Joseph Beury was the operator of the first coal mine on the New River. A native of Pennsylvania, he learned mining from working in his father's anthracite coal mines. His service in the Union army during the Civil War earned him the military title of Colonel.
In 1872 he established the town of Quinnimont and opened and managed the New River Coal Company mine. In 1873, when the Chesapeake and Ohio rail line reached the town, he shipped the first load of high-quality clean-burning bituminous "New River Smokeless Coal" to the world.
Colonel Beury's mine thrived, and he expanded his business with several more mines in the New River Gorge. He eventually expanded into the Pocahontas coal fields and became one of the largest coal company operators in West Virginia. Following these business successes he made his home in the Beury "mansion," a twenty-three room house with swimming pool, greenhouse, and stables. The home was located in the mining town of Beury, near Thurmond. He died there at the age of sixty-one in 1903.
In the 1920s, Colonel Beury's coal operator associates erected a twenty-five foot tall, fifty-five ton granite monument at Quinnimont in his honor at a cost of $30,000. Today the monument still stands, but it is not visible from the river or highway. It has become overgrown and is a little known or visited historic site in the park.
The inscription on the Beury Monument reads:
The first New River smokless coal was mined and shipped from Fire Creek Seam at Quinnimont by Joseph Lawton Beury in 1873. This memorial erected by his coal associates in New River District.
Did You Know?
The New River is a very popular warm water fishery. The West Virginia state record for length of Smallmouth Bass - 25.5 inches and 7.5 lbs - was caught in the New River in 1976.