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Justus Collins


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Coal operator Justus Collins (December 14, 1857-October 18, 1934) was born in Clayton, Alabama. He began his coal career in his native South, reportedly supervising convict mine labor. About 1887, he resigned as secretary treasurer of Woodward Iron Company, an Alabama mining firm, to move to the new ‘‘smokeless coalfields’’ of southern West Virginia.

In Mercer County, Collins organized Louisville Coal & Coke Company about 1887, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk & Western Railroad. In 1893 he opened Collins Colliery in Glen Jean, Fayette County, opened Greenbrier Coal & Coke at about the same time, and later the Whipple mine near Mount Hope. He built identical octagonal company stores at Collins and Whipple, and the Whipple store survives today as a local landmark. In 1906, both the Collins and Whipple mines were sold to the New River Company, and Collins organized Superior Pocahontas Coal. He opened Winding Gulf mine in 1910, becoming a pioneer in the Winding Gulf Coalfield; his earlier mines were located in the neighboring New River and Pocahontas fields. In 1929, Collins consolidated his mining properties into the Winding Gulf Collieries Company.

Collins’s comment that mine managers should strive for a ‘‘judicious mixture’’ of races and nationality groups, on the theory that diversity hampered unionization, is often quoted. Miners resented his labor policies, and he was avidly disliked by rival coal operators, including W. P. Tams and Samuel Dixon. Justus Collins left the coalfields as his business interests expanded, moving his family first to Charleston and then to Cincinnati.

Written by Ken Sullivan