— Coal Heritage Trail — National Coal Heritage Area Interpretive Site —
Coal companies often paid miners in scrip, a form of private money, each coal company issuing their own scrip. So that it would not be confused with American currency, most of the coins had some sort of hole in the middle. Company allowed miners to "cut" or "draw" scrip against completed work. Often, come payday, a miner would be "scrip bound," meaning he owned his entire paycheck to the company and had to start again in debt. Local businesses independent of the coal company did take scrip, but usually at less than face value.
In many coal camps, there were cash prizes for the best flower gardens, but vegetable gardens were illegal. Why? Vegetable gardens fed families during strikes, something mining companies wanted to avoid at all costs. Many miners wives planted
beautiful flower gardens by the
house but also secretly planted
vegetables in the nearby woods.
Church was an important part
of the social fabric of a coal
camp. There was a Presbyterian,
Baptist, Methodist and Catholic
Church, each one identified on
its own hill—Methodist Church
Hill, Prestbyterian Church Hill
and so on. Coal miners worked
Monday through Saturday and
were expected to be in church on
The baseball diamond for the
towns in the valley was in
Whipple, but the Rialto Opera
House and Movie Theatre, which
served the valley, was in Scarbro.
In fact, the town of Scarbro
other camps. Until 1930
it was an incorporated town with
a jail, city hall, town marshal,
brick yard, Chinese laundry and
was very popular. Every coal camp had its
own baseball team and competition was fierce. Miners who could
play baseball were recruited and given work assignments above
ground. There was a ballgame every Sunday in season and large
crowds would gather to cheer for the home team. Some players
even made it to the major leagues. Behind the Whipple Company
Store was Ballpark Hill, the one ballpark for all five coal camps.
Major league teams often played exhibition games in Southern
West Virginia after their season was complete. In fact, the
Cincinnati Reds played Scarbro on October 10, 1908.
"Not a day went by that you weren't in the company store."
—Jane Nicholls Burke, daughter of Superintendent of Oakwood and Whipple.
The company store
was the hub of the coal camp. Not only
was it a commercial center, selling everything from
automobiles to zippers, it was the focus of social life and
contained the post office, bank, doctor's office
The Whipple Company Store
even had a ballroom upstairs for
the elite of the community.