BUCHANAN COALFIELD



Abandoned Jewell Smokeless Coal Co. prep plant. (Circa 2000 image by others)


Red Jacket Coal Company's Keen Mountain coal camp as it looked when it was newer. This was one of the last coal company towns to be constructed in the nation in 1937. Red Jacket, a subsidiary of Ritter Lumber Co., was later absorbed into Island Creek Coal Co. (And Island Creek Coal almost constructed the last coal town at the late date of 1980-81 in Buchanan County. It was to be called Buchanshire, but never got past the planning stages.) (Aug. 1944 image courtesy VT ImageBase, housed and operated by Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries; scanning by Digital Imaging, Learning Technologies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)


In 1938 an explosion at the recently opened Keen Mountain coal mine resulted in the death of 45 miners. Island Creek continued mining at Keen Mountain until it closed down the last one, Beattrice Mine, in the late 1980s. (May 2006 image by author)


These might be the nicest coal company houses I have ever seen. They may have been reserved for management, because there are smaller homes closer to the site where the preparation plant used to be. (Only a 1960s or 70s vintage machine shop and stacking conveyor remain.) (May 2006 image by author)


I can tell that this was the company store because it is a carbon copy of the (now demolished) store that Red Jacket (or Island Creek) built at Coal Mountain, WV. (May 2006 image by author)


Mouth of the original Keen Mountain coal mine. (2003 image courtesy of Ed Talbott)


(Image by others)


Island Creek also owned this currently idle preparation plant, located near Vansant. Note the head frame for the skip hoist, indicating a shaft mine. There is also a manway shaft out of view of the photograph. This operation, named the Virginia Pocahontas Mine No. 1, might have sent its coal to the Jewell Coal and Coke ovens down the creek. (May 2006 image by author)


The coke works of Jewell Coal and Coke (now Sun Coke) near Vansant, VA. This is the only remaining coke works IN THE COALFIELDS that I am aware of, though they used to be numerous in the beehive coke era. All other active coke works are located outside of the coalfields, usually in the Rust Belt. (May 2006 image by author)


This tipple is next to the coke works, and there is an even larger preparation plant on the other side of the coke works. (May 2006 image by author)


Contrast the large Island Creek preparation plant shown above with this small, abandoned loadout near Maxie, VA. (Nov. 2006 image by author)


At the old company town of Harman, VA the coal company left their "Dictator" logo on this wall to preserve their memory. (Nov. 2006 image by author)


Probably coal company houses and company store at Harman, Virginia. (Image by others)


Norfolk-Southern's Weller train yard. (Nov. 2006 image by author)


This vintage photo of the aerial tramway at Roseann, VA is courtesy of D.L. Coleman, who was a mining engineer for Leckie Smokeless Coal Co. - the company that operated the Roseann mine. In the center of this picture is the tipple - down in the bottom of the valley, with rail cars lined up behind it. (Image courtesy of D.L. Coleman)


Another view of the tram that used to be at Roseann. Though the mine was owned by Leckie at the time this photograph was taken, it was actually constructed by Panther Coal Co. (Image courtesy of D.L. Coleman)


Sad condition of the Roseann company store as it looked in 2009. (Image courtesy of "Longgone")


Abandoned coal camp houses in Jewell Valley, VA, which was probably constructed in the early 1930s. About Jewell Valley Mark Van Dyke writes, "In 1994 I remember riding through there at night with my dad, and so many houses being up and down the side of the road. The old clubhouse was still there, everything. Not a soul lived in that holler. I was the scariest thing I believe I have ever seen." Many will remember the Jewell Valley mines being operated by Jewell Smokeless Coal Co. Later Island Creek Coal assumed ownership of the property, and they kept the company store opened until the 1980s - very late for a coal company store. (Image by others)


Mark Van Dyke shares his knowledge about the Buchanan Coalfield:

"Jewell Valley was a model coal town built by George L. Carter, founder and owner of the mighty Clinchfield Coal Co., Which was later absorbed by Pittston. Pittston also owned Seabord Coal Co. on the Jewell Ridge side of Tazewell Co. The old tipple that you said was owned by Jewell Smokeless was actually owned by Clinchfield, who owned Dante. Mining operations were shut down in the early 60's but the town remained at least until the late 70's, and the company store was ran until at least 1973, because my grandmother was a home health nurse and talks about eating there from time to time.

This county is still rich with coal, because Norfolk and Southern didn't give us train service until 1931. So that is a big reason that we still have large reserves.This coal field was unique because unlike most coal fields, it was mostly contract mined. The big four were Jewell Smokeless, United, Harman, and Knox Creek, and also Permac and Clinchfield contracted coal out. The seams mined were the Red Ash, Hagy, Widow Kennedy, Splashdam, and Jawbone, just to name a few. All of the coal was met grade coal except the Hagy seam, and the Splashdam and Widow Kennedy is world class coal. These contract mines were independently owned, non-union, mostly low seam mining, commonly referred to as dogholes. It was rumored that at one time Buchanan County had more millionaires than any other county in Virginia. Jim Mcglothlin owner of United Coal Co. and Woodrow Mcglothlin (now deceased) were one of the richest father and son teams in Virginia.

Deep under Buchanan county, though, lurks one of the, if not the, best seams in the world, the almighty Pocahontas 3 seam. When I say under, I mean 1500 feet under. Island Creek used to have their Virginia Pocahontas operations, 1-6, but the last mine, VP 8 which was VP 5 and 6 cut together closed down in 2005. Consol owns the largest mine in Virginia, Their Buchanan Mine, which produced 5 million tons in 2006.

United Coal Co. was started in the early 1970's during the energy crunch, when the price of coal skyrocketed. They had few company mines, but actually contracted almost all of their coal out, which was 'truck mined,' which means that the coal was mined and hauled to the prep plants by trucks. At that time there were no laws on bed tarps or anything to protect people from coal rolling off of the beds of the trucks. Every road in Buchanan County was literally black in the 1970's and early '80's. United Coal bought out many many companies in VA.,KY., and WV. and in the late '80's and early '90's was one of the largest around. In 1996 United sold to Massey. By that time they had accquired Knox Creek Coal, and Harman Mining, and Massey Sold the Harman Mining and Buchanan County Reserves to Rapoca Energy, a Buchanan County based company. They kept Knox Creek and operate their Tiller Mine just across the mountain on Shortt's Gap. In 2006 United Coal Co. was reborn, using the Wellmore Energy name. Coal is still truck mined by United on the western end of the county.

Island Creek Coal Co. bought the Red Jacket Coal Co. and built their coal camp at Keen Mountain, and it is the only surviving camp in the county. Their first shaft mine was started in the early '60's, just down the road from the camp, named Beatrice, which is now gone, followed by the Virginia Pocahontas mines. Consol, who bought out Pocahontas fuel, bought out Island Creek in 1993, and operated their Virginia Pocahontas mines, and their own, Buchanan No. 1. Island Creek ran a merchandise store at Vansant VA, up until the early 80's.

Harman mining was a large scale company, The largest in the county in the early days. They mined the Splashdam Seam, which varies from 8 feet, to 3 feet in thickness. Most is 3 feet. Wellmore's Apollo mine is still running, and it was a Harman mine, 1AA. The mine has been running since 1972, if I am not mistaken. Harman mine 1A lasted from the early 30's until the late 90's when it was shut down.

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