Shirley Donnelly re: Scarbro (Fayette County), WV

This next article by Shirley Donnelly holds a special place in my heart. I grew up in Carlisle, attended Scarbro Elementary for the first handful of years of my education. It is nice to read about the history of the founders and how it may (or may not) have gotten it’s name.

I have transcribed the article for easier reading after the clipping below.


Yesterday And Today

Scarbro, From Farm Land To Coal Town


Mrs. Clarence Bishop has importuned this circuit writer to touch a bit on the history of Scarbro in Fayette County, the town where she lives.

Scarbro lies in the heart of the White Oak valley just down the road from Oak Hill, Fayette County’s metropolis. It has an old and interesting history.

A pioneer settler in the picturesque valley was John Wingrove. John Wingrove selected a sizable acreage on the hill just back of where the ancient Wingrove coal shaft was to be sunk.

Long ago the old mine shaft was abandoned but it is located on the right of the road as one passes through Scarbro in Glen, Jean direction.

John Wingrove built a rude log cabin and set about making a living for himself and his family. The soil at that time was fertile and game was plentiful. This news reached the ears of such, early worthies as Michael (Mike) Bragg, Joseph Hughart, Charles Huddleston, Llewllyn Hundley, Charles Blake, and Robert Thurmond. The result was that John Wingrove soon had neighbors.

Adam Blake first followed John Wingrove to this section. He built himself a log dwelling upon the hill a short distance from the John Wingrove home. A little hamlet near the Wingrove farm, took its name from the valley’s valiant pioneer settler,

*** THE FOREGOING MEN reared large families whose descendants still live in the land of their forbears. They were men of the soil and were given to agricultural pursuits. Beneath their surface property were some of the finest coal fields in all the world.

Mineral interests had long known of this fine quality coal and began to acquire extensive mineral rights from the farmers. Around 1892 Mike Bragg and his neighbors began to dispose of their mineral properties to the White Oak Fuel Company.

It wasn’t long until muckers were sinking deep shafts to reach the low veins of rich coal. At Scarbro, Carlisle, Wingrove, Oakwood, and · Whipple, shafts ·were sunk. The opening of the mines brought an influx of people 10 White Oak valley and a succession of .bustling mining towns”‘ grew up around the several shafts. At Whipple a Catholic church and graveyard were established ‘to look after me foreign miners who were people of that denomination,,

*** HOW SCARBRO got its name is not definitely known. One school of thought says the town was named by a mining engineer, one Craig. Others claim that coal operator Sam Dixon named the town after Scarborough, back in Yorkshire.

Actually the doughty old mine developer probably called the town Scarbro because there were quite a number of Scarborough families in the valley -Scarborough was shortened to Scarbro. Mountaineers seem to go for abbreviating names.

*** IN THE DAYS before people lost their initiative and resourcefulness, and started to praying to Washington for daily bread, some energetic people at Scarbro had a brick yard. It was operated until coal come to be king. Then men went in for mining the black diamond. For a long time Scarbro was an incorporated town. There was a jail and everything that went with it. The jail and city hall combined stood on the site now occupied by the Appalachian Electric Power substation.

One of the settlers at the turn of the century who lived at Scarbro was Wash Smith. It was said that Wash Smith had just about the biggest feet of any human being who ever lived in this section.

*** BEFORE ROUTE 21 was relocated through Hill Top and both 19 and 21 ran through Scarbro. To this day the Greyhound Bus Line is operated through Scarbro as demanded by its franchise.

Scarbro is me home of Mrs. S.W. Price, several terms a state legislator and long a leader in humane efforts in West Virginia. Clarence Bishop, chief merchandiser of New River Company, maintains his residence in Scarbro as well.

Lots of things have occurred in the mining industry in White Oak valley. In the days of careless mining this little valley experienced two major mining disasters.

The first was the explosion of the Whipple mine on May 1, 1907. In that disaster sixteen men lost their lives. Some eight years later, on February 6, 1915, a pall of sorrow hung over White Oak valley when an explosion occurred in the Carlisle mine.

In the awful holocaust 22 men were lost. Previous to these disasters Parral, now Summerlee, and Stuart, now Lochgelly, had let go with the dire result that on Feb. 6, 1906, Parral claimed 23 lives, and Stuart on Jan. 29, 1907, exacted a death toll of 85 men. Several were killed at odd times in Scarbro mine but it never experienced a major disaster, one in which, five or men were killed.

And just for good measure, a couple extra posts I found on Scarbro, WV. Harold West was my bus driver for a number of years. Number 10 would be at the turn around on Carlisle Mountain, one stop before mine, as I walked to the end of our road to wait on our bus.

The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
22 Apr 1977, Fri  •  Page 12

I am trying to find any articles on the fire which burned down the Scarbro Elementary school around 1977-1979. I don’t have the exact date, which would make the search so much easier. If you know and could be kind enough, please let me know in the comments the date/year it happened. I had thought 1978 in late spring. But I cannot find a record of it.

The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
11 Dec 1932, Sun  •  Page 9
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
20 Oct 1969, Mon  •  Page 4
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
05 Apr 1977, Tue  •  Page 7
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
15 Dec 1977, Thu  •  Page 4


  1. Wayne Lopez burned down Scarbro school in June of 1976, the year I graduated 8th grade. Apparently he did not pass the year and would have been held back. As far as I know he has been incarcerated in various institutions since that incident and I dont know if he is still alive.

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