Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in Appalachia

By Samuel R. Cook | Go to book overview
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4

A FRONTIER ISLAND

The Growth of Wyoming County, West Virginia

Some two hundred or so miles southwest of Amherst County lies one of the most peculiar counties in the Allegheny Plateau. Wyoming County, West Virginia, is situated squarely in the heart of the plateau, in the dead center of southern West Virginia, and is second to none in the amount of mineral wealth both contained in and extracted from its bowels. However, this region was also one of the latest and slowest to develop. Physiographic isolation coupled with cultural and political recalcitrance at the local level complicated the exploitative process of extracting coal from the county, whereas in many other central Appalachian counties, mineral speculators were able to manipulate local power relations to their favor with relative ease by the turn of the twentieth century. When development did occur, few of the native residents benefited substantially, and dependency on external economic forces was an ultimate conclusion. Today, Wyoming County is classified as one of the most economically distressed areas in the Appalachian region.

In order to understand how Wyoming County became so deeply entrenched in a condition of dependency, it is necessary to consider its historical foundation in the larger context of its relationship to the states of Virginia (of which it was originally a part) and West Virginia. This chapter will examine the history of Wyoming County

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