RED ASH, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The town of Red Ash was never large in population, but was home to some historic events in the New River Gorge.
The town was established in October of 1891 after the Red Ash Coal Company obtained a 50-year charter to mine coal and produce coke along the New River.
The town was located along the Southside branch of the C&O Railway where coal and coke from Red Ash were shipped down to Thurmond to the mainline.
Red Ash was unique though, as it is home to “Red Ash Island” which at one point housed sick individuals and served as a graveyard for those that died of illness or in a mining accident.
The 12-acre plot of land at a fork in the New River is surrounded by water when the river is very high, but accessible when water levels are normal or low.
The Island was not suitable for normal homes or buildings so it was used to bury and quarantine individuals.
When smallpox was spreading through towns such as Red Ash, it struck fear in residents. There was no known cure or treatment at the time in the 1890s, so what most towns did was simply quarantine the people sick with the disease until they recovered or died.
Those suffering from smallpox were mandated to stay on Red Ash Island in box cars that were equipped with 16 cots each. Those who passed away there would never leave the island as that’s where they would be buried following their death.
Red Ash was also home to the first major mine disaster in the New River Gorge which occurred on March 6, 1900, and killed 46 miners after an explosion. Those miners were buried at Red Ash Island.
Today, the Island can be accessed via a hike along the Southside Trail from Cunard in the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve.