Coal Mining & Industrialization

3663 Crab Orchard Road Tazewell

Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park
Written By Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park

The Historic Crab Orchard Museum is an educational institution whose mission is to identify, collect, preserve, interpret, and promote the diverse Appalachian cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia and the surrounding region.

The largest coal seam in the United States was discovered in Pocahontas, in Tazewell County, Virginia, in the 1880s and a mine was opened, providing jobs for area residents and many immigrants from Europe.

With mining came the railroad because the coal had to be removed from underground and shipped elsewhere. They used oxen, goats, mules, and every means necessary to get the coal out, in dangerous conditions. Coal mining still has safety risks and air quality must be monitored, but many improvements have been made.

Before the invention of the telegraph, messages had to be sent by stagecoach or riders and could take weeks or months to reach their destination. The telegraph uses Morse code to send a message across the wires. Someone would be at the other end of the line to decode the message. The telegraph is the early equivalent of texting by cell phone today.

The industry provided access to new “store bought” items through the establishment of Company Stores. Sometimes the miners were paid in scrip, made by a machine the company owned, which could be redeemed for items at the company store. Musical records could be purchased and played on a Victrola or Silvertone phonograph, but families still made music with instruments like the fiddle and banjo. Old Time and Bluegrass music developed in this area from the Celtic traditions of the settlers and African influences of slaves and servants. This banjo was made from a walnut stump, a groundhog hide and a spoon, showing the resourcefulness of its maker.

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Crab Orchard Museum Permanent Gallery Exhibits, Pt. 2

Coal Mining & Industrialization

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