World famous as the site of Homer Hickam, Jr.’s, book “Rocket Boys” and the film “October Sky,” the McDowell County community of Coalwood is featured in an article, “Historic Coalwood,” in the summer issue of GOLDENSEAL magazine.
The article, which was written by noted West Virginia coal historian Stuart McGehee, is an insightful account of the rise and fall of this historic coal company town. McGehee traces Coalwood’s history from its founding in 1902 as a company town for the Carter Coal & Coke Company, through its rise to national recognition as a model mining community in the early 1930s, to its gradual decline due to mechanization and global competition.
At its peak, Coalwood was home to some 2,000 southern West Virginians and trailed only a handful of coal-producing centers in the state of terms of productivity and employment. Coalwood changed owners a number of times, McGehee writes, and was briefly operated by the U.S. Navy in the turbulent years following World War II.
Mining continued in Coalwood throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the years chronicled in Hickham’s popular books “Rocket Boys” and “The Coalwood Way” and in the upcoming “Sky of Stone.” The Coalwood mines eventually closed down in 1986.
The GOLDENSEAL article is illustrated with seven pages of rare archival photographs of Coalwood, many of which have never before been published.
Accompanying articles include a visit to “Coalwood Today” with photographer Mark Crabtree, highlighted by an exclusive commentary from Hickam. A third Coalwood-related article, written by former GOLDENSEAL editor Ken Sullivan, offers insight into Hickam’s writings. This issue of the magazine also includes a profile of Wheeling railroad photographer J.J. Young and a story about a 105-year-old Clarksburg glassmaker and his French heritage.
GOLDENSEAL is West Virginia’s magazine of traditional life and is a quarterly publication of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. It is available for $4.95 at Tamarack, Bookland, Little Brickhouse Gift Shop, Kroger and Walmart in Beckley, Kroger in Princeton, or by calling (304) 558-0220, ext. 153.
Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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