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STIRRAT, WV

Stirrat was constructed by the Main Island Creek Coal Co. and named for that firm's General Manager - James Stirrat. In the mid-1920's Main Island Creek sold their Logan Coalfield properties to West Virginia Coal and Coke Co., who designated their new coal mine at Stirrat No. 15 Mine. They also produced coal from their No. 18 (Upper Cedar Grove seam) & No. 19 (No. 2 Gas seam) mines at Stirrat. West Virginia Coal and Coke built a large tipple here to wash the coal from these mines and named it Dorrance Colliery. In the mid-1950's West Virginia Coal and Coke closed their mines along Island Creek.

In December 1968 the Wheeling Steel Co. and Pittsburgh Steel Co. merged to form Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. Evidently, one of the first things they decided was that they needed some coking coal reserves, and in 1969 they bought the mining properties at Stirrat, which had probably been dormant for several years. Operating as W.P. Coal Co., W-P Coal Co., or just Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., the coal preparation facilities were probably rebuilt at this time. According to state mine records, Wheeling-Pittsburgh stopped mining at Stirrrat in the mid-1970's. By that time, the steel industry in America was starting to flounder into the "Rust Belt" era, and they probably had to divest themselves of what was once an asset.

In the 21st Century Massey Energy was running the mines at Stirrat under the name Diamond Energy.


Norma writes, "I was raised in Stirrat and lived in the coal camp called Littles Creek. Thank you for the memories! Yes, Littles Creek was part of the coal camp. The mines were so close that my daddy walked to work. My daddy moved there in 1950, and worked for West Virginia Coal and Coke. We owed our souls to the company store when my daddy worked in that mine."



Recent aerial view of Stirrat showing part of the coal mine and the old coal camp houses. Island Creek runs through the middle of the photo. (Image by others)


The preparation plant at Stirrat - probably rebuilt by W-P Coal on the same site as the earlier Dorrance Colliery. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


This had to be one of the last functional coal aerial tramways left in America. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


This bin with a little house on top remains from the Dorrance Colliery. The tram going up the mountain is in the background. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


Where the CSX Railroad (originally C&O) crosses Rt. 44 in the Stirrat camp. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


This is one of the nicer mining camps. The houses are large and there are sidewalks, too. The coal silos are in the background. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


Another view of the camp from near the prep plant entrance. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


Conveyor and aerial tram. I was told that the tramway later flew apart and flung tram cars all over the mountain side. After this it was demolished. (Feb. 2002 image by author)


Nice photo of the Stirrat tipple, also known as Dorrance Colliery. (1950s image from the "Keystone Coal Manual")


This was probably the quintessential Southern West Virginia tipple in the fifties. (1950s image from the "Keystone Coal Manual")


Coal miners standing in a line leading to the paymaster's window at the Junior Mercantile company store, where they will recieve their pay (or pay stub showing that they are in debt to the company store). (Oct. 1935 image by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress)



Carol sent us this great photograph. She wrote, " I found a pic of the Dorrence Colliery. My friend Stella and I (age 14)were sitting at the corner of the theatre. The gas station (Junior Mercantile Stores) is in view behind us. That was across the road from the YMCA. (Image courtesy of Carol O'Brien Ambrosetti)


Carol also sent in "a pic of the old 'Y,' as we knew it. This was the center of our world growing up. From left of photo was the Post office, Grocery and clothing (we had to go to Omar to buy furniture), Restaurant, which had 3 divisions for service, (eating side, beer side, and 'colored' side all divided by walls), and Theatre. On Sunday's after church there was always a big ball game in the lot behind the 'Y.' My Mom, Bertha O'Brien was a short order cook there for many years. We had no cars then - we walked everywhere we went, or rode a bike. We did have school bus service, if you lived more then a mile from school, that was available when we started Jr. High, which was at Omar - grades 7 thru 9. We lived as a huge family, and we knew everyone who lived there. Folks watched out for the kids and told the parents if they saw us misbehaving. We paid the price too - no hesitation on whippings (don't think it warped us in any way). We were taught RESPECT. We were all poor but I don't think we realized how RICH we were." (Image contributed by Carol O'Brien Ambrosetti of unknown origin)

Carol Ambrosetti also shared some more memories of growing up at Stirrat: "Just thinking of what our community had other then the YMCA. A gas station, (I recall gas being 11 cents a gallon and cigarettes were 22 cents a pack), coal company doctor's office, church, and a 4 room school that taught grades 1 through 6. 1st and 2nd grades had single rooms; 3rd and 4th shared a room, as well as 5th and 6th. There were some pretty strict teachers with a paddle - if you got a paddling at school you took a note home and you received another from Mom or Dad. (Today they call it child abuse.) Didn't hurt any of us!! Everyone was called Mr. and Mrs.; we did not call any of our elders by their first name. To this day I do not know a lot of those folks first names. I remember the coal company scrip we used for money. The war was going on, and I remember the ration stamps for food and shoes. The kids took pennies to school for a stamp book that went toward savings bonds. We collected the milk weed pods in coffee sacks and were told it was to make parachutes for the army. I remember getting 2 pair of shoes a year. One pair was for church, and were a little dresser then school shoes. How I hated those brown lace up shoes for school. You could not wear them out, and if the sole came loose, Dad was there with a shoe last and awl to fix them. We pulled off our shoes and winter underwear May 1st, no matter how cold it was, and went bare foot all Summer. How I remember the stubbed toes and cut feet on glass playing in the creek. The kids rambled the hills, and swung from grape vines out over cliffs to land in huge piles of leaves. Not one of us ever broke a bone or got snake bite, and trust me rattlesnakes and copperheads were everywhere. Kids even smoked "rabbit weed" sometimes. My dad could whistle loud enough to call us home for supper. We had no TV to watch or electronic games, so we had to entertain ourselves. Mom would give us a coffee can and tell us to pick blackberries in the summer for a berry cobbler. We gave up many berry patchs to Mr. Rattlesnake when we heard him rattle, but the cobblers were worth it. At dusk the kids of our camp would play Tin Can Alley out in the dirt road under an old street light, or hide and seek until we were called in for bed. (There was no traffic after quitting time at the mines, and none of us had a car.) The miners all walked to and from work, unless a truck with running boards would pick up several miners on both side of the truck and give them a ride. The Stirrat Community church is still there. It has had a face lift since the early years and looks very good. A lady that worked with the church for many years told me she found the records of the coal miners names that donated 50 centes a week to build the church, and my dad's name was on it: Everett O'Brien. But her and my Dad are gone now , and I don't know what happened with the records. The old YMCA, the school, and the church had an old gray pebble stucco type finish on the outside. I guess that was the "in thing" back then. The school has since been torn down as well as the YMCA. But the memories are very much alive for a little longer."


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