Welcome to Elkridge Fayette County, WV
Our shining City (population 400) was a small coal camp located between two hills; at the widest point it was at most 200 yards, it had a dirt road, a rail road and a creek. We were “born free”. Our freedom gave us some Rights and Responsibilities. It was our Right to establish our personal journey and pursue our individual happiness; it was our Responsibility to continue the American traditions created and handed down to us by our ancestors. The quality of our life came from our friendship with each other. We did not know we were poor; we lived a simple but happy life. Our parents, the adult community, school, scouting and church taught us core values that helped us develop our character and find our purpose in life. Our core values helped fashion our life values into our attitude and gave us freedom to create our own dream.
Most kids finished High School then began their personal pursuit of happiness. We had been taught to be truthful. We were constantly reminded that Mark Twain said “if you tell the truth you do not have to remember what you said. Most of the time we did remember; but if we found our self in a dilemma we might tell “a little white lie” such as the following “fish tale”.
A tall fish tale
A miner from Elkridge was fishing at his favorite place on Armstrong Creek. He had several fish in his fish bucket. Suddenly from out of no where the game warden appears and asks if has a fishing license. "Naw, sir, I ain't got none of them there licenses. These here are my pet fish. "Pet fish" The Game Warden asks. "Yas Sir, every night I take these here fish down to da creek and let them swim round for a while. Then I whistle and they jump rat back into this here fish bucket and I take them home". "That's a bunch of hooey! Fish can't do that!" says the game warden. The miner looked at the game warden for a moment and then said, "It's the truth Mr. Government man, and I’ll show you. It really works." ”Okay," said the Game Warden, “I’ve GOT to see this." The miner poured the fish into the creek. After several minutes, the Game Warden turned to him and said, "Well". "Well what" ask the miner. The warden said, "When are you going to call them back." The miner asked, "Call what back"? "The FISH!" replied the warden. "What fish" the miner asks?
We Elkridge miners may not be as smart as some city slickers, but we were not as dumb as some thought.
This is how we remembered growing in our small coal camp.
Midge, June, Piggy and a lot of other kids who grew up in this small coal camp invite you to share, with us, this important paragraph in the history of the Spirit of America.
Working together as a community, the people of Elkridge were a shining example of the Spirit of America. They were an important part of the awesome strength that made the United States of America the foremost nation on Earth. The pictures are of Elkridge, from the West Virginia & Regional History Collection, the Library of Congress-American Memory Collection, the West Virginia archives, and in some instances Google. Our memories are how we kids remembered life growing up in Elkridge, some 60-70 years ago, during the 1930's and 1940's. Our memories portray how we developed our courage and faith and how American coal miners and their families shared hardship and helped build America. During the great depression of the 1930’s the families of Elkridge supported each other with their meager assets. After the big flood of 1932 they shared with each other even though there were no material things to share. Some 20% of the adult males served in our Military Forces during World War Two.
Simply stated Elkridge was
“AMERICA AT HER BEST”
Outdoor advertising signs urged us to support our war by buying War Bonds.
During the Depression and World War II the Burma Shave signs cheered us up; we also played a car game--who can find the Burma Shave signs first. Burma Shave signs were advertisements evenly spaced along the road side. A lot of our wisdom and safe driving reminders came from the rhymes of the Burma-Shave road signs.
Our drug concern
Kids today have a drug problem.
Most kids growing up in Elkridge had a different kind of a drug problem. We were drug to the homes of the elderly to help clean their yard, or chop some firewood. If our parents even thought we would take even a nickel as a tip for this kindness they would have drug us to the outhouse. The outhouse had a secondary use; it was used as a place for punishment, it was out of sight and to some extent out of hearing of other family members who might be distressed from what they heard. We were drug to the outhouse when we disobeyed our parents, told a lie, or did not speak with respect about any grown up, especially our teacher or the preacher. When we disobeyed we were drug to the outhouse to be punished for some deeds we should or should not have done.
The Coal mine was our economic engine
The coal mine opened in the early 1900's. People moved to Elkridge for economic reasons. The people were from very different backgrounds; they came from small subsistence farms, White/Indian families living in the mountains, African American families, (probably descendants of former slaves) and European Immigrants. This group of total strangers joined together, learned how to share the best of their heritage and worked together to build a community. Elkridge became their shining city on the hill. As best they knew how; they worked to build a better life for themselves and develop core values for their children. These values helped them and their children survive and pursue their own happiness. In 1953 the coal mine closed; some 400 residents moved to other areas of the United States to begin a new search for their “shinning city on the hill”. Miners pictured above are: back row left to right Hayes Branham 37 years, Leslie Redman 36 years, Roy Foster 36 years. Front row Shirley Mayes 38 years, Bob Hoffman 29 years, W W Gill 40 years, and John Farley 38 years with the Elkridge mine.
Koppers Company Store Center of Activity
The Post Office was the only place mail was delivered in the coal camps. It was located is a separate section of the company store; this was a place in the community where neighbors came together. The walls in the Post Office served as a community bulletin board and the Post Office lobby was a place where housewives gathered to discuss meals, children, and neighborhood gossip.
Just past the company store was the Community Church, the church was practically on the railroad track. Aunt Florence Mitchell would walk the floor and testify and make every body feel better. We learned there is a God and we live in the world God created.
There were some 75 coal company houses in Elkridge. Houses were built in open fields along the creek and near the railroad. The houses were cheaply constructed using wide boards in a vertical position with about four inch boards nailed over the cracks. A single electric light hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room, no insulation and no inside plumbing. Often the only insulation was papering the walls with newspaper. Heat usually consisted of a fire place and a kitchen stove. The coal burning stove in the kitchen kept the kitchen the warmest place in the house. At night you "banked" the fires then went to bed under a pile of quilts. In the summer time you simply opened all the windows which had screen tacked over them to keep out the bugs.
In the 1930’s a Teacher, Miss Hoover, got sick and they called an ambulance. When the ambulance was leaving, two brothers were in a real big fight in the school yard. Miss Hoover stopped the ambulance and made the boys stop fighting. She took them into the school house and paddled both boys, then she got in the ambulance and they took her to the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital, they removed her appendix.