Appalachia, Bert Curry, Catlettsburg, coal, Cole and Crane Company, Delbarton, Elk Creek, Henry Ferrell, history, Holden, Island Creek, Island Creek Coal Company, Lando Mines, Lenore, logging, Louisa, Mingo County, Mud Fork, Pigeon Creek, rafting, Rock House, splash dams, timber, timbering, Trace Fork, Tug Fork, Wallace Curry, West Virginia
The following interview excerpt of Bert Curry (born c.1901) was conducted at Lenore in Mingo County, WV, on December 5, 1978.
How much money was around back then?
The first public works to come into the Pigeon Creek areas was when Cole and Crane come in to cut all of this virgin timber. All of Pigeon Creek. They built a splash dam at Delbarton, one on Elk Creek, and one on Rock House. They come in here in 1910 and they paid seventy-five cents a day and board for a man to work and he worked from daylight til dark and along later some of their best men, their team drivers… Team drivers had to work extra hours. They’d put them on by the month. I remember my brother-in-law got $35 a month, but he’d have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and then after supper he’d have to go out and clean the stable and curry his team and doctor ‘em, anything that had to be doctored and feed ‘em and bed ‘em down of the night.
Where did people get most of their income in those days?
If you had a job it was usually helping somebody cut timber. My first job was fifty cents a day carrying water for seventeen men and I was about twelve or thirteen years old.
Was that for loggers?
Well, these was loggers but my brother Wallace had a big field of corn. He had to grow corn to feed his cattle. He had six yokes of cattle and he used cattle in logging and he’d take a big flour barrel full of corn and them cattle would get around and he’d feed that corn to ‘em. They’d eat a barrel of corn each night and they’d let ‘em… Maybe a little fodder, or once in a while in bad weather they’d give ‘em a little hay. But them cattle, they worked ‘em six days a week haulin’ logs. They was trained to work and them six yokes of cattle was worth more than you could get for… You could buy a beef for $25 at that time but if you bought a good oxen that was broke you’d have to give about $50 for him.
What do you remember about the logging operations?
They was very primitive. They had nothin’ like a chain saw. They had a cross cut saw and they had axes and they had cane hooks and they had their teams of oxen and then some had teams of mules and horses. When Cole and Crane come in here they contracted all the cuttin’ of this timber. All the haulin’ it and puttin’ it into the creeks where the waters from the dams would take care of it. They had several contractors. They’d contract a whole boundary, maybe 500 or 1000 acres of timber to cut, and it was all virgin timber. It took six yoke of oxen or two to three big span of mules or horses to pull a tree. They didn’t cut it up into logs like they do now. They cut the whole tree and they didn’t take anything less than 16 inches up to the top. They’d be from 5 to 7 feet down where they cut them off and some of them would be 100 feet long and I’ve seen gorges of logs in Pigeon Creek they claimed had 5,000 trees in it. For a mile it’d be piled up bank to bank as high as they could pile. They’d work sometimes with all the teams they could get around them for three weeks a breaking one gorge. And when they got it to the Tug, they’d raft it. Sometimes they’d raft them and sometimes they would drift them down to the locks at Louisa before they’d raft them and they never went past there. They’d raft them there and then take tug boats and haul them from there to Cincinnati.
How did you raft them? I’m not familiar with that.
They had what you call chain dogs, a little chain about that long (indicates about 12 inches) with a spike on each end. They’d drive a spike in this log here and in this log (indicates two logs laying side by side) to hold it together, one at the front and one at the back, and they’d be oh maybe they’d be 50 feet wide and two or three hundred feet long, the rafts would. Maybe they’d have two or three rafts. One steamboat would be pullin’ maybe two or three rafts.
The logs wouldn’t drift apart?
They’d drive them spikes. Them spikes was about that long (indicating about six inches) and they’d drive them in there and it took a whole lot to pull ‘em out.
Did they work in the winter time, too?
Oh yes! I’ve seen fellers wade Pigeon Creek when they mush ice was a floatin’ and when they’d have to get back in the water to thaw before they could walk.
Was the creek deeper then or about like it is now?
It was more even. They had water all the time but they didn’t have as many severe floods as they have now because this was all covered with timbers, all of everything. See, this mulch in these forests held the water and let it leak out. It didn’t run off like it does now.
The water flow was more evened out this year around?
More evened out. But when they’d have a splash dam at Delbarton, one on Rockhouse up at Lando Mines and one in the head of Elk Creek, they’d time these. They’d know how long it took the water to run from Elk Creek, and they knowed how long it took the water to run from Rock House, and they knowed how long it took the water to meet. They’d try to have them all three come out at once so that they’d have a vast big sudden increase in water. You could look up the creek when they’d splash and you could see a wall floatin’ and a turnin’ in and everything.
And that was to wash the logs out?
Yes, well they washed them out to Tug River that way. That’s the way they got them out of Pigeon Creek.
Do you remember when Island Creek first came into the area?
No. Island Creek first come in about 1901. That was over there. They started when two young fellows come from New York in there looking for oil, to prospect for oil, so they could invest some money. And some old man had a mine open right where No. 1 Island Creek mine is and he was a haulin’ coal with a mule—a mule and a sled. He’d go back in there and he’d haul coal out—a big seam of coal six foot high and good and clean. So they decided that there was where they could make their money. So they got to talkin’ with these fellows and they went and got lawyers and they bought around Holden and Trace Fork and up Mud Fork and a vast area. I don’t know how much: 79,000 acres for 470,000 dollars. And fellows like Henry Ferrell, he counted timber so long. To count timber you have men a goin’ through and selecting the trees and one man a tallying. They’d make a mark on a tree when they’d count it, and the fellow with the tally sheet, he kept the numbers. He said they’d count timber a while and said then they had more money than they had brains. To spend that much money for that much land—470,000 dollars—and he said they put up a band mill and cut the timber and sold the timber and built their camps and sold enough lumber to pay for all of it. They got their coal and their land free. Just cut the timber and sold it and got their money back. People thought they were foolish for paying that kind of prices. Buying some of them farms out with all that timber for thousand dollars—that sounded like an awful lot of money. They didn’t have any money. They weren’t used to money. You worked for fifty cents a day. $1000 seemed like a whole lot.
A.H. Land, Al Litz, attorney, B.L. Holland, Bengal Coal Company, Billy Aldredge, Boone County, Cleveland and Western Coal and Coke Company, coal, coal operators, Cora Mining Company, E.H. Butts, Ethel, Ethel Coal Company, Flynn-Haislip Coal Company, Fred Haislip, George Aldredge, H.T. Proctor, history, Hotel Frederick, Huntington, Island Creek Colliery Company, J.J. Ross, Jack Dalton, Logan County, Logan Democrat, Loma Mining Company, Norfolk and Western Railroad, Riley Lilly, Tom Wilson, Washington D.C., West Virginia
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this bit of information relating to coal companies in Logan County, printed on May 17, 1917:
BIG DEALS FOR COAL IN LOGAN ARE BEING MADE
Public Service Corporation Buying Huge Prices for Local Properties
Public service corporations which must have coal whether school keeps or not are becoming big investors in Logan county coal and many big deals are about to be made. Most of the business is being done at the Frederick hotel, Huntington, which at this time is swarming with Logan county operators and representatives of big interests.
So far, the following companies are as good as sold.
Loma Mining Company.
Cora Mining Company.
Island Creek Colliery Company.
The following companies have been optioned and are regarded as good as sold:
Ethel Coal Company.
Flynn-Haislip Coal Company.
Bengal Coal Company.
The Loma Mining Company and the Cora Mining Co., are reported to have been sold to Cleveland and Western Coal and Coke Company for $250,000 apiece. The Loma Mining company was capitalized at $100,000 while the Cora Mining company was capitalized at $50,000 so the investors in both corporations will clear up a handsome profit on their investment.
In the case of the Loma Mining company $100,000 already has been deposited in a Huntington bank to insure the deal so there is no chance of it falling through. The final papers in the Cora Mining company may not be signed for a few days yet but it is regarded as good as sold as it is a valuable property for any public service to own. Both companies have well developed seams of coal and are capable of great productivity. Island Creek Colliery sold for $475,000.
The Ethel Coal Mining company at Ethel, W.Va., is working on three operations. It is reported to have been optioned at $1,250,000 and the company notified by those holding the option that they intend to exercise their rights in the near future. It was not possible to get the amount of the proposed sale of the Flynn-Haislip company.
A.H. Land, the well known coal operator of Logan county, at present is in Washington, D.C. It is said that he is there on a big deal but it is not possible to give details.
Among the operators from this county who have been in the throng at the hotel Frederick during the last few days are Jack Dalton, H.T. Proctor, Fred Haislip, Al Litz, E.H. Butts, attorney for several Logan county operators, Riley Lilly, attorney for several Logan county interests, B.L. Holland, George Aldredge, Billy Aldredge, Tom Wilson, J.J. Ross and others.
Make Vast Sums
Logan county operators are now in a position, according to reports, to clean up vast sums of money on their investments. The public service corporations who have been depending on the open market have found that it is absolutely necessary for them to go into the coal mining business on their own hook in order to insure their supply and they are doing so.
At the hotel Frederick, many big deals have been pulled off for mines in Boone, the N. & W. territory as well as for Logan. A number of deals affecting Logan county interests are anticipated in near future.
The buyers of Logan mines intend to operate them on a bigger scale than ever before. They have the money to do so and intend to employ for it that purpose so that the general prosperity of the county is on a more solid foundation than ever before.
Albert Queen, Appalachia, Arnold Workman, Big Creek, Charlie Tomblin, coal, Elmer Frazier, Emery Bryant, Eva Workman, farming, Francis Fork, Frank Mann, Garland Spry, genealogy, history, hunting, Jinks Mann, Kiahs Creek, Lincoln County, Logan Banner, Minnie Workman, Monroe Workman, Nancy Shepherd, Ocie Spry, Ora Mann, Queens Ridge, Silas Spry, Victoria Maynard, Virgie Mann, W.H. Tomblin, Wayne, Wayne County, Wayne Maynard, West Virginia, Wiley Queen, Woodrow Workman
A correspondent named “Mike and Ike” from Queen’s Ridge at Lincoln-Wayne counties, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on March 2, 1923:
Minnie and Eva Workman took dinner with Ora Mann Monday.
Garland Spry was rabbit hunting Sunday.
Minnie and Eva Workman made a flying trip to Francis Creek Sunday and back home Monday. They reported a good time.
Ora Mann and Eva Workman are going to the commencement exercise of Mrs. Victoria Maynard’s school next Wednesday.
W.H. Tomlin is grieving about his son Charlie, who is about to get married. He says if Charlie marries he is broke up.
Nancy Shepherd, who was reported sick a few weeks ago, is some better.
Virgie Mann was visiting friends on Francis Creek Sunday.
Minnie Workman is going to school every day. She says her school will soon close and she will go to Wayne to go to school.
A few weeks ago the farmers were thinking of planting corn. Now they are better satisfied sitting by the fire.
I wonder when Wayne Maynard is coming back home.
Arnold Workman has built a new chicken house. He says he can’t feed his poultry and chickens together.
Woodrow Workman got his fine coon dog caught in a trap. He says he will soon recover.
Frank Mann made a business trip to Big Creek Monday.
Wiley and Albert Queen were on our streets hauling coal last week.
Wonder where Silas Spry was Sunday? Guess he ran into a stump and bumped his nose and stumped his toes.
Elmer Frazier and his hat are getting along fine.
Emery Bryant was calling on Sallie Mann Sunday.
Jinks Mann is still going to see Ocie Spry every Sunday.
Little Monroe Workman is drawing a pension. He had his dog’s life insured and killed the dog to get the insurance.
NOTE: Geographically, Queens Ridge is located entirely in Wayne County but the post office area included a section of Lincoln (and Logan) County for a certain number of years.
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