Mary Helen Coal Company Commissary

This week I was able to take a sneak peak inside of a long abandoned building in the coal fields of Harlan County Kentucy.  This building once served as the company store for the Mary Helen Coal Company.  Later it served as the Coalgood supply company store and the Coalgood, Kentucky post office.   The post office was closed August 31, 2004.  The store building and most of the land around this area is now owned by Coalgood Energy Company.



The outside of the building shows the sheer size of this building and the relative closeness of the business to the mining operations.  The sign for the post office is still on one of the doors downstairs.


My hope for such a building would be that at some point someone would purchase it with concrete plans that could be of some type of service to the community, whether it be low income apartments, maybe some type of small business, possibly even a call center.  There is a lot of room in this building and it is still structurally sound.  As it sits now it is nothing but an eye sore to many, but to me its a glimpse into the past and a different way of life in my home town.



7 thoughts on “Mary Helen Coal Company Commissary”

  1. I spent many an evening at the commissary store,actually in the grill which is the lower part of the building. I worked in the grill when the mines was in full operation. There were gas pumps located next to the building to serve the community. We lived up macaroni hollow, there is a dam where the entrance to the hollow begins. The old addage owe my soul to the company store was so true . The miners were paid with script that could only be used at the commissary. I grew up there and have the fondest memories of the community and the many friends. I am now 82 and will be visiting there this summer with my two brothers, Cecil and Ralph Estes How nostalgic, remembering the church chimes that echoed up the hollars on a sunday morning. What glorious place, its sad to see all the homes are gone and the landscape devistated by strip mining.
    George Estes

    1. We did visit the commissary this past summer 2015, with my son Mike my brothers Cecii, Ralph, and Walter. It was sad to see the building in such ruin. We also visited the church and the cemetary on the hill. There were hugh trees growing in the center of many graves. The cemetery has all but been deserted, there were two new graves recently dug with flowers on them. Such a shame to see the graves desimated. Its too far gone to do anything about it, the trees are twenty to thirty feet high and the grave yard is covered with them. I am saddened by what I saw and will never forget the many friends that were buried there.

    2. My name is Rodney Russell.I lived up macaroni holler too. I lived there from 1950 to 1956. All of my family lived in Mary helen and worked in the mines.
      My father’s name was Jesse Russell.My uncles who lived there was Clyde , Bill, and Otis Welch.They have all passed away now.
      Before we moved to macaroni holler, we lived in the house next to the church. I fell off one of the columns in front of church and knocked a hole in my head.Dr. Kraft put a staple on it.
      Good to hear your comment.I know my dad would have remembered you.

  2. I love seeing pictures of all the abandoned places. It’s sad to know they are all wasting away when they could be used for something. I was wondering if you have anything on Cranks Elementary? I went there for grades 1-6. It would just be nice to be able to reminisce. Your work is great by the way

    1. I moved away 1n 1952, joined the Navy. I knew the Welch family AND CAN REMEMBER many of the families,the Brocks, Burtons, Metcalfs, Andersons, Burgers, Brantleys, Owens, Gentrys, Sears, Jordons , Garrets, Clems, Vans, Vanovers, Crusos, Balatttys, Brasdshaws Marlers, Forsters, Joneses,Howards, Fields,Lawsons, Frodermans, Case, Lockards, Paces, Chitwoods, Strunks,McManaways, Halls,Dickersons, Coopers, Cays, farmers, Gays, just to mention a few. I delivered the Knoxville News Sentinal paper for several years and knew most of the families.ande their offspring. I attended the old mary Helen elementary school which has been gone for ages. Graduated from Hall High.

      1. Good to see your comments. I am related to the Gentrys and Sears families. I tried to visit the community a few summers ago and found the entire area fenced off due to strip mining. I couldn’t get anywhere close to the famliy homesteads. 😦 It is very sad.

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