The Fading Echoes of Coal’s Dominion in Buchanan County, Virginia

Deep within the once coal-rich veins of Buchanan County, Virginia, remnants of a bygone era of prosperity linger. This southwestern county, bordered by the coal-abundant Pike County, Kentucky, to the north and McDowell County, West Virginia, to the northeast – known for its billion-dollar coalfield – bears witness to a transformation.

Deep within the once coal-rich veins of Buchanan County, Virginia, remnants of a bygone era of prosperity linger. This southwestern county, bordered by the coal-abundant Pike County, Kentucky, to the north and McDowell County, West Virginia, to the northeast – known for its billion-dollar coalfield – bears witness to a transformation.

The region’s topography is exceptionally rugged and mountainous, characterized by narrow valleys, steep high walls, and narrow ridges. The county’s population grew gradually after its formation from Russell and Tazewell counties on February 13, 1858, doubling every two decades. At the turn of the 20th century, the county seat, Grundy, housed a mere 200 residents, and the county itself had a population of 9,692 over its 507 square miles, reflecting its isolated, pioneer-like nature. 1

For much of the early 20th century, Buchanan County was considered underdeveloped despite the recognition of coal seams beneath its surface. Lumbering was the principal industry from the 1890s into the 1920s due to a lack of reliable transportation. The first railroad to connect to Buchanan County, a narrow-gauge–Big Sandy and Cumberland Railroad–was established in 1901. 3 4 It connected Grundy with the Norfolk & Western Railroad (N&W) at Devon, West Virginia. The railroad traversed Knox Creek from West Virginia, traversed over a mountain, and then down Slate Creek at Matney to Grundy. 1 The railroad was purchased by the N&W in 1923 and was rebuilt five years later and operated as the Buchanan Branch. 5

The William M. Ritter Lumber Company largely managed the timber industry, a logging and timber operation founded as a sawmill in 1890 in Oakdale, West Virginia. 2 Ritter expanded into several counties in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. By the 1920s, Ritter ventured into coal mining, acquiring several coal companies and coking operations. By the early 1950s, Ritter’s annual coal production averaged five million tons. In 1957, the company stores were sold, and the coal mines were leased to the Island Creek Coal Company, which was later acquired by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation in 1960.

Jewell Smokeless Coal Co. Loading Tipple No. 1
The Jewell Smokeless Coal Co. Loading Tipple No. 1 at Whitewood in August 1956. It was later purchased by Island Creek Coal. Source: Negative #512982-B, Jewel Smokeless Coal Corp. #311 Whitewood, Va. Aug. 56, Norfolk & Western Historical Photograph Collection.

Island Creek became a prominent coal mining company in the region, constructing the model coal mining community of Keen Mountain, whose mine closed in the 1980s. They were also the operator of the Whitewood Island Creek Loading Tipple No. 1.

The remains of the Island Creek Coal Virginian Pocahontas operation at Whitewood, Virginia, in 2011. The MSHA ID expired in 2008.

The former Norfolk & Western Dismal Creek Branch has been abandoned since 2005.

Nearby was Jewell Valley, a model coal camp town built by George L. Carter, the founder and owner of the once mammoth Clinchfield Coal Company. As the coal seams were exhausted in the 1960s, the mines gradually closed, and the town remained until the 1970s, though little remains today.

By the 1970s, most of the underground coal seams in the region had been depleted, and the future now depends on mountaintop removal-based mining and strip mining, both of which can significantly impact the environment.


  1. Schwab, W. G. “The Forests of Buchanan County, Virginia.” The Geology and Coal Resources of Buchanan County, Virginia. By Henry Hinds. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1918. 251-252. Print.
  2. “CHARLES C. TILLER PHOTOGRAPHS 1924-38.” Archives of Appalachia. East Tennessee State University, 4 Mar. 2002. Web. 14 Mar. 2011. Article.
  3. Baker, Nancy Virginia. “Bountiful and Beautiful: A Bicentennial History of Buchanan County, Virginia, 1776-1976.” Grundy: Buchanan County Vocational School, 1976. Print.
  4. Coleman, Ron. “We Dig Coal: The Story of Coal Mining in Buchanan County, Virginia.” Radford: Commonwealth Press, 1975. Print.


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I am a filmmaker from New Jersey and interested in creating a few videos in the area. Most interested in interviewing anyone who lived, worked, or visited Jewell Valley when it was an active community. Too many stories go untold and are lost to history forever. Please email me at I am willing to come to you for the interview.

Y’all know the short famiy . own a farm . ride his horse to richlands drunk . Roy did .and the Goss family . rita and Terry . too . they were some good old days . miss everyone . hope you doing fine. Happy holidays to everyone and happy New Years .

My mother and her family lived in Jewel Valley. My grandfather was a coal miner. His name was Roy S White. He was in the mines when a piece of slate fell on him and broke his back in 1947. He was not killed in the mines. I have been trying to find information on this accident, does anyone know where I can look?
Please feel free to email me with info..Thank you so much
Karen Bennett

My name is Johnnie Louise Pruitt Rexrode. I grew up on Reynolds Ridge, near Jewell Ridge, in Tazewell County Virginia. My father was John Oliver ‘Toney’ Pruitt. He was employed at the Number Eleven mine at Jewell Valley Virginia. He grew up on Bearwaller Mountain in Buchanan County. The family cemetery that we all call the old Fletcher Grave yard is there. It contains graves of many of my dads ancestors. His father was John Oscar Pruitt and his mother was Corlie Mae Cole Pruitt, she is buried at this cemetery, along with three of her babies. She died of child bed fever in the 1930’s . I attended the old Jewell Ridge Elementary School, the older wooden one that was near the middle of the camp, where the fire department is now. I graduated from Richlands High School in 1968 and from Southwest Virginia Community College in 1970, I also graduated from Radford College in 1973. I remember the old company store at Jewell Valley. My Dad bought me a pair of winter boots at that store. Those boots lasted me nearly forty years, until I threw them out several years back. My dad and my Uncle Dillo Street tore down one of the old duplex houses at Jewell Valley. My Uncle used the wood to build a house for himself and my dad used some of the wood in our house on Reynolds Ridge. All of that is gone now. But I still have my memories and I love looking at the old pictures. Because you would not believe that a town ever existed at the location that it did. It now only has a gas well head. To me that is a sad ending for such a place as Jewell Valley Virginia. The towns of Jewell Ridge and Jewell Valley were named for the Jewell family. Effie Jewell was the first baby born in the camp. It also stands for coal being known as the black Jewell.

Efflie is my great aunt =) her sister Nina is my grandmother. I’m passing through that way for the first time this Saturday. I’m excited to explore. I wish I knew people there that new my family.

My mother lived in jewel valley coal community from 1936 to 1940. I grew up in a coal town in west Virginia. It was not as remote as my mothers coal town but I know what it is like. It took strong people to grow up there. God bless all who have gone through this. It makes you a better person

Hello, I am Delmer Fleenor I grew up in Jewell Valley until July 1966. My father Tip Fleenor passed away in April 1966. We had to move out of Buck Jewels house in the lower camp. I went to school at Little Red from 1961 to 1964 and to Whitewood from 1964 until 1966.. We move to Pennington Gap, Va. in 1966 and I didn’t return until July 2014. I didn’t recognize anything but our brick coal house and the drain that when under the railroad to the water fall that was across the creek. Had a lot of good and bad times in that little place. Remember Dr. Mc Cormack. and all he knew was a shot or those old green pills.


Hello Harold Jewell. My brother, Guy Jewell, and my granddad ,Josh Jewell, talked frequently about Henry Jewell. They said he was a sheriff or a man of that occupation. My mon was Nina Jewell Jewell Senic . We lived in Jewell Valley, Richlands, and on Chicken Ridge. I went back to find the old home on Chicken Ridge, but I was not able to find it. There was a cemetery at Chicken Ridge for the Jewell family. However, I remember, as a child, visiting a cemetery below Cliff Walker’s store. Silas Jewell, my great uncle, and several other relatives lived. My granddad built the church, but all was gone when I visited. Thank you for any information you can relate to me. Mary Senic

Aunt Mary – I hope you are well! I’m making a trip through there this Saturday — on the way to Lynchburg to pick up a pup. I’m bringing daughter Sarah (Jewell) – as I passed the namesake on to her. Were you able to find out more information? I will be staying at Richlands and then driving up through Chickridge, Jewell Ridge and then Jewell Valley… I would love to be able to pin point homes/places or at least spaces where the family was in the past. Maybe visit the cemeteries as well.

My friend lived in one of the houses in this row in Jewell Valley, I remember sitting in the living room playing guitar. He’s passed on now, Cooper Turner, one of the first kidney transplants in America. In the 1960’s these houses were homes to a lot of fine people. All of the land in that area has changed. The tipple’s are gone, the land has mostly been reclaimed and only these empty shells of houses remain, but the memories of those that passed through these places are still fresh.

yes i remember Cooper well we use to play together,we lived in the 3rd house on the right going into the camp,then in the second big white house on the hill up from it.later moved to woosley camp,the in ahouse belonging to Earl Coles dad ,then to JEWELL Ridge love my time at all those places.


My grandparents and my dad lived in Jewell Valley. My grand parents were Henry Jewell who was married to Bertha May Jewell maiden name Pruit. My dad Harold was the youngest of 14.

I AM Debby Hooker Johnson ,we lived at Jewell Valley late 50’s i was 5 my dad was Ralph Hooker,mother Ruth McKinney Hooker ,my grandfather worked their also Roy Hooker i loved my time there so many good memories one of the houses still standing that we lived in and is in pretty good shape because a neighbor that lives beside it uses it for storage.I go to Jewell Valley in the fall .

A few years back I met a lady in Moscow (Russia) who had also grown up in Virginia. I was born in the Grundy hospital and my family lived in Pilgrim’s Knob at the time. She and I had a mutual interest–the life of Gary Francis Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot that was shot down over Russia in 1960. He was born in Jenkins, KY, and grew up in Pound, VA. She was working in Moscow at the time and had been permitted to tour the archives in the Russian museum that held the plane Powers was flying when he was shot down. As an American journalist I was allowed to tour the same museum some years later. The recent movie “Bridge of Spies” starring Tom Hanks was loosely based on the events surrounding the downing of the Gary Powers plane.

I first went to school at Whitewood and to this day have many special memories of the region, and especially the wonderful people who made their homes and worked in the mines of Buchanan County. We later moved to Newhall, in McDowell County, West Virginia.

I was born in Buchanan County and left as a child when my father decided to stop mining coal. It is sad to see the homes and towns where people grew up destroyed. I continue to hope a different industry provides a living for the residents

The coal mining camp at Keen Mountain was built by Red Jacket Coal Corp. Most of these homes, the church, company store and boarding house still stand and are in good condition. The store and boarding house are now used for other purposes. The tiny post office still operates on a reduced schedule. Houses are owned by individuals.Several of the homes still have the original coal bins. Red Jacket was bought by Island Creek.

I lived in one of the camp houses 1955-1956. I was the daughter of Doyle and Iris Hodges We moved to Jones Fork and lived there until 1967. I went to Little Red school four years and graduated Whitewood Highschool. Then we moved to Chicken Ridge. I have so many wonderful memories of this place And the people who lived there.


Jesse James (Duke) Bragg. Knew your older brother and you.
Respected your dad and loved your mom’s cooking.



I have really enjoyed reading your article. People ask me how I can be so nostalgic about growing up in coal camps and I tell them you would have to have lived it to understand. It’s a way of life that will never be duplicated.

Does anyone remember hearing abt a coal miner’s bus that wrecked going down jewell ridge . The driver an several minesr were killed my dad rode that bus but wasnt on the bus that night. Would like any info that abt wreck. This most likey happen in 1950’s or late 40’s

I am doing some research on a family named JOHNSON / ADKINS from that area and found a death certificate for JOHN W JOHNSON that lists his death as ACCIDENT BUS WRECK. Date August 20, 1953. Not sure if this is related to what you are looking for.

My Grandfather, Harvey Horn (Horne), was killed by falling slate in the Jewell Valley Mines in June of 1951. He left behind a wife, a 4 year old son, my Dad, and a year old daughter. I have always wondered where this place was and what it looked like.

Thank you for the information.

I was only 6 when we lived in jewel valley. Had an older brother and sister. My dad, R.S. White .worked in the mines. He was in an accident in 1947. This left him disabled. His back was broken in 2 places and crushed from waist down. My mom was told that the biggest piece of slate to fall in the jewel valley mines was the one that fell on my dad.He lived 17 yrs after this. We moved to East Tennessee so family could help my mom take care of my dad. II really love reading about places we lived when I was young. Just recently started searching for information bout my Dad.

In years past, I went with my Father who lived at Jewel Ridge. We actually walked through the house he lived as a young child/adult, in the coal town. We visited his elementary school.. at the time, my father was in his late 60’s, early 70’s. It was amazing to me to hear his stories, his memories.. He actually taught me what a “coal tipple” was.. always a father, always my Dad. I am blessed to share time with him, as he is 84 and he is still as interesting as when I was just as “knee high to a grasshopper”

I grew up at the foot of jewell ridge at a place call Maryhollow my dad worked many years at jewell ridge coal co. he lived to 82yrs died of black lung i went to school at seaboard elm school in late 50’s would love to hear fr any one that went to school there. I moved to Fl 30plus yrs ago but I stIill go back to visit friends at jewell ridge, richlands, seaboard, almost ever year.

Who is your parents,mine are Ralph and Ruth Hooker we lived in the camp around the same time

I found your website and comments when searching for information about W. M. Ritter Lumber Company and his interest in Red Jacket Coal Company. My interest comes from articles in “The Hardwood Bark”, a newsletter of the W. M. Ritter Lumber Company written for employees during the 1920s. Red Jacket Coal Co was allocated space in the publications. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. I am looking for information about life in his company towns. E-mail

John’s Cross Village in Beach is definitely an old town that has been changed in to
a recreation area with many water-sport, galleries and 110 shops distributors.
The laid back atmosphere you will locate this is actually
the motive several travelers make Beach their lasting California holiday destination. Our accommodations are some pet friendly and family friendly aswell.

What the _ell is this letter doing on this site? Does anyone monitor and delete trash as it is submitted?


My dad, Tip Fleenor worked in the mines till his death in 1966. We lived right above the company store. Rented a house from Buck Jewell. We went to The Little Red School. Mrs. Altizer was my teacher and Mrs. Cole. My fondest memories were spent at the church there in the valley and the Drs office. Old Dr. McCormick was my best buddy. He and Delores Mulkey was so good to me. We were poor but I loved the valley and my friends there. Linda Marcum was our neighbor. Thanks for letting me live through it all again,

My family also grew up in Jewell Ridge. My grandfather was Joseph Arnold and was married to Vida Phillips and had 4 kids Jerry R Arnold, James Arnold,Melvin Arnold, and Faye Arnold. As far as I know they all moved away in the late 60’s early70’s. My dad Jerry Reafice Arnold told me about Vic Sparks and Vandykes store. He had an uncle I think. His name was George Arnold. Anybody heard of them. Any info would be useful for family tree. Thanks

Jackie Breeden,

Thank you for the information about the boarding house. Becky Tarder and I use to play in and around the boarding house. My brother, Guy, had a friend named Jack Hooker and another friend called Happy Jack Mannard.
Are these friends still in the area? I use to play with a sweet girl, Imogene, but do not know her last name. Thank you for your information you post, as it brings back so many memories.

Did you know Joshua Jewell and his wife May Jewell? He had a coal mine at Jewell Ridge.

I am the niece of Becky Tarter Blankenship. Josie Tarter was my grandmother. My father was Bill Fleming. Becky now lives in a retirement community here in Roanoke.

Hello Peggy Fleming, I new your dad Bill Fleming. I lived in Jewell Valley during the late 30″s to late 40″s. I also know your grandmother, Becky I lived in Jewell Valley during the time Becky lived there. Her parents ran the boarding house.
I live in Roanoke and would love to meet Becky again. If you think if would be alright, you may reply to my email above.
Thank you.

Josh Jewell was my grandad, and May Jewell my grandmother. He owned a mine at Jewell Ridge. The moved to Richlands and then to Florida. Wonderful grandparents.

my grandfather was John Ward and his wife was Hannah Ward. He worked in the mine at Jewell Valley and I am trying to build a n-scale mode; of the camp. If anyone can help me with pictures I would appreciate it. I can be reached at

I was born in Jewell valley back behind the company store and the theater on march 29 1947.My family left for Baltimore MD in 1960. I attended school at the little red school house and whitewood for awhile.It really hurt to see they tore down the little school.The last time I was there about the only thing left was part of the bath house.My parents were Harvey and Goldie Burress. My father was a manner all his life until we moved to Maryland.

I lived in Jewell in the fifties, and I would not take nothing for those wonderful memories. The pictures now do not tell the story of the people that lived there. The b beauty. of Jewell Valley Camp was more than the coal industry. Yes, it provided our food, shelter, and much more. The Camp was a Family. Everyone cared about one another. Neighbors were neighbors, we played together, went to Church together, laughed together, and many times cried together if a family had death. It is my goal in life, to make a replica of Jewell Valley. I learned many virtues of life there, like what it meant to be honest, loyal, hard working, and caring. I went to “Little Red School.” Many years after, I enrolled in college. I was told by the councilor, “I must have had good teachers”. I did.

I started school in the “little red school house ” in 1948. Remember the Cruey boys (Gene, Doug, and Bill). Bill and I were staying with my aunt Edith Shortridge. Her son’s were Ronnie and Kenneth. Their house was next door to the Gilley’s.

Hi everyone. Loved reading the article, and especially the comments. My mother’s family grew up in Jewell Ridge. They were the Belchers – Billy, Bobby, Harold, Kyle, James, Ruth, Dorcas, Dorothy, Margaret, Louise, Mary, and Patsy. My mother was Margaret. Anyone remember the family?

II lived in Jewell Valley back in the 70,s.I lived with my sister and brother in law Betty and Thurman Blankenship. I graduated from WWHS in 1978. We lived almost right in the middle of White Camp before moving on up in the valley.We lived between Paul Blevins and Mrs.Bragg and then between Harold Mounds and Edward Vandyke. I met a lot of real good and hard working people that I got to know and Love; The Blevins,Hackworths,Coopers,Turners,
Vandykes,Addams, Lamies, Wards etc. Ira Vandyke had a store and poolhall that we hung out at a lot.I hung out at
the old company store and deli also. I took many of a shower at the old bathhouse. I was saddened to see the pictures of the houses and the shape they were in. I cherish the memories of living in Jewell Valley and going to
Whitewood High School

Mr. Cahal, Jewell Valley was developed and owned by Houston ST. Clair of Tazewell, VA and was known as Jewel Ridge Coal Co., Corp. My father ( Isom ) worked 30+ years for this company and retired in 1962.’

I lived in Jewell Valley, until 1959 snd left for college, graduating from WHS 59′. My parents [ Isom and Rebecca-Wimmer-Breedem] moved to RIchlands, after I left home. i attened the little red school house 1947-51. I cherish all my great memories of JEwell Valley. You may e- mail me at, if our paths may have crossed.

My father in law was James Joshua (Josh) Keen who was born in April of 1891 and lived in this area until the early 1950’s. He passed away in Ohio in August of 1997 (lived to be over 106) We know that he worked in a lumber camp, worked as a security guard at a coal mine, and had his own apple orchards, but would like to find out if any one has any additional information about his life or family.


Hank and Jackie,

I have conducted some historical information on the upland area by the orchard and may have some useful information. Please send me an e-mail if you would like to talk,

My grandfather was a coal miner and their family lived on jewell ridge. I am researching my father’s family (Nichols) and looking for any connections. My father was Ronnie W Nichols(1942-2012), and his parents Lloyd(1923-1988) and Vernie Nichols. I would love to hear of any stories or connections. My uncle Rick drove me around jewell ridge while we were visiting for my father’s funeral. Wish I had learned more before he passed away.

I grew up next door to your dad and his brothers and sisters, knew your grandparents very well, I had many meals with them growing up there, your uncle Randall and I were friends growing up we were always at each others house, also Judy your aunt was my sisters best friend and spent a lot of time at our house when we were growing up there, What an awesome place to grow up, never forget the people there, my younger brother still owns the home place today, can tell you many stories about your grandparents and also your dad. Hope you enjoy.. GOD BLESS

Im sure sometime in all the events in our family we have meet. Your Dad and uncles are my 1st cousins, Rick and i are about the same age. Judy,Rick and i use to play together at our grandparents farm out on Chicken Ridge. Ronnie was a little older then me i thank he maybe closer to my aunt anne age. I have been doing a family tree for about 5 years now and still haven’t finished because of the amount of people in the family.

I loved living in White Camp and also with my Grandparents at the top of White Mountain, Oriis and Pinkie White. Going to Whitewood consolidated school was really great too. Going up in the mountains of childhood explorations was wonderful. I had a lot of friends in the camp but can’t remember any of their names. Life was hard there but it is something I’ll always remember in my fondest memories, such as playing in the cold in and around the stream out back, climbing the mountains and going up to the old abandoned mine above the camp, etc.

Hi Paul,
My husband, Arthur is a nephew of Orlis (Oralis) and Pinkie White, Oralis was brother to Elsie White, Arthur’s mother. Would like to add you to family tree. My email


The lady who did the cooking had a daughter who lived there with her. Do you know the name of the daughter.
We were friends when we lived in the valley. Thank you.

Mrs. Jones ran the boarding house in the 50’s and had three children Charles, Jerry and Elaine. They are all deceased.


Hi I am the son of Jerry R Arnold and grandson of Joseph Arnold. My dad Jerry still tells me stories of Vic Sparks and Vandykes Store. IJoseph had 4 children : Jerry R Arnold, James Arnold,Melvin Arnold, and Faye Arnold and was married to Vida Phillips and lived on their old home place in Jewell Ridge. I’m looking for info on anybody who may have known them in the past. Thanks.

I lived in Jewell Valley coal camp in 1957-1961. I would not taking nothing for the memories of my childhood. All in the camp were like family. We looked after our own. Did not have to lock doors. Everyone loved and cared about one another. Do we have that now in our country today??. The pictures do not tell the life that was within the walls of our homes. We were proud, hardworking people with pride in what we did. Never did hear the words like,"I'm bored" and so on. We were busy riding our stick horses, playing all together with whatever our minds could think of. I guess you could say we were poor in materialism, but rich in life.

Hello, i am Linnie Cole’s grandson and Jimmy Adam’s nephew. Does anyone remember me from jewel valley. Wayne Brown

I remember Jimmie Adams. We lived in the Camp in the 50’s. Lived on Peapatch. My granddad was Jim Wimmer.

I believe we were lived beside each other in White Camp. My first memories are from there. My parents are James and Betty Osborne and I was the baby of the family at the time. Older sister is Janet and older brothers are Stephen and Rusty(Carl). Dad is now 90 and Mom is 86 and all but one of us live in Russell County. Do you remember us or the Cabell family?

This is wonderful information. Recently my brotehr Dr. R.C. (Gene) Sims sent me an article from the BlueField News that included a photo of thre White camp and we believe the photo includes a pictire of the Home we lived in, in the 1939 – 1942 time period. We have since drafted some memories of the Camp and people that we knew that lived in the camp. We wrote of the jewell Valley Grade School at the foot of the mountain going to Jewell ridge,

When complete we will post the writing of the people we remember that lived there and other (I hope) interesting things about the community and school. Ms Mrytle Clifton was our grade school teacher and lived in the apartments at whitewood. I would like to make contact with her just to express my appreciation for her pleasant memories and contribution to our education.
I have contacted Elbert Jewell, whitewood and had a wonderful trip down memory lane. Too, Guy Jewell recently passed away. I have yet to contact Martha, I thought Jewell, but could be Senic. Any info would be appreciated.

Regards and thank you.

John Sims

Hello John,

Yes, my brother passed away last year. I am his sister Mary Senic. I am going to Jewell Valley
and should be there around may 26. My sister Martha is fine.


When you finish your work concerning Jewell Valley, would you please post it and let those who lived in the Valley, Jewell Ridge, and Richlands, as well as Whitewood know. I went to the little red school and lived in White Camp.
My brother, Guy Jewell, as you noted has passed. All of Alex Senic's children are well. I hope to be in Jewell Valley in about three weeks. Beautiful memories of many people who lived there.

Thank you. Mary Senic

Mr. John Sims, Miss Myrtle Clifton went on to teach for many years at Garden Elementary School over at Oakwood. Retiring in either late 1960’s or early 70’s. She was originally from a small community near Abingdon and owned her family farm there. She lived out the rest of her life at that farm. She never married and only had a couple of nephews who inherited the farm when she passed away. I grew up in the Garden community and graduated from Garden in 1959. Have many good memories of Buchanan County and the coalfields. I live in Warrenton, VA now but return to the county as often as I can. E.D. Kreutter

my grandfather George Edwards was a forman at the red jacket mine, the lived in #6. Do any of you know anything about him?

Also, by the way to the rail road track going up Dismal to Jewel Valley is now owned by Buchanan County, but NS has the right to use it again if coal and a coal plant is constructed again in the area. This is the track that was to be the Buchanan County Tourist Train.

The coal camp that you talked about at Keen Mtn. was know as Red Jacket Coal Company Canp. Red Jacket had a mine and prep. plant just below Garden Creek. Red Jacket Mine was the mine that exploed because of coal dusts in the mine around 1935 that killed alot of miners. The coal load out plant picture listed Island Creek was Jewels Smokeless load out for short loads. Short loads were where they loaded from truck to rail cars and when sent down Dismal to Jewel's Coke Ovens to their cleaning plant for cleaning. Island Creek Va. Poke # 1 is a shaft plant located at mouth of Dismal just above Jewels Coke Ovens.

I found your site and I was staying in nearby Wytheville on a road trip. I visited Jewell Valley and took some shots. As your article states, the very last house is standing. It has a padlock on the front door and there is a newer small home built next to it. The woman that lives in the newer home was mowing the grass as I left. 🙂

I enjoyed reading your article! However some fo the information is incorrect! The company store didn't close in the early 70's! It closed in the fall of 1982!

I enjoyed reading your article, but some information isn't correct! The company store did not close in the 70's!!! It didn't close until around 1983 or 1984! My dad worked at the gas station that serviced all the company and local customers. His job didn't end until the fall of 1984 or the spring of 1985. The company store shut down about a year before this happened!

Hi. My grandparents were Bev and Vernal White and lived in Jewell Valley around 1940-1960's. My father is Lloyd White. I went to the Jewell Valley school, we called the Little Red School House. I was wondering if you had or know of any photos of the old school. You can contact me at Thanks for sharing and any help.

My father, Alex Senic, worked in the mine in Jewell Valley. We moved away when I was in grade school.
However, my dad continued to work there and live in the boarding house. It would be nice to hear from
some of the people who were in Jewell Valley. Mary Senic


My brother and I went to the little red school house….3rd& 4th grade…Miss Mc Connell was his teacher…Mine was a Miss Gilliam…I was down to the camp this summer….very sad to see what it has become…..the house we lived in up the road in Woosley Camp is torn down ….that road now goes up to Bear Wallow mountain!Priscilla Riale


Thank you for your reply. I remember the boarding housel My dad took me to the grill a number of times. I went to the little red school house. Remember lining up in front each school day. Wonderful memories.

Hello. I was reviewing the replies and find your name, especially the last name of Senic. I knew Alex Senic. I would be happy to chat via email during the time I knew Alex, or Mr Senic. My name is Jack and I lived with my parents there during the 40's. I graduated from Whitewood High School. Are you the Mary that had a brother name Guy?

Hello Jack,

Yes my brother's name was Guy. I have so many memories of Jewell Valley. Would like to email. I am going to Jewell Valley in about three weeks. Thank you for replying.
Mary Senic

I just returned from a trip to Jewell Valley. Living in Jewell Valley is a lady that I went to third grade with in the Little Red school house. Her home is the second to last one in the old white camp. All other homes (four) are as you see them in above pictures; however, much worse in structure now.
I visited Chicken Ridge, but could not find my grandfather Jewell’s old home which is about 120 years old.
The trees have grown up and taken control over the old residence. Seeing a big black bear on the road from
Jewell Valley to Chicken Ridge made me hurry out of the wooded area and back into my car. Several residence
at Chicken Ridge tried to help me, but to no avail.

I think as Thomas Wolfe stated, “You can”t go home again.” The trees and strip mining have taken so much away.
So, to the dear folks that lived in this area year ago, be thankful for the memories of hard working people and their families in an area tucked away in the trees and in our hearts. An experience that, for me, has lasted a lifetime.

Hello Mary. I lived in Jewell Valley until 1948. You said your father was alex. Well I was a good friend of Jabo, that’s what we called him. We were in the second or third grade together. As a teenager I lived in Richlands which is about thirty miles away. There I reconized. Alex and asked about jabo. He told me I. Believe that jabo was in the service. I joined the air force when i turned 17 and stayed for 28 years. I now reside near martinsburg wv. I have a school picture of Jabo and myself. I would like to hear from him

Mary, I grew up in Jewell Valley ( Woosley Camp). I attended ” the little red school house ” from 1947-51. My brothers and sisters were: Eugene, Flora and Glen. I remember Jabo Senic. I graduated from WHS in 1959.. My e=mail address is

I lived in Woosley Camp….Jewell Valley 1945 to 1947….It was a lively place then…I was in the 4th grad in Jewel valley school….many fond memories….to bad to see the sad state the area has become!!!

I lived in Woosley camp until 1957 and my parents moved to Richlands. I attended the little red school house from 1947-1951. I have great memories of Jewell Valley.

Woosley Camp as I remember it was located on the upper side/road of Jewell Valley. There was a creek that formed out of the mountains and ran through Woosley Camp and Jewell Valley. Me and friends used to go there and play and have fun. There was a large sawdust pile in Woosley Camp that me and friends played and made small “caves”. I remember one of the workers at the Jewell Valley store by the name of Ralph Arnold.
I lived there in the 1930’s

Hi Jack,
Thank you for the information. My father, George C. Hooker took a small crew over from Jewell Ridge Mine in the late ’30’s and opened the access to the Jewell Valley mines. I was born there 13, January, 1938 and lived there a couple of years. My sisters, Ruth and Frieda and I visited the camp one day in the ’80’s and once in the ’90’s. They went to school in the Little Red Schoolhouse on the Jewell Ridge Road. We moved into the brick company house in 1939. My wife Judy Meadows was born in the Big Creek section near Richlands.

I lived in Jewell Valley during the 50's and early 60's. As a young boy, I loved living in this area. We were poor, but we really did not realize it. We seemed to have everything we wanted or needed. I have been back to Jewell Valley and was deeply distressed at the decline of the place I grew up in. The area you photographed (white camp) and another area down near the company store (brown camp) were the primary living areas. The area of the company store had a barber shop, church, the bath house for the coal miners, the tipple and the post office. Many of the people living there had to shop at the company store because they were paid largely in script, which could only be spent at the company store. When the mines started closing in the early 60's we were forced to move to another state, but I have always remembered my life in Jewell Valley.

I am with you. Those were the most precious years of my childhood. I would not trade those memories for nothing.I was and still am proud to be a coal miner’s daughter and wife. If they would let the coal run, this nation would be in better shape. They think it is bad now, they should have been in the Valley when they let the coal smoke and dust out. It is much cleaner now than then.

This is the result of what happens when coal companies are finished mining and pull out. We should learn from our mistakes and realize that we can expect no less from Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining. The only difference is that not only will see abandoned homes but also destroyed landscapes and contaminated water. We need to seek alternative sources of income for our community and keep coal mining underground.

My grandfather owned and opeertad a coal breaker, a plant where coal is crushed, sized, graded, and delivered. My other grandfather was also in the coal business and subsequently died of black lung. Although I never worked in the mines or breakers, I’ve been inside the mines and around coal breakers quite a bit in my younger years. I never saw anything so inspiring as what was presented in this commercial. I’m not talking about the coal. Now if I had seen anything close to what was depicted in the commercial I would have probably carried on the family tradition of coal mining. But I didn’t so I didn’t.

I grew up 1/2 mile up the creek from the houses in these pictures until I left for service in the Marine Corps when I was 18 in 1989. These houses (White Camp) were condemned because of raw sewage running straight into Dismal Creek. Most of them were occupied until they were condemned. This was long after the coal industry dried up in Jewell Valley. The lone house remaining in White Camp is occupied because they had a septic system put in. White Camp is a small part of Jewell Valley and there are still many residents there including my grandmother and many more relatives and friends.


Well, I suspected there were many more residents. When I peer at a topo and see just how many houses used to be there, it makes me quite sad to see that all that is left is literally one or two occupied houses. How long have the houses been condemned for? If you left in 1989, then at most it is 20+ years, and many of these houses are in severe disrepair and in states of collapse.

My dad was born in Jewell valley VA, in one of these houses that is no longer there. Also his sister Reba Blevins and her husband Paul and their 4 children lived in one of the homes also but it to is no longer there.I remember being there when I was a kid in the 70's and it was a busy little place then, I remember the coal trucks going up and down the roads and seeing my uncle Paul and the other men come home from work all covered in coal dust. You had to work at the mine to live in one of the houses. I was told it was once called white camp because all the houses were so clean and had nice yards. I moved away from Virginia at the age of 12 and returned 30 years later for a funeral. We decided to ride through Jewell valley to see how much it had changed and was shocked at what we seen, my dad was almost in tears seeing the place he was born and raised pretty much gone. From what I was told a bunch of teenagers from Richlands VA were partying one night and were saying that Jewell valley was haunted so they decided to go there and set fire to many of the abandoned houses and mother nature has claimed the rest of them.

Dear Mr. Cahal, I have just finished looking at some of your abandoned coal mining camps and the scenes were very sad. However, who

did all this destruction to these homes? These homes are no different than the ones in the ghettos of some of our cities. Sir, I feel like

there should have been more focus on some of the nice homes in this area and they are numerous. Most of the homes came from the hard

work of miners who went back into those dark holes to provide some good things for their family. I am the wife of a coal miner and a daughter. I am

very proud of every member of my family that worked in some capacity of the coal industry. Have you visited our county lately? We now have

the Appalachian School of Law, the Oakwood School of Pharmacy and the new school of optometry which will arrive on the scene shortly. I would

love to know the figures of the amount of funds that coal played a role in their formation. I have seen mountain top removal pictures, not a pretty

site. As these jobs are finished, the authorities inspect them, and most of those reclaimed have opened the area for future projects, too numerous

to list. Yes, Mr. Cahal, flooding of streams and rivers causes flooding and destruction. This was a problem before mining arrived on the scene.

I am sure we cannot blame all the flooding in Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and all the other states on mountain top removal mining. I believe every miner earns every dollar he makes and they are to be admired as they risk their lives every day so you, your family and others may

enjoy life to the fullest. If anyone does not like coal, I suggest just have their electricity disconnected for two weeks, COAL effects the user

in so many ways that they are unaware of. I am glad I was born in coal country and I have lived to see the changes that have emerged from

a gift that God created for His people. Let's all pray for every miner who works for the coal industry in some capacity that he will return home to his

families after a hard and dirty day's work which impacts the lives of everyone, Near and Far.

I saw your note and remembered a Family of Breedens lived in the house across from us….there were two daughters…could not think of their names…we used to play marbles in my yard!Are you one of those?

Ken: That would be fine – and I totally agree with your sentiments. "Clean Coal" is never clean if it is derived from say, mountaintop removal.

Evelyn: Great that I could be of assistance!

The pictures you took of Jewell Valley helped me with a project one of my students is working on for school.

Wonderful post / article. Found you through the Urban Planet forum. Really love the photos and especially the topic covered. The coal industry is really trying to make such an obvious push with their "clean coal" campaign, literally all over TV, magazines, newspaper, everywhere. While I don't believe we'll "get off" of coal any time soon. I think that we really need to make more of an effort to show the destruction, loss of habitat and environment that is the final result. With your permission I would like to use some of your photos, for an article on one of our websites… Lime Light Times

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