Coal. Black gold. And the owners of the property this coal came from never got a cent for it.
During the period of 1917 to 1954, there were 13 coal mines in and around Blackey. Hundreds of men had jobs, backbreaking jobs, loading coal for little pay. They supported their families, raising gardens to feed them, and selling some produce to supplement their income.
I can remember my dad working in the mines at Marlowe and Carbon Glow. It was my job to build a fire in the kitchen cook stove and to take care of the tomatoes in the garden. After school I gathered enough kindling to start the next morning’s fire. I was 12 when we moved to Blackey, and we took that stove with us.
Dad also worked in the coal mines at Hot Spot and at Marion Coal Company at Letcher. An experienced miner could get a job just about anywhere, and many of the miners went to where they could get the most money for their work. He would never take the foreman’s job because he said, “Foremen don’t have any friends.”
My dad lived in Blackey in the early 1900s. He said that he would estimate that Blackey had a population of around 10,000 people. There were three rows of houses up and around the mountain.
Everyone in the area went to Blackey to shop on Saturdays. Boss Slone once told me that he made up to $10 a day shining shoes at 10 cents a shine.
Most of the mines around Blackey went down just after the Korean War ended. The residents scattered to Ohio, Indiana and Michigan to find jobs. I didn’t want to work in the mines, so after high school I joined the Air Force in 1955 and retired in 1976.
Some of the mines were: Blackey Coal Co., 1917- 1925, 80 men; Consolidated Coal Co., 1921-1930, 100 men; Elk Creek Coal Co., 1921-1924, 100 men; John P. Gorman Coal Co., 1923- 1932, 150 men; Marion Coal Co., 1919-1928, 125 men; Rockhouse Coal Co., 1919- 1929, 135 men; Dixie Diamond Colliery 1935-1939, 150 men; Jeane Francis Coal Co., 1942- 1954, 75 men; Kentucky Eagle Coal Co., 1934-1937, 140 men; Carbon Glow Mining, 1928- 1933, 275 men; Carbon Glow Coal Co., 1940-1957, 135 men; Red Star Coal Co., 1937-1940, 40 men; Ulvah Coal Co., 1917-1928, 150 men.
After these mines closed, there were others who came and went. We moved to Blackey in August, 1949.
I can remember a coal tipple at Letcher, and another on the road to Woodrock. A coal tipple was inside the Blackey City limits, and a large tipple was on the hill close to Curt Dean Cornett’s house. Coal trucks were running in and out of Blackey all day.
After that mine in Blackey closed, my dad took Pete Kimbley far back into it to see if any coal was left. Pete said he liked to scared him to death, crawling over rock falls, wading through deep water, etc.
There was a smaller seam of coal in Blackey and people who lived on that land used it for a coal supply for their homes. It was called a ‘coal bank.’ These are illegal these days. Chester Dagnan and my grandfather, Jesse Cornett, dug into their coal banks almost daily.
When we had a well drilled, the drill went through four seams of coal below Blackey, over four feet of coal in each one. Someday they will figure out how to get that coal.