Death in the Dwina Mines

© Jerry F. Couch 2021

In 1940’s post-war America, the demand for coal was high as the country switched from wartime industrial production to peacetime industrial production. An inflationary period followed the war but miners wages weren’t keeping pace. As a result of this situation, a series of strikes by UMWA members followed. The situation became so serious that rail transportation was hampered – coal, being the fuel that kept trains moving in those days. Coal from non-union mines found a ready market – the best in years.

“Oh come all you young fellers so young and so fine
Seek not your fortune in a dark dreary mine
It’ll form as a habit and seep in your soul
Till the stream of your blood runs as black as the coal”

From “Dark as a Dungeon” by Merle Travis © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Underground coal mining remains an inherently dangerous industry today, but it was even more dangerous in the mid-20th century. Injuries were common and the death rate, though lower than in previous years, remained high in comparison to other industries.

Most everyone in Southwest Virginia can name someone from their family who was killed in a mining or mining-related accident. Though these people are gone, they have not been forgotten. Today we’re going to remember some of these brave souls. They made the ultimate sacrifice to earn a living and provide for their families…

(Below) From the Thursday, May 16, 1946 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier

(Below) From the Friday, May 17, 1946 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier

(Below) From the Friday, May 17, 1946 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier

(Below) From the Thursday, January 16, 1947 edition of the Bristol Herald Courier

(Below) From the Wednesday, June 23, 1948 edition of the Bristol News Bulletin

(Below) From the Monday, August 23, 1948 edition of the Kingsport News

2 thoughts on “Death in the Dwina Mines

  1. I remember as a child playing outside in Virginia City, knowing that somewhere, hundreds of feet below my feet, my Dad and his crew were digging coal. Thinking about it now, that was quite a thing for small children to be pondering while at play, but it was just part of growing up in the coalfields.

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