Abandoned and Forgotten Communities

McKeesport, Pennsylvania

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

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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, 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.


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



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, 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.




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, 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 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.


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, West Virginia is a former company town Crozer Land Association 4 and was at the end of the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) for a time.

Originally proposed to be named Weston, West Virginia in 1887 for Francis E. Weston of Upland, Pennsylvania, one of the original investors in the Crozer Coal & Coke Company, it was changed to Elkhorn after Elkhorn Creek because of an existing town name elsewhere in the state. 7 A post office was established on March 7, 1888, 5 7 surrounded by a small central district that included 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 Norfolk & Western Railway mainline reached Elkhorn in the spring of 1888 and was the railroad’s western terminus until it began work on the Ohio Extension in 1890. 7

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.


Gary, West Virginia was founded in 1902 by United States Steel (USS) to house workers that worked its fourteen mines that produced metallurgical coal that was shipped to its steel mills. 8 The company-owned community was named after the founding chairman of USS, Elbert Henry Gary. It was not formally incorporated as a city until July 1, 1971, after an election was held the year prior, and was one of the last company-owned towns in the state.

By the 1940s, Gary produced around a quarter of the amount of coal mined from McDowell County, as well as a quarter of the coal used by U.S. Steel during World War II. 8 By the 1970s, most of the high-quality metallurgical coal had been mined and employment levels began to wane. In March 1982, around 500 miners that were employed by U.S. Steel were laid off, and by the end of the year, all of the company’s mines in Gary were closed. By 1983, the unemployment rate in the community rose to 90%, the highest of any town in the United States.

In 1987, Gary Enterprise reopened one of the mines after acquiring it from U.S. Steel, and other companies arranged for sub-leases to mine coal that was economically accessible. 8 By 1990, Gary only had 180 mining jobs, a far cry from the town’s heyday just two decades prior. In July 2003, U.S. Steel sold its remaining assets in Gary to PinnOak Resources.


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.


Known previously as Cassville, 3 the community was founded as Belcher, West Virginia in July 1886 by John Belcher, the community was renamed Keystone on October 13, 1892, for the Keystone Coal & Coke Company. 1 3 6 It was incorporated as a town in 1896. 6

Keystone Coal & Coke Company was incorporated in June 1890 and leased 1,562 acres of land from the Flat Top Coal Land Association. 6 The first mine at Keystone, Keystone No. 1, was in production from June 1892 until 1986 and was the oldest coal mine in the Pocahontas Coalfield. 1 6 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 Coal & Coke also operated 100 coke ovens. 6

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.


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


Northfork, West Virginia was founded after G.L. Toney, a buyer for the Algoma Coal & Coke Company, constructed three houses along Elkhorn Creek circa 1892. 6 The area was previously known as the Forks of Elkhorn and North Fork as it was where the North Fork Elkhorn Creek diverged.

Joseph L. Baker of Bluefield received a contract in February 1892 to construct a combination passenger and freight station; he received an additional contract in June to build a section house, foreman’s house, and other structures for the Norfolk & Western Railway. 6 A coaling station was erected in 1895 by Algoma Coal & Coke to serve the N&W.


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 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.


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



Wilsie, West Virginia is a ghost town in Braxton County. The post office closed in July 2005.


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, 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


  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. Schust, Alex P. “West Virginia Development 1891-1900.” The Norfolk & Western in West Virginia 1881-1959, Two Mule Publishing, Harwood, MD, 2018, pp. 123-124.
  7. Schust, Alex P. “Building in West Virginia 1884-1890.” The Norfolk & Western in West Virginia 1881-1959, Two Mule Publishing, Harwood, MD, 2018, pp. 39-40.
  8. Nyden, Paul J. “Book review: The rise and fall of Gary, W.Va.” Charleston Gazette, 9 Feb. 2013.
  9. DellaMea, Chris. “McComas.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  10. DellaMea, Chris. “Flat Top Field.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  11. x
  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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