Algoma, West Virginia was developed by the Algoma Coal & Coke Company in 1891, with mining operations beginning with the opening of the Piney Mine along Buzzard Branch of the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek in the Pocahontas No. 3 seam. 1 2 4 5 The coal, sold under the trade name “The Great Algoma,” was ideal for use in steelmaking and for domestic heating. 4 The town and company name was an Anglicized corruption of Algonquin and goma meaning Algonquin waters. 6
A small company store and office building was erected but it was soon replaced with a larger 2½-story facility was in 1894. 1 2 Another mine was opened in 1896 at Norfolk known as the Algoma Coaling Station for the purpose of providing coal for the Norfolk & Western Railway locomotives. 5 In 1897, the company added 175 coke ovens to convert coal into coke for steelmaking 3 which expanded to 225 ovens and operated until 1919. 5 They averaged a fixed carbon content of 92.5% after a coking time of 72 hours.
A devastating fire on November 30, 1947, burned the original company store and company offices of the Algoma Coal & Coke Company. 5 It was replaced in 1948 with a new fireproof structure designed in the Art Moderne architecture by Welch architect Hassel T. Hicks. 2 It featured a typical dry goods company store with a revolutionary self-service grocery store on the ground floor with six checkout lanes, and company offices and medical clinics on the second floor. 2 5
The Algoma Coal & Coke Company was acquired by the Island Creek Coal Company in In January 1957. 4 At the time, the completely mechanized mine employed 450 men who extracted 2,500 tons of coal daily, and it was expected that the complex had a remaining lifespan of 30 years.
The mines were acquired by the United Pocahontas Coal Company in September 1963; the company moved its headquarters to Algoma and remained there until January 1975 when it moved to Beckley. 5 During its ownership, the company operated five underground mines and one surface mine between 1965 and 1983.
After United Pocahontas shut down its operations at Algoma, the Algoma Mining Company started up and operated the Algoma No. 14 Mine in 1983 and 1984. 5 In 1985 and 1986, it was operated by Angela Ann Coal Company.
In later years, after the mines had closed, the Algoma company store and office building was reused by the Tug River Health Center as a medical clinic. 2 5
- “Algoma.” West Virginia Company Stores, by Dale Payne, Patterson Printing, 2012, p. 3.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. Itmann Company Store and Office. Comp. Stacy Sone. Washington: National Park Service, Dec. 1991. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
- “From the Files of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 12 Nov. 1937, p. 6.
- “Island Creek Mine Increases Production.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 4 Jan. 1957, p. 2.
- Schust, Alex P. “Algoma Coal & Coke Company.” Billion Dollar Coalfield. Two Mule Publishing, 2010, pp. 122-129.
- 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.