WV: Oscar Alphonso Veazey, First WV Inspector of Mines (1883)

Sometimes I come across an individual while doing research because that person is indirectly tied to what I am reading about. On occasion, I will stop to read a little more about the person and, if I find them interesting, I jot down their name for a potential blog later on. While researching and collecting data on mining disasters, I have seen the name Oscar A Veazey a number of times. When I started looking at his data and reading about his history, I was fascinated with all of the various touches he had upon the coal country of Fayette and Raleigh counties, and West Virginia for that matter.

This blog compiles all the interesting data I could find on Oscar Alphonso Veazey. There are excerpts I transcribed from old local history books, newspaper articles and (my favorite part) scans of the maps he authored which are housed at the WV State Archives.

This one was really interesting, I hope you enjoy the read.

Oscar Alphonso Veazey was born at Kanawha Falls, WV on May 25, 1851. He was a civil and mining engineer and the first mayor of Pratt, WV. He also was the first mine inspector in the state of West Virginia. He died on March 13, 1930 (78) / Pratt, Kanawha County, West Virginia due to complications from pulmonary edema and gangrene lower extremities.

Since 1883, when fatality records began to be kept, more than 21,000 miners have lost their lives in West Virginia coal mines. Most of these deaths were single fatalities, many of which were not investigated in the early years. In 1883, when 20 miners lost their lives, the legislature established the West Virginia Department of Mines, with Oscar Veazey appointed as the first mine inspector. Just three years later, West Virginia’s first mining disaster occurred at the Mountain Brook shaft mine in the Preston County town of Newburg. A methane gas explosion there killed 39, making this the first in a long line. (An accident is classified as a ‘‘disaster’’ when three or more lose their lives; before 1961, the number was five.)

From: History of the Great Kanawha Valley with Family History:

Oscar A Veazey, of Dego Station, is a well known civil and mining engineer. His birth place was in Fayette county, VA,, (now West Virginia), at Kanawha Falls, May 25, 1851, being the date of his birth. He was the son of James and Eliza (Stockton) Veazey. James was born in Maryland. He first went to Beaver county, Penn., where he became a deputy surveyor of the county, and later a steamboat captain. After moving to Fayette county, he embarked in the general mercantile business with a man by the name of Amkeny, the firm being Veazey & Amkeny. They owned two stores, one at Gauley Bridge, and the other at Fayetteville. Mr. Veazey’s death occurred December 15, 1860, near the mouth of Twenty Mile creek, on Gauley river where he had removed two years previous. Mrs. Veazey died at the same place in November 1859.

The origin of the Veazey family was in France, but later they adopted England as their country. Eliza (Stockton) Veazey was born at Kelly’s creek, in Kanawha county, October 20th, 1825, she being a daughter of Aaron Stockton, a native of Princeton, N.J., born January 14, 1785, who was a first cousin of the famous Commodore Stockton.

Oscar is the only living issues of this marriage, the other four children having died young. He was raised in Fayette county, where his schooling was begun. Subsequently he went to Lewisburg and attended the school near that place, then taught by George W. Taylor, who was also Mr. Veazey’s mother’s instructor, about twenty five years prior to this date. In 1866, Mr. Veazey entered St. Vincent’s college at Wheeling, W.Va., and remained there for three years.

On the 1st of September, 1869, he started with an engineering corps for Sewell, Fayette county, under the command of Maj. William A Jones, to locate the proposed line of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad, from that point to Hawk’s Nest. As an example of the hardships they were to compelled to undergo, it will be sufficient to say that it took the corps two months and twenty days to locate eleven miles on New river. Meanwhile they lived in tents which were transported in boats. Mr. Veazey remained in the employ of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad until January, 1872, since which time he has been a civil and mining engineer.

May 24, 1877, he was married to Miss Mattie B. Smith. She was born in Kanawha county, W. Va., January 22, 1853, the daughter of J.S.F. Smith, a native of Charleston, S.C., who was at one time the editor of a paper in Lewisburg, Greenbrier county, W.Va. The children born of this happy union are: Verna, Victor and Kathleen, and three others deceased.

Mr. Veazey was appointed the first inspector of mines of West Virginia, May 31, 1883, by Governor J.B. Jackson, and served with satisfaction to all until July 1st, 1885, when his term of office expired. Previous to his appointment to the office of state mine inspector, Mr. Veazey was chief engineer of the Paint Creek railroad, the Kanawha railway, and the Kanawha & Coal River railroad, all of which were located by him, and the two first mentioned were constructed under his supervision. In the year 1887, he was employed for nearly a year by the Baltimore, Grafton & Charleston railroad, a branch of line of the Baltimore & Ohio. When the Baltimore & Ohio abandoned the building of this line, Mr. Veazey was employed for a time on the main Stem division of the Baltimore & Ohio but resigned to return to his more lucrative general practice of civil and mining engineer in the Kanawha valley.

The town of Pratt is on the historic registry and some of Mr. Veazey’s properties are included in the documentation. You can read that here: https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/6fe7fe6d-22f7-4205-b440-e53bf89edd06

Maps/Prints: Oscar Alphonso Veazey Collections /WV archives:

https://westvirginiaarchiveshistory.zenfolio.com/p974981478/slideshow

Articles from the newspaper archives:

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The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
Wheeling, West Virginia
29 Aug 1884, Fri  •  Page 4

I am not entirely sure this is “our” Mr. Veazey, however, the story is quite fascinating and I had to include it:

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The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
Wheeling, West Virginia
15 Apr 1889, Mon  •  Page 1
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The Charleston Daily Mail
Charleston, West Virginia
22 Mar 1922, Wed  •  Page 10
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The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
15 Dec 1922, Fri  •  Page 1
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The Charleston Daily Mail
Charleston, West Virginia
13 Jun 1931, Sat  •  Page 5
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The Charleston Daily Mail
Charleston, West Virginia
19 Aug 1975, Tue  •  Page 2

Genealogy Related Items On Oscar A Veazey:

Wills; Author: West Virginia. County Court (Kanawha County); 
Probate Place: Kanawha, West Virginia
Notes: Will Record, Vol 14, 1928-1930
Record Image
Oscar A Veazey Death Certificate
Photo Source:
http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=1932070&Type=Death
Record Image
Oscar A Veazey Register of Death Record
Photo Source:
http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=5528120&Type=Death

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