WV History: Oakwood Mine, Fayette County WV

I grew up at the base of Carlisle Mountain in a holler. I caught the bus across the road from the Oakwood Company Store. For so many trips I have passed the historical marker. Today, I will dive a little into the history of the mines where my Grandpa, Fred Seletyn, once worked.

A while back I was able to confirm that this is the mine where he worked via his DSS Form 1 Registration Card from October 16, 1940, seen below. This I found on the ancestry website.

Working on genealogy with my Sis, I decided to go back through some old scans which I made when staying with Dad during a period of his prolonged illness. At that time, all of the family history and photos I could lay my scanner on I did. Downside: I never organized the scans or looked further into it….life happened. But, going back through those old scans, two items leaped out at me – Grandpa Fred’s mining certification cards!

Using that misspelling of Grandpa’s last name, I was able to find the newspaper clipping that notes he took the Accident Prevention class in 1956!

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In checking the inventory of paperwork housed at the WV Archives, I see this list: http://www.wvculture.org/history/collections/manuscripts/ms2003-180.html and I am hopeful that post-pandemic I might be able to go there to look through physical records and dig up some employment documents on Grandpa Fred.

On a recent trip to Fayette County, I made sure to stop and grab a couple photos of how the company store looks now as well as the historical marker at the top of the mountain:

Historical Marker Oakwood Mine

Per the sign:

White Oak Fuel Company built the Oakwood Mine Complex in 1902. In 1915, 21 miners died when gas in the mine exploded. A year later, the original wooden tipple was upgraded to a multi-story steel structure. New River Company ran the mine after absorbing White Oak Fuel, a subsidiary, in 1936. Peak output was 515,936 tons in 1940. The mine shut down in 1965.

Location: WV 612, .65 miles west of Carlisle

From the WV Archives on the 1915 disaster:

Carlisle Mine Disaster

Annual Report of the Department of Mines
For The Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1915.


CARLISLE EXPLOSION.

On the morning of February 6, 1915, at 7:45 A. M. a local gas explosion occurred at this mine in which twenty-two persons lost their lives. This mine is located at Carlisle, Fayette County, on the White Oak Branch of the C. & 0. Railroad and operated by the White Oak Fuel Company. It is a shaft mine 440 feet in depth, operating the Sewell seam which has a thickness of four feet, developed on the double entry system, ventilated by an eighteen foot fan which produces 100,000 cubic feet of air per minute and which is divided between the workings of the Carlisle and Oakwood Shafts. These two mines are connected and employ from 160 to 175 persons. This mine was known to liberate a slight quantity of explosive gas, but not considered dangerous and open lights were used exclusively by miners and laborers. Fire Bosses were employed to examine the mine each morning before any person was allowed to enter same.

On the morning of the explosion the Fire Bosses had made their examination, at which time they found a small accumulation of gas in room No. 11 on the 5th left entry off of 3d right main and reported same in Fire Bosses’ record book, but failed to advise any person of the fact and marked the mine O. K. on a bulletin board kept for this purpose and a few minutes later the employees entered the mine. Shortly after the explosion occurred, and upon investigation it was found to be a local gas explosion, due to an accumulation of gas in room No. 11, where the body of a miner was found burned to death; two of the bodies found near No. 10 room were only slightly burned about the face and hands, while the others lost their lives from suffocation, with the exception of a trapper boy at the mouth of the entry who was badly mutilated.

The damage to the mine was very slight. A few stoppings were blown out and the doors were destroyed at 5th left where the explosion occurred, being a distance of one and a quarter miles from the shaft bottom.

Had the Fire Bosses performed their duties as required by law, they would have arranged the brattices after detecting gas in this room, so as to prevent an accumulation of gas. This they failed to do, but placed a. prop across the room track, a distance of 113 feet from the face, returned to the outside and without giving notice to anyone that they had detected gas in this room marked the mine O. K. on the bulletin board, and by their neglect caused the death of twenty-two persons, which should be a warning to all Fire Bosses that negligence of this kind is very dangerous to life and property.

The following is a list of the persons killed at the local gas explosion which occurred at Carlisle mine under date of February 6, 1915.

Albert Kopinski, Leo Vitovich, Frank Smith, John Makers, Victor Comminski, James Ora, Montague Thomas, William Gray, Jack Souders, William Comminski, Charles Kebert, Andy Garten, Frank Erstine, Fred Pannell, Dayles Scarbro, Lindsey Johnson, Fred Solbey, Joe Sabalo, Mike Sonnenberg, Jack Custer, Ottis Rex.

Remus Chandler, Negro, was injured end taken to the McKendree Hospital and died February 10th.

Fayette County, to-wit: An inquisition taken at Glen Jean, in the County of Fayette on the 10th day of February, 1915, before S. J. Jasper, Justice of the said county, upon the view of the bodies of Albert Kopinski, Leo Vitovich, Frank Smith, John Makers, Victor Comminski, James Ora, Montague Thomas, William Grey, Jack Souders, William Comminski, Charles Kebert, Andy Garten, Frank Erstine, Fred Panhell, Dayles Scarbro, Lindsey Johnson, Fred Solbey, Joe Sabalo, Mike Sonnenberg and Jack Custer there lying dead. The jurors sworn to inquire when, how and by what means the said persons above named, came to their death, upon their oaths do say that the said, above named persons came to their death on the 6th day of February, 1915, by an explosion of gas in the Carlisle mine, and we do further find that there was no evidence showing or tending to show any negligence or failure to perform its duty, on the part of the White Oak Fuel Company, operating said mine, and that the said White Oak Fuel Company furnished all necessary supplies of all kinds and gave to the mine foreman and the mine bosses the necessary instructions to keep the mine in a safe condition, and we further find that if there was any negligence that it was due to the failure of the fire bosses In not marking up on the outside of the mine that there was a small amount of gas in room No. 11 on the 5th left although he had marked the said room as dangerous at this entrance.

In testimony whereof, the said Justice of the Peace, and jurors hereto set their hands: (Signed) S. J. JASPER, J. P. J. E. gaRRett. J. W. McVEY, J. E. gRay, W. L. hangeR, B. E. lykins, M. C. bibb.

Source: http://www.wvculture.org/history/disasters/carlisle02.html

Title: Train of Coal Cars at Oakwood Mine, Fayette County, W. Va.
Date: 1952/04/20
Description: Picture of train cars filled with coal at the Oakwood Mine, Fayette County, W. Va.
Source: https://wvhistoryonview.org/image/001805.jpg
Source: https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/004434
Title: Oakwood Mine Tipple
Date: ca. 1920-1930
Description: Oakwood Mine Tipple and surrounding buildings.
Title: Oakwood Mine Tipple
Date: ca. 1908-1920
Description: Oakwood Steel Tipple loading coal cars. Men standing on the coal in the cars.
Source: https://wvhistoryonview.org/image/004454.jpg

Newspaper Clippings On Oakwood Mine

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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
17 Jul 1932, Sun  •  Page 5
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
22 Sep 1935, Sun  •  Page 41
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
22 Sep 1935, Sun  •  Page 41
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
22 Sep 1935, Sun  •  Page 41
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CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
23 May 1947, Fri  •  Page 2
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CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
06 Mar 1950, Mon  •  Page 8
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CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
20 Mar 1952, Thu  •  Page 8
CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
20 Aug 1954, Fri  •  Page 20
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CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
30 Oct 1955, Sun  •  Page 15
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
24 Jan 1956, Tue  •  Page 8
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CLIPPED FROM: Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
03 Feb 1956, Fri  •  Page 5
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
16 Feb 1961, Thu  •  Page 6
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
14 Mar 1963, Thu  •  Page 16
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CLIPPED FROM: The Raleigh Register / Beckley, West Virginia
18 Mar 1963, Mon  •  Page 1

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