Who Sold Their Souls to the Company Store?

"Sold my soul to the company store." Coal mining Company Store museum

You may have heard the song, but do you know the history?

Company stores were common in the early coal mining days, when mining towns sprung up along the railways, and families flocked in after the jobs.

Those jobs were rough, and the miners would work strenuously underground. But when payday came around, they didn't receive money. They were paid in coal scrip, a company-use-only currency.

So, the miners were essentially bound to company stores, the only place they could spend their "pay." The company stores were the sole source of goods for the entire town, from candy to caskets.

It's a long-gone practice, but this bygone era of coal life is well preserved at the Whipple Company Store and Appalachian Heritage Education Museum.

This 1890 mining town store, the oldest still-standing, has a unique architectural design, also the oldest of its kind.

In the museum, you can explore early mine life's stories, and its mysteries— secret second floor? Hidden safe? According to some, ghosts?

Whether or not the spirits of some of the miners indebted to the store still linger, the rich history definitely does.

What's your favorite mining history stop in the New River Gorge?