Coal Camps & Company Towns
The DNA of Southwest Virginia's heritage shows perhaps most clearly in the homes, stores and buildings of its communities. Rows of small houses clustered on a hill or along a stream tell the tale of coal camps or mill towns or factory dwellings. Great Victorian houses speak of mill or mine owners, or lumber or factory executives.
All across Southwest Virginia, the stories of men and women who worked in mines or furniture factories or textile mills, can be read in the buildings you see today.
In the coalfields, mining towns and camps sprang up wherever the coal seam led. Miners came from farms nearby, from the deep South, and from Eastern Europe to earn the money that mining brought.
Communities were self-contained. People shared their lives in schools, athletic teams, churches, and shopping in the company store. Music was a bond, and sometimes the only common language.
Story collector Kathy Shearer remembers how Thelma Lee Crowder of Dante put it:
“It was a very friendly, close-knit people, and if you was in trouble, they was in trouble with you. I mean they shared their sorrows with you. And if gladness come along or something wonderful come up, they was there too. They just pulled together."
Learn about the folks who lived in coal camps and company towns. See photos and quilts. Listen to stories and oral histories. Visit churches and cemeteries and museums. In towns across our region, the buildings and communities which remain bear witness to our rich history.