Alaska began operation in 1888 under the direction of the Alaska Coal & Coke Company with J.E. Robins acting as principal operator. Robins was a Pennsylvania physician that practiced medicine in the anthracite fields of his native state. He became involve in the Fayette coal fields following his move to Charleston, WV in 1886.
four and a half miles upriver from Thurmond, Alaska was a small coal operation
that was in existence for less than thirty years. It was one of the
shorter-lived towns coal towns along the New River Gorge ceasing operation in
1914. The town was so small that it never registered for a post office. The
population in 1900 was recorded as 168 people. It dropped to 76 in 1910. The
USGS 1913 topographical map depict a handful of structures near the Chesapeake
& Ohio Railroad mainline. Among these were twenty coke ovens.
was at a loss for much flat land unlike some of the other towns along the New
River from Thurmond to Thayer. The other towns were often constructed in a
linear form along the main line or a siding of the C&O Railroad. This was
not the case in Alaska, the structures depicted on the 1913 map are not located
along the tracks. They were built in any locations that could be made usable,
often carving out a small section on the hillside. One side of the structure
would be place here as the other side of the building would be place on a stone
pier. Today, if one looks closely, the
foundation of one of these structures is still evident. It is located between
McKendree Road (County Route 25) and the gorge wall.
original drift mine opened in 1888 mining coal from the Fire Creek seam
directly above the community. A second opening began operation after 1900. The
USGS 1913 map shows only one opening for the mine. It is connected to the main
line by a tramline or monitor line. This line runs vertically up the gorge wall
to the same elevation as the mine opening. At this point it makes a 90-degree
northern turn and parallels the river to a mine opening. Shown along this track
are two structures along this line, most likely support buildings such as a
blacksmith shop or carpenter shop. The opening shown on this map is most likely
the second one as it appears to be more than a mile away from the community.
Alaska was located four and a half miles upriver from
Thurmond on McKendree Road (County Route 25), an improved dirt and gravel road.
This road connects Thurmond to Prince fourteen miles upriver. In reality, this
road becomes almost impassable just past Thayer, approximately three miles
upriver. Even daily travel along this stretch of McKendree Road would require a
four-wheel drive vehicle. Travel along McKendree Road should be done only under
the best of weather conditions.