The Company Store at Ward, WV | Kelly’s Creek Colliery Co. & Valley Camp Coal

Kelly’s Creek Colliery, as I understand it, was the primary coal mining company in operation at Ward, WV.  It was owned by Valley Camp Coal.  Anyone familiar with coal mining operations has undoubtedly heard of the company store.  Mining companies often ran a store and provided housing for the workers.  The result was mostly a raw deal for the miners in my opinion since the prices in the store tended to be inflated and the miners were required to get their supplies there and have the purchases deducted from their pay.  It isn’t hard to see how the mining companies would make out like bandits in this scenario since they could buy low, sell high and exploit workers who had no opportunity to stretch their resources any further than allowed by the mining company.

Ward, West Virginia was a coal mining town in existence solely because of the Kelly’s Creek mining operation.  At it’s heart, just like many other similar communities in coal mining areas, was a company store.

Started in 1903, the Kelly’s Creek Colliery Company commissary served about 75-90 miners living at or near Ward, WV and was somewhat small compared to some other company stores of the day.

It was located near the mouth of Mill Hollow and not far from Rube’s Hollow. A larger store replaced it in 1906. The store expanded again sometime around 1911 with a new addition to the existing store. Over the years, the store continued to grow with the community.

The store burned in 1926 and was promptly replaced by a brick building that lasted until July 18th, 1947.  On this date another fire, one that started in the elevator shaft, completely destroyed it a second time.  The final store to open at Ward came in late 1948 and is said to have featured yellow tile, though the source I referred to for this article (the 1984 Ward Community Reunion Book) does not say whether the tile was floor, walls or elsewhere and mother doesn’t remember anything about any yellow tile.  She does remember going to the store with her father and my grandfather, Steve Kozak, and shopping for school supplies on his store credit.

There were also two small branch stores in operation at Cedar Grove and 2nd Five Mile over the years as the need dictated it.  These stores closed once there was no longer enough business to support them.

A number of store managers were employed to run the store. Here is a list, and when it’s known, the time frame and additional bits of information about them.  Comments with further information about the store and it’s employees are welcome, just type them in the comments field below. For discussion about your ties to West Virginia, join our West Virginia Genealogy Group on Facebook

  • John D. Pribble, Store Manager (likely the very first store manager; 1903-1905)
  • D.H. Putney, Store Manager, 1905-1907 ( his family is said to have been known far and wide around the time before and after the Civil War for their service to the Campbell’s Creek Coal Co.
  • Joseph Dawson, Store Manager, he is said to have served in this role until about 2 years before the mining company was sold to Valley Camp.
  • N.S. Brown was the final store manager before ownership changed to James A. Paisley and Valley Camp. He was the manager from 1915 to 1917.
  • B.W. Dyer, Store Manager for “many years”
  • T.M. Jones was “at the store for a few months before being moved to Triadelphia”
  • John Hall, Store Manager 1934
  • R.R. “Booker” Woodrum, Store Manager
  • J.B. Kennedy, Store Manager (said to be the final store manager for the store)

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  1. Lois Bannister Moon

    Mother (Maude Gunnoe) lived in Ward. Sisters, Ruth, Esther,Loretta,– Brothers, Fred, “Buster” who was killed in WWll. Mother Anna Gunnoe.

    • Lisa

      Thanks for sharing about your family Lois!! I’m trying to get details on this year’s Ward reunion, whether it will take place? If you happen to know or know who I might call I would appreciate any help. I would like to post it here on the website.

  2. LaVerne McCombs Legg

    Someone on Cedar Grove Community School website trying to help her mother find her siblings that were given away for given up for adoption from Ward before 1947..Two sisters and two brothers.. The mothers name was either Marline or Marlene Lewis..The sibling that is trying to find them is Mary Lewis.Don’t know if they were adopted(private or open)..

  3. Carol L. DeMatteo

    Looking for any infomation / listing for my grandfather who worked at the Kelley’s Creek Colliery and died around 1940/41 Larry Chapman, no middle initial, wife Eathel Mona Chapman.
    Thanks in advance for any help you may provide.

  4. Mike O'Daniels

    My father, Roy Edward O’Daniels and my mother Freda Mae Morris were both born at Ward. My dad’s first job was at Kelley’s Creek Coal Company. His father, Henry (Dutch) O’Daniels was truant officer for the Eastern Part of Kanawha County. My dad’s mother’s name was Annie Hunt O’Daniels and my mother’s mother and father were Matti Giles Morris and Michael C. Morris. My mother is buried in the Ward Cementary.

  5. Albert Mounts

    The store at Ward was yellow tiles on the outside . This I can remenber from me and my uncle would walk to the store for mom .in 1950 it was the first big store I ever saw. It had large windows in the front and when you entered the stairs would be on your right side, when you made your puarches they would you bill in an air tube and send it upstaires. My phone #is 928-263 1187 if I can help with other questions.

  6. Scott Stephens

    My family both the Kelleys and Stephens lived in Ward. I finally made it to a Ward reunion a few years back and going again this year. I think my grandparents lived by the gas station? But I was told that their old house was finally brought down. I did pick up some Ward reunion books. If anyone is looking for certain people, let me know and I can scan these pages and send them to you. Books are loaded with pictures.

    • Lisa

      Hi Scott,
      Do you have word about whether the reunion will happen this year. Please let me know if you have a contact person for it I could reach out to – I’d like to post information on the blog.

  7. Shelia Mitchell Coleman

    I lived with my grandfather, George C. Mitchell, in Ward West Virginia from 1950 until his death in 1959. I attended an elementary school there but can’t remember the name of the school. I also have a picture of me standing in my grandfather’s yard and I was about 7 years old at the time. My grandfather worked as a coal miner and he had children that also was born and resided in Ward. His children were Charlie, Thomas, Emmanuel, George Jr, Edith, Dorothy, Rosa, Louise, Ruby. I don’t know if anyone may remember this family but it would be nice to hear from someone that does. My grandfather and grandmother are both buried in Ward.

  8. Dawn Davis

    MY Daddy was Ernest Charles Kirby he worked on the.Kelly’s creek coal mine and my family lived in the coal camp my grandparents were Bedford and Pricey Elswick my mother was Margie Marie Elswick grandma and grandpa was put to rest in the Putney cemetery along with many other family members I have heard meany stories about the coal camp and Kelly’s creek store how the miners paid in company script at the store and they barely made it my daddy and other miners run moonshine to be able to survive my brother Terry Wayne Kirby told me many stories about get water from the spring for making the.shine my brother Marshall Owen Elswick helped to when I was born in 1965 we lived up on Campbell creek.I listen to how cold they were in the winter holding blanket over there head and blowing hot air under the blanket.trying to get warmer and stay that way my mom done the best she could to clean and keep the house nice as possible considering the circumstance I have been to Kelly’s creek I all was called Putney many times going to the grave yard and funeral my mom and grandma picked berrys and made cobbler was so good I miss having some they got water from the spring is good water I am trying to get information about my family and the coal mine history to share with my three sons my parents and grandparents were all ready passed away when they were born its sad they never had a chance to get to know them any one that has information please let me know thank you so much Dawn Davis

  9. Joe Tucker

    Lisa, you state your Grandfather was Steve Kozak, any relation to Callie Kozak? Callie worked at Valley Camp Company store. My mother Sylvia Tucke used to visit a Kozak, but can’t remember her first name. I do remember the name Steve Kozak. I don’t know if there were more than one Kozak family or not.
    They lived in mouth of Big Hollow, down from Jr. High School & next to railroad tracks. I used to take my Mother to visit in evening and go back at later time to pick her up.

    • Lisa

      Callie Kozak was Steve Kozak’s sister (Steve is my grandfather). As to how many Kozak families were there, probably depends on timeframe. As far as I know, my grandfather’s family – Pete Kozak, wife and children – was the only Kozak family there until of course the children grew up and started their families. I’ve been away from my blog here for quite awhile, my real job has kept me very busy (and it’s all online so I need the break from the computer on my off time these days more than I used to!). I’m trying to get back into spending more time adding more content to this website in the coming weeks and months. You might also enjoy my Facebook group – just search for it on Facebook – it’s called West Virginia Genealogy

  10. Ashley

    Is anyone familiar with someone named Fred Poski/Proskin that would have been a coal miner around 1923-1945 in Ward, WV?

  11. Jack Ramsey

    My husband has a wooden fork stamped with Kelly’s Creek Reunion Ward Aug 22. We are trying to find out what year that would be. His dad Justice (Bub ) Ramsey worked in the mines at Kelly Creek and his mother Pearl Ramsey worked for the board of elections. They lived at 5 Mile Hollow. The reunion had to be before 1954 appx.

  12. John David Gandee

    Anyone remember John Gandee who worked at Valley Camp Coal back in the 60’s ?
    He was married to Mattie G. Morris who was the sister to Freda Morris in an earlier post I read. I am trying to do research to locate him since I have not seen or heard from him since I was about 7 years old. He worked at valley Camp and he also worked at Seabolt Lumber Company back then. I believe my mother Mattie G. Morris was born at Ward, WV. I know very little about either side of my family and I have went on sites on Internet and found very little also. Anyone remember anything would be helpful.

  13. Julie

    Is anyone familiar with the name Claude Lyons? My father and Grandfather worked as coal miners there whole life. I know my Dad worked for Valley coal company several years in 1990

  14. Julie

    up until 1990*

  15. John Hess

    John Wyatt Dawson was store manager in 1911….he is my great grandfather….his son was Joseph Power Dawson who was a senior at Charleston High School in 1911. Joe was editor of the year book and his father placed an ad in the yearbook listing J. W. Dawson as Gen’l Mgr. Joe’s sister is my grandmother.

  16. Pam Cox

    Is the ward reunion still going on. Can anyone send me an address.? I went a couple times with my family. We are the Cox’s. Carl , Margie, Gary. . I’d love more info.

    • Lisa Isbell

      No, sorry to say that as far as I know, they no longer are having Ward reunions.

  17. Jean Kersey

    does any one remember Inghram’s in Ward ?



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