The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Red Ash (historical)

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Red Ash coal
1913 USGS map showing Red Ash mining operation
1901 C&O track diagram showing Red Ash
The Red Ash Coal & Coke Company was incorporated on Oct. 13, 1891 by F. Howard, John Laing, H. W. Henry, John H. Howard, and J. Fred Effinger. The first mine opened by the company was a mine named "Finlow", which would later become more popularly known as the Brooklyn mine. The Red Ash mine's first year of production was 1892.

The Red Ash mine and coke ovens were located across the New River and just-downstream of the operations at Beury and about 1.5 miles downstream of the Rush Run mine. Red Ash was a drift mine, working the Fire Creek coal seam, also known as "Red Ash." The mine opening was located about 450 feet above New River. A 1,350 foot incline was used to bring the coal down to a tipple located along the C&O Railway's South Side branch along New River. [1]

A C&O Railway book published in 1906 indicated that the Red Ash was operating 80 coke ovens. [2} State mining records indicate the Red Ash mine was operated by Red Ash Coal Co. from 1894-1904; New River Smokeless Coal Co. during 1905-1908; New River Collieries Co. from 1909-1911; and Scotia Coal & Coke Co. during 1912-1921. Mines named Dunlow, Finlow and Red Ash were among the names of the Red Ash Coal. Co. mines. The West Virginia Geological Survey for Fayette County (pub. 1919) [3] indicated the mine named "Red Ash" had been abandoned, and the remaining coal was to be taken out via the Rush Run mine. The Rush Run mine was operated by Scotia Coal & Coke Company at that time. The account goes on to say that the Red Ash tipple had used bar screen to size its coal and indicated that the mine's slack coal was coked in the company's battery of coke ovens. The estimated daily output was 450 tons, with 1,000 being its maximum. Thickness of the coal seam varied from 4'8" to 7'.

Welsh Coke Ovens

While virtually all of the coke plants in the New River Coalfield used coke ovens of the beehive design, a battery of 80 Welsh coke ovens were built at the Red Ash mining operation sometime prior to 1900. The Welsh design used a mechanical drawer to extract the coke from the ovens which reducing operating costs. The ovens were drawn by means of a wire rope, two blocks, and a grip, the power being supplied by a endless wire rope running along front of coke wharf. Heat from the 40 of these ovens which would normally been wasted was redirected via a firebrick flue of about 14 sq. ft. ran in back of the ovens, which carried the heat under a 300 horsepower Stirling boiler, a type of boiler then still in common used in Wales.[4]

Red Ash Mine Disasters

On March 6, 1900, a mine explosion at the Red Ash mine killed 46 workers. Several young boys were among those killed that day, including one only 12 years old. The mine explosion was caused by a build up of methane gas in the mine. Three miners working a short distance inside the drift mouth were injured by the force of the rushing air that resulted from the explosion.[2]

On the morning of March 18, 1905, a explosion at the Red Ash and Rush Rush mines left 13 workers dead. Eight workers were killed at Rush Run and five at Red Ash. Eleven rescue workers attempting to reestablish ventilation in the mines were killed the following day by a second explosion. The force of the explosion was so great that at the mouth of the Red Ash mine nearly all of the mine's support timbers were blown out of the entrance for a distance of 100 feet and the drum house was destroyed. Reportedly, a shaft of flame came out of the mine's entrance was seen 10 miles distant from the mine and shaking of the earth was felt over a two mile radius on the South Side of New River.[5]

Exploring Red Ash

Rafter's Reference: the ruins of Red Ash are located at river-left, at the beginning of a broad bottom at river-left, just opposite and downstream of the ruins of Beury. The ruins are also accessible to hikers and bikers by way of the Brooklyn-Southside Junction Trail or the Cunard-Kaymoor Trail.


Tipple of the Rush Run mine, ca. late 1890s. The operation's battery of Welsh coke ovens had not yet been built.
Some of the company houses at the Rush Run mine, ca. late 1890s.
Baseball Diamond at Red Ash, ca. late 1890s.
Diagram of Welsh coke ovens used at Red Ash mine


[1] "The Red Ash Mine Disaster" in The Colliery Engineer Vol. 20 (1900) via Google Books
[2] Chesapeake & Ohio Railway: Official Industrial Guide and Shippers' Directory (1906) via Google Books
[3] County Reports and Maps: Fayette County (1919) via Google Books
[4] "Welsh Coke Ovens" in Mines and Minerals (1900) via Google Books
[5] "Rush Run Mine Explosions" in Mines and Minerals (1906) via Google Books