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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


Independent coal operators hired a few dozen local farmers and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with them breaking up the seam. Near the mine site, operators and miners lived together in crude camps.

Lon Savage: There was a little dirt road that ran along the creek and sometimes where there wasn’t room for the creek and the road and the railroad track, the road was the creek. The wagons with the horses pulling them would drive up the creek, in the water. Where it widens out in the bottomland, there would be a line or two of miners’ cabins, usually a tipple or two, a company store with big steps out front, mining offices, sometimes a church, and then it would narrow out again and go on up to the next camp.

Ronald Feller: Coal camps were closely knit, tightly controlled, artificial communities that were created in an area where urban areas and urban communities simply didn’t exist. Eighty percent of the coal miners in southern West Virginia lived in company- owned communities.

Narrator: As mining boomed, coal camps grew into company owned towns. Company doctors dispensed medicine. Company preachers intoned sermons and buried the dead in company cemeteries. Company guards policed the streets. On Sunday afternoons, company- sponsored baseball teams competed against each other, all of it under the control of the coal operator.

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