2008 National Coal Heritage Achievement Awards


     The Coal Heritage Highway Authority and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority are pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Coal Heritage Achievement Awards.  Created to honor individuals and organizations within the National Coal Heritage Area for their work in preserving and promoting southern West Virginia’s coal heritage, the awards are now in their second year.  This year’s recipients are:

     Fred Powers of Bluefield is the recipient of the Coal Heritage Award for Excellence in the Arts for his dramatic presentation Buried Alive:  A Coal Miner’s Story.  Mr. Powers developed his one-man theatrical presentation based on his personal experiences as a coal miner in McDowell County and from the stories he has collected from other miners in the region.  A life long resident of the Southern West Virginia Coalfields and a teacher at Bluefield Middle School, Mr. Powers has presented his dramatic performance at Tamarack, West Virginia University, Dollywood and at numerous area schools.

     The Community of Bramwell is honored with the Coal Heritage Achievement Award for Excellence in Marketing for the newspaper article Grand Manses of Coal Wealthy West Virginia, an earned media piece that first appeared in the Washington Post and then featured in numerous newspapers throughout the east including the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Columbus Herald Dispatch and newspapers in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Louisville among others.  As a result of this article many new visitors made their way to Bramwell to learn about the history of early mining in the region. 

      After many years, many meetings, and a lot of planning, the new visitor’s center at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine was opened to the public on June 30. 2008.  This new 14,000 square foot center, known as the Rahall Company Store, features tourist amenities as well as an extensive interpretive area that tells the story of the development of the coal industry and culture in southern West Virginia and entice visitors to continue their experience by traveling the Coal Heritage Trail through the adjoining counties.  For this work, the City of Beckley and the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine are the recipients of the 2008 Coal Heritage Achievement Award for Interpretation.

     When Daniel and Elisse Clark first saw the former Empire Coal and Coke Company’s Miner’s Clubhouse located in Landgraff in McDowell County, the building had been devastated by flooding that left 4 feet of mud and muck throughout the building.  Dan Clark saw potential in the building that few people could imagine and began the hard work of lovingly restoring the building to its former grandeur.  Opened in May 2003 as the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre, the building now offers 14 guest rooms, a dining area and a small museum room featuring information on local mining and railroading history.  The structure has been featured on HGTVs Building Character and REZoned as well as in other magazines and newspapers.  For his work in restoring this historic structure, Dan Clark is the recipient of the 2008 Coal Heritage Achievement Award for Historic Preservation.

     The recipient of the Coal Heritage Award for Research and Documentation is known throughout the region for her work in chronicling the history of the southern West Virginia Coalfields.   The author of numerous books and articles containing information about the coal mining past of the Winding Gulf Coalfields, including her book “Down on the Gulf”, Ms. Haga has also documented the history of the neighboring New River, Coal River, and Kanawha Coalfields in her Tribute to the Coal Miner Series.  Ms Haga has considered her work “a labor of love” which will provide future generations with a detailed picture of living in the coalcamps of the region.  Ms. Haga was nominated for this award by Chris Dellamea, who occupies his time exploring old coal camps and celebrating coal history through his very informative website coalcampusa.

     Recognized this year as a Beacon of the Coalfields, Mr. Buford Hartsog is the recipient of the Nick J. Rahall Award for his lifelong dedication to preserving and sharing our rich coal history.  A retired teacher and principal, Mr. Hartsog has dedicated his life to education both through his profession and his volunteer work.  Mr. Hartsog created a personal collection of coal artifacts that he regularly toured to local schools sharing our history with numerous school children.  Mr. Hartsog has also volunteered for many years at the Youth Museum of Southern WV and the Exhibition Coal Mine and supervised the development of the reconstructed school house and accompanying exhibits so children and adults would better understand life in a coal camp Throughout his retirement years he has served as an interpreter at the exhibition coal mine school house.  The only surviving charter member of Sophia’s Boy Scout Troop, Mr. Hartsog is currently assisting with the preservation and restoration of the Sophia Scout Cabin that he helped construct as a young man.  Mr. Hartsog sat on the original advisory board for the development of the National Coal Heritage Area and was a member of the Coal Heritage Trail Association, an organization that began the development of the Coal Heritage Trail

A true friend to and supporter of the National Coal Heritage Area and Coal Heritage Trail, Mr. Hartsog was one of the first to have and promote  a vision that southern West Virginia’s coal heritage could and should be interpreted to the public as a tourism effort to celebrate WV’s rich cultural heritage.

       This years awards will be presented to these outstanding recipients at a special luncheon to be held at the White Oak Country Club in Oak Hill on Friday, November 7 at noon.  This luncheon is part of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s Annual Conference being held at the Oak Hill Holiday Inn, November 6-8.  Congressman Nick j. Rahall, II and Dr. Fred Barkey, noted labor historian will be the featured speakers for the luncheon.