By Mary Catherine Brooks
July 3, 2017 - They ranged in age from 17 to 75 years of age, but the 160 men had one thing in common – they all died in the Glen Rogers, WV coal mine.
Fifty-eight years after the last death, on June 19, 1959, a small group of area residents gathered to dedicate a new memorial, located near the former Glen Rogers Grade School building, honoring the sacrifice of the men.
Isaac J. Richardson, the last mine fatality, was 58 years old at the time of his death. A resident of Harper at the time, Richardson and his wife had 10 children under the age of 18.
Friends of Milam Creek began the project three years ago with a grant application, according to Dvon Duncan, who conducted the ceremony.
The group initially thought they would be honoring 45 miners killed in four explosions in the Glen Rogers mine.
From 1921 until 1959, however, there were actually 160 deaths in the mine – five of whom were never identified. As a result, the cost of the project was increased substantially.
The two monuments contain the names of the 160, their ages, and the date of their deaths.
Among those gathered for the somber ceremony were children of men who had worked in the mine, though there were no relatives of those who perished in the mine.
David Polk's father, Estel, worked in the mines before and after his service in World War II.
“It was an amazing place back in the day,” Polk said of Glen Rogers.
He recalled the theater and other businesses that were familiar to the Glen Rogers community.
Bonnie Tolliver Powers' father, Posey Tolliver, raised nine kids while working in the mine for more than four decades.
In its heyday, Glen Rogers was a bustling coal town.
Carl Scholz named Glen Rogers in 1919, according to historians. “Glen” was the word for narrow valley; “Rogers” was a nod to Henry Huttleson Rogers, a financial executive and railroad builder who was among those responsible for bringing coal mining to Wyoming County, historians agree.
Rogers had sent Scholz to Wyoming and Raleigh counties. As a result, Glen Rogers became the first major coal mine in Wyoming County, opening in 1921.
Employment at the mine grew to nearly 1,000 men during the 1930s and 1940s.
Coal production was costly for the community, however, with 160 fatalities and four disasters during the mine's history. The Nov. 6, 1923, methane gas explosion killed 27 men, making it the worst accident of any kind in Wyoming County history, according to West Virginia legislative records.
The mine closed in 1960, and the community's population steadily declined afterward.
High school classes were first offered in the community in 1928, and the first graduating class, in 1929, had only two students — Elizabeth Williams and Kelly Barrett.
William Casey Marland (1918-1965) is the only West Virginia governor to come from Wyoming County. He graduated from Glen Rogers High School in 1935, becoming the state’s 24th governor two years after the “new” high school building opened in 1951. Marland served one term, from 1953 until 1957, as governor.
He had previously served as the state’s attorney general, from 1949 until 1952.
An Illinois native, Marland’s family moved to Glen Rogers when he was 7 years old; his father was the mine superintendent. After graduating from Glen Rogers High, he attended the University of Alabama and earned his law degree from West Virginia University.
Due to an economic downturn and a decreasing population, Glen Rogers High was closed in 1992.
Coal Heritage Highway Authority along with Mountain Resource Conservation and Development provided funding assistance.
Additional contributors included Egnor Monuments, Southern Conservation District, EnerVest, Pat’s Fashions, RAIL, Glen Rogers PSD, Wyoming County CVB, and numerous volunteers.
Glen Rogers Mine, West Virginia