As you turn the curve and enter the town of Gary West Virginia from State Route 103 you will notice that the great majority of the “town” that remains is across a bridge on the other side of the Tug Fork River opposite of the main highway. The most prominent and arguably the most beautiful of these buildings is the Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church building which sits proudly on a hill in a mostly residential neighborhood.
What is interesting to me and will probably be interesting to many people from my immediate area is that Gary was a sister city to Lynch Kentucky in the fact that it was a company town, a very large company town built by US Steel. Many say that Lynch was the largest coal town in the world at one time. That point is often argued that Gary had it beat.
Due to the fact that many immigrants and migrants came to the area to work for US Steel in the coal mines there and eventually settled there is a diverse population. I read that in the 1915 there were an equal number of white and blacks living in the city of Gary. Where else in central appalachia could you find that? Naturally this diverse population lead to a diverse offering of churches. At one time Gary was home to more than 20 churches, 10 company stores, independent retailers, restaurants, tennis courts and even a bowling alley.
Slowly over time US Steel sold off the town and in 1971 US Steel oversaw Gary being incorporated into a town. In 1982 after US Steel completely pulled out of the town of Gary and shuttered their operations the unemployment rate in the town of Gary rose to 90%.
As of the 2010 census Gary has a population of 983 and the population is still quite diverse for the area with 70% white and 27% black. The schools here have closed as have most businesses including many churches. But Our lady of Victory is still going strong…..107 years later.