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Coalwood, West Virginia
—  unincorporated area  —
Coalwood, West Virginia is located in West Virginia
Location of Coalwood, West Virginia
Coordinates: 37°23′14″N 81°39′09″W / 37.38722°N 81.6525°W / 37.38722; -81.6525
Country United States
State West Virginia
County McDowell
Founded[1] 1905
Elevation [2] 1,450 ft (442 m)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 24801
Area code(s) 304
GNIS feature ID 1554166

Coalwood is an unincorporated coal mining town in McDowell County, West Virginia, USA. As of the 1990 Census, the population was 900. The coal mine in Coalwood reached its peak in the 1960s and finally shut down production on October 1, 1982. The town is the setting of the best-selling memoir Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam and the movie October Sky based on the book.[3]



Coalwood was founded by George Lafayette Carter in 1905.[1] He came on the back of a mule and eventually found rich seams of coal, and bought 20,000 acres (80 km²). He constructed a mine, calling it the Carter Coal Company and built offices, houses, a schoolhouse, a company store, a church and many more. Carter hired a dentist and doctor to provide service to his miners.

In 1922 Carter sold the mine and properties within the town to the Consolidation Coal Company. The company rebuilt the community and recruited new employees to work in the mines, but Carter regained the company when Consolidation Coal defaulted on its payments in 1933.[4] Carter died in 1936, and the company was then taken over by his son James, who in 1947 sold it to a group of industrialists who changed the company name to the Olga Coal Company. In 1956 the Coalwood mine was connected underground to the nearby Caretta mine, which was also owned by Olga, and in 1959 Olga ceased bringing coal to the surface via Coalwood. This prompted the Norfolk and Western Railway to begin pulling up the tracks leading to and from Coalwood.[1] The Coalwood-Caretta mine continued to be productive through most of the 20th century, though, producing on average one million tons annually until the mine was finally closed.[4]

At its peak, Coalwood had a population of over 2,000.[4]

In 1980, the Olga Coal Company was bought by the LTV Corporation, which closed Coalwood's mine in 1986.[1] People still live in Coalwood, but have to depend on other jobs to make ends meet. The Big Store in Coalwood was torn down on March 29, 2008, by the owners of the historic Coalwood properties, Alawest. The tipple has been dismantled and the site of the old abandoned mine is now fenced in with a car wash adjacent to it and a convenience store across the highway.

October Sky Festival

Once a year, in October, Coalwood hosts an October Sky festival in honor of the accomplishments of the Rocket Boys. Many scientists and astronauts attend and Homer Hickam always makes an appearance. The 2007 festival also represented the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to go into orbit around the earth. Commemorating both events, an actor from the movie October Sky, Scott Miles, attended the festival to sign autographs.


  1. ^ a b c d "Coalwood History Timeline". Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  2. ^ "Coalwood". Geographic Names Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1980-06-27. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  3. ^ Hickam, Jr., Homer (1998). Rocket Boys. Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-33320-X.  
  4. ^ a b c McGehee, Stuart (Summer 2001). "Historic Coalwood". Goldenseal. Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  

External links

Coordinates: 37°23′14″N 81°39′09″W / 37.38722°N 81.6525°W / 37.38722; -81.6525 (Coalwood, West Virginia)



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