Coalwood, West Virginia - Abandoned by Sherman Cahal

Coalwood, West Virginia

Coalwood, West Virginia is a former company town founded by George Carter of the Carter Coal Company in 1905.1 6


The first permanent settlement of the Clear Fork Branch Creek region was the community of Snakeroot at the junction of Wolfpen Branch and Clear Fork Branch.1 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 (N&W) 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 N&W 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, employed in the coal mines, schools, company stories, churches and hospital.3 Dental services were free, subsidized by the Carter Coal Company.2

Carter sold the mining operations and Coalwood to the Consolidation Coal Company in 1922. Consolidated Coal constructed a larger clubhouse.1 It owned the property until March 16, 1933 when Consolidated went into default.1 3 6 Carter regained control of the mine and town until his death in 1936 when Carter Coal was assumed by his son James.

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 operations 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 \ operations at Coalwood were closed and dismantled.1 6 The N&W began dismantling the Clear Fork Branch shortly after.

The Olga Coal Company was purchased by the LTV Corporation in 1980 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.

In 1985, Caretta Elementary merged with Coalwood, only for Coalwood Elementary to be closed in 1986. Students were then bussed to War Elementary in 1987.



  1. Coalwood is my favourite abandoned town. It might be because of the book Rocket Boys and movie October Sky but I think it’s a very interesting place and its my dream to visit it one day because its what have the rocket bus inspiration to build rockets and they are what gave me the inspiration to study science. I want to visit where it all started to fulfil my dream.

    • Hi Lizz. Like you, my interst in Coalwood is because of the movie October Sky and the book Rocket Boys. I am going to Coalwood on Oct 20. I like going to places where movies were made from; IE: Puxsutawny for Ground Hog day, Mingo Junction for the movie The Deer Hunter, Manzanillo Mexico for the movie “10”, several sites in NY city most recently the cafe where Tom Hanks and Chappel went to meet Meg Ryan in the movie “You got Mail”. Just to name a few. Since Coalwood is so out of the way, I have never had the chance, but now I do. Going on a 4 week driving trip that will include Coalwood, Charlston (to see the Yorktown ), Savannah, and then I will venture to FLA where I may purchase a motor home from a friend.
      ANyway, I will let you know whats up with Coalwood after I go there. Stay in touch with me.

  2. These photos are so cool but to think people lived in one little town like this was horrible….. Thanks for listening. Please fix the place up nice because it was a really nice town at one time back in 1976..!!!!!

  3. Yes it was a very nice town with wonderful people living there. I had my first teaching experience at Coalwood Elementary in 1978-80. After teaching 36 years of teaching I will never forget my students and my experiences with all of them. I’ll never forget Mr. Toney my principal and my first boss. I actually resided at the Coalwood Clubhouse for a few months until I found a home in Welch.

  4. From the stories I’ve heard from my grandparents, it wasn’t an awful place to live. There were lots of wonderful memories from there. Both of my grandparents were born and grew up in Coalwood. One of my great, great uncles was one of the Rocket Boys, Roy Lee.
    I’ve never visited, but I hope to one day. If for nothing else than to say I went to the town where some of my family was born and raised.

  5. Que interesante, me gustaría conocer ese lugar, tengo tantos sueños que me motivan a seguir gracias a los Rocketboys…

  6. My great grandparents (Harvey and Mary Parker….Daddy Harv worked in the mines and died of Black Lung) raised my Dad (George Parker) in Coalwood, WV. I even lived there for less than a year in the early 70s. Don’t remember much as I was only 4 or 5 but I do remember having fun playing with the chickens and riding the tricycle down the hill. Beautiful skies. I miss the family and I miss Coalwood. Plan on visiting this summer for the first time since 1975.

  7. I recently had an old 16mm film that I had developed. It was a 1930’s promo film to attract workers and their families to relocate and work there. Model A’s in the film. Coal offices. New homes, and shows men sorting coal off from coveyers. It is titled Olga Coal Company. Smokeless Coal. Thought I would share this. Bill

    • Bill – I am interested in that film you developed as my grandparents were from Coalwood, as well as my dad and uncle and aunt, as well as my great uncle and great aunt who are all from there. Please email me and let me know how I might be able to obtain a copy of the film. Thanks. David.

  8. I would also love to receive a copy of this film. My grandparents grew up in Coalwood, and I would like to see a part of their history. My email address is Thank you!

  9. Just came across this site and thought I would comment. I grew up in Coalwood in my teenage years, 1963-69. Yes, it was rough at times, but people were friendly and we had most of the conveniences of a big town. We had great teachers at Coalwood Jr. High and then at Big Creek HS in War, Wva. I have very fond memories of Coalwood.

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