Kaymoor: Revisiting a WV Ghost Town
Delving hundreds of feet into the base of the Gorge, you can find the remains of one of West Virginia's most intact coal mining towns, long abandoned and overtaken by wilderness. The ruins of Kaymoor tell the story of what once was one of the most productive mines in the Gorge area. Kaymoor actually had 2 mines, and employed more than 800 workers at its peak. James Kay built the site for the Virginia-based Low Moor Iron Company, which led to the combination name Kaymoor.
Because there wasn't enough room for all of the mining families at the foot of the Gorge, the town was actually built in two segments, with Kaymoor Top perched along the rim of the Gorge and Kaymoor Bottom tucked down by the edge the New River.
Travel throughout coal towns was traditionally not easy, but for Kaymoor Bottom residents, there was an extra barrier: a ride up the machinery haul to the top of the Gorge, or a walk up a long, steep flight of stairs.
The main mine opened in 1900 and continued operation until 1962, even after the Kaymoor Bottom community was abandoned ten years earlier.
Traveling to the lower ruins, some of the more than 200 coke ovens are still scattered about. To make coal cheaper to send, its weighty impurities were baked out before shipping, turning the coal into the more usable coke.
The coal was transported to those ovens initially by mule-pulled carts, but the animals were later replaced by locomotives. The miners each filled up the cars by pulling out coal from within their own small room in the mine.
LIFE IN KAYMOOR
Part of one Kaymoor Bottom dwelling still remains after a fire destroyed many of the structures in 1960. Although mining towns traditionally had a bad reputation, the living conditions of Kaymoor seem to have been relatively acceptable by the standards of the time. There were four company stores that provided well for the needs of the families in the town.
Interviews from Kaymoor's former residents revealed there was a sense of camaraderie between the townsfolk, even among different races. But studies of the lifestyle in Kaymoor revealed a different picture— one of deep segregation, including separate schools. But that didn't seem to enter the psyche of the people.
The company operated a theater in town, which showed picture shows and brought in performing groups. There was also a ball field, pool hall and tennis court.
Maybe if you're lucky, you'll find additional remnants of mine town life in the rubble. Marbles were popular not only among the kids, but also the adults, who had very little recreation time and took up the game as a hobby.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Today, the town can be accessed by Kaymoor Trail, which follows old rail lines along the edge of the Gorge; the Cunard-Kaymoor Trail, a bike-accessible trail which passes by the town's old coke ovens; and Kaymoor Miners Trail, a challenging path which descends the 821 stairs into the Kaymoor ruins.
Have you been to Kaymoor?