Big Sandy

Big Sandy was located between Hensley and Roderfield, about three or four miles down the river from Marytown. The photos below were taken in the 1920's.

The pictures are courtesy of retired Air Force Colonel Jack Wilson, a Vietnam War veteran who flew missions over North Vietnam in his F 4 Phantom jet. Buddy French restored the damaged photos and supplied the historical information that can be found in the book Billion Dollar Coalfield. A special thanks to its author, Alex Schust, for the many years of research in putting together this book containing information on Big Sandy and coal ccamps and towns in McDowell County.

The Big Sandy Coal Coke Company opened a mine in Big Sandy in 1900. In 1920, the community had a population of 937, contained about 80 houses, many not shown here, and the coal company employed 112 men. Big Sandy as seen in these photos no longer exists today.

Note: Click on titles for larger images.

Big Sandy1

Big Sandy 1

At the far left of the photo you see a long two story building that was most likely the movie theater. The large fields on the hillside were probably for livestock like cows, hogs, etc. There's a wooden sidewalk the length of the photo that ran alongside a narrow one-lane road and, if you look closely, two men can be seen standing on the sidewalk. At the far center right you can see what was probably the white grade school or possibly a boarding house.

Big Sandy 2

This is pretty much the same photo as the first except you can see more of what I suspect was the school or boarding house at the far right. The road high on the hillside goes to the coal mine. The river is the Tug River.

Big Sandy 3

Big Sandy 3

In this view you also see the school or boarding house again and the car bridge over Tug River. Just to the left of the end of the bridge you see what looks like a road going up the hillside, but that was actually an incline track where a hoist cable pulled carts up the track loaded with mine supplies and could have also been used to transport workers up the hill to the mine.

Big Sandy 4

In this photo you can now see some of the mining complex high on the mountainside. At the far right you see the coal company store near the railroad tracks.

Big Sandy 5

Big Sandy 5

In this view you can see the company store and mining complex on the mountainside much better The mine opening or portal was near those buildings and the coal seam was what we call "low coal" because the coal seam was only three and a half to four feet thick and the workers had to crawl on their hands and knees. You can see the coal chute coming down to the tipple, but the photo was so damaged in this area that you can barely see the tipple and smoke stacks on the power plant. There was a slag pile, or slate dump as we called them, down over the back side of the hill behind the water tank you see above the mining complex. One odd thing in this photo is the building beside the railroad in the lower right has a telephone pole sticking up through its roof.

McDowell County


This page was last updated on 4/21/15