Historic Resource Study
Kay Moor
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West Virginia changed dramatically with the coming of the railroad and the coal industry. Within just a few decades the mountains were filled with people and communities, while the din of mining activities and the smoke of coke ovens filled the air. Mining infrastructure, including tipple, headhouse. conveyor, coke ovens, gob piles, coal cars, stores, railroad lines and housing clogged hollows and hillsides. According to Ronald D. Eller, "The mountains were changed forever." [1] Just as important as the railroad and coal industry in bringing change, in terms of the effect on human experience and environmental impact, was the phenomenon known as the company town.

Coal Towns

The company towns were symbols of the new industry arriving in West Virginia. The town was the dominant institution in the miners' lives; where the miners worked and lived and became involved with social activities. It was also where the dominant value system belonged to the coal operators and owners. The mining towns also reflected the changes in land ownership which had occurred in West Virginia. [2]

Company-owned towns accompanied industrialization in other sections of the United States, but their influence was not as pervasive as it was in southern West Virginia. Ronald D. Eller wrote: "Casting its shadow over the lives of almost every mountain family, it [the company town] directly or indirectly defined the nature of community life in a large part of the region during a critical period of cultural change." [3] West Virginia coal towns were even accused of being "unbelievably feudalistic." [4] In the 1920s four-fifths (78.8 percent) of mine workers in southern West Virginia lived in company towns. This compared with 64.4 percent of miners in eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia; 50.7 percent in Pennsylvania, 24.3 percent in Ohio, and only 8.5 percent in Indiana and Illinois. Five hundred company towns existed in the southern Appalachian coalfields. Independent incorporated towns numbered only 100. [5]

There were several reasons why company towns were so prevalent in southern West Virginia. The region was opened so quickly that towns were built almost overnight. Incoming miners could not move into already established communities as they could in other, more-settled states. Additionally, miners had to live near the mines because good roads were lacking, and large groups of laborers could not commute to the mine daily. The company towns were the solution to the housing shortage. An additional benefit for the operators was the degree of control offered by such tight living space. [6]

Housing matters were rarely issues in labor-management relations, except that higher wages usually meant better living conditions. However, the coal industry was an exception. The prevalent belief was that the coal companies had major responsibility for their miners' living conditions. The industry did not choose to be involved with housing and welfare issues, but geography almost dictated it. A coal company had to provide housing if it wanted to attract and keep miners. [7]

Another general characteristic of coal towns was their life-span. Coal resources were limited, and after the mine was exhausted the coal towns were usually deserted. The average life of a coal town was 20 to 25 years. [8] The Sewell seam at Kay Moor was particularly rich and large for it to have been mined for 62 years.

Much controversy surrounded the coal company town. It was often the center of the endless argument over the degree of control mine operators could possess over their workforce, not only at the mines, but in every aspect of the mining families' lives. The image of the cold-hearted coal operator who threw poor, defenseless miners' families out of their homes during the night is still a strong one in many American memories. [9]

Company towns, reasons for their existence, and socio-economic rationales for the way miners lived and thought have all been studied. The 1923 U.S. Coal Commission offered a thoughtful explanation of the evolution of the company towns and the status of the miners and their families who lived in them:

There were serious labor troubles in 1912-13, after which there was a period of quiet until the extraordinary demand for coal during the World War. At the same time the union made elaborate preparations to unionize the unorganized fields. The topography of the country, the sparseness of the population, the isolation of the valleys one from the other, the general poverty of the counties, lack of level ground upon which to build towns, and the fact that mining machinery and equipment were usually on leased ground are all important factors in the situation. The operator had to establish his business where the coal was and bring his labor to it. He had to construct houses for his employees and furnish with necessary appurtenances, such as water supply, and establish stores where they might purchase food and clothing. He arranged for medical attendance and hospital service, provided for schools and schoolhouses, employed teachers, or at least paid part of their wages, and endowed churches and community buildings. Thus it appears that each mine or group of mines became a social center, with no privately owned property except the mine, and no public places or public highway except the bed of the creek which flowed between the mountain walls. These groups of villages dot the mountain sides down the river valleys and need only castles, drawbridges, and donjon-keeps to reproduce to the physical eye a view of feudal days. There were no public corporations in many places to provide for the public welfare or to maintain law and order, so the mine owner had one of his employees deputized by the sheriff, and thus came into existence the much discussed "mine guard." As the employees were the only ones who were furnished homes and their occupancy was contingent upon their employment, the courts of that State have decided that the relation of master and servant, and when the employment ceased the mine owner came into possession of the house.

Thus the position of the miners in company-owned houses is anomalous. They are not tenants and have no more rights than a domestic servant who occupies a room in the household of the employer. The documents which pass for leases often give the company complete control over the social life of the families who live in the houses owned by the company. . . .

Under the existing laws the miners have a legal right to sign and the companies have a right to require them to sign such leases as a condition of obtaining employment. That they are ill-advised, obnoxious, and inconsistent with the spirit of free local communities hardly requires argument. Self-respecting American citizens will find a way to put an end to them. In the case of a helpless, submerged working population, the legislatures of the several States might well consider making such "leases" illegal, like any other contract which is contrary to the public interest. Self-respecting American miners, who have on other occasions shown themselves by no means contemptible defenders of their own interests, may prefer to take the remedy into their own hands and by insisting on reasonable leases, on the incorporation of their villages, and otherwise, win for themselves those elementary civil liberties which must always be won and held by free peoples for themselves rather than thrust upon them by external benevolence.

Operators rarely if ever resided at the mines; managers and superintendents were the possessors of all the authority, both public and private. [10]

Another viewpoint was offered by the Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in 1925. In the eyes of the women who married not only miners, but the entire company town system, life in a coal "camp" offered no stability or sense of belonging:

Apart from, though a consequence of, the uncertainly of leasehold on the home there is a rootless quality about life in a company-control led town. It is a coal-mining "camp." A woman may have lived and labored there a month or a lifetime; her babies may have been born there; her boys may have grown into manhood, may have mined through the years of maturity, and gone to graves dug close by the scenes of their labors; but still it is a mining "camp." What's in the name is in the grain of the wife's thought as it is in the thought of her family and of the public. It is the ever present sense of temporariness, a place not in which to live, but in which to camp — for a month, a year, or perhaps a lifetime. . . . Not the best, nor the average, nor the worst mining community, if owned and controlled by the operating company, can be anything but a camp, and on no camp will descend that spirit of "to have and to hold" that is at once the breath of life and the stimulator and regulator of healthful community growth.

Especially do the womenfolk of the mine worker's family reflect this camp of "mining-patch" complex:

"It's no place for girls to live in — no place to bring up a family. We've been here 20 years and more; seen managers come and managers go — some good and some bad. But after 20 years we have nothing that we can call our own."

This is the utterance of one woman, but its import is that of all the others commenting clearly or confusedly, with calmness or with impassioned vehemence, on mining life in the company-owned camp. [11]

In spite of the general bad reputation company towns possess in current thought and discussion of coal mining, the community at Kay Moor generally seems to have been an acceptable place to live, in terms of physical layout, sanitation, and upkeep of housing. Kay Moor was one of the average camps, not the best, but certainly not the worst.

As far as social control is concerned, it is true that during the years of unionization efforts, Low Moor Iron Company management, and probably New River and Pocahontas management, attempted to control the activities of their employees at the mines. However, the U.S. Coal Commission's investigator gave the community relatively high ratings, at least one local newspaper article in 1919 discussed the good conditions in the Kay Moor camp, and oral interviews of residents living in Kay Moor in the 1930s and 1940s are all positive in their recollections. [12] Even though the newspaper article may have been just publicity, and the oral interviewees may have remembered only the good of their lives at Kay Moor, it is hard to dispute the findings of the U.S. Coal Commission for an unbiased view of the physical living conditions, if not the emotional and social conditions, at Kay Moor in 1923.

An article appeared in the Fayette Tribune, written by Reverend A.M. Dial of Huntington, West Virginia, who visited Kay Moor in 1919. Reverend Dial stated that the miners, even at "rugged" Kay Moor, possessed all the creature comforts and conveniences and that the people were "good people" who got along with management [13] (See text of the article in the footnote.)

The coal commission investigator at Kay Moor, G.H. Van Wagner, wrote in his notes about Kay Moor residents, "Tenants well satisfied. No complaint." Van Wagner gave the Kay Moor location a 96 out of 100 rating. The location had open, level to hilly country which offered normal and well drained building sites. Van Wagner commented: "Drainage very good. Small part of camp at bottom of mountain partly on hillside but drainage is excellent." The location also had sufficient to generous space for all the necessary buildings. Kay Moor was not an isolated coal camp: there was a good railroad and a concrete highway which provided interaction with surrounding communities. [14] (See illustrations 5-8 for views of Kay Moor Bottom and the New Camp.)

Van Wagner gave Kay Moor a camp rating of 81.22 out of a possible 100 points. This rating was based upon quality of housing, water supply and distribution, sewage and waste disposal, camp upkeep, food and merchandise supply, medical and health provision, educational provision, and recreational provision. [15] Each one of these topics will be addressed in consideration of the coal commission rating. This commission's findings will be used in discussions of Kay Moor's physical setting and accommodations.

The U.S. Coal Commission's rating system was based upon several factors, Kay Moor's 96 point rating for location included scrutiny of the site, available space, and "facilities for intercourse with other communities," meaning accessibility of cities or towns not owned by a coal company. [16] Kay Moor received the following ratings on each factor which influenced the desirability of the community as a suitable place to live: water — 90.5; sewage — 73.0; housing — 77.1; upkeep — 63.0; education — 78.2; recreation — 95.0. The coal commission investigator believed that Kay Moor had a remaining probable life of 70 years. [17]

Kay Moor Demographics

The 1910 U.S. census of the Kaymoor Precinct, Fayetteville District provided for each resident their house number, name, relation, sex, race, age, place of birth, profession, industry in which they work, and much more data. (See appendix 4 for 1910 census.) More than 600 people were listed as living in the precinct — whites and blacks, with a handful of immigrants. Most of the heads of households were born in other states with some, if not all, of their children born in West Virginia. They emigrated mainly from nearby areas — Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina — with Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, and Michigan being represented. Most of the boarders seemed to be living in twos, threes, or fours with host families although there were a few large boarding houses.

Almost all of the men were affiliated with the mining industry in some capacity, be it in the mine itself or in a support position. There were miners and laborers in the mines as well as laborers in the coke yards. Other men were electricians, carpenters, sawyers, clerks, store managers, machinists, engineers, drivers, motormen, salesmen, bookkeepers, and masons. Women worked only as servants, teachers, or keepers of boarding houses. The inhabitants were relatively young; the adults being in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Very few were in their 50s, and only two, both women, were 60 years of age. [18]

Only generalizations can be made about the census data. It is not possible to tell exactly where these people lived despite the house numbers because no 1910 map has been found for correlation. Low Moor housing or rent records for 1910 were not found. It is not possible to tell if the miners and laborers even worked at Kay Moor; they may have commuted to nearby mines. Lists of Kay Moor employees are available for 1915 and 1925, but not 1910 in order to match names. Thus, the census data must be used with care; it can provide only general data about inhabitants of the Kay Moor vicinity in 1910.

West Virginia state gazetteers through the years provided different figures for Kay Moor's population. Kay Moor did not appear in the 1900 gazetteer; by 1902 the town was described only as "A station on the Greenbrier & New River branch of the C&O Ry., in Fayette county, 12 miles from Thurmond." [19] In 1904 the population was given as 1,500, and it reportedly stayed at this level until 1914. The 1916 gazetteer, however, dropped the population to 200; it rose to 300 in 1918. The last gazetteer available, the 1923 edition, gave the population as 300. [20] The given population of 1,500 is probably wrong; there is no known reason why the population would have dropped to 200 between 1916 and 1918.

Two hundred and ten men were employed at Kay Moor No. 1 in 1923. Of these, 140 lived in Kay Moor while 70 lived outside the camp in the nearby towns of Fayetteville, Gatewood, and Braggville. Almost all of the miners were Americans, half of them black, and only three Italians. Women in Kay Moor numbered 130. There were 140 children under the age of seven, 100 children aged 7-15, and 50 children aged 16-20. [21]

Evolution and Layout of Kay Moor

Once the coal operators secured their lease or purchased the land, as in the case of the Low Moor Iron Company, construction of a company town began. A haulage was built to move people and machines up and down the steep hillside. Built first was the tipple, administrative offices, and other necessary buildings for the start of business. Miners' housing soon followed. The mining structures and railroad tracks usually consumed all available land on the narrow valley floor, resulting in the squeezing in of miners' housing along the creeks or mountainside. [22] The development of Kay Moor followed this general scenario.

Kay Moor's settlement was an adaptation to the environment. As stated, the layout of the mines and towns in New River Gorge was dictated by geography, with mine workings and housing being placed as close as possible to the drift mouth wherever flat space existed. A road or railroad imposed a linear pattern to the settlement, which, in Kay Moor's case, was affected by the narrow valley and the river front. Cultural influences also affected the settlement pattern, such as social needs, and the distance to work. Kay Moor is typical of other New River Gorge settlements as it was a linear village, was ephemeral and was a coal camp. The gorge forced settlement in a linear pattern and when the mine closed the town died. Kay Moor was blessed with a larger area of flat land, thus, four rows of houses existed in the camp at the bottom of the gorge, forming a rudimentary grid pattern. [23]

Kay Moor consisted of two sections of settlement: one at the top of the gorge, Kay Moor Top, while the older settlement was at the bottom of the gorge, Kay Moor Bottom. Fifty houses were built in 1901, 45 in 1902, 17 in 1905, and 19 in 1918. The 1918 construction was a second settlement built at the top of the gorge called "New Camp" or "New Town."

No data was found concerning the initial housing construction in 1901, but a little is known of work in 1903. Kay Moor engineer Ed D. Wickes, wrote to General Manager E.C. Means about the lumber bill at the end of May. "The 1000 ft of 1/4 round is correct for twenty new houses and two additions to old houses. Each small house takes 400 lin. ft., not counting the corner at the floor and walls. I got this at 25 cts per 100 bin. ft. We have lumber ordered for 14 small houses and 2 larger ones, or we can make 4 small houses instead of the two larger ones." [24]

These houses were assigned to miners as they started work at Kay Moor, and during periods of labor shortage the houses would stand empty. In May 1906 George T. Wickes, manager of the mines, and Ed D. Wickes wrote to Low Moor treasurer Frank Lyman, about the housing situation: "We have vacant houses as follows:

No. 1 — 12 houses below, and 5 on the hill,
No. 1 — 6 shanties,
No. 2 — 12 houses.

These, I hope to fill this month." [25] Lumber kept arriving in June for new houses and men were moving into the houses on the hill while five vacant ones remained below. Three new houses were almost finished and one shanty below was finished except for its chimney. Ed D. Wickes remarked: "We are being disappointed in getting families. Some of the new men are going to send for their families, this means of course that they wanted to see the place before sending for their wives and lends some uncertainty to the situation." [26] In November 1906 plans were made to build shanties "on a level with No. 1 mine," and to complete the one unfinished new house at Kay Moor Bottom. [27]

The years of harsh winters and summer rains took their toll on the Kay Moor housing and the Low Moor Iron Company did not always keep up maintenance on the structures, In June 1918 several Kay Moor miners who belonged to the UMWA complained about needed repairs. They asked Low Moor owner Frank Lyman to investigate the conditions at both Kay Moor Top and Bottom as some of the houses were "almost falling down on our heads...." Repeated applications to the superintendent brought no response. The new houses being built on the hill top had no water closets while the old houses were "not fit to live in most evry [sic] house leakes [sic] and the workmens Bed clothing are spoiled evry [sic] naid [sic]." [28]

Evidently Frank Lyman agreed with the complaints for the houses were repaired within the year. Kay Moor Superintendent Edward M. Cabell wrote a series of reports to the manager of mines, J.W. Monteith, at Low Moor, detailing the work. The Bare Construction Company was evidently hired either to attend to some of the repairs alongside the company's carpenters and painters, or to construct all new houses. Near the end of January 1919 the company's painters were working on the 24 houses "on top the hill." The company's carpenters were repairing houses, while the Bare Construction Company had "practically completed the 24 houses on the hill. They should finish up within the next week." [29] The construction company completed their contract by February 14, 1919, and the carpentry force was busy repairing houses. The painters and carpenters kept at their work from February to May. [30]

By October E.M. Cabell was able to report: "Practically all the leaky houses on the hill have been painted with the roof paint and I hope that they will not leak now. Some of this paint was used on the houses at the bottom and it seems to have stopped the leaks perfectly. It has not rained since those on the hill were painted. [31] (See appendix 13 for a Kay Moor rent journal 1919-1920.)

In 1919 Low Moor management announced that during the year 20 new houses had been built, while 24 others were rebuilt and painted. [32] The U.S. Coal Commission investigator also mentioned the "New Camp," but stated it consisted of 19 new bungalows, instead of 24. He added that Fayette County was in the process of building a concrete highway which was to run through the property adjacent to the new settlement. [33] (See Historical Base Map 1 for a layout of Kay Moor in 1923.) The written historical record is thus ambiguous about the numbers of houses built at the New Camp. The historical base maps also disagree on the number of houses at Kay Moor Top. It is evident, however, that at least 19 houses were built, probably by the Bare Construction Company in 1918-1919. Repairs of other housing was done by Low Moor employees.

After the purchase of Kay Moor by the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal and Coke Company, the new owners reportedly were to make "extensive improvements and greatly increase the output of the two mines." One hundred houses were to be built on top of the gorge at Kay Moor Top. [34]

More than a year later a new town was laid off on top of the hill at Kay Moor. The Fayette Tribune reported not only on the opening of the lots, but on the new opportunity being provided Kay Moor miners:

The lots are to be placed on sale to home builders and employees are to be given assistance and encouragement in efforts to own their own homes. The location of the lots is ideal, being directly on the paved road and within two miles of Fayetteville.

Sale of the lots is to be handled by the Fayette Land & Development Co., a recent incorporation organized within the N. R.&P. Co., to take over real estate operations.

About 10 acres at the Kay Moor site have been plotted in generous sized lots. No price has been set on lots as yet and employees will be given first choice when the sale opens. There will be no auction sale or attempt to push sales.

This is the first time a coal company is this section has ever offered employees an opportunity to buy company lands. [35]

Nothing more of this development is known, since New River and Pocahontas records are not available. Evidence of 100 more houses at Kay Moor Top has not been found. (See Historical Base Maps 2 and 3 for insurance maps of Kay Moor Top and Bottom in 1925.)

Company Housing

How to provide attractive, sanitary housing for workers was a matter of concern to many coal operators and government agencies alike. In 1916 the Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with the Bureau of Public Health, addressed the issue by offering guidelines on the planning of mining towns and the construction of miners' houses. The bureau's study focused on the town site and the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a town near the coal mine. Advice was offered on every topic, including layout of street, dimensions of house lots, types of houses and their orientation, windows, doors, fencing, interior and exterior finish, framework, circulation of air, gardens, domestic yard animals, and waste disposal. This treatise bears the mark of the Progressive Era in its remarks concerning the need for quality housing: "Ugly, insanitary, uncomfortable shacks should not be built even if, because of their cheapness, there is a demand for them from tenants. The obligation of the industry to society as a whole as well as to the tenant ought to forbid this. A cheerful, strong, healthy, virile race will not rise out of the filth and squalor of cheap hovels." [36]

Part of the reason why attention was focused on mining housing during World War I was the need for companies to keep employees. One author, addressing coal operators in his article, insisted that employee housing was not an expense, but a direct benefit, capable of earning a 10 to 15 percent yield annually. [37]

In company housing West Virginia coalfields were remarkably fair. In northern cities the southern blacks were relegated to substandard housing with high rents. This did not occur in very many coal company towns. Overcrowding did not become a problem because the companies regulated the number of workers needed in the mines and the availability of housing. Most of the towns were integrated, and even in those that were not, distance dictated the interaction between the races. Blacks never lived too far "up the hollow" from the whites. Social bafflers were often dropped as children of different races and ethnicity played together while their parents communicated socially. [38]

At Kay Moor, according to former resident Dometrius Woodson, at one time there was segregated housing, but the company got away from it by moving in whites and blacks as the houses became available. "A white move into the Black section. . . . Then we played up and down the road together — Black and white. Go to each other's house and eat, and carry on like that. There wasn't no hard time down in there at all." [39] Woodson believed that relations between blacks and whites at Kay Moor were generally good. His explanation for the reason why:

Well, they were just down there, and there wasn't nothing else to do [except] for the colored and Blacks [meaning blacks and whites] to get together, and play and carry on together. That's all there was. You're down in that hole; you couldn't get out. you got certain hours you had to get out on the train, you got certain hours you had to go up on the haulage. So we just stayed down in there and played and carried on together. [40]

According to historian David Alan Corbin integration worked well in a company town. Standardized housing insured equality as all the houses were built in relatively the same manner or style. Blacks and whites suffered equally from substandard housing or the insecurity of living in houses not their own. No home ownership also meant the same lack of upkeep in the repair of the property. Both black and white sections of segregated towns suffered from the poor maintenance. There was also no difference in the quality of public services received by the black and white households. [41]

Historian Jack French Jr., developed a different opinion of segregation in the coal camps after studying a town in southern West Virginia in 1953. He concluded that racial segregation existed everywhere in the community except in the mine. In his study, blacks and whites lived in their own neighborhoods, sat with their own race group in union meetings, and attended separate institutions, with the exception of the company store. [42] This was partially true at Kay Moor. Separate facilities did exist for the two races, including the churches and schools. The status of segregated housing appeared to change throughout the years. Former Kay Moor residents, both black and white, did not recall, or chose not to recall, any racial problems. Further oral history interviews could provide more information on both the blatant and subtle nuances of race in daily life at Kay Moor, at least in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.

In 1923 the total population of men, women, and children living in the company houses, excluding the company officials, was 560. All of these residents were m family tenements. There were no bachelor boarding houses or shanties in 1923, although bachelor boarding houses were not unknown in Kay Moor's history. As early as 1903 one Dr. Coleman and a Mrs. Chevallie were boarding Kay Moor miners. In June, Ed D. Wickes complained about the insufficient boarding space: "All of our boarding house [sic] are full. From 10 to 14 men are being accommodated in one or two of the four room houses and one of the smaller room places." [43] According to former resident Dometrius Woodson there was also a boarding house in the 1930s or 1940s. He remembered a boarding house for single men and for married men who came in to work for the week and return to their homes for the weekend. [44]

Apparently, miners living in company housing at Kay Moor did not sign leases, at least in 1923 under Low Moor Iron Company management. Miners and their families were allowed to remain in their houses if the mines shut down because of no work and during strikes. Families could also remain in the houses in case of accident, illness, or death. If a strike were declared water and lights were still supplied to the houses. Rents were not charged during the mine's down periods or during strikes. [45]

There was no telephone communication except on company lines in Kay Moor in 1923. Individual homes did not have telephones. [46]

The coal commission investigator, C.H. Van Wagner, had a few comments about housing at Kay Moor. Access to the houses was easy, and drainage very good, but he added, "machinery is rather close to a few houses." He believed the houses generally were placed so each family could get air, light, privacy, and space for yards and gardens. Van Wagner added, "there is not so much room at bottom of mountain." [47]

In 1923 a total of 131 houses stood in Kay Moor, 18 were on the public road, 48 were located on the company road, and 65 were not located on a road. Fifty of these houses were built in 1901, 45 more in 1902, 17 in 1906, and 19 in 1918. There was land for sale adjacent to Kay Moor, near Garten, where miners could build homes. Outside houses were available for rent in Fayetteville, Gatewood, and Garten. [48]

Russell Mathew, a Kay Moor Top former resident, described the maintenance of the houses at Kay Moor Top and the location of "New Town":

Well, Kaymoor Top, so far as building, it did not change in that particular manner [over the years]. They just maintained those houses. There was a lot of maintenance there, but there was not any new buildings. . . . Of course, the camp that I mentioned . . . the "New Town," can remember some of those houses when they built them. But the rest of the camps there was just more or less some maintenance work to be done on the houses. . . . New Town was located . . . the location was in behind this particular area of what you call Gatewood. Just at the top of the mountain before you turn down into Kaymoor. Instead of going down you go in behind this old store building that recently burned [store #11] and that was known as New Town. Sometimes it was called New Camp, which is one and the same. [49]

Former Kay Moor Top resident Virgil Burgess remembered that in 1937 when he moved into the community, it consisted of "probably thirty" houses, while at the bottom of the hill there were "roughly 85 to 90 homes." [50]

Coal Town Architecture

All of the houses built at Kay Moor before 1923 were single family dwellings. Each house — whether built in 1901, 1902, 1905, or 1918 — had four rooms, fireplaces or stoves, single floors, and made of wood with a ground floor size of 34 ft. x 34 ft. Kay Moor received a 21.7 rating out of a possible 25 for the good construction of its houses. The outside finish of the houses were board and batten, the exceptions being 17 of the 1902 houses and all of the 1918, these houses being covered with weather-board. The inside finish of most of the houses was wood sheath, with the 1918 houses being plastered lathe. Rents for the houses varied: all of the 1901 houses rented at $5.00; all of the 1902 houses rented at $8.00 per month; the 1905 houses rented at $5.00 per month; and all of the 1918 houses rented at $8.00 monthly. Electricity was available in all 50 of the 1901 houses, but only in 28 of the 1902 houses. Only 25 of the 1901 houses had inside running water. All of the houses, regardless of construction date, had roofs of composition paper, rock post foundations, privy and a coal shed, but no cellars. Van Wagner remarked, "Everything in excellent repair." [51]

The Kay Moor houses were all bungalows in 1923. This style of architecture had four rooms. The roof of the attached porch followed the line of the gable roof. A chimney in the center of the house opened into all four rooms. Bungalows were inexpensive, easy to build, and allowed more exterior modifications. [52]

Russell Mathew moved to Kay Moor in 1918. He remembered the houses:

They were all painted the same color. They were white and green to start with. Then they finally painted them white and black. And they were all four rooms, except two. In other words, those two were four room houses but they were built at a later date and they were a little more sophisticated or were built in a little different fashion, which made them look better. But they were all four room houses. I think the two just had pantries, so-called pantries, different from the others. . . . The houses on the inside, some of them were papered. They had just plain wall paper. And some of them, nothing but the ceiling was painted . . . the ceiling was painted. That's the way the inside of the houses generally looked. [53]

Nothing is known of construction which may have been undertaken by the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Company.


The isolation and monopolistic tendencies of the coal companies did not foster a well-developed transportation system in the coalfields. Railroads linked the mines with the coal markets and provided a means for travel between coal towns, but local transportation usually remained poor. [54] Kay Moor was unique in that it was linked with the coal markets and coal towns via the C&O, but travel from Kay Moor Top to Kay Moor Bottom offered an unforgettable experience — a ride on the mountain haulage which carried machinery, miners and their families, or climbing a very steep flight of stairs. (See illustrations 9-14 for views of the railroad in Kay Moor and of the mountain haulage.)

Transportation in Kay Moor in 1923 consisted of the train to Fayette and a taxi out of the gorge. The trains ran out of town two or three times daily, and the taxis were able to meet the trains. The train ride cost $.12 one way and a taxi ride was $.50 per person. A public road ran through the town, but this road and other company roads were dirt and unpassable in the winter. [55] There was no railroad depot at Kay Moor Bottom, only a flag stop.

Soon after Kay Moor was purchased by the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal and Coke Company, the new owners announced plans to grade and hard surface a new road connecting Kay Moor No. 1 camp with the Fayetteville-Coal Run paved road. The new road was to be about a mile long, and would connect the "store, tipple and village on top of the hill." [56]

Bids were received and opened by the county engineer who supervised the construction. Three contractors bid on the job, with Janutolo & Co., of Fayetteville, providing the lowest bid at $20,413. New River and Pocahontas also planned to build several new houses along the road, paved with bituminous macadam, which would be the main street of the mining village and provide direct hard surface access to Fayetteville, At the time this contract was awarded, the Janutolo Company was completing a half mile of paved road connecting the camp at Kay Moor No. 2 with the Fayetteville-Fayette paved road at a cost of $6,000. [57]

Former Kay Moor engineer Virgil Burgess remarked on travel by Kay Moor residents in the 1930s and 1940s:

If they lived at the bottom of the hill, there was what we called a "local" used to run all the time up and down the river. And all of those coal camps, if you lived along the river at the bottom of the hill, you did most of your traveling by local train. It run every day and they could go to Thurmond or you could go to Charleston. And that's the way most of them down there, if they wanted to go anyplace, did that. Otherwise, you would have to depend on the truck coming to the top of the hill and go from there into Fayetteville..... If you lived at the bottom of the hill, to do shopping, major shopping,... [you would go to Thurmond or Charleston, rather than Fayetteville.] Because, it was almost as hard at that time to get from the top of the hill into Fayetteville as it was to take a local and go to Charleston. [58]

Former Kay Moor resident Dometrius Woodson offered another remembrance of transportation in the 1920s and 1930s:

You went in and out on the train. You had one that would go out, you come in once a day, come in twice a day, one run about eleven and one run about five. And then you come down on the haulage, over the haulage, and it held 18 people. A rope let it down and a rope pulled it back. And then after 12 o'clock [midnight], it quit running, you walked down the steps. Or else go to Fayette Station and walk up the railroad tracks. That's the onliest way you had to get in there. . . . [The steps were] wooden steps just like you put on a house. But they had them going down the hill, . . . going over the cliff. You walked on them, you walked down, they had them halfway down the mountain to the mine. Then you just get on the railroad track and walk down the hill from there. . . . And if we got ready to go to a show, we had to go up on the haulage and walk to Fayetteville — three miles — or ride a cab if you had money to ride a cab. Or you could walk if you had time, or thumb. And then if you a bicycle, you'd take your bicycle up there and go. Then ride back down Fayette Mountain, up the railroad tracks back home. [59]

People who were fortunate enough to own automobiles could keep them at Kay Moor Top in garages owned by the coal company. Mine workers in the 1930s lived in communities surrounding Kay Moor and drove their own cars and trucks into the site, before riding the haulage to the mine. These workers lived in Garten, Beckley, Gatewood, Cunard, Brooklyn, Ames, and Edmond Mountain. [60] The relative isolation of the coal towns, including Kay Moor, was undoubtedly altered by road paving and the coming of the automobile. No longer were the mine workers compelled by geography to live in the company towns.

Low Moor management announced in September 1915 that electric lights were to be installed on all the streets and roads about the camp. [61] Despite this announcement, the coal commission found no streetlights in Kay Moor during its investigation in 1923.


In 1923 the coal commission investigator gave Kay Moor's water system a high rating. He noted: "Environment good." Kay Moor's water was largely supplied by a mountain stream, a source which was not protected. This water was pumped into a tank. Residents paid nothing for the water service. Only 25 houses had inside water, the rest of the inhabitants were supplied with drinking water from nine hydrants, eight drilled wells, four springs, and river water. This amounted to 21 supply points for 106 houses. None of these sources were protected, but investigator Van Wagner remarked, "no protection but environment is very good." Some of the drilled wells were stopped up by children stuffing paper and trash into the pipes. River water was used in the summer. This water was analyzed by the state, and the coal commission investigator noted, "Dr's say water is purified within 300 ft because of its fast flow. Pumped to tanks." [62]

Nellie Eades, who lived at Kay Moor Top from 1939 to 1955, remembered carrying water in buckets from the pump for her household duties. She recalled two pumps being located at Kay Moor Top; one being 70 feet from her house. Mrs. Eades also collected soft rainwater to use for washing clothes. She would heat the wash water in a tub on a stove and use it in an electric wringer washing machine. [63]

Kay Moor's sewage system in 1923 consisted of surface privies for all 131 houses. They were not fly proof, had no covers or screens, but possessed "No offensive odors." Van Wagner added, "Well taken care of." The privies were cleaned twice a year. Each family had its own privy, which was located anywhere from 20 to 100 feet from the house. [64]

Garbage was collected in part of the camp, but most was thrown out to the animals. Waste water was thrown out onto adjacent ground or disposed of through 25 piped drains. Receptacles were not provided for trash, but Van Wagner did not see any rubbish laying around the camp. He noted, "No disorder." Trash was collected at least twice a year, in the spring and fall. [65]

Generally speaking, Kay Moor was a neat and well-kept community, especially in Kay Moor Top. The appearance of Kay Moor Bottom was not as good. [66]


In 1923 Kay Moor had no streetlights. Electricity was supplied to 78 houses at a cost of $2.00 per month average, or $.50 per lamp, paid to the company. Electrical appliances, most commonly irons, were permitted at no extra charge. Other lights used were oil and carbide lamps. [67]


In 1923 good fences were around each house, and were generally well kept. The exception was in Kay Moor Bottom. [68]


There were no sidewalks in Kay Moor in 1923. There was a hard path, but no man-made walks from house to house except in a few cases. Former Kay Moor resident Virgil Burgess remembered "there was never any roads between houses. Houses were just set on hit and miss areas and a path from house to house." [69]


Coal was supplied to the employees in 1923 at a cost of $2.00 per ton plus delivery charge. Residents of Kay Moor Bottom paid $.75 delivery charge, while Kay Moor Top residents paid $.50. Residents could also get their coal at the tipple. The supply of New River lump coal was unlimited for use in the grates and stoves in the houses. The cost of coal to the employees was kept on record on the payroll. [70]

Kay Moor resident Celia Chambers recalled heating her home with coal:

. . . we had some good coal in Kaymoor bottom. Good nice big lumps. You could put a big lump on the grate and it will last all night long. . . . Just one [lump]. A big one like that, or in your heater or whatever. My husband use to put two in there and cut it down and it would last all the way up into the day before I would have to put any more in there. The house would be so warm and comfortable. [71]

Medical Care

Doctor care at Kay Moor was supplied under contract. If the contract physician's care was not satisfactory his services would be terminated. There were no company doctors or nurses at Kay Moor in 1923, but independent medical services were available two miles away. Services cost $1.00 for single men and $1.75 for married men. The nearest dentist was two miles away in Fayetteville, while the nearest hospital was Montgomery Hospital, eight miles away, in Oak Hill. This hospital could only be reached by railroad.

There was first aid equipment at the mine, but there was no trained first aid crew. Additionally, there was no washhouse or facilities for shower baths. [72]


In 1923 the Kay Moor mine property and settlements were policed by the civil authorities. [73] Most of the disturbances and physical attacks which occurred in company towns were caused by drinking, gambling, politics, race, or petty quarrels, and Kay Moor was no exception. [74]

Company Store

Almost every mining company in the New River field had a company store which carried a wide range of merchandise. The company store provided a ready and available source for all the miner's basic needs; in return, the miner expected the prices to be fair. The store often served as a credit agency, which served the miner well when the mine was idle or a strike was called. The miner could still purchase needed items even though he had no money with which to pay. However, the system and methods of payment were abused, leaving a stigma which is still debated. [75]

The company store met a real need of the employer by attracting and keeping a supply of labor for the mine. Together with company housing, the store provided some stability for the workforce. The stores also functioned as legitimate sources of company revenue, and in some cases, helped the parent company stay solvent in times of economic stress. In 1952 the coal industry was served by 67.7 percent of all company, or industrial, stores. [76]

It was traditional for decades in both union and nonunion coalfields for deductions to be made from the wages of miners. Blacksmithing charges, costs of powder and fuses, and personal charges like rent, coal bills, and doctor fees were taken from wages at payday. In union coal fields contracts spelled out most of these deductions, but in nonunion areas these deductions often were sources of controversy. The practice of advance payment by scrip and of payroll deductions for company store items between paydays was especially debated. [77] The scrip system was used to protect the company store's retailing monopoly. Miners were paid in cash, but between paydays, they could draw credit by using metallic tokens called scrip at the company store. Since the miners were paid every other week, known as "on the half," an advance on wages already earned could be drawn from the payroll office prior to payday. In order to turn the scrip into money or material goods, the miner had to spend it at the company store, usually at inflated prices, or spend it at an independent store at a discount, usually about 20 percent. [78]

At Kay Moor, for example, in May 1903, 398 employees were paid $14,213.30 in wages, with the average wage amounting to $35.71. Cash paid was $9,487.70 with a scrip issue of $4,498.20. The percent of scrip to wages was 30 and 9/10, while at the company store the percent of cash sales to cash paid was 02 percent. [79]

The discounting of scrip served to pauperize the workers. The U.S. Coal Commission commented on the social side effects of the company store and scrip system:

While the company store is a necessary institution in new regions, its continuance for too long a period has a bad effect on the very people served. The practice of issuing scrip for store purchasing as fast as money is earned is a great convenience to the miner when earnings are irregular, but it relieves the miner's wife of all responsibility for planning the household budget. As the dinner hour approaches, the children run down to the store to get a dollar's worth of scrip with which to buy the evening meal. When sales slips are not used, the mother has no way of reckoning what each article cost, or whether the clerk made the correct deduction. She makes no careful examination of foods in market or of prices. If she had to pay cash she would have a much keener sense of the value of the money and of commodities. Undoubtedly a sudden change from the pay-roll-deduction system to earning-in-full system would result, at first, in extravagant expenditure of earnings and non-payment of bills. But miners and their wives are adults. They should be given the responsibility of adults as soon as the growth of the community develops or attracts competent, independent merchants to their district. [80]

Whether or not company stores robbed miners of their earnings is debatable. Prices of goods varied depending on the location of the store. More isolated stores could charge all that the traffic would bear, while prices were more competitive if independent businesses were nearby. Coal operator W.P. Tams Jr. provided his view of the company store:

Much misunderstanding has been circulated — often deliberately — about the operation of the company store. The true situation was quite different. As a convenience to the miner and his family, credit was extended by issuing orders on the store in the form of scrip. It should be stressed that at least in "my" area no one was required to ask for scrip. All employees could make their purchases in cash if they so desired. Indeed, many miners, especially the foreign born, never drew scrip. The profits made by the company stores varied widely. Some companies took advantage of a near-monopoly, and charged all the traffic would bear. However, others — including those controlled by the writer — operated on a profit margin considerably below that general among "private" stores in the area. In short, the company stores deserved only a fraction of the abuse hurled against them. However, it was a cheap and easy trick for union organizers or for competing and envious merchants to brand the company store as a "robber." Human nature being what it is, men who were careless in money matters and who let themselves get into debt eased their consciences by joining in the name calling. [81]

The U.S. Coal Commission made a detailed study of 99 stores, 57 company and 42 independent, in the New River field in 1922 to compare prices and services. The coal commission considered 54 foods which equalled 96 percent of the total quantity of food purchased by 5,865 New River families. It was discovered that company stores asked higher prices on 33 foods; prices were equal on 10 foods; and prices were lower on 11 foods. When the food prices were weighed by a factor for the importance of the food in local purchasing, the coal commission discovered that miners' families paid 4.2 percent more for food than did families which only shopped at independent stores. [82]

The differences in prices was not attributable to superior quality of merchandise in company stores. The coal commission believed it due to the need for making a profit for the company. Two additional factors might have been the cost of keeping a credit system, and delivery costs. [83]

Compared with urban workers, miners and their families in the New River field spent more for food and clothing and miscellaneous items in 1922 than did city dwellers of the $1,200 to $1,800 income range. New River miners spent less for rent, fuel, and household furniture and furnishings. However, despite the exception of clothing, the standard of living in the coalfields was usually below that of the "skilled mechanic of the city." [84] (See appendix 14 for comparative living of standards with New River.)

The monopolistic nature of the company store resulted in the miners being denied the right to spend their earnings as they wished. Miners were probably never coerced outright into dealing only in company stores, but other moral and economic pressures probably existed. The moral compulsion was the argument that the employer who furnished a job should receive the patronage of the laborer at the employer's store. Geographic isolation added to compulsory trading. [85]

The company stores at Kay Moor possessed some of these general characteristics of the system as a whole. There were two company stores at Kay Moor in 1923. Named stores no. 9 and no. 11, they were located at the bottom and top of the gorge. The stores served only employees of the Low Moor Iron Company and their families. No independent stores were located immediately outside Kay Moor, but they were within a half hour reach in Thurmond and Fayetteville. Several mail order houses served Kay Moor, including, Sears, Roebuck and Company; Montgomery Ward Company; National Suit & Cloak Company; and the Kanawha Cash Grocery Company. Several basic food items were grown or produced by the miners and their families, including beef, pork, poultry, butter, eggs, milk, and vegetables. [86] (See appendices 15 and 16 for sample wares and their prices in the company stores in 1906 and 1923.)

Store no. 9 was located at the bottom of the gorge. Its managers in 1922 were B.S. Legg and H.N. Sanford, and the store served 75 families. All of the store's trade was with miners at Kay Moor. The store accepted payments of scrip and cash, but gave no credit or discounts for cash sales. The scrip system operated through deductions every two weeks from the payroll. During periods of unemployment or strikes the store carried all old employees. Monthly total sales slips were available to customers for the years 1920 to 1922. Kay Moor store no. 9 charged delivery costs of $.50 per hundred pounds to the customer. Sales for the year 1922 totaled $43,601.75. [87]

Store no. 11 was located at the top of the gorge and managed by B.B. Legg in 1922. It, too, served 75 mining families. The store carried the same credit system as its companion, and carried all employees through times of strikes or unemployment. In addition to the $.50 delivery charge per 100 pounds, store no. 11 charged $1.25 per month extra for transportation from the Kay Moor train station to the mountain (or gorge) top. Sales in 1922 totaled $49,334.56. [88]

In 1907 Manager of Mines George T. Wickes sought an employee to run a "commissary" at one of the mines. It is not known if the commissary was at Kay Moor; nevertheless, Wickes' response to one job applicant revealed his attitude toward some of his mining employees. This attitude, coming from the manager, probably filtered into daily transactions with the miners in the company stores:

I want a man who has a great deal of patience and yet can be firm when he finds any advantage is being taken of him. A great deal of patience is necessary, as of course some of the persons with whom you have to deal are more or less ignorant, and their attitude changes completely when made to understand a thing which at first sight seems to them entirely different from what it is. [89]

Kay Moor store no. 9 was robbed in July 1909. The stolen goods, worth several hundred dollars, were discovered in an old shanty near Pennbrook, West Virginia. A plan was devised by several Low Moor Iron Company men, Pennbrook residents and the constable to hide around the shanty and await the thieves' return for the booty. However, the thieves "came sooner than was expected and the constable became excited and fired." The thieves escaped. [90]

Another theft occurred in September 1926. The safe in the store at Kay Moor was broken open and its contents searched. Employees who slept in the building did not hear the thieves. Only a small amount of money was lost as the store manager, Mr. Legg, had cleaned out most of the cash the previous night. [91]

Construction began on a new store at Kay Moor Top in July 1927 by New River and Pocahontas Stores Company. The contract was let to Mankin Lumber Company, for a brick structure costing about $35,000. The store was to be "located on the hardroad at the top of the hill." [92] The three-story building was finished in March 1928. Its cost exceeded $40,000 and it was built on the same plan as the Minden and Berwind stores. The old store was to be abandoned. [93]

The stores were the scene of various social activities during the Great Depression. The local Garten garden club held a canning exhibit at the Kay Moor store in September 1937. Prizes in four categories (balanced meal, fruits and vegetables, jellies, and pickles) were awarded, and the show was repeated at the Kay Moor no. 2 store. [94]


West Virginia's 1919 compulsory school attendance law required children between the ages of 7 and 14, 16 if not employed, to be in school the entire school term. Exceptions were made in cases of extreme poverty, physical or mental inability to attend, or if the child lived two miles or more from the school. The minimum school term in 1919 was 120 days; by 1923 it was 160 days. [95]

In 1872 the state of West Virginia added a provision to its constitution which called for a segregated school system. However, in the 1890s the dominant coal companies sought progressive education in an effort to reduce mining accidents, to increase productivity, and to stabilize the workforce. Teachers' salaries were based on their qualifications, not color, thus black teachers could earn as much as their white counterparts. The education of blacks was considered as important as that of whites. Additional support came from the coal companies, which poured aid into the school systems. Teachers were sometimes paid bonuses to stay in the field, and highly qualified black teachers were attracted to practice their vocation in the southern West Virginia fields. [96]

The facilities were thus supposed to be separate, but equal. Education levels in West Virginia remained low when compared to northern industrial states, yet the schools provided the opportunity for blacks to be provided their own history and culture, and to be able to read texts by black writers. An additional bonus of black schools was the availability of education for illiterate adults. [97]

The 1923 U.S. Coal Commission report provided a few details of Kay Moor's schools. Kay Moor had a total of four schools, all owned by the coal company and located on company land. Two were at Kay Moor Bottom and two at Kay Moor Top; two of the schools were designated for white students and two schools for black students. The white schools had one teacher and 26 students and two teachers and 75 students, respectively. The black schools had one teacher and 34 students and one teacher and 22 students, respectively. [98] The two schools at Kay Moor Bottom were in good condition, but the two schools at Kay Moor Top were "very poor, colored school especially." None of the schools had enough seats or equipment. [99]

Low Moor Iron Company did not control the appointment of the teachers; this service was provided by the county superintendent. Housing for teachers was provided. Tuition for the schools was free and books were paid for. Hydrants 50 feet away provided water for all the schools while stoves provided heat The white schools had eight grades but the black schools only had six. No transportation was available in 1923 and the nearest high school was two miles away in Fayetteville. Support for the schools was provided by Low Moor Iron Company. There was no free library or reading room available. [100]

The Kay Moor schools offered free evening classes. The Mining Extension Department of the State University, Morgantown, West Virginia, organized a mining class at Kay Moor in 1922 and 1923. The following subjects were offered: mine gases, timbering and haulage, and hoisting. Each subject was divided into lessons running from 6 to 12 weeks. Mining arithmetic was offered throughout the year. The class was held on Thursday nights, and was open to all men interested. No tuition was charged and text books were furnished for free. An enrollment fee of $5.00 was returned at the end of the term to each man with 80 percent attendance. [101]

Dates provided for the life-span of these schools are conflicting. According to a local newspaper, a new school was established at South [?] Kay Moor on January 18, 1906. A term was immediately established with a Miss Deal as teacher. [102] A secondary source was inconsistent in its statements concerning the opening of Kay Moor schools. It stated the Kay Moor Top school was built in 1909 and closed in 1913. Students then went to Wolf Creek School, Fayetteville District. A new Kay Moor Top school was built in 1915 and closed in 1928. Yet the same text stated that Kay Moor Top white school closed in 1953 while Kay Moor Bottom white school closed in 1928. The Kay Moor Top black school closed in 1928 while the Kay Moor Bottom black school closed in 1953. [103]

In October 1926 C.P. Garten started a school bus line to accommodate the children and employees of New River and Pocahontas. The board of education made an appropriation to transport the grade school children, but high schoolers paid their own way. The bus ran between the Kay Moor mine and the towns of Gatewood, Coal Run, and Fayettevilie. The Fayette Tribune remarked: "The bus is a great convenience for miners living at No. 2 camp and working at No. 1, and the undertaking is receiving encouragement from the mine management as it insures regular supply of labor at an operation where work never ceases." [104]

Churches and Cemetery

In the early years of the Kay Moor settlement, itinerant ministers arrived to offer religious services. The journal of Baptist minister S.J. Thomas revealed statistics of his visits to the coal camp. In 1908 the minister preached at Kay Moor 12 times in visits ranging from January to September. The next year he preached on nine occasions from January to September, keeping track of the Bible verse he used for each sermon. On May 1, 1909, Reverend Thomas married a couple at Kay Moor, charging a $6.00 fee. The reverend also conducted baptism and funeral services. [105]

Before churches were built at Kay Moor, services were held in the schools every Sunday. In 1923 the Low Moor Iron Company paid the resident pastor $25.00 per month. [106]

Cornerstone ceremonies for the Kaymoor Community Church at Garten were held in June 1938. Ground was broken for the building in March, with slow but steady work on the excavation for a full sized basement, concrete block walls and subfloor of the auditorium almost complete. Much of the labor was contributed by volunteers. The church's Reverend W.C. Neef announced that Herschel H. Rose, grand master of Masons in the state, would conduct masonic ceremonies at the cornerstone laying. [107] A dedication service for this church was held on Sunday, November 24, 1940. Messages were delivered by a guest minister and the church's pastor, Reverend James F. Frame. [108]

Guest ministers were invited to preach in the new community church during two weeks of special services beginning January 15, 1939. Ministers from area Baptist, Methodist, Holiness, and Episcopal churches participated. [109]

Other churches at Kay Moor Top included a Pentecostal Revival Holiness church for whites, and two black Baptist churches, Wolf Creek Baptist and Missionary Baptist [110]

There was no cemetery at Kay Moor. The nearest one was in Fayetteville, [111]

Post Office

In most company towns, the post office was located in the company store with the store clerk functioning as postmaster. According to David Alan Corbin, "These company officials scrutinized the miners' mail for union and radical literature." [112] It is not known if miners' mail was examined at Kay Moor, but at least in 1923 the postmaster was a company employee and the post office was located in a company store. The first post office opened at Kay Moor on February 5, 1902, with the first postmaster being Low Moor's own Edward M. Cabell. The post office operated until May 15, 1953, when mail was transferred to the Fayette station, and in March 1954 to Garten. (See appendix 17 for list of postmasters.) This closing followed the transfer of the inhabitants of Kay Moor Bottom out of the camp in 1952. [113]


There was no bank at Kay Moor. In 1923 the nearest savings bank and postal savings office were two miles away in Fayetteville. [114]

Recreational and Social Activities

Low Moor management announced in September 1915 that a "picture show would be maintained by the company for the entertainment of all employees." [115] The Low Moor company theatres at Kay Moor and Low Moor received films from the General Film Co., of Washington, D.C. [116]

Not only were films shown at the theatre at Kay Moor, but live entertainment was brought in as well. (For sample newspaper announcement, see appendix 18.) In 1920 Harold Frazer, a manager of the Continental Lyceum Bureau, wrote Low Moor management of his happiness with performances at Kay Moor. He appreciated the "kind treatment" his company had received and remarked that "the men of your camp acted fine with the girls. Some of the roughnecks we encounter just make life miserable for the girls and insult them continually." Frazer added comments which are an indication of Low Moor management's control, Kay Moor miners' sophistication, and the theatre facilities:

The order at the theater was excellent — no loud talking or acting up. Mr. Cabell, I noticed you standing up front and that was enough. I don't imagine anyone would start anything when a man your size was watching them and you were right on the job, waiting for any disturbance.

Tell your people they are a "live" audience. They "got" jokes and stuff that fall flat in most places and the applause was very noticeable, being enough to stimulate us to good work. . . .

Move your theater down near the track and arrange it so a fair-sized company can perform, with adequate stage and dressing rooms. You are on the main line, with a good theater you may be able to get good attractions if they have room and if you can make it worth while financially — advertise in the "Billboard" when you are ready that "Kay Moor wants Musical Comedy" etc. [117]

The theatre was still in operation in 1923 at the time of the coal commission investigation. The theatre was then using films distributed through Fox Film Corporation, Washington, D.C. The films were usually on a circuit and were shown at the Amuzu Theatre at Low Moor, Virginia, before coming to Kay Moor. There were a few problems: sometimes films arrived late, did not arrive at all, or were in poor condition. [118]

Other recreational facilities at Kay Moor included a company owned ball field, baseball team, pool hall, and tennis court. Public meetings were held in the theatre or school; there was no public hall. Organized Sunday school activities occurred, but Kay Moor had no boy scouts, girl scouts, or playground. There was also no dance hall, bowling alley, basketball team, American Legion, and obviously, no union hall. [119]

Former Kay Moor employee Virgil Burgess remembered playing baseball on the town team:

Kaymoor was noted for its baseball, quite a bit. And at the top of the hill, we had two baseball fields up there and on weekends, in the summer time especially, baseball was a great thing. (They played in the Fayette County League.) . . . They played Kingston and different places around, Scarbro, Glen Jean. They played . . . must have been a league of some sort because that was one of the major things back in the late Twenties and early Thirties was baseball. [120]

Dometrius Woodson, a Kay Moor resident, reminisced that the coal towns usually had black teams and white teams; there was no integration. Sometimes men would be hired to work in the mine because they were good ball players. Between 400 and 600 people would attend the weekend games, whites and blacks together, sometimes to see the black teams play the white teams. [121]

Other recreational activities focused on the river. Kay Moor Top resident Nellie Eades remembered riding the haulage down the mountain to camp all night. She and her husband would fish for catfish from the riverbank, and camp out under a rock or other natural shelter. Children probably did not swim in the river at Kay Moor because of the dangerous shoals. [122] Resident Dometrius Woodson fished for bass, bluegill, crappie, carp and turtles, in addition to catfish and channel cats. [123]

Of course, socializing among residents was another popular pastime. Dometrius Woodson remembered adults playing marble games alongside the children, who played, fished, and swam together. He commented on other activities: "We'd go from house to house and play cards, and drank whiskey, and stuff like that. And most everybody made him some home brew or some whiskey. And a man down there named Lee Jones and Irving Jones, one used to play the guitar and one played the piano. Dancing, each house, this house this week, next house next week. We used to have a good time down in there." [124] Social activities for Kay Moor residents were reported in the local Fayette Tribune. Vacations, visits with relatives, and business trips were all duly noted, a practice characteristic of small town life. [125]

It is obvious that available recreational activities in Kay Moor were limited. Residents were able to ride the train to other communities, or in later years, drive their own automobiles to available social events in nearby towns, yet, within Kay Moor itself, community resources were few. This is especially true concerning resources for women. Kay Moor had no library, reading room, public park, or girls' club; places and activities which could have provided recreation and personal improvement for women.

Gardens and Hunting

Coal miners drew upon the traditions and habits acquired in their earlier, pre-industrial days and used them in a meaningful, pragmatic way — especially agricultural talents. The job of caring for the family garden fell upon the miner's sons not yet old enough to work in the mines and the wife and daughters. Many of the native miners had been subsistence miners and hunters while the southern black migrants had been sharecroppers. Many of the European immigrants, from non-industrial countries, had probably been farmers also. [126]

Gardens meant food for many families, and indeed, many of the poorly paid miners ate very well and actually ate better, with their fresh vegetables, than did city workers. This ability to raise food affected the UMWA's union organizing — the miners were relatively comfortable, hunger and suffering did not exist, and the union's promise of higher wages held no interest for the miners. [127]

Yet, knowledge of the value of nutritious food had to be learned. Many foods were potentially available from the company stores and home-grown gardens, if purchased or grown. The U.S. Coal Commission remarked on problems concerning nutrition it observed in the West Virginia mining towns:

Undoubtedly the heavy consumption of cereal foods is a heritage from mountaineer forefathers. Baking-powder biscuits, potatoes, corn bread, and navy beans with pork of one kind or another were the principal foods on the backwoods farms. Although contact with the world beyond the mountains has extended the diet of miners' families, such families will probably not consume their full share of proteins, vegetables, and fruits until the public school teaches New River women the value of milk, how to prepare beef and lamb cuts to advantage, and the uses of various vegetables and fruits. Only thus will a demand be created for a variety of foods and the need of more money for food be felt acutely in New River mining communities. [128]

The availability of land for gardens was extremely important in coal towns because of the nutritional benefit crops could yield. At Kay Moor in 1923 land was available for gardens and poultry, and pasture for cows. No rent was charged for the use of these lands. [129]

Rosa Pashion, a resident at Kay Moor since 1920, remembered helping to raise tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and other "routine" crops in her garden. Keeping the garden was a family activity with her husband and children. She also remembered residents of Kay Moor raising chickens, cows, and pigs. Lots around the houses were large enough to take care of the animals, which had room to roam. [130] Celia Chambers, a resident of Kay Moor Bottom for 31 years, raised beans, corn and cucumbers in her garden, while her husband grew pumpkins. Mrs. Chambers also had chickens, so many "you couldn't hardly walk in the yard." [131] Kay Moor engineer Virgil Burgess remembered residents having milk cows and chickens. He cited Celia Chambers' husband, S. Esses Chambers, as being a specialist in raising hogs. [132]

Kay Moor residents sometimes supplemented their diets by hunting game in the gorge. Dometrius Woodson hunted quail, rabbits, squirrel, raccoons, and deer. [133]


Part of life in a southern West Virginia company town was the making and consumption of alcohol. The miners did drink, at any suggestion or occasion. They often made their own. "Homebrew" was made with ten pounds of meal, ten pounds of sugar, three cakes of yeast, water and flavoring, sometimes peaches. Different ethnic groups made their own favorites. Company officials were concerned about the drinking, and promoted prohibition because they believed liquor lowered workers' moral standards, increased accidents, and decreased production. This was a clash of cultural values between upper-class and working-class cultures. The selling of alcohol was also a supplement to the miners' income. The brew could be made for $.50 a gallon and sold for $14.00 or $15.00. [134]

Early in Kay Moor's history a miner's drinking habits were considered as a factor in his possible employment. Ed D. Wickes reported to General Manager E.C. Means on the drinking in Kay Moor: "McBrayer don't drink and Raven does nightly little, Wills has shown no signs of it. The men all drink. The last pay day night two men went to Fayette, got drunk and commenced shooting things up. We will be able to get rid of these as soon as we get our men from Tennessee and Kentucky. I have warned the camp through the watchmen that better order must be preserved." [135]

There were no saloons at either Kay Moor Top or Bottom. [136] However, while several former Kay Moor residents denied knowledge of moonshine making, [137] at least one, Dometrius Woodson, openly spoke of making a home brew. "Yea, I've made a whole lot of whiskey in my lifetime. They caught my daddy making it right on the stove in the house, and put him in jail. And he stayed in jail at Fayetteville for one year." [138]


By the mid-1920s most miners no longer found it necessary to live within walking distance of the mine. The paving of roads and increased numbers of automobiles made commutes possible. Even life in the best of the company towns was disliked as most miners chose to live in their own choice of housing. According to a coal town critic, "The best of men dread the eye which follows them night and day." [139] For this reason more and more miners began preferring uncontrolled areas where they could find freedom.

Labor stability was a major problem in the coal mines and town. Mobility was a form of individual protest; a miner was free to go wherever and whenever he wanted, however, the geographic mobility was generally from company town to company town. Companies sometimes offered bonuses and individual contracts to highly skilled workers. The miners moved for reasons of economic improvement or because of discrimination. [140]

Operators, faced with constant shortages, made efforts to attract a more secure labor force, based on permanent families. The schools, churches, clubs and theatres not only attracted miners but served to keep them in the towns. Even limiting the amount of alcohol dispensed in the saloon became a way of controlling the miners' behavior. [141]

Despite these inducements, mobility among miners remained high. Between 1900 and 1930 only 26 percent of mining families in southern West Virginia lived in the same town for five years or more. After 1913 immigrants and blacks began leaving the mountains for better opportunities in the East and Midwest. [142]

It is difficult to ascertain if turnover levels were high at Kay Moor. It cannot be determined from the 1900 census how many residents lived in Kay Moor since the town was not identified in a separate precinct from Fayetteville district. The 1910 census is available, but the 1920 census is not yet open for research. Therefore, comparison of Kay Moor inhabitants over a 10-year period will have to wait.

Other Employment Opportunities

The coal industry drew hundreds of thousands of workers away from "normal community life" to live in isolated company towns. Male heads of households usually had the assistance of their wives and grown children in earning a living. Work performed by women at home during the colonial period was followed by work in the factory during industrialization. One-third of mine-working men had help of their wives or children, but good employment opportunities for these family members were usually difficult to find. [143]

In 1925 there were about almost a half million "wives and daughters" 15 years and over who were members of coal mining families in both the bituminous and anthracite fields." [144] Eighteen percent of the wives were employed, with their main occupation being taking in boarders and lodgers. Available day work outside the home consisted of laundry and cleaning, but this was a secondary opportunity. West Virginia had the highest proportion of wives employed, a little more than one-fifth of the women. Based on race and national origin, more than one-fourth of the black American, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Yugoslavian wives worked, but only an eighth of the white American, and German wives were employed. [145]

Women in bituminous coal towns possessed little opportunity for employment, either to support themselves or aid in supporting a family. Three-fourths of bituminous coal miners lived in rural areas where employment opportunities for women were limited, while less than a third of the anthracite miners lived in rural areas. Anthracite wives thus had more and varied employment opportunities. Many daughters in the bituminous areas who needed jobs were thus forced to leave home. According to the Women's Bureau, "Daughters who have left home for such purposes are economically 'adrift' and are less likely to contribute to the family income, despite the need of their contributions, than if they had continued under the family roof." [146]

Kay Moor was no exception from this general assessment of employment opportunities for women in coal towns. No other industries existed in Kay Moor outside of the mine. Men could always pursue farming or perform road building in areas adjacent to Kay Moor, but no other opportunities existed in Kay Moor for boys except the mine work. According to the coal commission investigator, women and girls had no employment opportunities in Kay Moor whatsoever. [147] (See illustrations 15-19 for views of Kay Moor residents.)

Abandonment of Kay Moor Top and Bottom

Kay Moor Bottom was abandoned in 1952. Most of the inhabitants moved to Kay Moor Top or to Minden. Former Kay Moor employee Virgil Burgess recalled most residents being moved out of Kay Moor Bottom by 1958. [148] (See illustrations 20 and 21 for aerial views of Kay Moor in 1945 and 1957, just before and after its closing.)

Fire destroyed about 40 vacant houses in the deserted Kay Moor Bottom in April 1960. The fire was brought under control after two days by employees of New River and Pocahontas and the C&O, and only 11 houses were left standing. The fire also destroyed a trestle on the C&O branch line which served the operating tipple. Kay Moor superintendent Clifford Davis stated the fire was believed to have started by a "piece of flaming carbon" thrown by a diesel locomotive into one of the deserted houses next to the railroad track. The fire fed on trimmings left from logging operations several years previously and was fanned by high winds. Some of the houses destroyed had been sold and dismantled. The company had no plans for the houses except to sell them for salvage. [149]

Virgil Burgess remembered the closing of Kay Moor Top:

There was a real nice community there [at the top of the mountain] and it's all torn down now except for one house. All the rest of them are torn down. The company . . . we sold the houses along in the early fifties, or '54, we sold the houses to individuals and they were torn down and moved away. We never did sell the surface, just sold the houses as they were and you tore them down and moved them whatever you wanted to do. [150]

Kay Moor was a company town from its construction until the mine was closed in 1962. It was home to generations of mine workers and their families who rode the haulage, swam in the New River, shopped at store no. 11, attended the black or white schools, breathed the air filled with smoke from the coke ovens, and lived in fear of a tragedy in the mine. In its first years Kay Moor was probably as isolated as the worst of the West Virginia coal towns, but this relative isolation was diminished with the coming of the automobile and access to other towns via the railroad. During the Low Moor Iron Company years, at least, Kay Moor was a much better, cleaner, more organized town to live in than some of its neighbors. Yet, Kay Moor's social system was controlled by the company; miners and their families were controlled by the company management through the wage and scrip system, and through anti-union activities.

The existence of such a controlled atmosphere on such a large scale left its mark in West Virginia. Ronald D. Eller summed up the legacy of the company towns on the state's psyche:

Thus, company towns, as they evolved in the southern mountains, functioned to limit the growth of social freedom and self-determination and to heighten social tensions and insecurities within the region. Unlike the industrial towns of the Northeast, the textile towns of the South, or in fact the majority of American industrial communities, the coal towns of Appalachia were new communities imposed upon a region in which formal social ties were few. They provided an expedient means of urban development but created a system of closed, artificial communities that restricted rather than induced economic growth. By monopolizing almost every aspect of community life, company towns effectively blocked the growth of local retail enterprises and diversified or supporting industries that might have accompanied coal mining. Since the profits from mining went to nonresident owners, the only benefit that might have accrued to the region itself was the miners' wages. But, under the closed company town system, these too flowed largely out of the mountains. The same modernizing forces that oversaw the transition in land ownership and the emergence of a new economic order in the mountains also shaped the new social environment of the region. And like so much accompanying industrialization that environment was not of the mountaineer's own choosing. [151]

The National Park Service provided funding which was used in 1989 to stabilize several mining features at Kay Moor, including the powderhouse, headhouse, fanhouse, and processing plant. The mine entrances have been sealed off for visitor safety. The coke oven batteries are still intact, as is a portion of Kay Moor Top, most notably the New Camp. Only foundations and two dilapidated houses remain of the community at Kay Moor Bottom. In 1989 a draft development concept plan was prepared by the Denver Service Center to address preservation, interpretation, and access needs at the Kay Moor site.

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Last Updated: 30-Jan-2009