Friday, January 23, 2009

West Virginia Photo Album

One of the fun parts of writing a book is the research, at least for me. But maybe that's because I'm a professional researcher in real life. For Surviving Matewan, I had to immerse myself in the world of 1920 West Virginia. I started by reading a bunch of books on the subject, then searching through newspaper archives (it's a 45 minute trip to the Library of Congress from my house, joy!).

But you can't really begin to understand that world unless you go there. My finances are limited, so I only managed to go for a few days in the Fall of 2006. But I learned a lot, had some amazing experiences and took photos, lots of photos!

Here's a few from the start of the trip.

The first one is of the New River Gorge at sunset. The second and third are from the exhibition mine in Beckley. It's an old mine that's been converted into a tourist attraction. Retired miners serve as the tour guides and were kind enough to answer all the questions I had for them after the tour, and I had a lot of questions. There are also examples of a miner's household, the superintendent's house and a coal camp church. Finally, there's a gift shop that has some yummy fudge...and a little museum filled with mining equipment and fossils. At first that surprised me, but it really shouldn't, given what coal really is.


  1. Great shots. I've hiked where the New River meets VA; it is beautiful. I read somewhere the New River is the 2nd oldest river in the world. Amazing.

  2. Beautiful. I miss trees like that.
    And lucky you. I've written about Tahlequah Ok. Lodi Wisconsin, Cincinnati Oh, Austin Tx, and now Burwell Nebraska.
    I call the schools, police dept, Real estate agents, all kinds of people in the town and tell them I'm writing a book that takes place in their town. It's amazing how helpful they all are. ;)
    I'd love to visit some of these places.

  3. Sorry, I totally neglected the blog last week! I'm actually going back to the New River Gorge area this fall, I'm so excited. This time, it's a family trip, so no research, hopefully just tons of hiking, which I didn't get to do before.

    Sarah, I had a very similar experience with the locals when I went to West Virginia. Everybody was extremely friendly and helpful. I even had some minor brake trouble (but is there really such a thing as "minor brake trouble" when you're driving up and down mountains?) in the middle of a pouring rainstorm and the Mom and Pop auto shop I stopped at fixed my car for free.