Alaska Coal & Coke Company (Historic)
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.
Backstory and Context
Located 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.
Alaska 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.
The 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.
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