On June 30th, 2007, approximately 200 people gathered for the dedication of the Coal Miner’s Memorial Park in Helen. The Memorial stands on a grassy knoll where the old “company store” once stood. A community park and a picnic shelter are located at the site of the old miner’s bath house, formerly owned by Eastern Gas and Fuel.
The project received support from a number of area businesses and organizations. Donations of money and materials came from local churches, residents, and commercial establishments.
An emotional unveiling of the monument followed the forty-five minute ceremony. Families, friends, and supporters formed a single file line making their way to view the names etched on the Memorial, and the donated artifacts enclosed in the stone structure.
The Coal Miner’s Memorial was erected as a tribute honoring deceased coal miners from the Helen community. The monument was designed and built by Mr. Lacy Blevins, a former resident and veteran coal miner. Mr. Blevins donated his labor as a tribute to those who worked in an industry that guided the United States into an industrial revolution and changed the face of America forever.
The 2x6 inch plaques displaying the names of deceased coal miners from the community were sold for $100 each. Proceeds from the initiative funded the development of the monument site, expansion of the park, and group youth activities.
Helen is located off Route 16, along the Coal Heritage Trail, and 4 miles south of the Burning Rock Off-Road Park. The town is a remarkably intact coal camp, featuring original coal company built housing and other structures, including the picturesque Helen Baptist Church, constructed in 1919 by former Eastern Associated Coal Company. The coal company’s intended layout of the plan has been preserved through the decades, with the simple miner’s dwellings still laud out in the original grid of coal insignia named streets, such as Carbide and Script Alley’s, and segregated from the larger and more roomy house’s of the mine foreman, which are located in the appropriately named, Foreman Bottom.
Currently, plans are being developed to renovate and restore the former coal company baseball field in Helen, and develop the site into a historic exhibit and recreational ball park. Additionally, the Department of Environmental Protection is nearing completion on a multi-million dollar pollution control project that will protect the integrity and ecology of the cold, clear, bio-diverse, trout filled waters of the Winding Gulf Creek, which meanders through the center of the town, joining with the Stonecoal Creek and the Devil’s Fork just a few miles south of the town, forming the Guyandotte River.