Miscellaneous Coal Mine Facts and Information

Coal Mine Train

Odds and ends about life in the Appalachian coal mines.

  • In 1897, miners in Appalachian regions earned around .30 per ton.
  • Appalachian coal fields are reported to have given work to people from 30 foreign countries.
  • Wise County, Virginia, boasted around 4400 coke ovens in use as far back as 1908. The process sent thick black smoke and sulfurous fumes into the area.
  • Coal companies often hired new doctors straight from medical school to run the company hospital. It was a steady job with a steady salary for doctors and the only source of medical treatment for miners and their families. Funds for this practice were deducted from miners’ pay.
  • Companies who had a high interest in coke ovens often hired African-American workers to operate the ovens. They believed that, due to the darker pigmentation of their skin, they could work in higher temperatures more efficiently and tolerably than their white counterparts.
  • Child labor was common in coal fields. The most common positions for children involved sorting coal or working as “trapper boys” who opened ventilation doors so mining carts could go through. This practice ended when Congress enacted labor laws requiring children be 16 to work.
  • Thanks to the coal mining industry, Appalachian areas actually had street cars, electricity, and many advancements considered “luxuries,” at the turn of the 20th Century.
  • The coal mining industry also meant the rail system for these regions was top of the line.
  • Currently, there are numerous towns, that were once coal mining towns, abandoned. These ghost towns can be popular with hikers and explorers.
  • Many African-American workers refused to enter mine shafts where men had died. They believed their ghosts were still there.


  1. Bravo, Laura. Very informative. I have a passion for history.

    Have you actually visited any of the abandoned mines? What was the experience like?

    1. Author

      Hi! No, I haven’t made it to them. There are a number of people devoted to visiting them, however.

  2. Bravo, Laura. Very informative. I have a passion for history, especially tales in remote areas such as this.

    Have you ever visited any of these mines? What was the experience like?

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