TALCOTT, (Hinton News) – It is time for another edition of A Peek into Summers County’s Past. Each week a local history collector, William Jones, shares information and memories pertaining to one or more items from his collection. This week, we are talking about a coal company out of Talcott.
Jones starts this week’s discussion y saying, “Most people would not be able to imagine that you could once buy coal in Talcott, W.Va. But for a brief time in the 1950s through the early 1960s, you could purchase it and have it delivered to your home or business by a company in Summers County called Bernard L. Thompson Co. Fuel & Trucking that was advertised as being located in Talcott, W. Va. Bernard was my grandfather and for a brief time, between four and five years, had a section of what is now the John Henry Historic Park leased from the CSX Railroad that he used for a junkyard. The junkyard was conveniently located across Route 3 from his father’s business, Thompson’s Garage, which Bernard operated for a few short years in the late 1950s while his father, O. D. Thompson, was partnered with the Nash Brothers in their garage in Alderson, W.Va. at the base of Muddy Creek Mountain.”
Jones went on to discuss the particulars of the company. He said, “Bernard would take his 1951 Ford Dump Truck that was painted red and black (the trademark of his business) to various coal companies such as Clear Creek Coal Company in Charmco, W.Va., Leckie Smokeless Coal Company in Anjean, W.Va., The Raine Lumber & Coal Company in Duo, W.Va., Clemens Branch Coal Company in Duo, W.Va. and The Demasi Coal Company in Rupert, W.Va., C.V. W.S. Okes Coal Company in Coolridge, W.Va., The New River Coal Company in Raleigh County, The Beeck Knob Coal Company in Clearco, W.Va. and Duo Coal Inc. in Duo, W.Va. He would purchase a dump truck load of coal, bring it back to Talcott and unload it on the property where he had the junkyard. Additionally, he sold it by the bushel basket or would deliver it to you after weighing it in wooden apple baskets that had been used on his grandfather L.W. Thompson’s orchard in the area and then would weigh it on (the red 1800s floor store scales you see here). An interesting fact about these scales is that he had purchased them from Red Nickles, who had used them in his store in Alderson, W.Va., for many decades around the turn of the century.”
Although Jones was aware his grandfather had sold coal in the area, it was not until his passing that Jones and his brother discovered the flyer pictured. He stated, “I had always heard my grandfather Bernard tell me stories of how he sold coal in Talcott. But it wasn’t until he passed in 2018 when my brother and I were cleaning out his barn, that I found this stack of flyers he had printed up at that time that he placed around Summers County. They were stuck above one of the rafters, in the original envelope where they had been for 70-some odd years. They read: ‘Coal For Sale All Kinds Priced from $7.00 Per T. Up Prompt Delivery Anywhere Bernard L. Thompson Thompson’s Garage Talcott, West Virginia’.”
“After he passed, we had packed away the contents of his antique roll top desk, and I just went through them last week. Granddad had kept every piece of paper in regards to his business. Must be where I inherited this trait from. He saved every receipt from anyone he had ever done business with in Summers County from the 1940s until he passed. But in relation to this story, he had kept all of the receipts and his record books where he would purchase coal to sell in Talcott. There was even a pencil he had made up and would hand out to advertise his company.”
Jones also had an interesting aside related to the desk and its contents. He said, “An interesting side note about his desk. He even kept the receipt where he had purchased the desk that reads ‘1 roll top desk, 1 used Westinghouse refrigerator, 1 used RCA TV set, a sofa and chair and various other household items’, in 1954 when as he put it ‘I married your grandmother and we went to housekeeping’. It is no wonder I became obsessed with local history and antiques, having a grandfather who was such a packrat (his wife was too).”
As a final note, Jones said, “I have never found an exact year that he stopped doing business but it was sometime in the early 1960s. Because he was forced to close down the junkyard due to it having caused such an eyesore along Route 3. I guess in a way it is a good thing it happened or he would have never moved to Kanawha County and built the successful life he did, keeping his residence in Talcott as a weekend camp. And we wouldn’t have what is now the John Henry Historic Park.”
We have come to the end of another edition of A Peek into Summers County’s Past. Did you know about Bernard L. Thompson Co. Fuel & Trucking and its coal delivery service? Be sure to come back next week for another look into the area’s history.
If you have a story about Summers County’s past that you would like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.