Coalwood, West Virginia, located in McDowell County, is a former company town founded by George Lafayette Carter in 1905.1 6
The first permanent settlement of the region was the community of Snakeroot at the junction of Wolfpen Branch and Clear Fork Branch.1 6 A post office for Snakeroot was established on September 20, 1869. The Coalwood post office was founded on March 12, 1903, the same year that George Carter founded the Carter Coal Company and acquired 20,000 acres of land for future underground coal mines.
In 1904, work began on constructing the West Virginia Southwestern Railway from its junction with the Norfolk & Western Railroad at Gordon along the Tug Fork west of Roderfield.4 5 The 9.93-mile branch was completed to Coalwood on April 10, 1905 and was operated by the Norfolk & Western as their Clear Fork Branch. The first shaft coal mine in Coalwood opened in 1914.
Coalwood had over 2,000 residents under Carter’s reign, along with schools, company stories, churches and medical services.3 Dental services were free, due to George Carter hiring a doctor and subsidizing the costs of treatment.2
Carter sold the mining operations and Coalwood to the Consolidation Coal Company in 1922. Consolidated Coal constructed a larger clubhouse 1 and owned the property until March 16, 1933 when it went into default.1 3 6 Carter regained control of the mine and town until his death in 1936 when the company was assumed by his son James.
The first mines at Caretta opened in 1924. The mines were unionized in 1933,which led to tension in 1945 when Carter refused to sign a standard union contract.1 6 Weeks of intense debate and argument followed until the United States Navy was sent in to put the workers back to work due to the onset of World War II.
Coalwood and its mining opertions were sold to a group of industrialists from Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company, Interlake Iron Corporation, and the Steel Company of Canada on December 22, 1947. The group renamed the organization the Olga Coal Company. In 1956, the Coalwood mine was connected to the Caretta mine, which was also owned by Olga. All coal was being shipped via the tipple and processing plant at Caretta by 1959, and the operations at Coalwood were closed and dismantled.1 6 The Norfolk & Western Railway began dismantling the Clear Fork Branch was abandoned shortly after.
In 1980, the Olga Coal Company was purchased by the LTV Corporation, and the Coalwood mine was closed in 1986.1 6 At that time, the houses and businesses were still company owned, one of the last instances of its type in the United States, and were sold to the respective residents and business owners.