Stonega Coal Mines and Company Camp, 1915-1930 (gallery)

  • Stonega Tipple, 1920. The tipple is a mining facility used to load mined coal into a rail car or other transportation.
    Stonega Tipple, 1920. The tipple is a mining facility used to load mined coal into a rail car or other transportation.
  • View of houses at Stonega, 1915. Coal companies often provided company-owned houses for workers and their families.
    View of houses at Stonega, 1915. Coal companies often provided company-owned houses for workers and their families.
  • Stonega Commissary, 1915. The commissary was a company-owned and operated grocery or general store in a company town. Workers and their families could purchase goods, typically with cash, company scrip, or store credit.
    Stonega Commissary, 1915. The commissary was a company-owned and operated grocery or general store in a company town. Workers and their families could purchase goods, typically with cash, company scrip, or store credit.
  • Coke Ovens in Blast at Stonega Colliery. A coke oven or furnace is a brick structure where coal is burned to make coke, a purer carbon fuel used for smelting iron and other industrial purposes.
    Coke Ovens in Blast at Stonega Colliery. A coke oven or furnace is a brick structure where coal is burned to make coke, a purer carbon fuel used for smelting iron and other industrial purposes.
  • Stonega Amusement Hall, 1920. In company towns, the amusement hall operated as a community center for workers and their families.
    Stonega Amusement Hall, 1920. In company towns, the amusement hall operated as a community center for workers and their families.
  • Block Coal Ready for Shipment from Stonega Mine, 1921. Block coal is raw coal extracted from the coal seam.
    Block Coal Ready for Shipment from Stonega Mine, 1921. Block coal is raw coal extracted from the coal seam.

Company towns like the Stonega coal camp near the town of Appalachia, Virginia included the mine and related mining facilities, as well as houses, a commissary (company store), and amusement hall.  All was owned by the company. The company towns doubled as a way to attract and support workers and as a means to subject employees and their families to company control.

Due to the increased affordability of automobiles and the expansion of public transportation, company towns like Stonega fell increasingly out of fashion in the early twentieth century. Workers no longer needed to live as close to the coal mines. Company towns further declined after New Deal reforms that strengthened unions, raised wages, and made homeownership more affordable.

What do you imagine life was like for mining families and company managers in a coal town like Stonega? What sort of problems might exist between the company and the community?

What do you suspect was the relationship between the mining companies, organized labor, and government regulators in the company towns?

Citation: 
Westmoreland Coal Company photograph and video collection (Accession 1993.233), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807.
Library Item date: 
1915