Coketon

Coketon, West Virginia

Coketon, West Virginia is the former central mining and coking facility of the Davis Coal & Coke Company.






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History

The Davis Coal & Coke Company developed Coketon as a company town, which consisted of a power plant, tipple, headframes for underground mines, shop buildings, and 600 beehive coke ovens. 2

Davis Coal & Coke developed a 1½-mile long coking facility that began with two experimental “beehive” ovens in 1887. 1 It was where two tons of coal was converted into one ton of coke, the purest form of carbon and a byproduct of coal that was used to smelt iron ore into steel through the Bessemer process. Coke was produced by baking coal in brick ovens until the impurities were burned, regulated by the amount of oxygen allowed into the oven via exterior steel doors.

Coketon contained 600 ovens and employed 150 with an operation that ran 250 days per year. 1 It was the third largest coking facility in the state, and produced 200,000 tons of coke by 1904. Additionally, between 1915 and 1921, 15 coal mines near Coketon shipped over one million tons of coal per year, making it the sixth most productive operation in the state.

A new type of mining technology introduced in 1915 allowed the construction of coke ovens at the mine site and by 1919, all of the beehive ovens at Coalton were abandoned. Continuous underground coal mining continued until 1940 when the reserves were all but exhausted. By 1950, only two mines were in operation: No. 36 and No. 40, with production falling to just 100,000 tons per year by 1954. 1 All underground mining stopped by 1956, with just a few small surface mines continuing along until 1965.


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Sources

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  1. Fansler, Homer Floyd. History Of Tucker County. 1962. Parsons, W.Va.: Mcclain Printing Company, 1993. Print. Reprint.
  2. DellaMea, Chris. “Thomas & Coketon, WV.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains.

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6 Comments

  1. I’ve been told by a few people that the house I live in here on Pierce-Benbush road, just out of Thomas, was the miners hospital years ago. Can anyone tell me if this is true.

  2. Mr DiBacco

    My fathers name was Riley Thomas,and he knew your family.He lived on Tony Row in Coketon.His dad was one of the mining superintendents and his name was John Thomas.

    I remember visiting the DiBacco family once when I was a kid there sometime around the early to mid 1960’s.

    My dad played baseball all around the area when he was a young man.He was known as Babe Thomas.He and my mother,grand father John and my great uncle Riley Tice are all buried at the Rose Hill cemetery across the river from the town of Thomas.

    My dad knew the Calibrese family and there was another Italian American family that he was close to whose last name began with a D as well but I just can’t recall the name now for some reason.

    We always went to see the falls there on the Blackwater and used to fish Horse Shoe run and camp there at times too.

    Bob T

  3. Good stuff, my Father was born in Coketon my Mother in Thomas. As a child our 2 week summer vacation was traveling to Thomas from Connecticut to visit my Mothers parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and other kin. Inevitably my Father and I always drove into Coketon where he would point out where his Family shack stood across from a big boulder long the road by the Coke ovens. Told tales of walking the tracks as a boy picking up pieces of coal for heating and cooking. Always fond memories for me as a child and many return trips as a young man and later visits with my own Family for DiBacco Family Reunions in Canaan Valley.
    Thank you for the memories.

    Frank P

    1. Enjoyed reading your comments..been trying to find info on my father. Who was apparently born in Coketon in 1918-19..May have to try to get down there..

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