48 Vintage Photos of Life in Depression-era Coal Mining Town Scott’s Run, West Virginia, 1937

The coaling industry, in comparison to the boom of the 1920s, had basically collapsed by 1932. Already suffering, the industry could not sustain the economic downturn brought about by the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Residents of Scotts Run not only suffered from unemployment, but also from ethnic and racial prejudice and limited educational opportunities.

The rampant poverty in Scotts Run attracted the attention of Protestant missionaries and the American Friends Service Committee in 1931. Later in 1933, the Roosevelt administration sent relief workers. Scotts Run became America’s image for the bleakness of the Great Depression. One writer for Atlantic Monthly declared that Scotts Run was “the damndest cesspool of human misery I have ever seen in America.” Although the suffering at Scotts Run was probably no different than in other coal hollows of Appalachia, it garnered national attention because of its accessibility to photographers, reporters, social workers, and government officials through automobile and railroad.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also brought national attention to the Run. Roosevelt first toured the mine camps of the area in 1933, and returned several times, forging long-term relationships. Following the first lady were media outlets and famous photographers such as Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, and Ben Shahn. Eleanor Roosevelt’s involvement culminated in the relocation of a number of families at the resettlement community of Arthurdale in nearby Preston County.

Local relief efforts also existed. The Scotts Run Settlement House, in existence since 1922, provided a large amount of assistance. Another example was Morgantown’s First Presbyterian Church’s establishment of a missionary project for Scotts Run, which opened The Shack, a community center which eventually was used to start a co-op for supplemental farming.

The 1930s marked a steady decline in industrial work in Scotts Run. Many of the residents relocated, some to Arthurdale, and many of the younger male residents served in the armed forces during World War II and did not return to the area upon the war’s end.

National Research Project
In 1936–37, documentary photographer Lewis Hine created photo studies of 14 American industrial communities, including Scotts Run, for the National Research Project of the Works Progress Administration.

Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Employed bachelor at home in Sessa Hill, March 1937
Interior of the Jere WPA nursery – These children are from unemployed miners’ homes, March. Scott’s Run, West Virginia. 1937
The Patch – One of the worst camps in Scott’s Run, March 1937
Jere, mine tipple – Mine bankrupt and closed since December 1936. The camp of this mine is considered a stranded community, March 1937
New Hill – A new camp. The best community on Scott’s Run, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed men attending meeting of the Workers Alliance Council, March 1937
An abandoned coal camp on Scott’s Run, West Virginia, December 22, 1936. Mine closed early in 1936. Scene taken from main highway entering Scott’s Run, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Johnson family – father unemployed, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Johnson family – father unemployed, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Vincent Lopez – miner, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove Mines Nos. 3 and 4, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Chaplin Hill Mine Tipple, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. The Shack Community Center, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Interior of the Jero WPA nursery – These children are from unemployed miners’ homes, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. This building is a part of the abandoned mine buildings of the stranded camp of Jere, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Peter Percupu, Romanian miner, unemployed, known in Scott’s Run as Ground Hog. Too old to find employment in the mines, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Children of employed miner at Sessa Hill – Ewra Hennar’s children, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed men attending meeting of the Workers Alliance Council, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Miner’s child – This boy was digging coal from mine refuse on the road side, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Sessa Hill – The mine is a small locally owned operation where conditions are generally bad, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed men attending meeting of the Workers Alliance Council, 1936
Scotts’ Run, West Virginia. Miner’s child digging coal from mine refuse (Mexican). Bertha Hollow, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. The Shack Community Center, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove No. 2 – Scene taken from main highway shows company store and typical hillside camp, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Employed miner’s family, March 1937.
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove Nos. 3 and 4, March 1937.
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Woman gathering coal from mine refuse, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Woman gathering coal from mine refuse, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove No. 5. Scene taken from main highway shows typical hillside camp. The houses are multiple dwellings, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. The Patch. One of the worst camps in Scott’s Run. The stream is an auxiliary branch that flows into Scott’s Run can be seen towards the right of this picture. These houses were originally built as single bachelor apartments; there are from six to eight separate housekeeping units in the buildings. Many of them are now occupied by families living in one room, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Troop Hill — an abandoned coal camp on Scott’s Run, West Virginia, December 22, 1936. Mine closed early in 1936. Scene taken from main highway entering Scott’s Run, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Chaplin Hill. This scene is typical of many camps built near the mine. In the background can be seen several of the government sanitary privies. These houses are multiple dwellings which accommodate several families. It is one of the few camps on Scott’s Run which affords space for hogs and garden, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Chaplin Hill Mine Tipple. This mine as bankrupt and closed during the summer of 1936. The company was reorganized and began to operate under new management in November 1936.
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Cassville, mine tipple. This mine is operating and supplies work for three separate camps (Cassville, New Hill, and the Patch). To the left of picture is shown one of the government privies built by WPA workers in a sanitation campaign organized to eliminate the old typical filthy mine camp toilets, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Bertha Hill Camp. The mine in this camp has been bankrupt and changed hands several times in the last two years. In the summer of 1936 this camp was considered abandoned; in December the mine, under new management, began to operate, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Miner returning from work at New Hill. There are no mine wash houses in West Virginia. Miners change their clothes and bathe in wash tub in their home and bring much of the mine dirt with them, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed miners, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed men and women, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed miner, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Unemployed miner, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Miner Herb Venn, photographed as he dressed for a trip to Morgantown, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Mexican miner’s child. This boy was digging coal from mine refuse on the road side. The picture was taken December 23, 1936 on a cold day; Scott’s Run was buried in snow. The child was barefoot and seemed to be used to it. He was a quarter mile from his home, 1936
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Children of employed miners at Miller Hill, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Miner’s child at Miller Hill camp, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove No. 2. Scene taken from main highway shows company store and typical hillside camp, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Pursglove Mines Nos. 3 and 4. This is the largest company of Scott’s Run. Scene shows main Scott’s Run Highway and atmosphere loaded with coal dust and typical of Scott’s Run on any working day, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Another view of Pursglove Mines Nos. 3 and 4, March 1937
Scott’s Run, West Virginia. Children of miners. March 1937

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