Jeff Harvey

Before we continue with our look at what William Sanders II had to say in his book “A New River Heritage, Volume IV”, (McClain Publishing, 1994), I want to say thanks again to the people who have commented either face-to-face or via e-mail about the column. The compliments are welcome and I’ll do my best to address any specific questions you may have.

Sanders wrote that Moody Bailey told him that the Bailey family once owned approximately 8,000 acres in the general area of Rock, Browning Lambert Mountain, Weyanoke, Piedmont, Hiawatha, Rich Creek and Matoaka, an assertion supported by early coal and mineral rights deeds.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, which drained the manpower of the families in the area, including the Baileys and related families, and limited schooling, the families were easy prey for land agents, who persistently and methodically acquired the mineral rights for inadequate, unconscionable and illegal consideration without knowledge or disclosure of the true value of such mineral rights.

I’m taking a page out of William’s style of writing, which on more than one occasion used strongly worded commentaries, to show that he felt passionately about certain subjects, instead of having a dry, methodical approach. It was just the way he was in person and in print.

The land agents were often relatives of the property owners, but very shortly, the mineral rights wound up in the hands of the coal land companies and their ally, the N & W Railroad Company which moved into the area to mine the coal.

These companies and their northern financial underwriters employed Captain Isiah A. Welch, the namesake of the town, to explore and prospect for coal as well as original timber. He reported that there was of 307200 square acres of land, 204,800 mineable acres in what became known as the Pocahontas coalfields under which there was an estimated 9,012 tons of coal per acre for a total of 1,845,657,600 toms (2,240 pounds per ton being his measure of estimation).

The financial wizards of the coal/railway industry centered in New York and Philadelphia, thus informed, failed to disclose such information to the impoverished landowners and the mineral rights were acquired from them at rates of $.50 per acre, sometimes less, and not on a basis of royalty per tonnage.

That’s all for this time.

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