“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Nellis in Boone County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Nellis / ARMCO Coal

The Nellis face of this marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
1. The Nellis face of this marker
Inscription.  Founded in 1917 by T. E. B. Siler and M. Slush; named for newspaper editor Frank Nellis. Purchased by ARMCO in 1920. Noted as model coal mining town. Homes were built by Minter of Huntington. ARMCO Assoc. Building, in center of town, housed store, theater, doctor’s office, barber shop, etc. The company also built church and school and supplied utility services. Placed on National Register, March 2000.

American Rolling Mills Co. acquired Nellis Coal; shipped first coal on branch of C&O, December 31, 1920. Mined 500 acres of proved coal by room and pillar method in 48 inch seam. Supplied mining infrastructure: steel tipple, brick power house, water system, homes, community center and store by 1925; shipped 30,000 tons of coal by 1927. Worst mine accident, 1943, 11 killed. Mine closed in 1955.
Erected 2001 by Crandall, Pyles, Haviland & Turner Foundation, Boone County Commission, and West Virginia Division of Archives and History.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: DisastersIndustry & CommerceNatural Resources. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia Archives and History series list.
Location. 38° 9.005′ N, 81° 44.648′ W. Marker is in Nellis, West Virginia, in Boone County. Marker is on Memorial Drive north of Ridgeview-Nellis Road (County Route 1), on the right when traveling west. It is in front of
The ARMCO Coal face of marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
2. The ARMCO Coal face of marker
the church. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 160 Memorial Dr, Nellis WV 25142, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Nellis No. 3 Mine Explosion (within shouting distance of this marker); Indian Camp (approx. 3.3 miles away); John Edward Kenna (approx. 3.3 miles away); Coal Discovered (approx. 3.6 miles away); Peytona (approx. 3.7 miles away); Robert Hager (approx. 6.8 miles away); Madison (approx. 7.1 miles away); Boone County Courthouse (approx. 7.1 miles away).
Also see . . .  2000 National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for “Town of Nellis”. Prepared by Erin Pogany and Katherine Jourdan, WV SHPO with Charlotte Halstead, Nellis Archives. Statement of Significance:
The Nellis Historic District is eligible under Criteria A and Industry, for its association with the coal industry; and under Community Planning and Development. The period of significance begins in 1920 when the town was developed and extends until 1955 when the mine closed. Criteria Consideration G is being used since the period of significance is less than 50 years of age.

Industrial Development
The Nellis Coal Company began operations in 1917 under T. E. B. Siler and Matthew Slush who named the town after Frank Nellis, the editor of the Mount Clemens Independent Newspaper. The company constructed a wooden tipple, a two-story boarding house, six four-room dwellings, and three dwellings with three rooms. A branch of the C&O Railroad was laid to Nellis and Brush Creek to transport the coal.

On 16 June 1920 the land was purchased by the American Rolling Mills Company (ARMCO) from Siler and the Coal River Mining Company. ARMCO had depleted their
Nellis / ARMCO Coal Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
3. Nellis / ARMCO Coal Marker
Just behind the marker is Memorial Drive. In the distance following the utility lines is Ridgeview-Nellis Road.
reserves in Ohio and Pennsylvania and needed a new source of coal. Operations started 1 July 1920 and the first shipment of coal left the Nellis mine on the last day of 1920. ARMCO transferred employees from their mine at Marting, Ohio and Pennsylvania to Nellis.

The publication ARMCO in Coal had the following to say about the establishment of Nellis: '“The policy of owning its own coal mines and coke ovens was authorized by the Columbus Iron & Steel Company in 1902. Since that time this policy has been persistently followed until in 1921. ARMCO had a total or part interest in four properties and a large by-product coke oven plant. The first step in this field by the Columbus Iron & Steel Company was the purchase of a fifty year lease to run from the first of January 1903 on the Marting Mine which is a 2,000 acre tract of No. 2 gas coal on Smithers Creek in Fayette County, WV.” This history goes on to give a detailed description of the Marting Mine and then. notes that in 1920 the upper seam of coal was worked out and they established a committee to develop a 50-year production plan for the company and instructed them to search for other coal reserves that could meet their needs.

The following entry in the ARMCO history then continues: “After much investigation the Nellis leasehold of 500 acres of proved coal land, and about 9,500 acres of undeveloped coal land (Fork Creek Tract) which their own drillings showed to be of great value, was purchased in the summer of 1920 from Messers T. E. B. Siler and Matthew Slush. When the property (all of the northern part of Boone County, WV) was taken over, there was at Nellis mine nine new dwellings and one boarding house.”

The Minter Homes Corporation
Nellis Community Church image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
4. Nellis Community Church
of Huntington was hired to construct many of the company owned homes and buildings. Nellis gradually became a model coal mine town. There was a need to bring men into the Nellis area to work since Boone County was sparsely populated. At that time mining operations imported its workers, many straight “off the boat” from other countries. ARMCO brought some of the miners to Nellis who had lost their jobs in other company run operations that had been closed. Modern housing and other conveniences served as an inducement for the miners to move to Nellis with their families. The town plan was designed for maximum efficiency for the benefit of the company.

In 1924, the company expanded when a steel tipple was completed. Additional tracks were built for coal car sidings, new machines and equipment were purchased. The tipple was located near the mouth of the mine. Also located here were the supply store, other operating buildings, the bath house and locker room. A small brick laboratory was built that sampled and analyzed the rich coal. This is one of the few remaining buildings reflecting the town's industrial heritage. Figures for the late 1920s show a gradual build- up in production: March 1926 - 28,637 tons; March 1927 - 31,913 tons; and May 1928- 35,946 tons. A cleaning plant was built in 1930 at Stone Hollow that increased production. Noted in reports is that the Nellis mine production continued to increase every year and ARMCO officials from other mines came to study the operations.

Between 1922-1929, ARMCO built a brick power house, machine shop and railroad shop on Stone Branch near the No. 2 mine at a cost of approximately $40,000. The rail line was extended from the main line of the Brush Creek Branch, which was owned
Nellis Community Church image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
5. Nellis Community Church
by the C&O Company. The steel tipple was built in 1924. Improvements to the lighting and water systems were made and board walks were built in Bricktown.

On February 22, 1922, eighty-seven employees signed an agreement to work under the terms of the ARMCO Association, which became the bargaining agent for the purpose of promoting the general welfare of the workers. The company supported this effort one hundred percent with charter members being: J.C. Miller, manager of the Ashland Division; H.C. Jepson, General Superintendent of Mines; and S. R. Rectanus. All these men worked to get the organization started. One must remember that this was six months after the Battle of Blair Mountain. When the miners marched across Lens Creek on their way to Logan County, they were less than five miles from the Nellis operations. This was a concern to the company officials. According to the ARMCO Bulletin of April 1924, in 1922 they made “every possible concession to provide for better living and working conditions.” Matthew Spencer became the first president of the organization.

The ARMCO Association began its active existence by asking for the reopening of the mines since the organization of the association took place when the mine was shut down. The reopening was to have a wage scale that would make the coal competitive. The mine reopened and the employees also won the right to improved living conditions. The employees were promised a club room to hold their meetings as well as a social center. The ARMCO Association building was built a year later to fulfill this promise.

The Association’s constitution and by-laws provided for weekly benefits in the amount of $6 per week for a period of 39 weeks for incapacitation
The Former ARMCO Assoc. Building image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 13, 2019
6. The Former ARMCO Assoc. Building
Now a convenience store, this facade; and the post office, far right.
either by injury or sickness - subject to regulatory conditions. Operating under a separate name was the Nellis Burial Association. Dues of one dollar were collected each month for the benefits. This covered the funeral expenses of any member or a member of his immediate family. The Burial Association took charge of the funeral and made all arrangements. Medical care cost each miner two dollars a month. With this, the company hired a doctor and nurse to serve the community. Dr. Owen Poling was hired as the resident physician.

In 1924, the first attempt of the UMWA to organize the mine failed. When the miners called a strike, ARMCO management called a meeting and told employees of the many benefits derived from being a member of the ARMCO Association, such as the low cost of living and all the benefits they had living in a “Model Coal Mining Community.” They pointed out they had agreed to work cooperatively in the Association, and insisted there was no need for a union. ARMCO made it known according to the company bulletin, that unless the union was defeated they would close the mine and have the employees move; Many black workers and some of the foreign employees refused to work without a union and left the mine. The employees and management worked under the ARMCO Association until July 1933, when the Nellis miners voted to discard the ARMCO Association and accept the United Mine Workers of America as their bargaining agent.

Nothing specific has been written to explain why the miners were allowed to have the UMWA as their bargaining agent. By that time the company may not have had any choice since the union was successful. It was also a culmination of the poor economic times brought on by the Great Depression. Many Boone
Tax Parcel Map accompanying the NRHP nomination image. Click for full size.
7. Tax Parcel Map accompanying the NRHP nomination
Click on image to enlarge
County mines were unionized at this time as was a great deal of the southern coal fields.

The explosion at the No. 3 Mine on 6 November 1943 was the worst coal mining disaster in the history of Boone County. Nine miners were killed immediately and two died several hours after they were rescued. The impact of the explosion was so severe the clothing was ripped from the bodies of the victims.

According to the Department of the Mines, the November 1943 explosion at the No. 3 Mine was the result of the failure of the mine foreman to adopt a definite program. A safety program would have assured the safety of the operation and its personnel as it followed procedures when breaking through into abandoned parts of the mine suspected of containing inflammable gas and water.

Ironically, had it not been for a recent strike, the casualties could have been much higher. The miners had walked off the job over a wage dispute but it had been resolved two days earlier. The night crew was preparing to work the first shift since production resumed. Forty men, all experiencea veterans of the mines, made their way to the portal that evening. Normally there were about 260 miners working at the mine, but the full force had not returned at this point.

Nellis Coal Operations
The coal seam itself averaged 48 inches thick, all of which was mined. The roof was slate and according to state mine officials, was of “a very dangerous character.” “Slips, horse backs and kettle bottoms are encountered frequently. The mine is worked on the room and pillar system. The rooms being driven to a depth of 300 feet and the pillars are left standing for support. Two hundred foot barrier pillars are left between the main entries
Tax Parcel Map accompanying the NRHP nomination image. Click for full size.
8. Tax Parcel Map accompanying the NRHP nomination
Click on image to enlarge
and the first rooms.”

The actual mining of the coal itself was done utilizing short wall machines and shot with explosives. Three loading machines were used to load the coal directly into the mine cars and four chain conveyors emptied onto a belt line, which in tum emptied into the mine cars. No coal was loaded in the mine by hand at this time. Roof support came from posts, half-headers and crossbars. All the electrical machinery was of the open type, except for the coal loading machines.

Community Development and Social History
On July 29, 1924, a special election was held and a bond for a road in the Peytona District was passed. The bond would provide $25,000 to construct a new road into Nellis which is today’s County Route 1. Before this road was constructed, the only way to reach the town was by horse, train or foot power. The contract provided for grading approximately 6 miles of roadway. In the years to follow the county road would connect to US 119, State Route 94 and State Route 3. The road was eventually treated with a coat of gravel in 1935.

In 1926 the population of Nellis was 900. There were 80 autos and 133 houses in the town, with 40 being brick and the remainder frame. There were two passenger trains a day leaving from a platform next to the coal company store's confectionary shop, one in the morning and the second in the evening. The coal trains ran night and day. For 10 cents, one could travel the few miles from Nellis to Ridgeview, or Nellis to Brushton.

The Coal Company Store replaced the old crossroads store and residents could buy almost anything they wanted, i.e., tires, tacks, groceries, clothing, hardware, and :furniture. It was said if they “didn’t have it in the
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store, they could get it for you.” Purchases were paid for with ARMCO scrip. The post office was also located in the center of town, where it remains today. The five company offices were also located in this building on the right side, and about 20 people were employed. There was a butcher shop in connection with the store, with a modem sanitary counter, and two enormous refrigerators. The basement was also a stock room and had a refrigeration plant with the capacity to produce an average of 6600 pounds of ice every 36 hours.

Completed in 1923, the ARMCO Association Building also served as a community center where a variety of activities were held. It contained a large well-furnished meeting room, which doubled as a place for social gatherings such as dances and club meetings. The building was the site of the meetings of the ARMCO Association, which was a mutual benefit organization of the miners primarily paying sick, and death benefits. First aid training classes were conducted here by the Safety Department.

The theater comprised the middle section of the Association's building. Movies were shown every night except Sundays. The theater seated around 300 people. The doctor’s office was on the left side of this building as was the Union Hall. On either side of the theater was a confectionery shop and the barber shop. There was a pool room on the same side as the confectionery.

The downtown section of Nellis was laid out in the form of a semi-circle facing the railroad. A little park was in the center of town. The clubhouse was made of brick and was located on the second terrace facing the store. There were overnight guest rooms to accommodate up to 22 persons in dormitory style rooms. It was known for its big comfortable
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sitting room and huge fireplace. Residents were served breakfast, lunch and dinner with everyone dressing for dinner. Some called it the “Bachelor's Club.”

There were several bridge clubs in the community and they played at the clubhouse on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There was a formal dance every Saturday, usually with a band from Charleston. The club room was 20 X 60 feet, and there was also a pool room about the same size.

Also located on the second terrace were the Store Manager’s Residence, Cashier’s Residence, and the Superintendent’s House. The surrounding communities, as well as many Nellis residents, referred to this as where the “Big Wheels” lived. These houses are still standing and retain their original character.

Located on Brushton Hill (outside of the boundaries) were recreational facilities that included a 9-hole golf course, two tennis courts, a large picnic shelter, and shooting range. These facilities were primarily used by company officials, although on certain days of the year celebrations were held. This included the Labor Day and Safety Day activities when the town, and even surrounding towns, were invited to the golf course for the festivities. Nellis had two small parks in the center of town. One was located between the theater building and the store, and the other one in the triangle in front of these two buildings.

Baseball was very popular in the early coal mining days with Nellis having a team. Nearly every coal camp had its own baseball team or teams. Often the teams played inter-company games and tournaments, as well as teams from other companies/camps. The teams traveled by train to their games, which were held in the various coal camps. Some of these camps included teams from Maxine, Dartmont, St. Albans, Martin ARMCO, Ashland, Madison, Ramage, Seth, and · Dorothy. The games were often attended by several hundred people. Famous early players included Windsor Eagan, Joe Harry and his son John, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals. According to Joe Tagliente’s history: “Baseball put Nellis on the sports map. [Although] at first Nellis played rather bad[ly] since very few of the men had experience playing baseball.”

There was a Mine Foreman’s Club, which held their meetings in the clubhouse. Many dressed and dined as if they were in New York. The Masons were active at this time, as were the Boy Scouts. In March 1928 the Safety Post, the Nellis newspaper, debuted and continued for most of the period of significance. After the mine closed, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (the former Nellis Community Church) decided to keep a community based source of news and began in the mid-1960s to publish what they called the B.A.R.N. which was an acronym for Brusthton, Ashford, Nellis and Ridgeview, the communities that are located in the valley where the Nellis mine was located.

Activities for the whole community included dances that drew people from surrounding towns. There was an entertainment committee and a First Aid Association that helped facilitate recreational events. This latter group was initially organized to help educate the miners in basic first aid training so they would know how to respond to an emergency situation inside the mine and to help with accident prevention. As it expanded to include wives and children, it did become somewhat of a social organization. The first president was J. M. Marty, mine superintendent, and the instructor was Dr. Owen Poling. The association operated under the direction of the Central Safety Committee. Two teams were formed and would later represent Nellis in contests with other coal camps. Everyone was made conscious of safety at Nellis. The entire family received safety training. Women and children also had first aid teams. This observation was made in the company bulletin in December 1927: “It has been but a short time since organized safety work has begun at Nellis. The results have been pleasing. In 1926, Nellis had 56 mine accidents and a frequency rate of 89 .9. In 1927, although Nellis finished 19th in the annual safety contest, there were but 25 major accidents and a frequency rate of 34.5.”

The first aid teams became very popular and competition among Nellis teams was stiff. The Nellis teams competed at the county, state, and national level. ARMCO supported these efforts, much like companies support their mine rescue teams of today. Of course, today the families of the mine rescue team members are not involved like they were in the early days of the Nellis coal camp.

Safety meetings were well attended by residents in the town, and were reportedly '“very interesting.” Speakers from all over addressed the meetings, ARMCO pep songs were sung, men were recognized for the best kept working stations, films were shown and all phases of safety dealt with.

The first Annual Safety Day and Picnic was held on August 1927. This was a highlight of the year for the residents. Five first aid teams competed within the company itself and with other first aid teams. The mines shut down on this day, which was usually held near Labor Day. The activities grew and changed somewhat as time went on with hay rides, riding on fire engines, pie eating contests, beauty contest, and clowns. One contest had the men competing at pinning diapers on babies. Also held throughout the year were benefit suppers and holiday bazaars.

The First Aid Association was charged with accident prevention. All employees were required to take training. A small brick building was constructed near the drift mouth and labeled a First Aid Hospital. In 1927 a company nurse was hired. Ida Bell Adams was the first nurse and was affectionately known as Nurse Adams. She divided her time between the doctor’s office and the first aid hospital performing basic first aid on cuts, scrapes, etc. The doctor’s office was located in his residence which is the steel home located near the ball field. As time went on, he was given a regular office in one of the company buildings located on Main Street.

Nellis had its own water system, which consisted of two deep wells, pumps, cypress storage tanks and water hydrants. The initial cost was $17,000. After the mine closed, the citizens of Nellis formed a private corporation to manage the Nellis Water Works. Citizens agreed to pay $5 a month to have public water and sewage disposal. Elmer McClure managed the water works and was paid for his services from the monthly fee charged to the citizens. This continued until the early 1980s when the Coal River Public Service installed a new water line into the Nellis area. Telephone service was provided by the purchase of one-fourth interest in a line owned by the Brush Creek Coal Co., or the Bradley and Easley Coal Company.

Nellis’ early school was simply two dwellings constructed without partitions that were used as classrooms for the children. The local grade school was built by ARMCO in the spring of 1924. It was donated to the Boone County Board of Education when the mine closed in 1955. There were five teachers when the school began with the ARMCO Association helping to augment the salary of the teachers, which were hired by the company. The wall around the school was built with money from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. The original red brick school was built at a cost of $12,000. It had five rooms and housed grades 1-8. One of the first principals was R.W. Williams. The teachers in the beginning came from out of state. A night school, taught by coal inspector Tom Hager was organized. In the June 1924 issue of the ARMCO Bulletin, this article was printed: “A night school has been organized for the purpose of giving the employees instruction in the three R’s. Tom Hagen, coal inspector, is the professor and from reports he is able to maintain first class discipline. At the present time the class is deeply immersed in the mysteries of common fractions.”

High school students attended a high school located at Easley which was on the right side as one turns into John’s Hollow. This high school was discontinued in October 1928.

The September 1927 issue of the ARMCO Bulletin also reported that “Mr. C.M. Holmes, Merchandise Store Manager, having been elected President of the District Board of Education, has secured the services of Rev. Hugh Smith as principal of the school. Mr. Smith comes highly recommended from Virginia and will act as principal of the school and pastor of the Nellis Community Church. Another forward step is the addition of a Junior High School to our educational facilities, as, up until this year, all high school students from Nellis have had to ride 16 miles to Danville to attend School.” During this time the Nellis School became part of an Independent School District totally operated by ARMCO. The old school was replaced with the present building in March 1980.

The Nellis Community Church was for many years the sole place of worship for the residents. It was not typical of the type of architecture prevalent at that time in Boone County and was constructed in 1926. The church's role in the community was an important one. It served as a social center, house of worship, and had many funerals over the years. The white stucco church itself was built by the ARMCO Association with help of a donation of the land and an undetermined financial contribution from the company. The church was non-denominational with the worship section of the church holding from 185-200 people. There is a full basement that at one time contained restrooms. The building had a beautiful stained glass window, a piano and organ. The bell in the tower could be heard all over the valley.

The ARMCO Bulletin dated September-October 1926 had this statement about the church: “Sitting on a terrace to the left of the store and ARMCO Association buildings is as pretty a little church as one would want to see. It was built by the ARMCO Association plus a donation from the company. Here one may worship Catholic and Protestant, or Mohammedan for that matter, if there were any in Nellis, or any other creed, for it is strictly non-denominational and may be secured by reservation by any religious sect. It will accommodate 185 persons and is decidedly a monument to the Nellis ARMCO Association.” The Presbyterian organization became involved when ARMCO gave it to them after the mine closed in June 1955. The church stopped maintaining the building as a place of worship by 1966. In the early 1970s, Armco deeded the church to the Board of Education to be used as a remedial classroom and for the kindergarten. The church continued to be used by the school system until a new school was completed at a cost of $612,343 in March 1980. Although it was used by the school and the PTA as a storage area and occasional meeting place for PTA officers, the building was for all practical purposes not used between 1980 and 1998.

On June 27, 1997, the Boone County Commission, through its Boone County Historic· Landmark Commission, erected a monument to the victims of the county's single worst coal mine disaster, which occurred November 6, 1943, at the Nellis #3 ARMCO mine. At this time, the commission announced plans to acquire the church from the coal company and support a project to restore it for an archives. In early 1998 the County Commission became responsible for the church and restoration officially began.

It has been estimated that the housing in Nellis was constructed at the time the mine was opened in 1920. Only the note: “Minter Home Corporation was hired to construct much of the town” is found in the records.

The town was built in two waves, the first being in 1920 when 40 houses were built, and the second wave prior to 1941. The attached map depicting the town in 1941 is primarily the same as it looks today. The town of Nellis developed into several residential areas, with the main section near the coal company store. This section had three terraces with two levels of residential homes, and the company officials being on the top tier.

Other sections of the town . are known as Bricktown, John’s Hollow and Hunkie Hill. Bricktown’s name is taken from the numerous brick homes which line the Y-shape formation of streets. John’s Hollow is referenced in an ARMCO Bulletin as being constructed for the black residents of the town, and also had several of the brick homes found in Bricktown. The section known as Hunkie Hill disappeared after the mine closed when they were dismantled by the Byron Corporation. This section was located on the hillside above the mine portal. Research notes by Charlotte Halstead note: “'there is nothing I gained from interviews with former residents or from any research to indicate that people were forced to live in any special section, except for the blacks who lived at John’s Hollow. It seems the ‘foreigners’ naturally settled in the same area, which came to be known as Hunkie Hill. I have interviewed several former residents of this section of Nellis and not one has a negative recollection. The name Hunkie Hill was a designation, but it was not used in a negative sense. In all my reading and all my interviews and research I have not heard any segregation stories, nor have any reason to believe the black section was of less quality than any other section of town.”

There are several styles of homes in Nellis, each found in a different section of the town. In the main section of town is Style One - a one story wood frame home, with front shed porch, brick foundation and a gable roof. The windows were originally 6/6 double-hung sash. Style Two is found in Bricktown, with the house having a wide front gable end with paired windows to the each side of the center doors. Style Three has a double gable end, with a porch projecting out with a second gable end and there is a door and a single window. Some of the porches on these homes are still open as they were originally, but many have been filled-in for additional living spaces. This same style of brick home can also be seen in John’s Hollow, and are generally paired between Style One or Style Four. Style Four is a one story wood frame home with a side gable end, square in plan the porch is recessed to the side, with a front door. Because this style has been altered around the porch area, it is difficult to discern at times.

Originally each house had a coal house built next to it. For those who lived on elevated property, the coal was delivered by a slide directly to their homes. On the left rear comer is an addition that was added to every home, possibly for a dry toilet. These rooms have since been converted to various uses. Flush toilets were introduced in 1932. They replaced the old Kaustine Chemical Toilets, installed during the construction the houses. In his book, Memories of a Model Coal Mining Town, Joe Tagliente wrote: “Living conditions were the very best. Every house had electric lights, water at the back door, and indoor sanitary toilets; some had bathrooms.”

The one unusual home in the town is the metal home used by the company doctor. This is number 12 on the map. Constructed of vertical metal panels, the house is not well insulated according to the present owner. This may have been an experiment in steel homes, which many WV steel companies tried in the early half of the twentieth century.

Mine closes
In the early 1950s the once high production of coal began a steady decline. The Nellis Mine officially closed on June 30,1955, and just as rapidly as ARMCO moved into Nellis, they moved out. ARMCO sold their houses, the buildings on main street and other major buildings to the Byron Corporation of Boston. The Byron Corporation repainted some of the houses, rewired their electrical systems, installed hot water heaters, furnaces and made other necessary repairs. After completing the repairs, they began a major campaign to sell the houses and buildings. The Byron Corporation renamed Nellis “Apron Village” and advertised the community as a model community, one that anyone would be proud to live in.

The corporation reopened the store, theater, barber shop, etc. and began to sell the houses. The five-room dwellings sold for $4,500 if they had been repaired and for $3,500 if they had not received any repairs. The 4-room dwellings were sold for $3,500 ($2,500 if they had not been repaired). The large houses that housed the superintendent and company officials were sold for $9,000. The houses in Bricktown were sold for $3,500 if repaired and $2,500 if they were not repaired. Many houses that had been deserted and the target of vandals sold for as little as $200. The company store was sold for $15,000.

After selling most of the houses, the Byron Corporation left, forgetting most of its promises and advertisements made after they purchased the town from the company. The theater, barber shop and confectionery closed. The houses that were not sold were destroyed by vandals. The building that housed the theater, barber shop, etc., was burned by vandals on October 31, 1983.

Instead of moving into the Fork Creek area that contained 9,500 acres of coal reserves, ARMCO purchased the stock of the Colcord Coal Company at Montcoal, Raleigh County, on December 21, 1942 and moved there. Three operating mines were on the Colcord property at the time of the purchase —the No. 1 at Montcoal in the Dorothy Seam; No. 2 at Stickney in the Dorothy Seam; No. 4 in the Hernshaw Seam at Montcoal. The No. 7 Mine at Montcoal was opened on July 5, 1955, in the No. 2 Gas Seam. ARMCO purchased the stock and assets of Princess Dorothy Coal Company, Twilight, on August 1, 1954. One mine in the Dorothy Seam was known as the Robin Hood Mine.

Nellis became a model for coal communities in Boone County and the southern coal fields. The layout of the terraced streets and homes demonstrate that community planning used the hillside efficiently and provided good access to the main buildings along the railroad tracks and later County Route 1. Its story is one of “good times” as well as the decline with the changes in the coal industry and depletion of resources. At its height, the community offered its residents good housing, schools, and medical care. Recreational opportunities were also available with a theatre, sports groups, and social clubs. The community came together during annual celebrations for Safety Day and Labor Day. The 1943 explosion has also been a shared community experience and plans call for the miners to be further memorialized.
(Submitted on August 3, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.) 
Additional comments.
1. Railroad Service to Nellis
A review of the December 1925 Official Guide of the Railways finds a listing for Nellis as a station on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway system, but it came with an asterisk. “Stations marked * are on the line indicated, but are not shown in time-tables in the body of The Guide.” This meant that the C&O railroad did not want to pay to show passenger train timetables for some of its smaller branch lines.

The Guide was used by ticket and travel agents nationwide to sell railroad tickets to and from any two towns in North America, even if those towns were on different railroads. If someone wanted to go to Nellis, because of the lack of a timetable in the Guide the agent would have to telegraph the C&O railroad for information on how to write up the ticket.

The NRHP Nomination Form’s Statement of Significance describes the C&O branch line that ran through Nellis as follows: “There were two passenger trains a day leaving from a platform next to the coal company store's confectionary shop, one in the morning and the second in the evening. The coal trains ran night and day. For 10 cents, one could travel the few miles from Nellis to Ridgeview, or Nellis to Brushton.”

The Guide has the timetable for Brushton, and typically branch-line train schedules would be coordinated with the arrival and departure of more important trains such as the ones traveling through Brushton. A savvy traveler would buy a ticket to Brushton and assume the train to Nellis would be waiting across the platform. He or she would simply board the Nellis train and give the conductor a dime to pay the additional fare.

Brushton had a morning (10:00 a.m.) and an evening (3:37 p.m.) train to St. Albans. The 25 mile ride to St. Albans, with stops at Broundland, Sproul, Alum Creek, and Upper Falls, took an hour and 20 minutes. St. Albans was on the C&O main line between Cincinnati Ohio and Norfolk Virginia with C&O express trains like the Fast Flying Virginian and the Mid-West Limited that carried through cars to Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Richmond Virginia, Louisville Kentucky, and other points in the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic coast.
    — Submitted August 3, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 1, 2019. It was originally submitted on August 3, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 215 times since then and 113 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on August 3, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
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