Thursday, August 23, 2018

Whats in a name?

One of the most universal conversation points of remote coal towns in West Virginia are their names. Many will debate the name origin of a town. Many are proud and loud about it. I personally do not blame them. There are however times when I must admit, I would LOVE to scream these town names......Before I go on about these place names, keep in mind, these places are named in such a way as to reflect their fiercely independent nature. I like that. To those that have a name that defies immediate convention, I say GOD BLESS YOU SIR! about:


Orgas derives its name from the Orange Gas Coal Company. It is NOT as many people think populated by hordes of moaning people with their eyes rolling back biting their lower lip...Nope, sorry.


Cucumber derives its name from the Cucumber tree. It is not a secret supply for pickles, or salt shakers.....There was at this time a small active underground coal opeartion there. Yes, its a coal town.


Left Hand, actually has a normal naming origin, left hand of a creek tributary. How about that. I do not know if the post master is left handed...and NO there is no Right Hand WV...


Odd West Virginia has so many naming origins, I just wanted to say, the folks there are rather nice and NO they are not odd.....


Bloomimg Rose West Virginia was indeed named for a persons love of the rose. How about that? A town named because someone liked something. I like that. I like that people can identify with their likes and stand by a name....

SO, what do these names tell us? They tell us we can be happy, proud and yes, I am jealous...I have always wanted to say, YES, I grew up in ORGAS, West Virginia.....BUT I can dream..

I dream of walking on tracks for miles, in a fog finding all of those places.......

Monday, August 6, 2018

My Assistant

I have acquired an assistant who has a keen eye to see things in coal towns that I do miss. She is also called, THE DAUGHTER, and thanks to her I was able to get some rather cool pics.She reminded me, with the pic below. that I choose to see life, and those elements that make photographing coal towns interesting. Places that make you ask questions as opposed to, oh another relic.

I am not asking people to be the coal or hug it, I am showing that as much as people think of coal as a poison, a nature killer, it gave rise to a way of life and heritage. A thing that is to be cherished and preserved.

Coal towns make you ask questions

WHAT is that?

YOU will get the camera out. YOU will be overwhelmed by the quiet, and yes once in a while, by machines, loud ones

HOWEVER, an assistant reminds us all that we do what we do, because its fun...Most of us, have run across tracks...At least I hope. Thanks again and there will be more updates

Friday, August 3, 2018

Charleston, beautiful city

Charleston WV is by itself, beautiful. The most visible landmark is of course the West Virginia Capitol building. When Cass Gilbert designed this building, a little known factoid was rarely talked about. This building is LOADED with symbols.....

The front, Lincoln Walks at Midnight a statue that at its base, tells of the founding of West Virginia. We celebrate this as June 20, 1863, (*a Saturday)....SO, why talk about the Capital of West Virginia in the context of coal towns?

When I drove to the Capital with my assistant (THE DAUGHTER) we had driven up from McDowell County and followed a northern route that ended in Kanawha County. She had seen coal towns. Hard core, knuckle busting sweat down the back coal towns. Driving into Charleston, she was stunned....."My God, this is a city, a real one, it glitters.." In other words, it was the exact opposite of what we had seen.

HOWEVER, much like the coal towns, the dome was not just a gold thing meaning wealth, it was loaded with symbols, hidden in plan sight, very much like the coal towns we had visited. Symbols of power, wealth, strength industry......

The Eagle, 5 feet tall, at the top of dome exceeding 290 feet in heigth....AND NO, I did not forget the Lions
NOTE the garlands, being held at each lion head and the shells lining the roof

Eagles are ALL over the dome as well as the garlands

The Capital allows us to understand that our state is strong, and yes, immersed in a need for prayer. Lincolns statue mentioned above has a curious element. Per the pic below, I believe Lincoln is in prayer, or meditation. Head bowed, looking onward to our state flag. 

His eyes are not closed and his facial expression is open eyed

AND YES, our dome has scripture, Proverbs 3:13. This is at the base on the dome, front of the Capital

The rear of the Capital, also continues this use of scripture Proverbs 4:7

MORE to come, please let me know what you think

Thursday, August 2, 2018

And its name was Logan......

SO, I looked at the cities that were fed by the towns labor and work. I found Logan, WV....There are others but Logan was my first trip with my new assistant, named, THE DAUGHTER.

She has a keen eye, and we saw a very empty city named Logan.

The theater, and streets and buildings and even the security cameras that adorned every building....looked at an empty space.

I was the lucky one who had to explain an answer which I used to ask in coal towns..WHERE is everyone? This is a city..........

And everywhere was sparse.....and i looked at my then 14 year old assistant and said 2 jobs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Glen Rogers, West Virginia

IF you can do the drive over the snake called Bolt mountain, you can get to Glen Rogers, West Virginia. Its located in Wyoming County. At its height as a coal town, it was a model. In fact, despite its remote location, Glen Rogers boasted a Hotel/Boarding House, an Amusement hall, an ENORMOUS Company Store and a HUGE population of people, to occupy this place.

 I actually took the time to take a walk through the 3 story "hotel".

There is no hiding the vandalism. It provides a glimpse into 2 worlds: what the past was and how we currently deal with that past.

Despite the fact of intent to destroy these places, they are strong statements about what we were and what we have become. The welcoming seen of a fireplace is not lost....This place is not a sarcastic welcome, or a morbid hello. This is a place that was meant to make you take rest, take time to look and above all ask questions.........

The Glen Rogers Company Store is hiding, in plain sight, a huge structure burned by fire. The brick walls and twisted steel insides tell you this was a place of work. They worked and died...How did they do that in this place?

Front Facade, Glen Rogers Company Store

Why the fire, why the loss of interest, why did they go in such a hurry, or at least, why was I so late to come by and look?

Inside Store

The Amusement Hall is...ALL PLAYED OUT..

Front of Glen Rogers Amusement Hall

We can still look through the window. We can still ask, what did they see and know? We share the same view....

It is YET ANOTHER example of a coal town written so large that makes the average person stop.........and look......

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jenkinjones, West Virginia

In about 2010, I became interested in the coal town of Jenkinjones, located in McDowell County West Virginia. Jenkinjones is the namesake for a Welshman named, curiously, Jenkin Jones. He was one of the pioneers of what came to be called the Pocahontas Coalfield. His vision was made real by a company that dominated the coalfield, Pocahontas Fuel.

Pocahontas Fuel Office in Jenkinjones, West Virginia
So, why Jenkinjones? It had a cool sounding name, and it had the exact things that just threw all of the pre conceived ideas of a coal town up in the air. The Pocahontas Coalfield meant WEALTH, POWER and above all else, an incredible chance to show success to your competition. HOW does one do that? Why, they hire a European trained architect and build INCREDIBLE structures. The Pocahontas Fuel Offices, at Jenkinjones, reside to date on the National Register of Historic Places....

They do this in the middle of the remote roads and towns of McDowell County West Virginia. Neoclassical revivalist architecture which is in some instances being reclaimed by nature.
Detail of Office Corner

The offices are GROSSLY vandalized and defiant. Even after the coal was mined out, the energy of work, and its obvious former wealth are still visible.....

Who were they? 

View through Office Window at Jenkinjones

Where are they?
Inside the Office at Jenkinjones

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Photographing Coal Towns

Coal towns and America........images that are near iconic, BUT I ask, are they accurate? A coal town, by definition was created to house coal miners so they could live in close distance to a coal mine. LEST WE FORGET, THEY MINE THAT COAL.

Bartley West Virginia Coal Miners Memorial

I am disappointed when I look at coal town photography geared towards the perspective of the average American who has by and large NEVER been to a coal town, or really any industrial town. The images are almost always a pic of a man, or several men emerging from a coal mine, covered in coal dust and carrying their dinner bucket. That's vital, BUT thats also where the average American has flash frozen the coal town. Its one dimension. One small idiom, and it invites the usual discourse.

The hipster, the cool person who thrives on the genre of industrial decay, music or photos, provides the real fix. Hey, its a company town.....Photos are an explosion of stark black and whites, apathy, decay, an out of control spiral that is only made silent by a bulldozer, in these places, these "similiar" places, they seek an answer to the morbidly curious, LOOK AT WHAT was LEFT BEHIND.
Bartley Tipple Bottom, Bartley West Virginia

There is no flesh, no life, no death, its just a post industrial hibernation.......I detest this. Its not by intention. MOST people crave the ability to categorize. It brings comfort. NOT only can a person create control, they can create knowledge...Its easy, its natural and its also false.

I decided in 2003 to start easy. I went back to my Moms coal town. Whitby, West Virginia. I played there many many Summers, I LOVED IT. THEN, the big buzz kill. Its not that the coal industry was gonna croak, I knew that. Its NOT the fact that you cant go home again, I knew that. It was the literal death of a place I knew. The death was not so hard, honestly, compared to the attitudes I encountered afterwards. People NEED to look at any one place, in this instance a coal town, and just "know" what it was.......

11 years later, I try to challenge that with the photographs I take. I am asking not to look at what is, or what was...I am asking: What could have been here? Who were they? How many? How much? How did they play, or die, or worship?........It is now time to show people just how different each place really was...Come by and look.......Each of these places is an invitation.
Boissevain VA, Pocahontas Fuel Company Store