Appalachia, Barboursville, coal, history, Holden, Huntington, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Omar, West Virginia
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, we find this story about food conditions in the Logan coal fields, dated 9 December 1921:
Seasonal fruits and fresh vegetables brighten the menu of the Logan field miner and his family just as they do the average householder in the larger cities. Visitors have noted with surprise that this is true–that even the most isolated mining communities, cut off from civilization by rugged mountains and difficult creek beds, have their fresh strawberries in season and make quite as much of an event of the canning period as do their northern neighbors.
But what the average visitor cannot know, unless he delves with unusual energy, is the cost in money and time which it means to have such products brought to the miner’s table from the produce centers of the country.
In the first place, many of the mines in the field live five, ten, fifteen and even twenty miles from the town of Logan. The roads in many cases are almost impassible. In others, there are no roads at all. It is common occurrence to use the creek bed as a thoroughfare. A rather hazardous feat, it appears to the visitors on his first trip, but he soon grows accustomed to this. At first he is inclined to cling tight to his seat as the motor truck plows through the shallow water over well rounded stones. The drivers think nothing of fording innumerable creeks. They have lost all solicitude for their tires. In fact, many of them aver that the tires last quite as long as they do on hard-paved roads and point to examples in the form of weather-beaten casing to prove that the usual 10,000 mile guarantee is not at all impossible of achievement in this difficult territory.
Sloshing along through creeks, alternating with mud roads which would bring a rattle to the finest car built they consider the trips to the mines with foodstuffs a mere routine. That it is more than routine, however, is graphically revealed by the wrecks along the roadside–broken-down trucks and motor cars, buggies and wagons.
The road to Holden, four miles from Logan, is a mud road most of the way, featured by innumerable sharp turns. That leading to the mine town of Omar covers nine miles of the most diversified transportation. In that nine miles one single creek must be forded eleven times, and often instead of crossing directly, motor trucks are forced to plow through the water for a considerable distance.
Some sixth sense apparently tells the driver where the “water road” lies, for to the casual observer one part of the creek is as good as another. All he can see is water and, beneath, a solid bed of white boulders. Time has worn them smooth. Sliding down the mud road into the creek bed the driver unerringly picks out the right route. It is as if he carried a sextant, for never, however many times he makes the trip, does he deviate in his course a yard.
Yet despite these difficulties in transportation it is comparatively cheap to get to any mine property in the Logan field. For a dollar, any of the buses operating from Logan, meeting all trains, will carry one to Omar, nine miles of difficult driving, while others take passengers 15 and 20 miles up the creeks for a slightly higher charge. For foodstuffs the cost is proportionately low. Drivers charge 25 to 42 cents per 100 pounds for first class freight to a point within 20 miles of Logan–and take every chance in the world of a breakdown. It is this low haulage charge which enables so many independent and company stores at the mines to meet the prices of retailers in large cities, and it is the dependability of this method of motor transportation which enables them to carry fresh fruits and vegetables in season to tickle the palates of the miners and their numerous progeny. Anyone who imagines that sow-belly and beans constitute the main diet of the miner has never seen the adequate stocks of merchandise kept by mining community establishments.
If there were not enough difficulties in the path of transportation of foods to the mines, the trip from the outside to Logan would provide enough more. Logan is unfortunate in that there are no through freight rates to it. Huntington, the State’s natural distributing point by reason of railroad facilities, does not figure in the traffic to Logan. Merchandise destined for this field must be reshipped at Barboursville, a junction point near Huntington, and this adds a freight charge of from 30 to 40 cents per 100 pounds. Adding this to the cost of haulage by truck to the mines, the differential in favor of the consumers in large cities mounts up. Yet, with all these barriers, prices in the mine towns are low–the result of keen competition and of quantity buying.
Source: “Camps Have the Best of Food: Despite Shipping Obstacles Miners Have Same Food as Their City Neighbors,” Logan (WV) Banner, 9 December 1921.