Abandoned and Forgotten Communities

McKeesport, Pennsylvania

This is a gallery of abandoned and forgotten communities in the United States.






Additional communities can be located under the Communities location filter.


Indiana

Gary

Gary, Indiana was founded in 1906 by United States Steel (USS) as the home for its new Gary Works. The city was named after the founding chairman of USS, Elbert Henry Gary. The steel industry provided the city with rapid growth and a diverse population, but by the 1960s, foreign competition caused USS to lay off workers from its Gary Works. The mill, which had employed over 30,000 in 1970, declined to just 6,000 by 1990 and 5,000 by 2015.

The city’s population dropped subsequently, going from a peak of 178,320 in 1960 to 80,000 in 2010.

Modoc

Modoc, Indiana is located along the former Indiana, Bloomington & Western Railway which was constructed through the town in 1878. The community of less than 200 is named after the Modoc Indian tribe who were traditionally located in northern California. The tribe was noted for the resistance to the United States military during the Modoc War, which ended in 1873.



Kentucky

Davis / Straight Creek

Davis, Kentucky is located along Davis Road in northern Scott County. It is centered around the circa 1828 Beards Presbyterian Church and general store.

Marshallville

Marshallville, Kentucky is located along the former Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision. It is named after local families.



Maryland



Ohio

East Cleveland

Mingo Junction

Mingo Junction, Ohio was founded circa 1869 when an ironworks was started nearby. It later centered around Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel’s Mingo Junction Works which closed in 2009.

The town served as a Pennsylvania steel mill community in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter and as a primary filming location for the 1984 film Reckless.

Negley

Negley, Ohio is a community and former coal camp operated by the Powers Mining Company in Columbiana County, Ohio. It is at the northern terminus of the now-abandoned Youngstown & Southern Railroad’s Smith’s Ferry Branch. The company store, constructed in 1867, was reportedly the world’s largest in the early 1900s. It is now a 5,000 square-foot antique store.



Pennsylvania

Brownsville

Clairton

Clairton was incorporated on April 12, 1903, and was centered around Clairton Works, the largest coke manufacturing facility in the United States. The production of coke was vital for the pig iron blast furnaces that produced steel throughout the region. The population of Clairton peaked at nearly 20,000 residents in the 1950s but a catastrophic collapse of the domestic steel industry caused the town to be declared economically stressed in 1988.

McKeesport

McKeesport, established in 1795, remained a small village until 1830 when coal mining began in the region. The town steadily grew to peak at 55,000 residents in 1940 during a time when National Tube Works dominated the local industry. The decline and eventual closure of National Tube and other steel plants in the area, along with a massive fire that destroyed a significant portion of downtown in 1976, led to McKeesport’s population to collapse to under 20,000 by 2010.



West Virginia

Bartow

Bartow is named for Col. Francis S. Bartow, a Confederate commander who died at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861. 16 The Battle of Greenbrier River, also known as the Battle of Camp Bartow, took place on October 3 about one mile southeast of the town. The Camp Bartow Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. 17

The town lies along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and it became the first stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Coalton

The community was founded on May 8, 1895, 22 as Womelsdorf, an Irish immigrant community. 21 It was named after the founder O.C. Womelsdorf of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. 23 Womelsdorf had hoped that the completion of the Rolling Creek & Charleston Railroad from Coalton south to Charleston would spark the town’s development. 24 The community was ultimately reached by the Roaring Creek & Belington Railroad.

After the richer Sewell coal seam was discovered in the New River Valley, activity in the Roaring Creek region began to decline. 25 For 1916, coal production at Coalton was 240,000 tons but declined sharply to just 22,000 tons by 1928. Coalton’s population peaked at 833 in 1920 but subsequently declined to 373 by 1930.

Elkhorn

Elkhorn was named for Elkhorn Creek, which originally referred to a hunter killing a hugh bull elk there and mounting its horns on a pole. 3 The community had been developed by the Crozer Land Association 4 and was at the end of the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) for a time.

Within the central business district was a small post office that had been established on March 7, 1888, a school, barbershop, hotel, and the Swift & Company meatpacking facility. 5 Several churches and three company stores were nearby, all painted in matching green-and-white hues.

The Crozer Coal & Coke Company, Houston Coal & Coke Company, and Upland Coal & Coke Company all leased land from the Crozer Land Company. 5 The four companies, all based in Elkhorn, were chartered by experienced Pennsylvania coal operators who wanted to mine in the phenomenal Pocahontas No. 3 coal seam along Elkhorn Creek which gained national recognization for its “smokeless” purity. It was the chosen fuel for the United States Navy and for steel producers.

Elkhorn gained a reputation as a racially and ethnically complex and diverse community, home to Black families from the deep South and Eastern European immigrants who were eager to strike a living in coal country. 5

In 1888, the first year of production, Elkhorn shipped 15,000 tons of “smokeless” coal out on the N&W, and by 1934, over 65 million tons of coal was shipped from Elkhorn. 5 The Crozer operation was purchased by Pittsburgh’s Consolidation Coal Company in 1963 and the mines were later closed after they had been depleted.

Giatto

Giatto, West Virginia was a black residential area for the Weyanoke Coal Company of Weyanoke. Some houses remain along the abandoned Norfolk & Western Right Fork Widemouth Branch and former alignment of WV Route 10.

Keystone

Keystone, West Virginia was developed by the Keystone Coal & Coke Company in 1892 1 and named for the company. 3 It was originally named Cassville.

The first mine at Keystone, Keystone No. 1, produced until 1986 and was the oldest coal mine in the Pocahontas Coalfield. The mines were later operated by the Koppers Coal Company in 1936, by Eastern Associated Coal in 1967, and by Governor Jim Justice’s Bluestone Coal Company, and by the Russian-owned Mechel Company.

Keystone served as a regional center for the adjoining coal company towns and was home to wholesale grocers, retail stores, saloons, and entertainment. 2 It was widely known for Cinder Bottom, a red-light district. The population of the community peaked at 2,500 in 1950 but like many towns in the coalfield, it began to decline because of pressures from mining mechanization and coal reserve depletion. Destructive floods further wiped out what remained of the business district.

By 2020, the population of Keystone was just slightly over 200.

McComas

The once-bustling McComas, West Virginia coal camp was developed by multiple coal companies, including the American Coal Company, the Thomas Coal Company, and the Pocahontas Fuel Company. 9

Norton

The community was originally known as Roaring  Creek Junction as it was located along Roaring Creek and the adjoining Roaring Creek & Charleston Railroad. With the arrival of the West Virginia Coal & Coke Company, the town was enlarged and named for the president of the company, R.F. Norton. Norton at its height included a company store, company bank, and the Norton Grade School.

Omar

Omar is the biggest coal camp on Island Creek and was constructed by the Main Island Creek Coal Company in 1914-15. 20 It was one of the largest camps in the Logan coalfield with 500 houses. By 1916, production was approximately 12,000 tons of coal per day. In 1925, Main Island Creek sold the mine and town to the West Virginia Coal & Coke Corporation, which employed 2,000 persons at Omar in 1934. The mines closed in 1954.

Springton

Springton, West Virginia lies along the abandoned Norfolk & Western Right Fork Widemouth Branch. It was owned by Solvay Collieries, a unit of the Semet-Solvey Division of the Allied Chemical Corporation between 1915 and 1922, and by the Kingston-Pocahontas Coal Company between 1923 and 1942. 10

The Springton Elementary School, plagued with water and sewage problems, closed in May 1970. 11 The 70 remaining students were bussed to nearby Matoaka.

Stephenson

Stephenson, West Virginia was developed by the Buckeye Coal & Coke Company and later managed by the Crozer Page Coal Company and Consol.

Weirton

Wilsontown

Wilsontown, West Virginia was settled by Gideon Hall Wilson in the mid-1860s who operated a grist and sawmill along Flatwoods Run. 12 The grist and sawmill were destroyed by fire in 1890. Notable buildings include:

  • Wilson Chapel, a one-room church built in 1887.
  • Gideon Wilson House, a large two-story residence.
  • Jonathan Wilson House, a country-style residence built in 1880. 13

Zenith

Zenith, located at the base of Peter’s Mountain in Monroe County, was named because of its high elevation. 28 The post office operated for nearly a century until 1970.






Further Reading


Sources

  1. DellaMea, Chris. “Keystone.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  2. McGehee, C. Stuart. “Keystone.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 December 2018.
  3. Hatcher, Thomas C. “McDowell Town Names: Where Did They Come from?” The Heritage of McDowell County, West Virginia, McDowell County Historical Society, War, WV, 1995, p. 130.
  4. Sone, Stacy. “Lincoln, John J., House.” National Register of Historic Places, 14 Apr. 1992.
  5. Hatcher, Thomas C. “Elkhorn, West Virginia 24831” The Heritage of McDowell County, West Virginia, McDowell County Historical Society, War, WV, 1995, p. 268.
  6. x
  7. x
  8. x
  9. DellaMea, Chris. “McComas.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  10. DellaMea, Chris. “Flat Top Field.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  11. “Mercer Co. Board Votes to Close Grade School.” Post-Herald and Register [Beckley], 3 May 1970, p. 14.
  12. West Virginia. Dept. of Culture & History. Gideon Wilson House. Comp. Noel W. Tenney. 1984. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
  13. West Virginia. Dept. of Culture & History. Jonathan Wilson House. Comp. Noel W. Tenney. 1984. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
  14. x
  15. x
  16. Kenny, Hamill (1945). West Virginia Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning, Including the Nomenclature of the Streams and Mountains. Piedmont: The Place Name Press. p. 97.
  17. National Park Service (2010-07-09). “National Register Information System.” National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  18. x
  19. x
  20. DellaMea, Christopher. “Omar, WV.” Coal Camp USA, article.
  21. Rutkowski, Ryan. “Sacred Places.” Catholic West Virginia. Charleston: Arcadia, 2010. 32. Print.
  22. Reger, David Bright, and West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey. “History.” Randolph County. Vol. 1. Morgantown: West Virginia University, 1931. 26. Print.
  23. Bosworth, A S. “Miscellaneous.” A History of Randolph County, West Virginia: from Its Earliest Exploration and Settlement to the Present Time. N.p.: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1916. 262. Print.
  24. “Corporations.” Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia. Charleston: Moses W. Donnally, 1895. 17. Print.
  25. Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Works Progress Administration. “Tour 22.” West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State. N.p.: n.p., 1941. 502. Print.Clarke, Alan. “The B&O Years and Beyond.” West Virginia’s Coal and Coke Railway. Lynchburg: TLC Publishing, 2002. 133. Print.
  26. x
  27. x
  28. Ballard, Roland E., and Charles B. Motley. “Zenith.” Gleanings of Monroe County, West Virginia History, Commonwealth Press, Radford, VA, 1973, pp. 175–176.

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