The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Glen Jean, West Virginia

From West Virginia (WV) Cyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Glen Jean, WV, is an unincorporated community in Fayette County, West Virginia, and the site of the National Park Service headquarters for the New River Gorge National River. The development of the town occurred in the 1890s following the completion of the Loup Creek Branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Prior to this time there was only one small store building and a post office, named Leblong, at the present-day location of Glen Jean. The Leblong post office was established sometime after 1854. Some Civil War (1861-1865) era maps denoted the location near the mouth of White Oak Creek as "McCoy's Mill".

The Leblong post office was renamed to Glen Jean, in honor of Jean McKell, wife of Thomas McKell. The post office name was later changed to Collinsville, but soon changed back to Glen Jean. The town was chartered as the Town of Glen Jean in 1898. The town's corporate limits once extended as far east as Thurmond and as far south as Macdonald.

In 1910, Glen Jean was the second-largest incorporated town in Fayette County, with a population of 722. During that year, two coal operations were located in the town, as was a drug store, a bulding and loan association, a millenery shop, a lawyer's office, a photographer's gallery, a post office, a justice of the peace office, an insurance agency, and a saloon called "The Ape Yard". Doctors and dentists also practiced in the town. A total of 22 passenger trains ran in and out of the town each day on three railroads. With the decline of the coal industry after WWII, the town began to decline. Glen Jean's population in 2000 was 246.


Glen Jena is located about: 4 miles north of Mount Hope, WV, 4 miles south of Oak Hill, WV; 12 miles north of Beckley, WV; and 52 miles southeast of Charleston, WV


Raleigh County Memorial Airport is located five miles north of Beckley, about 18 miles from Glen Jean


Glen Jean, WV Hotels: Find nearby hotels and make online reservations

New River Gorge Lodging: B&Bs, camping, cabins/lodges, resorts, and vacation rentals

Real Estate

Glen Jean, WV Real Estate: Agents and Realtors


Glen Jean, WV: Current conditions, forecasts, weather alerts, and more


Map of Glen Jean and Vicinity

View a larger version of the map of the towns of the Loup Creek & White Oak Coal Fields, or view a map showing the cities and towns of West Virginia.

Glen Jean, WV

Today Glen Jean appears little like it did a century ago, though its prominence among Fayette County communities is little less. The completion of the US-19 expressway in the 1970s opened the town to increased motor-vehicle commerce. Partly as a result of this access, the New River Gorge National River was established by the National Park Service in the 1980s; and in the 1990s, the National Park Service established its headquarters for West Virginia's southern national park areas there. In 2005, the U.S. Army National Guard opened the Glen Jean Armed Forces Center on an area of reclaimed mine land southwest of the town. The 105,000 square foot facility provides armory housing for four West Virginia National Guard units, the Southern West Virginia Military Entrance Processing Station, and a maintenance center for over-the-road and tracked military vehicles.


National Scouting Center

In 2010 the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) broke ground on a national scouting center at Glen Jean. According to BSA officials, the Bechtel Family National Scouting Reserve, also known as The Summit, will accommodate more than 100,000 scouts annually when completed in 2015. It will also serve as the new permanent home of the National Boy Scout Jamboree. The reserve encompasses an 10,600 acre tract of land adjacent to Glen Jean, in a locale traditionally called the Garden Grounds.


Several hiking trails and biking trails are located near Thurmond, about a 20 minute drive on County Rt. 25 from Glen Jean.


Dunloup Creek is a swift-moving stream that offers fishing for every local variety -- small-mouth bass, large-mouth bass, channel catfish, brown trout, rainbow trout. Dunloup Creek runs through Glen Jean, and is stocked from the mouth of Dunloup at Thurmond, upstream to Harvery, WV, a location about 1.5 miles from Glen Jean.

Plum Orchard Lake, near [Pax, West Virginia|Pax}, is considered one of the best Bluegill holes in the Eastern U.S., is located about 8 miles from Glen Jean. Plum Orchard Lake has good populations of sunfish, large mouth bass, channel catfish and crappie.

The New River provides great fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, rock bass, walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, and flathead and channel catfish. New River fishing spots with easy access near the vicinity of Thurmond, located about 7 miles from Glen Jean.

Early Development of Glen Jean

The lands surrounding the town were owned by John McCoy, a farmer who operated a mill on White Oak Creek perhaps as early as 1850. A "coal bank" (a natural outcropping of coal on a hillside) in the vicinity of Glen Jean is said to have operated prior to the Civil War that provided coal for local blacksmiths and others.

During the late 1800s, Thomas McKell, a banker from Chillicothe, Ohio, purchased 200 acres of land from the McCoy estate to enlarge his land holdings in a yet to be developed section of the New River Coal Field along Dunloup Creek. McKell eventually acquired a tract of nearly 20,000 acres of land in the area stretching along Dunloup Creek between Thurmond into the highlands on Garden Ground Mountain and near present-day Mount Hope.

In 1889, the completion of a railroad bridge across the New River at Thurmond near the mouth of Dunloup Creek and the building a railroad branch line down the south side of the New River permitted the opening of several new mining operations in the New River Gorge. It was during this time that McKell began to actively pursue the development of his coal lands In 1892, McKell wrote to Melvin E. Ingalls, President of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O), seeking his advice and possible assistance with the building of a railroad line up along Dunloup Creek, of about 10 miles in length, that would be needed to develop his coal lands in the highlands. Ingalls quickly replied to McKell, indicating the C&O's willingness to build and operate the railroad McKell required, provided that McKell would give the company the right-of-way required to build the line. As a result of an agreement reached between McKell and Ingalls, the C&O began construction of the branch line later that year.

By late-1893, the rail line had reached Glen Jean, and in January of 1894, the C&O's Loup Creek Branch, was completed to Macdonald. The shipment of coal via the branch had begun a few months earlier, on November 7, 1893, when the first car of coal was shipped from the Collins Colliery Company at Glen Jean. During the last decade of the 19th century, Glen Jean began to develop as one of several boom towns within the newly opened coal field, that came to be known as the Loup Creek District of the New River Coal Field.

The Glen Jean Lumber Company was chartered on Sept. 28, 1893, by act of the W.Va. Legislature. The company's charter specified that it was business included the buying, manufacturing and selling timber and lumber, mining and selling coal, iron, marble, and stone. The company's corporators included Thomas G McKell. William McKell. John D. McKell, J. J. Robinson, and K. B. Robinson. The same day, the McKell Coal & Coke Company was organized . Original corporators of the coal company included Thomas McKell, William McKell, John McKell, and Jean McKell. The company was engaged in the business of mining, shipping and vending coal, manufacturing coke and shipping and selling same, and laying out a town.

The Collins Colliery Company was incorporated on June 14, 1893. Original incorporators included Justus Collins, George M. Jones., Jas. W. Watts, R. T. Watts, Jones Watts, and John H. Lewis. State mining reports for the year ending June 30, 1895 indicated that the company was operated two mines, Collins No. 1 and No. 2, on a 1,036 acre tract of land leased from Thomas McKell. Both mines were drift mines, mining the Sewell seam, having a thickness of about 5 feet. Output from the two mines were combined is an elaborate tipple built at an elevation of 34 feet above the railroad track. Coal from both mines was hauled and landed on the one tipple, which was in turn dumped directly into railroad cars positioned along on a side track off the C&O branch. Immediately connected with the tipple was a slack bin, of 550 tons capacity, with a complete set of conveyors and scrapers. A coking plant, consisting of 100 ovens, of Bee Hive design, was constucted during the year ending June 30, 1895 to produce coke for use in iron and steel production. Hoisting engines used at the Collins coal plant, built and patented by the Southside Foundry & Machinery Company, of Charleston, WV, were said to be the largest in use for similar purposes, having four connected drums, and a combined energy of 350 horse power. When completed, the Collins coal plant had a capacity of 1,500 tons per diem and at that time was regarded as one of the most up-to-date coal operations in the New River and Kanawha Coal Fields.

On Nov. 1, 1895, Thomas McKell organized the Kanawha, Glen Jean & Eastern Railway (KGJ&E). By 1906, the KGJ&E would build its rail line from Glen Jean to Tamroy (near present-day Mount Hope) and soon afterwards constructed a branch line from Sugar Creek Junction to Pax by tunneling through Packs Mountain. The primary function of the KGJ&E was to transport coal from mines operating under a McKell lease, and later, the mining operations McKell opened and operated. The railroad also carried mail, general freight, and coal from mines not owned by or leased from McKell, as well as providing passenger service to the towns along its route.

The White Oak Railway also offered passenger service to Glen Jean, offering connections to Scarbro, Whipple, Carlisle, Oak Hill, Lochgelly, and Summerlee. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) also offer passenger service to Glen Jean. Passenger cars from the White Oak Ry. trains were uncoupled at Glen Jean and coupled to the passenger trains of the C&O and the train continued on to Thurmond and were returned to the White Oak Ry. at Glen Jean on the train's return trip.

A "union church", completed in 1898, was the first church building in the town. Thomas McKell built a opera house at Glen Jean in 1896. Operatic works were rarely performed in the opera houses of Appalachia, but traveling vaudeville acts were common.

By the summer of 1902, the Collins Colliery Co. employed about 600 workers and was producing 1,200 to 1,500 tons of coal per day. The company had spent about $250,000 in total on the construction and completion of its Collins coal plant.

In 1905, the Collins Colliery Co. was sold to the White Oak Coal Company. The White Oak Coal Co. became a subsidiary corporation of the New River Company in later years.

1929 topo map of Glen Jean
and surrounding communities
Circa 1925 map showing rail lines
and mines along Dunloup Creek
Circa 1915 map of railroads and
coal mines surrounding Glen Jean
Bank of Glen Jean building, built 1909 of native sandstone, recently restored by the NPS
Lumber railroad hauled timber from Garden Grounds to Glen Jean
Map of The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scouting Reserve on Garden Ground Mountain, east of Glen Jean
Glen Jean School
Home of William McKell, Glen Jean
Collins Colliery company store at Glen Jean, ca. 1913
Morgan 3rd-rail mine locomotive at Collins Colliery, ca. 1905
Wood-framed store building, c. 1968
Smith's Store, c. 1968
1894-95 map showing early mining towns of the Loup Creek Coal Field
1911 map showing Scarbro, Wingrove, Glen Jean, Redstar, Hilltop, Harvey, and Prudence