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Island Creek Truck.jpg

The Island Creek Coal logo was once seen everywhere in the company town of Holden in Logan County. Meanwhile, in Huntington, the company’s offices occupied four busy floors in what was then the Guaranty National Bank Building at 517-519 9th St.

Editor’s Note: This is the 358th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

UNTINGTON — In the 1950s, the offices of Island Creek Coal Co. occupied four busy floors in what was then the Guaranty National Bank Building at 517-519 9th St.

Island Creek’s corporate predecessor was founded by Huntington lawyer Z.T. Vinson and other investors, who sold their venture to U.S. Coal & Oil Co., backed by Boston capital and managed by William H. Coolidge and Albert F. Holden.

In 1902, Holden and Coolidge spent their summer in Logan County, inspecting a 30,000-acre tract of land they later bought for $600,000 in cash and stock in their company. They built a railroad line to their property from the city of Logan, where the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway had completed its Guyan Valley Extension. The company shipped its first trainload of coal to Huntington in 1904, unloading it at a tipple that had been built on the bank of the Ohio River.

Four miles from Logan, the company built the town of Holden as a model coal town, a far cry from the other coal camps that dotted the West Virginia landscape. Most of the state’s coal camps were ramshackle affairs with cabins thrown together from rough lumber. Miners and their families in Holden were housed in attractively designed cottages. And the town had a theater, tennis courts, a swimming pool and YMCA. (Ultimately, much of the town was purchased by the state to make way for the four-laning of U.S. 119.)

U.S. Coal & Oil was soon renamed Island Creek Coal Co. Expanding rapidly, the company opened more than a dozen mines in Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, McDowell and Fayette counties in West Virginia. Later it would become a far-flung operation as it bought other firms and opened mines in other states.

In 1969, Island Creek lost its independent identity when it was sold to Armand Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum Co. In 1973, the company closed its Huntington offices, moving them to Lexington, Kentucky.

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