West Virginia's Coal Mining Past – The Whipple Company StoreJuly 16, 2012
There is a rich history of coal mining in this area. Just in the New River Gorge alone, there were once over 60 coal camps or mining towns. Throughout West Virginia, there were hundreds of these camps, and almost every town had its own company store.
Virtually all of these company stores have fallen victim to father time. Just finding one that is still standing is feat in itself. That’s one reason why the Whipple Company Store and Museumis such a wonderful historical treasure.
Designed and built in 1890 by Coal Baron Justus Collins, this all-wooden company store is one of the last still standing with its particular architectural design.
Mine company stores were built big because they provided everything the miners and their families would need. From essential food items to the supplies the miners needed to work, all these were sold from the company store. And there was no competition as most mines paid workers in scrip, a form of money only to be spent at one certain store.
The Whipple Company Store was designed with the purpose of protecting the mine owners’ interests. It had 3 floors and a basement, although the second floor was a hidden one, to conceal things the mine owner didn’t want known. The store also contained a freight elevator, a post office, and telephone operators station. The Whipple Company Store was in operation from 1890 till 1954.
The Whipple Company Store TodayToday the Whipple Company Store and Appalachian Heritage Museum is owned by Chuck and Joy Lynn, who purchased it in 2006. It is open for tours May through November. Tours last about 45 minutes and include interactive and hands on learning, details about the building’s unique architecture and structural purpose, and a history of the life and times of the people from the surrounding coal camps.
The Whipple Company Store also plays host to some wonderful events every year, including a Mother’s Day Tea and Fashion Show, a Car Show and a Diamonds and Denim Gala. These events make great use of this wonderful historic structure and provide fund raising opportunities for upkeep and maintenance cost.
So if you “dig” WV coalfield history, or just have an affinity to learn new things, make sure you take time to check out the Whipple Company Store and Museum. Have you visited?