Coal Towns

The coal "towns" became their own little communities. They each had a post office, a company store, a company doctor, offices, shops, houses where the families lived, and a cemetery.

Many of them had baseball diamonds and other recreational facilities. Some had their own churches and ministers and when a miner or a family member died, the company furnished burial services, always at a cost of course. Many of the towns built their own schools. The towns were
always closely connected to the railroads, by which the companies shipped the coal.

The houses the miners lived in were generally small frame houses built on posts, always with a porch, perched on the side of a hill. Some had running water and electricity but most did not. The type of house varied with the miner's status. Those with "higher-up" positions in the company had bigger, nicer residences high up on the hill, with a view. Some of those were even rather grand.

Most coal towns were segregated with different "towns" for black workers and their families. That does not seem to have happened in McCreary County, however, probably because of its small size and the low number of blacks that lived here. Blacks and people of other countries were always sought out for work in the mines because they worked for low wages.

You may notice in the 1920 McCreary census that there were a large number of carpenters in the in the coal mining areas. Many of these were hired as full-time employees to build the houses and other buildings but many of them were there under contract and when the job was done they moved on, thus you will see family names in the census that are rarely seen in the area now.

Coal mining and the timber business made McCreary County a booming area at one time, but when the coal mines closed and the National Forest Service acquired the majority of the land in the county, large numbers of people became unemployed. When the mines closed, the coal towns started to disappear and in most of these communities, now only traces and memories remain.
Two major coal towns, Blue Heron and Barthell, have been restored as tourist attractions.



Names of Some of the Mining Communities in the County &
their years of active Coal Mining
(abt. 1903-1958)
Tow Wad
(First operation in co.)
White Oak Junction
Paint Cliff,
St. Mihiel
Fidelity / Exodus
Barren Fork
Blue Heron
(abt 1917-abt 1929)
Indian Head

Last Update Tuesday, 18-Dec-2012 11:17:37 EST

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