New River Gorge History: The Lost Town of KaymoorMay 3, 2012
There were well over 60 mining camps and communities located within the New River Gorge at one time. Many of them were no more than a few miles from the New River Gorge Bridge. The Industrial Revolution fueled a need for natural resources. The Gorge area, with its vast coal reserves, was able to prosper from this.
One of the towns that developed from this boom was the mining camp of Kaymoor. A little over a mile from where the New River Gorge Bridge is now, Kaymoor was home to one of the last operating mines in the Gorge. What is left today are a few of the old buildings, coke ovens and a couple mine openings that have been gated off for safety.
Let’s take a look at a little of the history of the Kaymoor mines and camp.
The Kaymoor mine was opened by the Low Moor Iron Company around 1899 to supply coal for its iron furnaces in Low Moor, Virginia. This mine was a bit different than most because they built two complete coal camps for it, one at the top of the Gorge and one at the bottom. There were no churches, banks, saloons, or town halls associated with either one of these areas. Only company stores, a pool hall, and a pair of segregated schools were part of the camps.
Kaymoor partly gets its name from James Kay, the man in charge of building the town. In all, close to 130 houses were built to house the miners. In order to get these workers from the town to the mine, a single track incline was built to transport workers and equipment over a 1,000 foot slope. A similar double track incline was built to move the coal down to the processing plant and coke ovens. Both inclines were in operation until the mine closed in 1962.
The Decline of Kaymoor
Low Moor owned the mine until 1924, when, after the processing plant burned, they decided to sell. It was purchased by the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Company. They modernized the mine over the next couple of decades, including building a brand new processing plant.
The Kaymoor bottom camp was abandoned around 1952, with any remaining residents moving to the top. This made life more convenient for them because the bank the townsfolk used was in Fayetteville. Most of the structures that remained were destroyed by fire in 1960.
Kaymoor is unique too in that the average existence of a coal town was around 25 years, but Kaymoor was inhabited and worked for 62 years.
Some of the remains of the Kaymoor Mines are still standing today. A short hike down the side of the Gorge will take you to the area with the old mine openings. Here you can also see the remains of some of the structures that were part of the mining operation.
The National Park Service has worked on preserving much of this area, and it is a neat look back at the past. You can also access the 800+ steps here that follow the same path as the old double incline , taking you to the bottom. There you can see a few more of the remains including the coke ovens.
It’s a strenuous hike into Kaymoor, but if you’re into history, it’s well worth it. Just be careful and keep your eyes open. There’s no telling what remnants of the past you might see.
Do you have any memories of Kaymoor?Tags: coal towns, family memories, hiking, history, kaymoor, new river gorge, New River Gorge Area, outdoor activities, West Virginia