Nuttallburg: A Town Forgotten

by LeviDMoore /
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Jan 27, 2012 / 0 comments

The New River Gorge National River in Southern West Virginia is known for it’s abundance of old coal towns. Within the gorge over 50 such towns sprang up between 1873, the year the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) was completed, and 1910. One of the easiest accessed and best preserved of these towns is Nuttallburg, WV. The mine was established in 1873 by John Nuttall, an English immigrant from Pennsylvania, and by 1878 the town had 40 coke ovens. These ovens were used to refine the coal into coke, a hotter burning derivative used in the production of steel. The mine and land holdings were held by the Nuttall family for several years.



In the early 1920s the lease was purchased by Henry Ford and modernization of the mine’s buildings began. Two of these structures were the tipple and belt line. The belt line was used to haul coal from the mine opening halfway up the steep wall of the gorge, all the way down to the tipple. The tipple was used to load coal into waiting train cars where it would then be shipped off to other destinations across the country.


The mine lease has been controlled by several other companies since Mr. Ford relinquished it in the late 1920s and was finally shut down for good in 1958. Eventually the Nuttall family gave the town over to the National Park Service for use as a cultural and historic day use area.Visitors today can still find the modernized tipple and belt line, coke ovens, train tracks and many, many old foundations and partially standing walls.

A trip to Nuttallburg is like a trip back in time and one can’t help but be touched in some small part by the evidence left of John Nuttall’s great empire, now in ruins.


The National Park Service has done a wonderful job of reclamation as well as installation of informative and interpretive signs. I highly recommend visiting in Spring, Summer or Autumn because during Winter the road leading to the site becomes extremely hazardous and cell phone signal is zero in many places.


Levi Moore is the Southern West Virginia Editor at Wandering Educators


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