Photo, Print, Drawing Aerial view of Montcoal, with Cigar Hill visible across Coal River and Route 3

About this Item

Aerial view of Montcoal, with Cigar Hill visible across Coal River and Route 3
Contributor Names
Eiler, Lyntha Scott (Photographer)
Created / Published
October 26, 1995
Subject Headings
-  Fall
-  Route 3
-  Coal camps
-  Montcoal
-  Performance Coal Company
-  Cigar Hill (W. Va.)
-  Photographs
-  Ethnography
-  West Virginia -- Raleigh County -- Montcoal
-  "When the mines opened in the 19th century were worked out on New River, they began to open on the Allegheny Plateau, where railroad companies built lines along the rivers. In the 1910s the railroad made its way east from Whitesville to Sundial. In the early 20th century thousands of coal towns and camps began sprang up along the railroad tracks throughout Central Appalachia, drawing immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean (Whitesville was known as "Greektown"), and sharecroppers from the American Deep South who came to find work in the mines.
-  One of the earliest coal camps on Coal River was established at Montcoal, shown on early maps as "Hecla." In the 1930s the Colcord Coal Company operated mines at Montcoal. In the 1930s, John L. Lewis came to Montcoal to organize the union, and had to stand, as Mae Bongalis remembers it, on the railroad tracks, because Colcord would not allow him on the property. Mae Bongalis, who grew up in a coal camp on Montcoal Mountain, told of working in the mines as a young girl, and of riding the incline down the mountain and back in order to do business in the valley. The form of the company town was ubiquitous throughout the coalfields, and expressed the social vision of the men who were reshaping the region's economy. The companies provided housing for miners and their families, docking the rent from their paychecks. Food and other necessities were sold at the company store, often in exchange for "scrip," a form of compensation to miners redeemable only at the company store, which many recall charged higher prices than other local retailers. Many companies also built churches, parks, ball fields, and movie theaters.
-  The towns were usually segregated by race and ethnicity, with the more luxurious homes of superintendents and doctors placed above the town. In Montcoal, the superintendent and doctor lived across the river on "Cigar Hill" (45-8). Armco Steel Corporation took over the lease to Montcoal in the 1950s and retained it into the mid-1980s. When Armco left, tenants had an option to buy the houses, but not the land, which the Peabody Coal Corporation leased for a few years, after which the A.T. Massey Coal Company acquired the lease. In the 1990s, John Flynn rented a house in Montcoal, where he coordinated the Appalachia Forest Action Project. During our field project, the Upper Big Branch Mine at Montcoal, a longwall mine, was operated by Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Coal.
-  These aerial photographs show the tipple, the continuous belt feeder, the corporate headquarters (45-7), the company town (45-7, 46-4), and the railroad tracks following Coal River and Route 3. Coal from the mine at Upper Big Branch is fed into the large silo (lower left), and then funneled through the continuous belt feeder to the square tipple, where coal is loaded into coal truck. The trucks, each of which is capable of carrying a hundred tons or more, drive the coal to loading docks on the Kanawha River. Across Route 3 one can see the homes on what is still known as "Cigar Hill" (45-8)."
35 mm Color Slide
Call Number/Physical Location
AFC 1999/008: CRF-LE-C045-08
Source Collection
Coal River Folklife Collection (AFC 1999/008)
American Folklife Center
Digital Id
Online Format
IIIF Presentation Manifest
Manifest (JSON/LD)

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Credit line

Coal River Folklife Project collection (AFC 1999/008), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Eiler, Lyntha Scott. Aerial view of Montcoal, with Cigar Hill visible across Coal River and Route 3. Montcoal Raleigh County West Virginia, 1995. Photograph.

APA citation style:

Eiler, L. S. (1995) Aerial view of Montcoal, with Cigar Hill visible across Coal River and Route 3. Montcoal Raleigh County West Virginia, 1995. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Eiler, Lyntha Scott. Aerial view of Montcoal, with Cigar Hill visible across Coal River and Route 3. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.