Early Strip Mining in Wise County

© Jerry F. Couch

STRIP MINING OF COAL — It was and still is a debatable part of our Southwest Virginia history.  Though strip mining made a great deal of money for some, it also left a legacy of scarred hillsides, polluted water, and sterile land.  Fortunately, reclamation efforts have combined with nature’s resiliency, rendering the effects of strip mining less visible today.

The pictures you see here of early strip mining operations in Wise County were shared with the CVT by a former coal operator and local Friend of History.  They are used with his permission.


Lima shovel, Gardner-Denver compressor, and air track drills.


First vertical drill in wise County – mounted on Autocar truck.  Avery Weeks, operator and Bill Minton, helper.


Lima 802 Dragline, 2.5 cubic yard bucket.  Harry Smith, Operator.


First service truck in Wise County.  Chris Slusher, drill operator and Ruben Carico, helper.


Virginia City – D8 Caterpillar bulldozer.  D. L. Simmons, cutting drill bench operator. 


A shot drilled with a horizontal drill.


D8 Caterpillar bulldozer and Lima shovel.  Always another bladeful waiting!


Lima 1201 shovel.


Lima 802 shovel with 2 cubic yard bucket, long boom, and long stick – operated by Harry Smith. 


1951 – Lower Banner coal seam at Bull Hill.  The truck was driven by Dude Hamm.  The L50 Lorain shovel with a 1 cubic yard bucket was operated by Arnold Slusher.  The drill helper’s identity is not known.


Three Caterpillar bulldozers.  D. L. Simmons is in the background and Paul Jones is in the middle.


Left operator, D. L. Simmons.  Center operator, Paul Jones.






2 thoughts on “Early Strip Mining in Wise County

    1. The pictures were taken by a professional photographer who used large single negatives in a frame for each shot. That’s why they’re so clear.

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