Kentucky Coal Heritage
Coal Camps & Communities











    Impressions of eastern Kentucky are dominated by the rugged power of its natural beauty: misty wooded hillsides, flatlands crowded into narrow stream valleys. The interaction of people and this natural landscape has produced a cultural landscape with distinct regional features. Each phase of eastern Kentucky's history has left a characteristic mark on that terrain.

     One most important period of regional history occurs with the industrial development of the area's mineral resources by coal companies. Coal production from mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century was a labor-intensive enterprise that carved deep niches into the eastern Kentucky terrain. These processes created a landscape of company towns, a landscape which today has disappeared to a large degree.

     Company towns are a vital part of Kentucky's past. The term "company town" in this study refers to communities historically inhabited primarily, if not exclusively, by employees of a single corporation which also owns the land and structures (Magnusson, 1937:119). Although several industries in Kentucky have relied upon these installations to stabilize the labor force, the term is commonly identified with the coal industry, especially with its development in the eastern part of the state. Because the company town is so important in defining eastern Kentucky's development, it is seen as a significant property type, i.e., a significant resource to be understood and preserved

     This document, "Coal Company Towns in Eastern Kentucky, l854-l94l," reports findings from historical research and field survey of resources associated with coal mining, and follows the National Park Service format for historic preservation contexts outlined in National Register Bulletin 16. How to Prepare National Register Nomination (NPS, 1986). Its subject are those areas and historic resources that were owned and developed by coal mining companies to house their workers in eastern Kentucky.

     The geographic scope of this study falls within the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field, which includes all or parts of 35 counties (Blue Book of Kentucky Coal). The counties in this study include all of Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, McCreary, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Whitley, and Wolfe Counties, and parts of Clinton, Estill, Menifee, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle Rowan, and Wayne Counties.

     The study area nearly coincides with the Eastern Kentucky Cultural Landscape. Cultural Landscape Regions are areas of Kentucky identified by the Kentucky Heritage. Council to help recognize cultural resources and to plan for their preservation The Kentucky Cultural Landscape, as with the state's other four cultural landscapes, is distinguished by consistency among its physical resources, cultural activities, and geography. All counties in the Eastern Coal Field, the study area, make up the Eastern Kentucky Cultural Landscape with two exceptions. First, Lewis is the only county which is part of the Eastern Kentucky Cultural Landscape which is riot part of the Eastern Coal Field. Second, Clinton, Pulaski, and Wayne Counties are part of the Eastern Coal Field but reside in the eastern reaches of the Pennyrile Cultural Landscape.

    This project has been entirely supported by the Kentucky Heritage Council, which is funded in part by the Historic Preservation Fund grant from the National Park Service and by state appropriation. The project has been undertaken to provide information about a resource type and a part of the state which have been given less preservation attention than other regions have. The project meets l990-199l KHC priorities for grant assisted projects: Priority #1 for Historic Building planning and Priority #2 for Historic Building survey.

    The immediate purpose of the document is three-fold. First, it explains the subject through a survey of historical literature about coal company-owned towns; second it outlines methods by which to gather site specific information about these areas through field recording of historic properties; third, it establishes a framework to evaluate the eligibility of these areas for listing in the National Register of Historic Places based on findings of that research and field recording

    This document also has several long-range goals. This is a reconnaissance level report which should be updated as additional research and field recording relating to the property type, coal company towns, is completed. Another long-range goal is to provide recommendations for preservation treatments of properties evaluated as eligible for listing in the National Register as defined herein.






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