Old Clinchco Post Office — Dickenson County, Virginia

Back at the height of the coal boom in the early part of the 20th century Clinchco had approximately 3500 miners in the town alone.

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This is the only coal company building still remaining in Clinchco and at one time or another housed a bank, barber shop, company offices, printing press, school rooms, mortuary, and post office.

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Today, Clincho is a shell of its former self.  The school has closed but the post office remains in operation at a different location.

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Dante Coal and Railroad Museum — Russell County, Virginia

The bank was built in 1919, and closed on March 27, 1931, a victim of the Great Depression.

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The Dante Coal and Railroad Museum is located in the community of Dante in western Russell County.  The museum occupies the former Dante Branch of the Dickenson County Bank.

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The bank was built in 1919, and closed on March 27, 1931, a victim of the Great Depression.

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The following is an excerpt from the website Dantelevision:  A website dedicated to preservation efforts in the Dante community.

“It was in rough shape when we inherited it, but we saw possibilities!”
The Dante Branch of the Dickenson County Bank
This photo was taken about 1930. Lee Long and W.D.Tyler were members of the board of directors. The bank closed on March 27, 1931. Did you notice the railroad crossing and tracks directly in front of the building? The original photo was courtesy of Eugene Addington and may be found in the book, “Memories From Dante, The Life of a CoalTown.”

The citizens of Dante and West Dante formed Dante Lives On in late 2003 as a response to a wonderful opportunity: the chance to own a building in the former company town and to create an asset that will preserve the heritage of our community and educate the region. As soon as Dante Lives On was granted non-profit status, Dickenson-Russell Coal Company, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, donated the former bank building, built in 1919. The Dante branch of the Dickenson-Russell Bank went “bust” in 1931. It reopened as the Beer Garden restaurant in the 1940s, was later turned into a teen center, and finally became the Clinchfield Coal Company repair shop. It was in rough shape when we inherited it, but we saw possibilities!

 

Volunteers pitched in to remove debris from the old building in the spring and summer of 2004 and made plans for its rebirth as a museum to showcase the pictures, stories, and artifacts of coal mining and railroad life and work.

 

The Dante community put plenty of “sweat equity” into the making of the museum.
Inside, the walls were repaired, windows replaced, new lighting installed and the original tile flooring was brought back to life. Antique display cases were added. Outside, the furnace room wasn’t used and was an eyesore, so it was taken down which made way for restrooms and handicap access to be added to the building. The museum was coming together! Next were the grounds… new landscaping, flowers and shrubs were added as well as a grassy area with picnic tables.
By the time the 2007 Dante Reunion Festival rolled around, the museum was ready for business. Volunteers had created exhibits, filled the displays and worked hard to make this little museum a gem in the Southwest Virginia Appalachians. Which continues to be a cornerstone of Dante’s revitalization.
Partners in the Renovation
Grants were obtained from the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the Morgan Foundation to hire contractors to perform major renovations, such as new wiring, new plumbing, a bathroom addition, a new roof, a new heating and cooling system, and a handicapped-accessible entrance. Rural Development gave a grant to outfit the museum with display equipment.
There’s plenty to see at the museum and it is a great place for a “field trip.”
Our first tour group arrived in March of 2007 when Ms. Thompson’s second grade class from Coeburn Elementary School visited. The Museum exhibits were not complete yet, but there was plenty to see. They were greeted by board members and Frank Gullett and Johnny Wallace, who told them about life in the coal mines and on the railroad. The children enjoyed trying on mining gear! 
It’s not just exhibits… it is fellowship, stewardship, and Community!
A lot goes on in Dante; both in and outside of the museum. Be sure to stay up to date by checking our home page regularly. For questions and comments, or to be included in our mailing/emailing lists, contact the museum at 276-495-1903

Dante Depot — Russell County, Virginia

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Dante, Virginia is located in western Russell County near the Dickenson County border.  At one time in the early 20th century, Dante was the northern terminus of the Clinchfield Railroad.  In fact, it was such a booming town that at one time the Headquarters for the Clinchfield Railroad was located in Dante.  The town, and this station is given much credit to opening up and developing the coalfields in neighboring Dickenson County.

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I cant find a definite opening date for this train station but Im guessing sometime around 1900 would be correct.

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Recently CSX has wanted to demolish the structure and the community has fought to save and restore the building, but as you can see from my photos as of September, neither side have saw their plans come to fruition.

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What’s really shocking and sad about this depot is the rapid decay of the building.  While researching I saw some photos shot at this depot in 2011 and the building looked much more structurally sound than as it stands today.

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My guess is that unless something big doesnt come along and soon, this historic depot will be lost forever.

Premier 24878 — McDowell County, West Virginia

Premier is an unincorporated community about 4 miles west of Welch West Virginia in McDowell County.

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The Post Office is located just off US 52 and is still in operation.

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I noticed that this post office operates at a very reduced hour schedule

8-12 Monday – Friday    and just 10am til 12pm on Saturday.

Seco, Kentucky 41849

Seco is an unincorporated community in northern Letcher County between Flemming-Neon and Whitesburg located off US 119 along the north fork of the Kentucky River.

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The Seco post office was established on October 2, 1915.

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The town of Seco is named after Southeast Coal Company which had a large operation here from 1915 to 1957.   Southeast Coal Company also had a large operation in nearby Millstone.  The company store for Southeast Coal was restored and turned into a winery in the mid 90s.

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Several of the old camp houses in Seco still stand and are used as residence by the people of Seco.

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Pocahontas Fuel Company Store and Office — Jenkinjones, West Virginia

One of the best tools ever developed to aid in the discovery of abandoned exploration sites to people like me has been the advent of Google Maps and Google Earth.  Back in 2011 just as winter was beginning to set in I was planning a trip to McDowell County and was roaming all over the county on Google Earth.

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Down on the southern fringes of the county bordering Tazewell County Virginia near the town of Pocahontas I saw what appeared to be two rather large buildings literately setting on top of a mountain in the middle of no where as there were only a few scattered houses around it along a windy narrow mountain road.  The nearest name place on the map was a place called Jenkinjones, West Virginia.  Little did I know I had just discovered a building that had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

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Needless to say my interest was piqued and I had to make the trip down to Jenkins Jones when I was in McDowell County.  The trip to Jenkins-Jones from the main corridor of US 52 through McDowell County is quite a trek.  approximately 30 miles from the county seat of Welch along a winding, narrow road up many hills and neighborhoods including Gary and Pageton.

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Both buildings were designed by architect Alex B. Mahood, the same Alex B. Mahood who designed the company store at Vivian previously covered in this blog,  and built in 1917. The Pocahontas Fuel Company store and office buildings stand  across from one another near the end of county route 8 in Jenkinjones.

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The buildings were constructed in 1917 and during the years following, they were the center of activity in the busy but very isolated company-owned community.

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Coalwood, West Virginia 24248

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Ever since the movie came out way back in 1999 I have had a slight obsession with the town of Coalwood and a deep admiration for Homer Hickam and the rest of the Rocket Boys.  For the longest time, as I went through the haze that was my late teens and early twenties I didnt even realize that Coalwood was a real place and Homer Hickam was a real person.


Finally in 2008 strictly by chance I ended up in McDowell County, where the county welcome sign proudly says “Home of The Rocket Boys”   On that trip, which was before GPS and me with no map, I didnt make it to Coalwood or War as I stuck strictly to US 52.

Finally on a trip to McDowell County in 2013 I made it to the infamous Coalwood and the first and most vivid memory of that trip that comes to mind is my shock and awe when I saw the ruins of the Coalwood High School standing on the hill as you enter “town”.

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Coalwood High School was built-in the 1920’s and was closed as a high school in the early 1950s and  Coalwood Elementary School was moved to this building.

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In 1985, Caretta Elementary was merged with Coalwood, only for Coalwood to be closed in 1986. Students were then bussed to War Elementary beginning in 1987.

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Both times that I have been to Coalwood, brush and weeds have been over grown at the old high school almost to the point that you cant barely see the building.  I would love to go back in early spring or late fall and explore the remains of this building.

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As you travel to the heart of Coalwood down Frog Level Road you come to a set of historical information markers.  These markers tell the tale of Olga Coal Company and the town of Coalwood.

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Coalwood was the proud product of George LaFayette Carter, one of the few natives of Appalachia to strike it rich when industrialization came to the mountains shortly after the Civil War. Carter was born in 1857 in Hillsville, Carroll County, Virginia, the eldest of nine children of a disabled Confederate veteran. Young Carter learned the bookkeepers’ trade. He married well, as they say, wedding his storekeeper boss’ daughter. A shrewd, natural businessman, Carter invested wisely and became a conduit for New York capital eager to develop the booming turn-of-the-century Appalachian industrial economy. Holdings in timber, coal, iron, and railroad stock soon made Carter a key player in the evolving industrial development of the rugged and remote mountains. From his Johnson City, Tennessee, base, the private and unpretentious entrepreneur expanded into Kentucky and southwest Virginia, purchasing banks, newspapers, mills, and factories


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On September 20, 1869 a post office was established  on the present-day site of Coalwood called Snake Root.  In 1902 the community would change its name officially to Coalwood and the post office would follow suit.

In 1905, Carter bought some 20,000 acres in McDowell County’s “smokeless” coalfields, and began constructing an industrial community out of the wilderness. He named it Coalwood. The low-volatile, low-sulphur #4 Pocahontas coal seam there was the world standard for metallurgical and steam fuel. The seam stood some six feet high, but required a heroic, 600-foot deep shaft to reach the heart of the mineable reserves. Carter built a wooden tipple, company houses, offices, and a store to supply the needs of his workers; the nearest community of size was Welch, an arduous and circuitous 10 miles away across several devilish ridges.

The first coal came up the shaft in 1905, and by 1907, Coalwood mined some 200,000 tons annually. By 1915, nearly one million tons ran out along the Norfolk & Western rails each year from Coalwood, through Bluefield, to Lambert’s Point at Norfolk, Virginia. There, the N&W maintained a huge dockside port facility for shipping Coalwood’s product — what the railroad proudly termed “fuel satisfaction” — around the world. The abundant and economical energy from the southern West Virginia coalfields helped transform America from a rural, agricultural country into the urban industrial giant of the 20th century. Carter Coal & Coke Company, as the Coalwood operation was called at the time, trailed only the huge conglomerates of the Pocahontas Fuel Company and United States Coal & Coke in southern West Virginia in terms of productivity and employment. Soon, Carter opened a second operation at Caretta, across the mountain from Coalwood proper.

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Today many of the company town buildings are still standing such as the Clubhouse.

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and the Apartments


The post office however has been demolished.  It was located to the left of the Clubhouse. The Coalwood post office closed sometime in the 1990s.  The zipcode for Coalwood was 24284.


The original Coalwood Elementary has since been demolished.

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The school sat where the gazebo is in this picture, the sidewalk leading to the school is still there and in use in the Coalwood Community Park.

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The Coalwood Community Church is still standing and in operation next door to the clubhouse.

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Reverend Richard’s church is also still standing and in use in Coalwood.


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As is the Machine Shop….damaged and vandalized as it may be….its still standing.

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Right behind the town pool, which has now been drained and fenced off.

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And the Olga Coal Mine Office building is still standing.  Next door to this building was the big company store…..That building was demolished in 2008.

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The clubhouse is boarded up and unused…sadly its deteriorating at a rapid pace.


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Many of the company houses are still standing in Coalwood and being used today as residence.


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As is Homer Hickam’s childhood home…..albeit the white picket fence has been replaced with chain link fence.

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You can also drive down Homer Hickam Lane.