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Sam Dixon


Coal operator Samuel L. Dixon (November 14, 1856-July 6, 1934) was born in Scarborough, England. Educated in the English public schools, he emigrated to Fayette County in 1877, first working for an uncle in the coal business. In 1893, he and a partner organized the MacDonald mine in Fayette County. Other Dixon mines soon followed in the New River coalfield, including operations at Scarbro, Carlisle, Oakwood, Stuart, Parral, and Wingrove.

In 1905–06, with the financial backing of Boston coal dealer P. W. Sprague, and other New Englanders and Pennsylvanians, Dixon founded the New River Company. It included the original Dixon mining properties, and others at Price Hill, Sprague, Cranberry, Prosperity, Harvey, and elsewhere. The New River Company was the giant of the New River coalfield and is important as an early example of mine industry consolidation. Dixon was purged from the company during growing pains exacerbated by the recession of 1907–08, his Northern backers in 1912 bringing in professional management from outside the coal industry to replace him.

Dixon also owned the White Oak and the Piney River & Paint Creek railroads, and newspapers in Charleston, Fayetteville, and Beckley. He used these papers to involve himself in politics and ruled for many years as the Republican boss of Fayette County. The colorful ‘‘King Samuel’’ was the most important and likely the most controversial operator in the New River field. He died in Price Hill, Raleigh County.

Written by Ken Sullivan