What a treat to be back in my home state. It’s been three summers since we’ve been back and it felt so good to be “home” again.
Our first stop was the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley. Along with the tour of the mine, there was also a coal camp community to tour. The community had an old school, church, superintendent’s house and a Batchelor’s shanty. It was a fascinating tour. I had never been in a coal mine nor seen a coal camp, although both existed close to where I lived.
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine was once the Phillips-Sprague Mine which was operated in this location.
This mine was originally operated as a drift mine. A drift mine is an underground mine in which the entry or access is above water level and generally on the slope of a hill, driven horizontally into the coal seam. Commercial development of the drift mine began in 1905 and the first coal was shipped on January 4, 1906. Mine operations ceased in 1953, and the property was sold to the City of Beckley.
I am sitting in the tram car that is going to take us underground. Just for a frame of reference, the original mine ceiling was as high as the top of this white rail.
The original ceiling of the mine was 3’. The miners had to crawl in an out of the mine to work in this mine originally. The coal seam was only 18” high and they spent the day blasting and shoveling coal mostly from their stomachs and sometimes their knees.
Originally, each man was expected to mine 10 TONS of coal by hand during their 12 hour shift for 20 cents a ton.
This is where we came out of the mine.
This is a mine superintendent’s house which was owned by the coal company just as all the buildings always were. The school, the church, the store, and all the homes.
The sign above read, "From the coal camp in Helen, WV, this one room dwelling dates back to the early 1920s. It was built for and occupied by a single miner or a married miner living away from home while working in the coal mines during a work week. The married miner would return home to his family on the weekends.This simple space is a good example of getting by the bare necessities. It is warm and dry with just enough space for a chair, stove, bed, and a few essentials."
Complete interior of the Batchelor’s Shanty. There was a tub hanging on the from porch. I suppose it was used for bathing and to wash clothes??
There also was a two-room school there. I didn’t take a picture of the outside, but I thought these two signs in a classroom were interesting.