Fork Creek Memories West Virginia Highlands Voice May, 2012
My sainted grandma Barker told me of the rich Mr. Skinner riding his horse up and down Coal River buying mineral rights. Sometime back then someone got the bright idea to divide a piece of land into two parts–the surface and the minerals beneath. That was the beginning of the end of our mountains. Fifty cents an acre sounded like a fortune to subsistence farmers. Before bulldozers, steam shovels and draglines, there didn’t seem to be any harm in the deal.
My prescient ancestor looked Mr. Skinner in the eyes and said, “You are Skinner by name and skinner by trade, but you will not skin old Isaac Barker.” Consequently the forty acre farm with mineral rights intact (almost unheard of on Coal River) is still in our family. I was born at Emmons near the mouth of Fork Creek on the Boone County side of Big Coal River. When I was toddler we lived in the ARMCO coal camp in Nellis. Dad was a coal miner in the mines under Fork Creek. His coal miner days were ended when his eye was cut open by a piece of flying coal while working under the very area that is now threatened with massive destruction. As I write this ARMCO’s descendent companies want to blow away the mountains and bury the streams just over the ridge from our home place in what was the Fork Creek Wildlife Management Area. While living with Grandma in 1972 my mule escaped and I ended up walking, dragging and riding him back across nine miles of the Fork Creek protected forest land.