QUINNIMONT, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The New River Gorge is known for its famous “New River Smokeless Coal” that was shipped out all across the world. It was mined all throughout the Gorge, but the first place it was mined and shipped out was in a small town nestled between the mountains in Fayette County. A monument erected in honor of the man responsible still stands today.
In 1873, the same year the C&O Railway was completed, the first coal mine in the Gorge opened at Quinnimont which was owned by Pennsylvania native Joseph Beury.
Beury learned the art of coal mining from working in his father’s anthracite coal mines in Pennsylvania. He was part of the Union army during the Civil War and earned the military title of Colonel. In 1872, he established the town of Quinnimont. The town was named after the five mountains that surround it.
The first mine that Colonel Beury opened was very successful and he expanded his mining empire by opening several more mines in the New River Gorge. Eventually, Beury was one of the largest mine operators in the state of West Virginia.
After garnering a large fortune from his mining operations, Beury decided to build himself a mansion in the town of Beury near Thurmond where he lived out the rest of his life until he passed in 1903 at the age of 61.
In the 1920s, fellow coal operators in the New River Gorge paid to have a 25-foot tall, 55-ton granite monument erected in Beury’s honor at Quinnimont at a cost of $30,000. That would be an estimated $400,000-$500,000 today.
Today, the nearly century-old monument still stands but is somewhat hidden from general view. It cannot be seen from the river, but can be seen off Route 41 shortly passed the Quinnimont sign on the side of the New River if you are driving from Prince.
The inscription on the monument reads: “The first New River smokless coal was mined and shipped from Fire Creek Seam at Quinnimont by Joseph Lawton Beury in 1873. This memorial erected by his coal associates in New River District.”