During the 1930s, Scotts Run became a symbol of the Great Depression in the coalfields. During the coal boom sparked by World War I, this four-mile-long hollow near Morgantown through a rapid transition from farmland to one of the most intensely developed coal districts in the state. In the mid-1920s, between 36 and 42 coal mines shipped more than two million tons of coal out of Scotts Run. The great demand for labor attracted a very diverse population of perhaps 4,000 people, 60 percent of them foreign-born and 10 percent to 20 percent African-Americans.
When the demand for coal subsided in the mid-1920s, the northern West Virginia coal operators abrogated the union contract and a series of violent strikes ensued. Because they had been on strike for several years, miners and their families were already destitute when the national economy collapsed in 1929. The inability to speak English, racism, and the lack of education or alternate skills only compounded their plight. Both local and national relief agencies, such as the Red Cross, the American Friends Service Committee, and Presbyterian and Methodist home missions, entered Scotts Run to provide assistance.
It was through the Friends that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt learned about Scotts Run and decided to make an inspection of the area. Disturbed by the living conditions she found there, Mrs. Roosevelt gave her personal attention to the relief efforts. Largely through her initiative the federally planned community of Arthurdale, Preston County, was constructed as a pilot program to relocate ‘‘stranded’’ industrial workers in more favorable settings, and most of the new residents of Arthurdale were from Scotts Run.
By World War II, people began to abandon the hollow for military service or better opportunities elsewhere, and little physical evidence remains of this once booming coalfield.
This Article was written by Ronald L. Lewis
Last Revised on October 29, 2010
Ward, Bryan, ed. A New Deal for America. Arthurdale: Arthurdale Heritage, 1995.
Scotts Run edition. West Virginia History, (1994).
Lewis, Ronald L. 'Why Don'T You Bake Bread?' Franklin Trubee and the Scotts Run Reciprocal Economy. Goldenseal, (Spring 1989).
Cite This Article
Lewis, Ronald L. "Scotts Run." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 29 October 2010. Web. 24 April 2017.