Iaeger, West Virginia: Exploring an Appalachian Coal Town in McDowell County

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In the heart of McDowell County, West Virginia, lies a town with a rich history and a strong connection to the coal industry. Iaeger, also known as Jaeger, was once a bustling hub for the timber industry before it became the railhead for the coal industry. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story of Iaeger and uncover its role in the development of McDowell County.

Located at the meeting point of the Tug Fork and Dry Fork rivers, Iaeger holds a significant place in history. Major Andrew Lewis, a military leader during the French and Indian War, camped in this area in the 1750s. He was preparing to engage in battle with Native American Indians who had been raiding settlements in Virginia. Sadly, the expedition did not end well for Lewis and his troops, as bitter cold and food shortages spelled disaster for them.

Iaeger’s connection to the coal industry dates back to the opening of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. The railroad played a crucial role in connecting the surrounding coal seams to the rest of the country. In fact, in the late 1960s, the Norfolk and Western operated the longest and heaviest freight train in the world, which ran between Iaeger, West Virginia, and Portsmouth, Ohio. This incredible super train stretched over four miles long and pulled an astonishing 500 coal cars. With the help of six 3600 horsepower diesel engines, the train completed its journey in just over six hours.

Despite labor disputes and the decline of the coal industry, a few hundred people still call Iaeger home. The town has seen its fair share of challenges, but it continues to survive with the support of what remains of the coal industry, as well as other service businesses and tourism. The Hatfield and McCoy Trails and Spearhead Trails are popular attractions in the area, drawing visitors who are interested in experiencing the beauty of Appalachia.

As we enter downtown Iaeger, it becomes evident that the town has embraced revitalization efforts. A new playground and activity area have been constructed, offering a space for families and children to enjoy. Along the way, we pass by the VFW, the Prisoner of War Missing in Action Memorial, and a small city hall, which is one of the tiniest city halls you’ll ever see. The town also boasts a fire department, a church, a barber shop, and what used to be a Montgomery Ward catalog sales agency.

Continuing our journey, we come across several intriguing buildings. An old hardware store, a bank, and the remnants of an old hotel that once accommodated railroad workers catch our attention. These structures serve as a reminder of Iaeger’s past and the role it played in the heyday of the coal industry.

Before we leave town, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the old Iaeger Grade and Junior High School. While a new school has been built nearby, this particular building holds a special significance as it celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year.

As our exploration of Iaeger comes to an end, we can’t help but feel a sense of hope and optimism. The rainbow ahead seems to promise good things for the future of this resilient town and its community.

In conclusion, Iaeger, West Virginia, is an Appalachian coal town that has overcome numerous challenges throughout its history. From its roots in the timber industry to its transformation into a crucial railhead for the coal industry, Iaeger has left an indelible mark on McDowell County. Despite the decline of coal, the town perseveres with the support of the remaining coal industry, other service businesses, and tourism. Iaeger’s revitalization efforts, symbolized by the newly constructed playground and activity area, demonstrate the community’s determination to create a brighter future. As we bid farewell to Iaeger, we are reminded of the resilience and strength of the people of Appalachia and their stories, which are worth sharing with the world.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with your friends and family. By spreading the word about the fascinating places and people of Appalachia, we can contribute to preserving their heritage for future generations. Stay tuned for more episodes of “Exploring Appalachia” on the Mountain Roots channel, where we continue to uncover the hidden gems of this remarkable region.

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