The Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial is located near Beckley in Whitesville, WV. It is a roadside memorial to 29 miners killed in a coal mine explosion on April 5th, 2010. Three distinct parts make up the memorial- the UBB Miners Monument, First Responders Tribute Bronze and an interpretive signage area that serves as an introduction to the events that took place on April 5th and the following days. It is an interactive memorial that honors the men killed and serves to also educate the public on the history of coal in WV.
Its easy to get to as its located right along WV Route 3 about 40 miles north of Beckley. Take the Harper Rd Exit from I-64/I-77. Its a great ride for motorcyclists. The memorial is also a geocache location.
It opened on July 27, 2012.
Behind the youth museum a pathway leads to and through a very interesting Mountain Farmstead. Here you will find a collection of old buildings that recreates a complete self-sufficient farmstead from the days before electricity, modern conveniences or even grocery stores.
The buildings, mostly log structures, are open for you to explore, along with interpretative signs that tell their story. You will see a log farmhouse, blacksmith shop, barn, an old moonshine still and much more. The farmstead is a reminder of how far our society and culture have advanced in only a couple of generations.
At the Pemberton Coal Camp Church you can enjoy the spirit of old time religion that still lingers within the walls of the church from years gone by.
The Pemberton Coal Camp Church was built in the Coal Camp of Pemberton, West Virginia in 1921, where it was the center of the community. It was where the people came together to worship God with love and pride. Social and business meetings were held in the church. The church was kept immaculate both inside and out. Pews were polished to a brillant shine and every window sparkled.
The minister was a leader of the community. He married folks, preached to them on Sunday, visited them through the week and buried them after they died.
The church basement was used for homecomings, church dinners, Bible school in the summer and other meetings. Usually on the third Thursday of every month the women in the coal camp community would have their Ladies Aid Society meetings. The Christmas program was probably the most remembered event in the church. As the congregation left the church the minister gave a gift which came from the coal company. It was a bag containing oranges, apples, nuts, chocolate drops and ribbon candy. This is still an Appalachian Tradition to this day in some country churches during the Christmas season.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s this mine was active, producing many tons of coal per day. Now it is operated by the city of Beckley as a tourist attraction. It is the only place in America I am aware of where the average person can actually go inside a coal mine, without being a miner.
Coal cars on railroad tracks carry visitors through 1,500 feet of underground passageways. Veteran miners, acting as guides, describe low seam coal mining from the early manual operations to modern mechanized ones. Temperatures inside the mine are a constant 58 degrees fahrenheit.
Karen and I took the tour on a Friday morning in April and were fortunate to be the only two people on our tour, although we just missed a school class of more than 50 kids, coming out of the mine as we were going in. This personalized tour gave us the opportunity to ask many questions of our guide, who had spend 28 years working underground as a miner before retiring to become a tour guide. The tour is both interesting and educational. Visitors to Beckley definitely shouldn't miss it.
There is a gift shop at the mine. Also, in the same New River Park you will find several other attractions including a reconstructed coal camp (village), a historical Mountain Homestead, a coal mining museum and the Youth Museum of West Virginia. Give yourself time to see as much as possible.
Daily, April 1 - November 1
10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
This miner's shanty , measuring 8X12 feet, came from a coal camp in Helen, West Virginia. It is a one room dwelling dating back to the early 1920's. It was built for and occupied by a single miner living away from home while working in the coal mines during a work week. The miners who used these shantys would normaily return to their family home on the weekends.
The inside was very basically furnished with a single bed, a stove, a table and two chairs. Rent for a shanty such as this would have been about $2.00 per month.
Located just footsteps away from the Exhibition Coal Mine, the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia is open to the public year round and available at any time for pre-arranged tour groups.
The Youth Museum’s main gallery is made up of four railroad boxcars. The central exhibit area features an average of three different exhibits yearly. Designed to entertain as well as educate, the exhibits range from “T-Rex”, “Bats”, and “Artist in the Studio” to “Page after Page”, an award winning children’s authors presentation.
Group tours include a visit to the Museum’s Planetarium. Seasonal programs highlight constellations, visible planets and special celestial events.
In 2000, the Youth Museum was awarded the prestigious Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Museum Service Award. The award was presented in Washington D.C. by President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton and was given in recognition of the Museum’s vital community outreach programs.
One price encompasses all activities at both the Exhibition Mine and the Youth Museum during the summer months. Group rates are available. Reservations are required. May, June and October dates fill quickly; so reserve early to avoid disappointment. Both the Exhibition Coal Mine and the Youth Museum have gift shops offering unique coal figurines, homemade fudge, traditional and educational toys, local crafts, and books.
Summer Hours: April 1 - November 1
10:00 am - 6:00 pm daily
Winter Hours: November 2 - March 31
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tuesday - Saturday
Take a few steps back in time and discover what it was like living in a company house in the coal camps of West Virginia. The city of Beckley has restored a three room house from Sprague, West Virginia. The coal camp and house were once owned by the New River Coal Company, dating back from 1925 through the 1940's.
A community of houses were built and owned by the coal company. The working men and their families rented a house suitable for the size of their family. These houses were much more humble than the superintendent's home, however, they were typical of the homes in which most West Virginian's lived during that era, and better than some.
The downside of living in such housing provided by the coal company, is that once peroson reached retirement age, or became unable to work because of illness or injury, he was evicted from the house, often with nowhere else to go. If a miner was killed in an accident, his family would be evicted.
This three story structure from Skelton, West Virginia was constructed for the mine superintendent to make his home. In 1906 it was called just that; the "super's home". However, all indications that Samuel Dixon, the mine owner, had it built more as a small mansion, resembling those from the countryside of England where he was born. In fact he named this coal mining town in Raleigh County, West Virginia, after his birthplace Skelton, England. The Skelton structure is one-of-a-kind, one of the rare mine superintendent's homes left around.
The City of Beckley has dismantled the old house and moved it from Skelton, West Virginia, to the mine site of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where it has been restored. The first floor consists of a formal living room, dining room, kitchen and super's office. The second floor consists of the master bedroom and nursery. Also on the second floor is a reproduction of the company's doctors office, barbershop and company store post office.
This authentic old two room schoolhouse is a part of the Coal Camp that surrounds the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
The building was orginally constructed as a two room school, but as enrollment declined it became a one room school. The school was built in 1925 up a hollow called Berry Branch in Helen, West Virginia. It served black children that lived in the coal camp. In the coal camp during this time period there were two school buildings one for the white children and one for the black children. The size of the buildings was determined by population. The school buildings were owned by the coal company and the schools were run by the board of education. Only residents of the coal camp were allowed to attend the schools that were owned by the coal company.
The average enrollment would normally be about 30 students. There was one teacher per room. Often one of the students would graduate and then come back the next year with a certificate and become the new teacher.
I found particularly interesting the posted Rules of Conduct for Teachers
You will not marry during the term of your contract.
You will not keep company with men.
You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
You may not loiter downtown in ice cream store.
You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
You may not smoke cigarettes.
You may not dress in bright colors.
You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
You must wear at least two petticoats.
Your dress must not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankle.
To keep the school room neat and clean, you must:
--sweep the floor at least once daily.
--scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water.
--clean the blackboards at least once a day.
--start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm at 8 a.m.
Board of Education
School Bulletin - 1915