Back in 1999 when the US Army Corp of Engineers came into McDowell County and offered assistance to relocate schools out of the flood plain, War Elementary School that was originally opened all the way back in 1922 was one of the schools targeted.
Ground was broke in December of 2005 on a brand new K-8 facility that would replace War Elementary, War Middle and Berwind Elementary Schools. The new school would be located directly in front of Homer Hickam’s alma mater, Big Creek High School on the east side of town. You can find an article heralding the ground breaking of the new school here. Bluefield Daily Telegraph Article
I only got the chance to visit War Elementary School once back in 2011 a few months before it was demolished. As you can tell in the picture above, windows had already been removed at that time.
The first picture deplicts the front fo War Elementary, the second picture is the back where students loaded onto school busses. The brighter red building was at one time War Junior High. Not really sure if the Junior High moved out of War Elementary to the other school previously covered in this blog or if the school down there was consolidated into this facility.
But at anyrate, at the end of the 2008-09 school year the new Southside K-8 school was completed and this school closed to students. The school was demolished in 2012 and is now home to a community park.
While researching and digging for information about this school I found several historical photos to share that are in no way my own property, but were way too interesting not to share.
The date on this photo was listed as 1940.
This weekend while my friend Donny and I were in Coalwood we drove to near where we thought was the end of Coalwood and came across this quaint little church on the hill.
That night when I got home and was looking through the literally hundreds of pictures I took that day while touring McDowell County this picture kept sticking out in my mind. I wanted to know more. What was the story of this church?
According to Homer Hickam’s Memoir “Rocket Boys” and pictures from http://www.coalwoodwestvirginia.com a website maintained by a former resident of Coalwood I can identify this church as Mudhole Church later called Mt Zion United Methodist Church. This was Reverend Richard’s church! Homer spoke of the church and Reverend Richard in his memoir as quoted below:
At the entrance to Mudhole was a tiny wooden church presided over by the Reverend “Little” Richard. He was dubbed “Little” because of his resemblance to the soul singer. Nobody up Mudhole Hollow subscribed to the paper, but whenever I had an extra one, I always left it at the little church, and over the years, the Reverend Richard and I became friends. I loved it when he had a moment to come out on the church porch and tell me a quick Bible story while I listened, astride my bike, fascinated by his sonorous voice. I especially admired his description of Daniel in the lions’ den. When he acted out with bug-eyed astonishment the moment Daniel’s captors looked down and saw their prisoner lounging around in the pit with his arm around the head of a big lion, I laughed appreciatively. “That Daniel, he knew the Lord,” the Reverend summed up with a chuckle while I continued to giggle, “and it made him brave. How about you, Sonny? Do you know the Lord?”
I had to admit I wasn’t certain about that, but the Reverend said it was all right. “God looks after fools and drunks,” he said with a big grin that showed off his gold front tooth, “and I guess he’ll look after you too, Sonny Hickam.” Many a time in the days to come, when I was in trouble, I would think of Reverend Richard and his belief in God’s sense of humor and His fondness for ne’er-do-wells. It didn’t make me as brave as old Daniel, but it always gave me at least a little hope the Lord would let me scrape by.
It makes my heart happy and a little more content to know that this little church is still standing and still maintained in Coalwood today.