Coal is to Big Stone Gap and the entire Appalachian region what automobiles are to Detroit, corn is to Kansas and oil is to Texas. Because coal mining, to a large extent, defines the area–how people live, where they work, and how they think and feel. The Coal Museum was put together, bit by bit and piece by piece, from the mini treasure troves and memorabilia of private homes and public buildings from Big Stone Gap and surrounding towns. For natives, the museum attempts to describe a personal heritage as well as provide a peek into the past. For others, it offers a rich educational experience concerning coal and its direct influence on the local lifestyle.
Owned by the Town of Big Stone Gap and operated by the Big Stone Gap Parks and Recreation Department, the museum features exhibits and objects collected by the late Harry Meador Jr., an executive with a local coal company. Museum property once served as the study of John Fox Jr, author of “Trail of the Lonesome Pine”.The founder of the museum, Harry W. Meador, was an advocate of the coal mining industry. During his career, he rose from a union laborer to the Vice President of Coal Development for a local coal company. Once part of the John Fox, Jr. estate, the house was a two-room building that served as a library and study. Later a wing was added and the building served as a community center for dances and other activities. Various displays exist in the museum, including a collection of photographs, mining equipment and tools, office equipment, coal company items, and a small dentist office from the early 1900s.
Harry W. Meador, Jr. to whom this museum is dedicated, was a tireless advocate of the coal-mining industry in general, and of the Westmoreland Coal Company in particular. He began his career in 1949 as a union laborer. He joined Westmoreland management as an assistant superintendent, and advanced through numerous managerial positions to Vice President of Eastern Operations in 1969, and finally to Vice President of Coal Development in 1978, his responsibility at the time of his death in 1981.
From concept to operation, Mr. Meador was the coal museum. His love of coal-mining and its history is evident throughout, as he personally collected, cataloged, and displayed nearly every exhibit. A tour of the museum with him was an enlightening experience-he could speak with authority as to the use and significance of each item.
E .B. (Ted) Leisenring, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Westmoreland Coal Company, speaking at the dedication ceremony in September 1982 said it all: “I think Harry Meador would like best to be remembered as a Coal Miner, with every proud attribute that goes with that name.”
Days and hours of operation:
Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 – 5:00
Sunday 1:00 – 5:00
Monday – Tuesday Closed,
however, special arrangements can be
made if you telephone in advance.