Caretta is a former company town in McDowell County, West Virginia. It is named after the transposed syllables of Mrs. Etta Carter, the wife of George Lafayette Carter, who founded Carter Coal.
Caretta was developed by George Carter and was initially known as Logging Camp No. 5. 3 Logs were delivered from the camp to the Norfolk & Western Railroad Dry Fork Branch until a branch line was constructed from Juno. After logging operations ceased, the Virginia Pocahontas Company attempted to develop an underground coal mining operation.
A post office opened in Caretta, population 300, on April 8, 1905. 3 A school was erected in 1907.
Virginia Pocahontas sold their nascent coal mining operations to the Consolidation Coal Company in 1922, and the first underground mine shaft was bored in 1924. 1 Two-hundred company houses were built for the mineworkers and their families, along with a 22-room boarding house, a sewage and water treatment plant, and a coal-fired power plant. A new, larger school for white children was completed in 1925. 1
When Consolidated Coal went into default on March 16, 1933, 1 2 Carter regained control of the Caretta operations. After Carter died in 1936, his son, James, took over operations. The town and coal operations were sold on December 22, 1947, to a group of industrialists from the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company, Interlake Iron Corporation, and the Steel Company of Canada, who formed the Olga Coal Company to manage the facilities.
The Caretta mine was connected to the adjoining Coalwood mine in 1956, which was also owned by Olga Coal. By the end of the decade, all coal was shipped via the tipple and processing plant at Caretta, and operations at Coalwood were closed. 1
The Caretta mine first closed in 1982 during an extensive coal industry slump, although it resumed operations between 1983 and 1986. 3 The former Caretta operations were demolished and replaced with a new $35 million coal preparation plant 5 by JSW Steel of India in 2015. 4 The company had earlier acquired mines in the region. Coking coal prices dropped in 2016, leading the new preparation plant to be idled until 2018. 5
- “History Timeline.” Coalwood, West Virginia. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2011. Article.
- McGehee, Stuart. “Historic Coalwood.” Goldenseal Summer 2001: 52-56. Print.
- Schust, Alex P. “Caretta (Juno).” Billion Dollar Coalfield. Ed. Linda Graves. Harwood, MD: Two Mule Publishing, 2010. 506-511. Print.
- Fiscor, Steve. “U.S. Prep Plant Census 2017.” Coal Age, 2017, p. 15.
- Iyengar, Suresh P. “JSW Steel restarts coking coal mining in US.” Hindu Business Line, 16 Jul. 2018.
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I found that the movie October Sky is based of Caretta, or at least the Olga coal mine is. Great movie.
Did they ever keep records of all the men that worked in the coalmines there?
You could check census records for that area. I know my grandfather was working there in 1940 and the 1940 census lists him as living in Big Creek, McDowell, WV, with all his neighbors being miners. Was probably company housing. Good luck!
Looking for some relatives who left Ky and relocated here in the early 1920’s. William Wyatt, Sherd/Sherwood Mullins. Any information would be greatly appreciated . Thanks John Wyatt 606-634-7743
The abandoned tipple shown here has since been demolished and a new operation is going in.
Thank you for the update Alan!