch mines. Finally The Koppers Division of Eastern Gas & Fuel Associates operated the Long Branch mines and store until 1946. Incidentally, I have never seen photos of coal company housing at Long Branch, nor is their any still existing, so I really don't know if this was an actual coal camp or not. (Image courtesy of Walter Caldwell)


Coal camp houses at Weirwood, WV. (Feb. 2006 image by author)


Scene from many years ago showing the coal tipple at Willis Branch, WV. There was a ridiculous amount of violence here in 1920-21 from the UMWA against the Willis Branch Coal Co. All types of people were terrorized, the mine hoist was damaged, dynamite was exploded in front of the superintendent's house, street light poles dynamited, engine house dynamited, incline wrecked, electrical sub-station dynamited, rail cars destroyed, and finally the tipple was burned. Strikers fired a hailstorm of bullets on Willis Branch - on the super's house, on company houses containing women and children, and on people coming and going from the town - for months, and some people were killed. Later the UMWA settled with the coal company for an amount allegedly over $100,000. This was really a low point for UMWA guerrilla warfare. (Image courtesy of Walter Caldwell)

When you think about it - the imprisonment of labor leader Mother Jones at a private home in Pratt (1912); the tragic mine wars around Mucklow (1913); the burning and bombing of the Milburn mine by the UMWA (1989); and the destruction of the Willis Branch mine and town (1921) - the Paint Creek valley has been a valley of strife, violence, and death. Even the old two- and three-lane WV Turnpike that was constructed through much of the Valley in 1954 was notorious for its dangers and deaths. (The Turnpike is four lanes now.)


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. Eagle 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.