The Company Store at Ward, WV

Posted by | January 13, 2011

The following post ran yesterday at the White Oak Attic site. “I’m Lisa Isbell and I run the place.  White Oak Attic is a blog about hobbies including genealogy, shabby chic decor and making a cozy homelife.” Reprinted here with permission.

Ward Store No. 5, seen here in 1944.

Kelly’s Creek Colliery, as I understand it, was the primary coal mining company in operation at Ward, WV.  It was owned by Valley Camp Coal.

Anyone familiar with coal mining operations has undoubtedly heard of the company store.  Mining companies often ran a store and provided housing for the workers.  The result was mostly a raw deal for the miners in my opinion since the prices in the store tended to be inflated and the miners were required to get their supplies there and have the purchases deducted from their pay.  It isn’t hard to see how the mining companies would make out like bandits in this scenario since they could buy low, sell high and exploit workers who had no opportunity to stretch their resources any further than allowed by the mining company.

Ward, West Virginia was a coal mining town in existence solely because of the Kelly’s Creek mining operation.  At it’s heart, just like many other similar communities in coal mining areas, was a company store.

Started in 1903, the Kelly’s Creek Colliery Company commissary served about 75-90 miners living at or near Ward, WV and was somewhat small compared to some other company stores of the day.

It was located near the mouth of Mill Hollow and not far from Rube’s Hollow. A larger store replaced it in 1906. The store expanded again sometime around 1911 with a new addition to the existing store. Over the years, the store continued to grow with the community.

The store burned in 1926 and was promptly replaced by a brick building that lasted until July 18th, 1947.  On this date another fire, one that started in the elevator shaft, completely destroyed it a second time.  The final store to open at Ward came in late 1948 and is said to have featured yellow tile, though the source I referred to for this article (the 1984 Ward Community Reunion Book) does not say whether the tile was floor, walls or elsewhere and mother doesn’t remember anything about any yellow tile.  She does remember going to the store with her father and my grandfather, Steve Kozak, and shopping for school supplies on his store credit.

There were also two small branch stores in operation at Cedar Grove and 2nd Five Mile over the years as the need dictated it.  These stores closed once there was no longer enough business to support them.

A number of store managers were employed to run the store. Here is a list, and when it’s known, the time frame and additional bits of information about them.  Comments with further information about the store and it’s employees are welcome, just type them in the comments field below, email them or leave them on the Facebook page.

  • John D. Pribble, Store Manager (likely the very first store manager; 1903-1905)
  • D.H. Putney, Store Manager, 1905-1907 ( his family is said to have been known far and wide around the time before and after the Civil War for their service to the Campbell’s Creek Coal Co.
  • Joseph Dawson, Store Manager, he is said to have served in this role until about 2 years before the mining company was sold to Valley Camp.
  • N.S. Brown was the final store manager before ownership changed to James A. Paisley and Valley Camp. He was the manager from 1915 to 1917.
  • B.W. Dyer, Store Manager for “many years”
  • T.M. Jones was “at the store for a few months before being moved to Triadelphia”
  • John Hall, Store Manager 1934
  • R.R. “Booker” Woodrum, Store Manager
  • J.B. Kennedy, Store Manager (said to be the final store manager for the store)

3 Responses

  • Jenny Riggs says:

    My Nana, Mary Ellen Smith (born 1926 in Ward to Ruby (Pritt) Smith and Robert Carr Smith) worked at this store sometime in the mid/late 1940s. J.B. Kennedy was the store manager at the time (she still talks about Mr. Kennedy). I can’t wait to show her this photo.

  • Sara Casto says:

    My grandmother, Martha Jeffries lived in Ward and often talked about it. I wish she were still alive so I could ask her about the photo.

  • Bill Coon says:

    I think maybe the yellow tile you mention was the block used to build the last store. It had a smooth yellow surface on it. Several years ago I took my wife back to Ward to show her my roots (Ragweed as it turned out) and the building was still there but had been converted to a garage for working on coal trucks. I went to the first grade at Ward Jr. High in about 1952.

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