The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Elmo, West Virginia

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Tipple of the Elmo Mining Company
1884 map showing Elmo and East Elmo
C&O track diagram of 1901 showing location of Elmo, Michigan and Newlyn
USGS 1913 map showing locations in the vicinity of Ames

This location and the mining operations here have come to be referred to as "Ames" in recent history, however the historic evidence shows that from at least 1883 through 1930 the mine, town and railroad station here all were known as "Elmo." There is no mystery regarding the location of Elmo, as all of Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) records consistently mark its location as being at mile post 405.6 on the railroad's mainline.

The Elmo mine was among the earliest mining operations in the New River Gorge, and according to Hotchkiss' publication, The Virginias, began shipping coal in 1883. Although the mine had closed during the 1930s, a 1937 map of Fayette County by the West Virginia State Road Commission still marked the location as Elmo. The name Ames came into use after 1941, when the Ames Mining Company began operating a mine in the vicinity of Elmo and three other older mines. The name Ames is said to come from the first letter of the names of four older mines in the vicinity -- Ajax (formerly Newlyn), Michigan, Elmo and Sunnyside. (1) The name of the railroad station was apparently changed at about the same time. A 1944 C&O station book listed the name of the station at MP406 as Ames.

State mining records (2) indicate the Elmo mine was operated by W.A. Burke and Co. from 1884-1900; New River Mining Co. in 1901; Elmo Coal & Coke Co. from 1902-1903; The Isabel Coal & Coke Co. during 1904-1905; Beury-New River Coal & Coke Co. from 1907-1911; The Elmo Mining Company from 1913-1916; and Elmo Coal & Coke Co. from 1917-1921; Elmo Mining Company from 1922-1925; "Neal A. R." from 1925-1927; and Beckley New River Coal Co. during 1930.

The state's records show the Ames No. 1 mine as being operated by the Ames Mining Company from 1941-1962. In 1949, the Ames mine was producing 1,175 tons per day and employed 285 workers. [1]

The exact date the Elmo mine was opened in unknown, however the W. A. Burke Company was identified as operating the Elmo mine on a list of mines in operation of the C&O during 1885. A circa-1896 list of mines in the Third Mining District of West Virginia listed the W. A. Burke Company as operating the Elmo mine, a drift mine that worked the Sewell coal seam of 3-foot thickness, with 41 employees. F. W. Burke was mine superintendent and the company's post office address was Elmo. A track diagram map of 1901 identified the coal operations at Elmo as being operated by the New River Mining Company.

A 1906 C&O publication listed Isabell Company Co. as operating the Echo mine, however an advertisement in the same publication indicated the Elmo mine was operated by the Beury-New River Coal Co. Elmo's population in 1910 was 92, according to the W. Va. Geological Survey (1919). A 1911 Fayette County publication listed the Beury-New River Coal Co. as operating the Elmo mine, with a post office address at Elmo, W.Va.

A 1921 list of coal mines in West Virginia listed the Elmo mine was being operated by the Elmo Mining Company, with a post office address in Elmo. A 1923 list shows the company as operating the Elmo mine. That year the company employed 55 workers who worked 131 days during 1923. Only machine mining was done at the mine although 5 mules were used to move the coal. Daniel K. Flynn was superintendent, and Herman Davis mine foreman.

Reportedly, because its mine entrance hadn't been completely sealed shut, script writer and director John Saylers was able to use "the former Ames mine" to film the "drift mouth" sequences for the 1987 movie, Matewan. (3)

Little is left of Ames today beyond a few stone walls usually lost in the thick summer foliage, but Ames Heights, developed on the tablelands above the town, is a recognizable place-name for many visitors to the area, located just off US-19 west of the New River Gorge Bridge. One of the largest employers in Fayette County, Class VI Whitewater Rafting is located at Ames Heights.


(1) Shirley Donnelly, Newspaper column: Ames Got Name From Four Coal Mines

(2) West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, mine data tonnage reports

(3) Eugene L. Huddleston, Riding That New River Train


View a larger version of this map.

Additional Sources of Information

The following article about the Elmo Mining Company from The Black Diamond, Vol. 62 can be read and downloaded (PDF) at Google Books.

Rafter's Reference: the ruins of Ames are located on river-right, just upstream of Old Nasty Rapids.


[1] Beckley Post-Herald, p. 8, Jan. 12, 1950, "Bureau Endorses Changes At Ames"