POCAHONTAS COALFIELD IN VIRGINIA
The Virginia portion of this coalfield occurs only in Tazewell County. The field was opened in the early 1880s, and producted a great deal
of some of the finest "smokeless" coal to be found in the world for around a century. The only contemporary operation that I am aware of is CONSOL's Amonate mine. I'm not sure, but the
coal from the Amonate mine may actually be under West Virgina.
SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA COALFIELDS
APPALACHIAN COALFIELDS HOME
Bishop, VA - a coal camp constructed by the Pocahontas Fuel Company in 1930. Half of Bishop is in Virginia and half is in West Virginia.
The namesake of this coalfield is the town of Pocahontas, named for the Indian princess. Pocahontas was developed by the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company in 1881-83. Some of these houses pictured may have been company houses. But Pocahontas wasn't simply a coal mining camp. It had a bustling business district and privately owned homes as well.
The commercial district in Pocahontas is just a shell of what it once was. Many of the town's historic structures, such as these, are falling into ruin.
Farther up on the hill in Pocahontas is a section of the village that has the feel of a ghost town. Many of the buildings are abandoned and ruined.
I especially liked this.
One structure in Pochaontas that is still in good condition is St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church. St. Elizabeth was founded in 1896 for all of the european immigrants in Pocahontas. Some of their descendents may still live in the area, since the church still hosts an annual Hugarian Cabbage Roll ("Hunky hand grenades") Dinner. It sits on the hilltop overlooking the town, and is rumored to have beautiful murals painted inside, but I didn't go inside as Mass was in session when I took this picture and I looked like a bum (and besides I went to Mass in Beckley the night before).
The office building of the Pocahontas Fuel Company still stands in the middle of Pocahontas. After CONSOL purchased the Pocahontas Fuel Company they kept regional offices here. Pocahontas Fuel Company also maintained offices in the big Norfolk & Western building in downtown Bluefield, WV. It is unknown who the current residents are.
This company store, the first store that the Pocahontas Fuel Company ever built (in 1883), is still in existence in Pocahontas, Virginia. Through the years the company built so many stores in Bishop, Switchback, Itmann, and others. But this was their first. According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, when Consol took over Pocahontas Fuel in 1958 they kept this store open until about 1980. In 2006 I wrote, "The structure is in poor condition now, and if someone doesn't close off the open windows to the elements, it, like so many other interesting buildings in Pocahontas, will be lost to time and the weather."
My predictions proved right when the store collapsed in 2007. What a waste. (Photo courtesy of Debbie)
Shown here is the company store in Pocahontas when it was new. Note that the freight elevator had not been built yet. (Courtesy of Eastern Regional Coal Archives, Bluefield, WV)
Some company houses in the coal camp section of Pocahontas with the powerhouse from the old Pocahontas No. 1 mine in the background. Behind that is a huge reclaimed slate dump.
A closer view of the stone powerhouse at the site of the Pocahontas No. 1 mine. This was the first commerical mine opened in the Pocahontas Coalfield (VA and WV), and, since 1938, has been operating as the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine.
Cap light battery charger in the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine bathhouse
The shower stalls are to the right of this picture of the bathhouse at the Pocahontas mine.
This was the fanhouse for the Pocahontas No. 1 mine, but is now the entrance to the exhibition mine.
Inside the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine. This was the first tourist coal mine in the nation. At one time people drove cars through this tourist attraction, as the Pocahontas No. 3 coal seam here is 13 feet hight. But now the tour guide just walks visitors through it.
Company housing at Boissevain, VA
This small red brick structure along the road in Boissevain is a surviving "coal house." This is where the coal company would deliver the coal that the families in the company homes would use in their kitchen stoves or pot-bellied stoves or Warm Morning stoves. The reason that there are two holes for the coal truck's chute is because one "coal house" served two homes.
Probably "bosses row" in Boissevain
The Pocahontas Fuel Company store in Boissevain as it looked in it's prime - note the fine landscaping that this very wealthy company could afford. (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)
The Pocahontas Fuel Company store in Boissevain as it looks today.
Today nothing remains from the Boissevain tipple pictured here. (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)
Display on the edge of town in Boissevain, VA
The UMWA hall for Boissevain is actually located over the hill in Abbs Valley.
Photo inside the Boissevain mine in the 1940s showing the fire boss checking the mine top before the section crew comes in for a shift. (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)
Amonate, VA was built by the Pocahontas Fuel Company. That firm probably opened the Amonate mine and coal camp at the same time as Bishop - around 1930. In a way they seem like sister towns to me, with new prep plants constructed by Fairmont Machinery in the 1950s.
Not all of the company houses are two story in Amonate.
Amonate is one of the very last of the original coal towns from the Golden Age of Appalachian Coal Mining to still have its coal mine. Consol Energy - who absorbed Pocahontas Fuel Co. in the 1950s - is still operating the Amonate mine, though they did temporarily idle it recently until the met coal market improved.
SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA COALFIELDS
APPALACHIAN COALFIELDS HOME