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James Kay


Businessman James Kay (March 20, 1849-April 9, 1934) was born in Lanark, Scotland, and migrated to America in 1869. By 1870, he had arrived in Charleston, doing stone work for the advancing Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. As an independent contractor he built major arch culverts through the New River Gorge, also taking contracts in Ohio and Canada. In 1875, Kay married Scottish immigrant Julia Ballintyne and purchased a farm in Talbot County, Maryland. He returned to Quinnimont in 1879 to construct the coke ovens at Hawks Nest. He acquired coal lands in the New River area before being called to New York.

In 1884, Kay returned to West Virginia. As president of the Royal Coal and Coke Company in Prince, he installed a clever cable car system to carry coal across the New River to the railroad. In 1899, the Low Moor Iron Company employed him to open the Kaymoor mines near Fayetteville. He arranged for an elaborate tramway system to move miners and coal up and down the west face of the gorge. The remnant of this pioneering mining complex is now part of the New River Gorge National River.

Kay also acquired and developed Cabin Creek coal lands. In 1909, he opened mines on Campbells Creek, and a year later became postmaster for Coal Fork. In Charleston, he established the Elk Milling and Produce Company, the Empire Savings & Loan Co., and the Palmer Shoe Co.

In his later years he incorporated his assets into the Kay Company, and this family concern continued to produce coal from the Kayford area of Cabin Creek into the 21st century. James Kay died in Charleston and is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.

Written by Henry W. Battle and Tad Randolph