Stony Fork, Kentucky

Stony Fork, Kentucky is a neat community to drive through and check out the relics on the road side.  Stony for is located about 10 miles east of Pineville on Kentucky 221.  Stony Fork is a coal mining camp that was founded in 1908 with the start of the Stony Fork Coal Company.  Many former coal camp houses and even buildings still remain today.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
I havent been able to confirm, but I am pretty sure this at one time was a Company store and later a general store for the community of Stony Fork. Today, it is for sale.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Betty Howard Coal Miner’s Memorial Theater –Harlan County, Kentucky

The Betty Howard Coal Miner’s Memorial Theater is located in the town of Benham, Kentucky in northern Harlan County.  Benham is a former company town built by Wisconsin Steel subsidiary International Harvester in the 1910s and 1920s.
Betty Howard Theater -- Benham, Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
The theater was built by the coal company in 1921. Over the years as with many coal company towns, the theater and other buildings fell into disrepair. Benham, however is a great success story of preservation and rejuvenation. On July 21, 1983 the theater along with most of the other buildings surviving in Benham were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Betty Howard Theater -- Benham, Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
That includes the theater. The town sought for private funding to restore the theater. In December of 2006 the theater was re-dedicated.

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.

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.

Brookside, Kentucky

brookside1A couple of days ago I posted a picture of the old Ages-Brookside post office in Harlan County.  Tonight I am posting some pictures more relevant to the Brookside portion of that community.

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The old Manalapan Mining Company Building is located next to the former Ages-Brookside post office.

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I have read that once upon a time the yellow building in the background was some kind of salloon / bar.

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Looking back toward Brookside from Ages Bottom.

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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.

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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.

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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.