Monterville, West Virginia
Coal, defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a piece of glowing carbon, has shaped the character of West Virginia – Randolph County included. From the original Hart Mine, owned by Bosworth “Boss” Hart, located on Rich Mountain, to the Stipe Brothers Coal operation near Elkins, coaling mining has known to make and break communities. Monterville is an example of coal communities at their finest. What was once a busy little community complete with two schools, post office, a store and two “beer joints” is now a wide spot in the road. However, many town residents still recall the heydey of Monterville.
Ivan Dodrill, born in 1922, has lived in Monterville his whole life. He has seen the community change from a farming community to a coal town and now into a remnant of neither. Dodrill was raised on a farm with six brothers. They grew common crops such as potatoes, corn, buckwheat, hay, and had milk cows as well. In the 1930s, Dodrill’s father went to work for the then-newly opened Hickory Lick Coal Mine. This was the beginning of a boom for Monterville. At that time the mines were the main form of work. There were a few other jobs like logging as well. Despite the fact that there were a few other jobs in the region, everyone in the Monterville community had at least one relative working in the mines. With the added jobs came added revenue for the Dodrill family who maintained their farm even though Dodrill’s father was working outside of the home. They were able to sell produce to the miners and their families.
The surrounding towns profited from the Hickory Lick mine as well. According to Dodrill, a movie theatre, union hall, bowling alley, and dance hall were built in Valley Head when the mines were in full swing. Dodrill attended one of Monterville’s two grammar schools, Mud Lick School. According to Dodrill, Mud Lick was a school for farm children in the area. The Mud Lick facility was a one-room school house and served classes through the eighth grade. However, one year the school made an exception by serving a ninth-grade class for a group of boys who did not have transportation to Tygart Valley.
Other Monterville natives such as Louise Brookes See, born in 1929, went to the Stalnaker School, a two-room school house that offered classes through the ninth grade. See said she remembers the last teacher she had at the Stalnaker School, Vernin Snyder, as well as the health nurse who would travel to Monterville from Elkins to give the children a yearly check-up. Like many students, See walked to school along the Pickens Road in knee-deep snow. “They never even thought of cancelling school because of the weather.” See’s father, Ike Brooks, was killed in the mines when she was 8 years old. See would deliver newspapers to help her mother who was raising four children as a widow. “When the mines were booming, there were houses everywhere. There were a lot of young people too. It was quite a busy town,” she said. See remembers a time when Monterville was a bustle of activity. The beer joints would hold dances on Saturday nights and they always attracted a large crowd. Monterville was home to a store, a post office, and two bars in it’s prime – all of which are gone today.
See left Monterville soon after she married in 1947 to go work in Elkins. At that time, Monterville was still going strong. As far as growing up in Monterville is concerned, See never gave the community’s remote location much thought. She said this was life and you enjoyed it the best you could. Everybody knew everybody and almost everyone loved that. Soon the Monterville mines would close and many residents would leave. Dodrill, for example, began working in the mines when he was old enough to leave the family farm, but he was not there for long. The mines closed down in the 1950s. Most residents, like Dodrill, then went to Elkins for work.
The small town of Monterville was once a booming coal town, but now all that is left of its days of prosperity is picturesque scenery. Today, the Elk River Springs Resort, Ellie May’s Ole Mill Restaurant, Point Mountain Wilderness Lodge, and many other vacation rentals call Monterville home. It’s a place for unwinding, seclusion, fishing, hunting, hiking, and just enjoying the West Virginia mountains that surround it.
Article Credit, 2015: Leah Dietz, Staff Writer for The Intermountain