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Winona, West Virginia

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Keeneys Creek Church in Winona, WV
Winona National Bank, circa 1911
1913 map showing Nuttallburg, Winona and mining towns along the Keeneys Creek Branch
Keeneys Creek, near Winona

Located on Keeneys Creek in the highlands north of the lower New River Gorge, Winona is inhabited, though little is left of the community. The entire site of present-day Winona was owned by Robert M. Holliday, Sr., farmer and pioneer settler who came to the area prior to the Civil War. The mineral rights to Holliday's land were purchased by John Nuttall in December of 1870. The Winona post office was named for Winona Gwinn, oldest daughter of William Gwinn, who operated a hotel in the town.

The development of the coal lands surrounding Winona occurred due to the efforts of John Nuttall, who had by the 1880s acquired a tract of 30,000 acres of coal lands along Keeneys Creek in the highlands above his coal operations in the New River Gorge at Nuttallburg, which he had opened in 1873. Nuttall attempted to interest the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in building a branch line railroad into his coal lands, but the railroad was not interested in investing in the building of the branch. In 1891, under an agreement with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O), Nuttall financed the building of a branch line railroad from a point on the C&O mainline near Nuttallburg into the areas of present-day Winona and Lookout. The branch line was completed five miles to Rothwell (Dubree) in 1893, and extended to Lookout and vicinity in 1894. Following the completion of the branch line the C&O assumed operation of the line, naming it the Keeneys Creek Branch.

Because Nuttall could not afford to fund both the building of the railroad line and development of the mines totally out of his own pocket, he offered leases on his coal lands along Keeney Creek to friends and employees of his existing coal operations. William Holland and Fred Rothwell were among the early leaseholders. As part of the terms of the lease, Nuttall was paid a royalty on each ton of coal mined and received a "shipping fee" of $0.05 per ton hauled on the Keeneys Creek Branch.

Coal companies operating mines in the vicinity of Winona began shipping coal following the completion of the branch line. All of the mines were drift mines, working the Sewell seam. George Holland opened a mine for the Ballenger Coal Co. in 1893. The Smokeless mine was first opened by William Masters in 1893 under the name of Masters Coal Company, and later operated by John Campbell and Sam Turner, then by Lee Long, and next by Bell & Wood. The Boone mine was opened by W. F. Boone, later operated by Lee Long, followed by Bell & Wood. The Dubree mine was opened by Rothwell Coal Co. in 1893, and was later operated by Harrison B. and Alex Wood. Coal companies operating on the Keeneys Creek Branch circa-1896 included Boone Coal & Coke Co., Ballinger Coal & Coke Co., Smokeless Coal Co., Rothwell Coal Co., and Blume Coal & Coke Co. at Lookout. The Quarrier mine was opened in 1897 by the Rothwell Coal Co., but ceased operation in 1902. The Rosewell mine was opened by the same company in 1907.

The company store of the Rothwell mining operation was known as the Dubree Company Store. A post named Dubree was established at some unknown date, but closed in about 1920. The Dubree store, established in 1893, was destroyed by fire in 1922 and apparently never rebuilt. The Ballenger and Smokeless coal operations both opened company stores in 1894. Many other businesses operated in Winona during its heyday, apparently because the coal companies didn't own the surface rights to much (or perhaps none) of town itself. Businesses operating in the town its years of boom included a drug store, several general merchandise stores, dry goods stores, a meat market, a pool room, a millinery business, a barber shop, several hotels, a lodging house, and a movie theatre. The Winona National Bank was organzied on September 17, 1910. Several fraternal organization were represented at Winona, including a Masonic lodge chartered in 1903.

Several churches were located in Winona or its nearby mining communities, including a Methodist Episcopoal church, organized in 1894; a Presbyterian church, erected in the early-1890s at Dubree; a Catholic church, built in 1906; and a Baptist church, organized in 1910. The first school at Winona was a one-room building, the first classes being taught there in 1895 by a Mr. Clay. Enrollment that first year was 75 students. Three rooms were added to the building in 1897. A new graded school building was erected in 1910, and the old school building used as a retail store building afterwards, occupied by the Hall & Stemple store. The enrollment of the school was 200 pupils by the mid-1920s.

In 1917, the Maryland New River Coal Company, of Philadelphia, PA, acquired the Smokeless and Boone mines, and in 1919 the company acquired the Dubree and Rosedale mines. The Maryland New River Coal Company was chartered in West Virginia on April 6, 1917. Incorporators of the company were J. M. and W. D. Payne of Charleston, WV and others. J. M. Payne had been an investor in the Central mine at Beury, and was a stockholder in various mining, oil, gas, and transportation companies as well as other industrial and manufacturing related operations in West Virginia.

During the Maryland New River ownership period, improvements were made to the company owned homes and stores and modernization of the company's mining operations occurred. New metal screening and processing plants were built at the mines replacing the old wooden tipples, and modern machinery installed in the mines for the mining of coal. The Maryland New River Club House was opened in Winona in 1919. During the late 1920s, the Maryland New River Coal Company further expanded their coal holdings in the New River Coalfield with the acquisition of the lease to the Nuttallburg coal operations. By 1953, all of the mines of the Maryland New River Coal Co. had ceased operation.

In the year ending June 30, 1923, the Maryland New River Company operated the mines known as Boone, Durbree, Rosedale and Smokeless, all drift mines working the Sewell seam, with thickness averaging 3 ft. 6 in. The company employed 244 workers who worked 80 days. Both pick and machine mining was done, with one steam and eight electric locomotives and twenty-eight mules used to move the coal. J. W. Garvey was superintendent with J. E. Davis, S. S. Sandigo, Charles Higgins and W. H. Gross as foremen.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), the "Father of Black History," began teaching public school in Winona, where he worked from 1898 to 1900. Today visitors to Winona can explore the grounds of the Garvey House Bed & Breakfast on Main Street where Martin Garvey, general manager of Maryland New River Coal Co., lived with his family. The population of Winona was estimated at 1,100 in 1910 by the West Virginia Geological Survey.