Coal Camps View of camp from point where car stopped on plane. Amherst Coal Company. Amherstdale, West Virginia. (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1930) The outside economic interests which owned the coal resource and much of the surface created an infrastructure to run the mines which included the development of company towns, company housing, company-owned stores, company money (scrip) and company mine “guards”, all of which acted to give the coal operator significant control over the region, the economy, the people who lived there, and the miners who worked in the mines. Coal camp at Freeze Fork in southern West Virginia. Note that the air pollution caused by smoke and soot from the burning slag heaps, train locomotives, and household coal stoves. (Credit: Ben Shahn) The control of large parts of the region’s infrastructure gave the industry greater control over the workers and their families than normally occurs where the homes, water supply, stores, money supply, etc. of the workers are not under private control. The Ford Motor Company owned this coal camp in Twin Branch, West Virginia but abandoned the town after the miners attempted to unionize. About 1,000 men once worked at the mine. (Credit: Marion Post Wolcott) Remote coal camp in Jewell Ridge, Buchanan County, VA (Credit: Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Library of Virginia) Derby Coal Camp in southwest Virginia (Credit: Southwest Virginia Museum) Raven Red Ash coal camp in 1946 in the Clinch River coalfields in Virginia. Note there is no maintained road in the camp (Credit: National Archives) Other company towns provided shacks for houses, no running water and no plumbing. Some historians have noted that some coal operators made more money from sales in a company store than they could from mining. Type C House on No.2 – Trammel Middle Camp, VA (Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, 1933) House of W.H. Lawson, who worked in the coal mines for sixty years. Lawson received no pension from the company but was allowed to live in the house rent free. The Belva Mine of the Kentucky Straight Creek Coal Company was abandoned after an explosion [in] Dec. 1945, Four Mile, Bell County, Kentucky, 09/04/1946 (Credit: National Archives) Privy at a company owned house at coal mine, Allais, Kentucky (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1920) (Sept.1938- Chaplain on Scotts Run, W.Va. Coal miner registry and smoking his pipe after coming home from work. He lives in the patch. (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1946) The coal company’s ownership of the houses and land on which the miners lived was particularly controversial. The coal company often required the miner to live in the company’s houses as a condition of his employment but required the miner to remain employed with the company in order to continue to live in the house. A coal miners wife in the kitchen of her modern home in a company housing project in Eastern Kentucky. (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1949) Exterior view of toilets at Walls Inn near Pinesville Kentucky (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1913) UMWA miners in West Virginia being evicted from company-owned housing by the Liberty Fuel Company in 1924. (Credit: West Virginia & Regional History Collection) The coal company housing leases were usually short-term as well, giving the company still more control over the miner. The main use of company control over housing was to break strikes by evicting the miners from the houses if the miners struck. One author concluded that in West Virginia alone, over 50,000 men, women and children had been evicted from their homes because of strike activity by the miners. Cannelton Coal Company store in WV. At one point, according to the National Park Service there were over 20,000 company stores in North America. (Credit: Walter Caldwell) The coal company also often owned the stores where the miners purchased groceries and other necessities in the company owned coal camps. Miners were also often paid in scrip—coal company money as an advance on their wages—to purchase necessary goods at the company store. In certain cases, the coal operator made more profit from sales at the store than he did from the mining of coal. Storefront, coal mining camp, Scotts Run, West Virginia (Credit: Wolcott, Marion Post, 1938) Company store of the Valley Camp Coal Co. in WV (Credit: whiteoakattic.com) Company stores were such a pervasive part of coal mining that something of a unique vocabulary developed around their practices— “Pluck me” was a term used by miners to describe a company store and its often high priced goods. “Snake” was a scrawl across a miner’s pay voucher which indicated that his purchase at the “pluck me” either equaled or exceeded his earnings for the period. “Bobtail check” referred to the stub a miner would receive from a coal company when what he owed the company in rent and purchases from the company store were equal to or more than his wages and he would therefore receive no cash or scrip for his work. Company store, Osage, West Virginia (Credit: Library of Congress, 1938) Payday, Osage, West Virginia (Credit: Library of Congress, 1938) Miners shooting craps in front of company store, Osage, West Virginia (Credit: Library of Congress, 1938 Hungarian miner’s wife bringing home coal for the stove from slate pile. Coal camp, Chaplin, W. VA (Credit: Wolcott, Marion Post, 1938) Water company formed by the people in abandoned mining town of Jere, W. VA (Credit: Library of Congress, 1938) Children taking home remains of a bed, Scotts Run, West Virginia (Credit: Wolcott, Marion Post, 1938) Row of homes along the dirt Pearly Road in Southern West Virginia (Credit: Library of Congress, 2015) View of Miners’ Homes in a Coal Company Town near Logan West Virginia. Next to the Railroad Tracks.