Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Corridor Management Plan Meeting
Big Stone Gap - September 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm


Paul Kuczko, Lonesome Pine Office on Youth
Freddy Ellins, Harry W. Meador Jr. Coal Museum
Chris Clark, Intern
Jack McClanahan, Chairman of SW Regional Recreation Authority & Litter Control officer for Wise County
Tammy Dotson, Spearhead Trails
Elaine Swiney, Appalachia
Garnett Gilliam, Historian
Stan Gotts Jr. , Chairman of Wise County Tourism
Glenn Gannaway, The Post newspaper
Ernie Benko, ARC Television

Major points brought forth in meeting:   

  • Connector road from Big Stone Gap to Appalachia has a lot to offer the visitor
    • 4 railroad trestles along this route. 
  • Tunnels visible from road.  One tunnel was known as the shortest tunnel. 

Hike up mountain – Rock steps to top. 

  • Noted as state wildlife viewing site

Recommendation:   Excellent location for interpretive information just after the fourth trestle at the old gas station site.  Potential for walking area to view tunnel.  Picnic tables could also be added. Plenty of parking and display space. 

  • There were once 2,300 coke ovens in Wise County
  • Wise County had over 50,000 residents.  Largest and fastest growing county in the state at one time. 
  • Coal camp of Blackwood on left is now an industrial park built on the "strip job".
A few houses and buildings at Blackwood remain although many have fallen in or are beyond repair.
The front section of Blackwood is now an industrial park with one tenant and access to rail.
  • Turn right onto Dunbar and Pardy Road - location where they filmed "Coal Miner's Daughter".
  • Behind the Appalachia Elementary School, is Kelly View One Room School House - one of the few remaining of the 122 which were operating in Wise County.
  • Westmoreland area (in Appalachia area) - Bullitt Mine Processing Plant - brought coal from all over to process during the early 70's to mid 80's.
Just after one turn onto Hwy 68 from Business 23, excellent pull off area to provide both interpretive information about the Bullitt Mine Processing Plant as well as a map of the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail and what all will see on this leg of the Norton loop through the coal towns of Imboden, Exeter, Keokee, and St. Charles.
  • Tom's Creek- had the longest row of coke ovents anywhere in the world? Rule was "no smoke on Sundays" so the women could do their wash. (2 miles north of Coeburn on 70 or 72) -
    • See Wise County - St. Paul Loop for more on this.
  • Cranesnest - Slate dump burned for years. In Wise County - ? where.
The Town of Appalachia has some wonderful brick buildings.
(above) all floors in this building open on the ground floor
Appalachia has a strong railroad history which needs to be preserved and interpreted.
Both the freight depot and passenger depot still exists although the passenger depot will soon be past repair if something is not done soon.

Recommendation: There should be a way to address the live rail line to allow renovation to take place.

The Appalachia Cultural Center could be a great building to house information about the coal camps in Wise County, display maps, and share the stories of days past. It also has an excellent model train display in its basement. This needs to be included as a stop on the coal trail by appointment if necessary.
  • ADD TO BYWAY ROUTE: Take Route 600 from Appalachia to Stonega and Derby:
    Strongly recommend this route be added to the Coal Heritage Trail as more than just a side trip. All new maps will reflect this.
    • A war memorial is one one's left as one takes the spur.
One of the most elaborate Miner's Memorial is located on this spur. It is lighted and includes a number of monuments, mining equipment and covered pavilion.
There is a monument to Louis E. Hanager for mine rescue efforts and another monument to Brownie Polly for his heroism in saving 77 miners during the 1934 explosion at the Derby Mine.
Central Supplies United Office actually owned by Westmoreland provided supplies for all the coal camps. Was later sold to United Coal Company.
Roda and Osaka - two mining camps. Not much remains of either except for the Church at Roda. Stonega and Derby are probably two of the most complete coal camps for the region.


Derby used a unique type of red siding on their homes. The coal bins in front of the homes for heating their homes still stand.

The Derby United Methodist Church has a monument to the miners who were killed in the 1934 explosion at the Derby mines.


In Stonega, the larger homes on Park Palce were the homes of the doctor, the foreman, the superintendent. All still stand today and are privately owned.
Interesting Facts:
  • Wise County's Mountain Rose Winery names its wine after seams of coal.
  • Most of the coal rights belonged to investors from Pannsylvania
  • Only 5% of Wise County can be privately bought and sold. The rest is owned by coal companies, federal, state, or local government.
  • There were many nationalities and camps were segregated. John L. Lewis published his newsletter in 22 different languages to unionize the coal workers.
  • Different cultures were brought to the mountains which is evident in their music, crafts, architecture and food.
  • Sports was also big in the mountains. Great minor league baseball sponsored by the coal camps and toured the south.
  • Thomas and Betty Jones still reside in Wise County - she was the first woman coal miner. Worked the mines in Westmoreland. Recommendations to interview her for oral history.
  • The mandolin was developed in Gate County?
  • Famous People: (Paul is compiling this information)
    • Olan Castle went to the Olympics
    • Willie Horon was from Appalachia
    • Three congressmen from Seminary Ridge (1 mile past Lee County on 58)
    • Speech writer for Martin Luther King
Big Stone Gap has a rich history in the coal mining industry with the offices of the Westmoreland Coal Company being located downtoan. They are home to the Harry W. Meador Coal Museum, the Southwest Virginia Museum which has an excellent coal display, the June Tolliver House/museum, the Lonesome Pine School and historical museum and the long running "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" Outdoor Drama.
Big Stone Gap also offers a historic walking tour through their downtown area which has excellent signage. Recommendation: The companion brochure/maps need to be reprinted and made available to visitors.

Big Stone Gap has a Miner's Park which includes a memorial to miners, an amphitheater and picnic area on the site of the old Monte Vista Hotel which was a thriving popular lodging establishment during the coal boom.

Recommendation: This park is strategically located on main street through the town and would be an excellent location to provide a wayside exhibit on the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail and a map of the route.

Westmoreland Coal Company offices are shown below along with a few of the coal company officers and top offical homes which are now privately owned.

Other notable buildings include the old school house, Bullitt Park (now a football field but originally for polo), the train converted into tourist information center plus a coal display at one of the museums.

WMTH Corporation is a certified DBE.