A Landing a Day

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Chelyan, West Virginia

Posted by graywacke on February 3, 2010

First timer?  In this (hopefully) once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  I landed up in the hills a ways south of the state capital of . . . WV; 17/15; 4/10; 1; 152.5.  My first reaction to WV is that it is a USer (although, as you can see, it’s not).  It all stems from the fact that it wasn’t until landing 496 that I first landed in WV.  So, for a long time, it was definitely US.  However, over the last three or so years, I’ve landed in WV enough to make it a fairly solid OSer.  Oh, well . . .

Here’s my landing map, showing that I landed amongst a plethora of incredibly small towns.

Here’s a broader view, showing my proximity to Charleston:

And the broadest view:

I landed in the Coal Ck watershed, on to the Cabin Ck, on to the Kanawha R (10th hit); to the Ohio (117th hit); to the MM (728th hit).

Here’s the GE shot, which annoyingly is split between what I assume is a summer photo (to the east) and a winter photo (to the west).

You can see that there are few signs of civilization, except what may be some kind of coal mining operation to the west of my landing.

The closest town that actually has a network of streets is Chelyan (located 7 miles due north of my landing).  It isn’t shown on my landing maps; it’s where Cabin Ck hits the Kanawha.  Here’s a map showing the town:

Here’s a nice aerial shot of the town:

I could find only two pieces of information about Chelyan.  First, the town was named after Chelyan Calvert, daughter of first postmaster.

And secondly, it turns out that Jerry West, famous basketball player, was born and raised in Chelyan.

Here are some items of interest that caught my eye about Jerry West (from Wiki):

Jerry Alan West was born into a poor household in Chelyan, West Virginia.  West was a shy, introverted boy, who grew up in a poor family and whose father was so drained after work that he could not play with his children. He was so small and frail that he needed vitamin injections from his doctor and was kept apart from children’s sports, to prevent him from getting seriously hurt.

Growing up, his main distraction was shooting at a basketball hoop that a neighbor had nailed to his storage shed. West spent years shooting baskets from every possible angle, ignoring mud in the backyard, his mother’s lashes when he came home hours late for dinner, and playing with gloves when the ground was covered with snow.

About his High School career:

He was named All-State from 1953–56 and then All-American in 1956 when he was named West Virginia Player of the Year, becoming the state’s first high-school player to score more than 900 points in a season, averaging 32.2 points per game.  West led East Bank High School to a state championship on March 24 of 1956, prompting East Bank High School to change its name to “West Bank High School” every year on March 24 in honor of their basketball prodigy.

He was an All-American at the University of WV; then he played for the LA Lakers:

As a rookie pro with the LA Lakers, West felt odd in his new environment. He was a loner. His high-pitched voice earned him the nickname “Tweety Bird”, and he spoke with such a thick Appalachian accent that his teammates also referred to him as “Zeke from Cabin Creek” (his nickname acknowledged his country roots, and his accent was so thick that he squeaked his nickname sheepishly – “Zeek fr’m Cab’n Creek”).

The NBA.com career summary for Jerry West:

Combine a deadly jump shot, tenacious defense, obsessive perfectionism, unabashed confidence, and an uncompromising will to win, and you’ve got Jerry West, one of the greatest guards in NBA history. During his 14-year playing career with the L.A. Lakers, West became synonymous with brilliant basketball. He was the third player in league history to reach 25,000 points (after Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson). He was an All-Star every year of his career and led Los Angeles to the NBA Finals nine times.

You’ll note the little town of Eskdale, east of my landing.  It turns out that in the tumultuous history of coal miner strikes, violence and unions, Eskdale plays a role (including the famous Mother Jones).  From SparkNotes.com:

In 1911, miners at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek went on strike, often coming close to violence against the mine companies’ armed guards and scabs. Most of the scabs were unwitting accomplices in the business of ending the strike–they came from distant places, were usually hired without being aware of the strike, and forced to continue working if they did not like the situation when they arrived.

The mine operators refused to negotiate with the union, and relied on violence to keep their workers in line. Machine guns defended the company offices, and the mine guards were ordered to shoot, and even to kill. Due to the isolation of the mines, the operators were able to escalate violence and intimidate workers without the risk of public uproar.

Even though Cabin Creek was isolated, Mother Jones found a way to reach the workers. One town in the Cabin Creek district, Eskdale, had been incorporated before the mine companies came to West Virginia. Therefore, it was a “free town” where coal companies did not have the authority to prevent meetings from taking place or to harass people. Mother Jones went to Eskdale and called an organizing meeting of the UMW in August of 1912. Her rhetoric aroused the workers to strike, and her persistence galvanized both the workers and their families.

From the AFL-CIO website:

Typically clad in a black dress, her face framed by a lace collar and black hat, the barely five-foot tall Mother Jones was a fearless fighter for workers’ rights—once labeled “the most dangerous woman in America” by a U.S. district attorney. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones rose to prominence as a fiery orator and fearless organizer for the Mine Workers during the first two decades of the 20th century. Her voice had great carrying power. Her energy and passion inspired men half her age into action and compelled their wives and daughters to join in the struggle. If that didn’t work, she would embarrass men to action.  “I have been in jail more than once and I expect to go again. If you are too cowardly to fight, I will fight,” she told them.

Here are a couple of Mother Jones quotes, from Wiki:

Amidst the tragic, and sometimes fatal, violence directed at early trade unionists, Mother Jones uttered words still invoked by union supporters more than a century later: “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”  Already known as “the miners’ angel,” when she was denounced on the floor of the United States Senate as the “grandmother of all agitators,” she replied:  “I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.”

Here’s an early-70s show of a Cabin Creek coal camp:

And this, of Eskdale today:

“Mother Blizzard” joined up with Mother Jones during the coal miners strike.  Here’s a picture of her store in Eskdale:

I’ll close with this old structure in Eskdale, that is somehow connected to the railroad:

That’ll do it.



© 2009 A Landing A Day

10 Responses to “Chelyan, West Virginia”

  1. mike said

    I grew up in the heart of chelyan I miss it so much it was a magical place as a child…

  2. Linda Williams Vanfossen said

    Chelyan was my hometown. One of my brothers still lives there.

  3. Goodnite said

    I’ve lived here my entire life and Jerry West can take a hike. He never so much as came back and hung a Basketball rim for a kid or gave a basketball to a child, he got out and for got what made him who he was! And you could’ve wrote about the Kanawha Madonna its more interesting than Jerry West!

  4. clint paxton said

    im from cabin creek and its a great place.

  5. Katherine Cochran Smith said

    ~ I am a relative of Chelyan Calvert. We are descended from George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore (he was my 9th Great Grandfather), and his son, Leonard Calvert (my 8th Great Grandfather) was the first governor of Maryland. ~

  6. Katherine Cochran Smith said

    ~ In addition to my last comment, Jerry West, is now honored at The Greenbrier (America’s Resort), in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, with a restaurant on the premises called Prime44West. If you haven’t been a guest at The Greenbrier, you need to put that on your bucket list. You’ll be welcomed and treated with respect and appreciation. ~

    • graywacke said

      I’ve never been to the Greenbrier, but I’m aware that it’s a very classy place.

      OK, it’s officially on my bucket list . . .

    • Connie Doughman said

      Hello Katherine, my name is Connie Calvert Doughman. I have been working on my family genealogy for years now. My dad’s family is from the Cabin Creek, Chelyan, Bloomingrose, and Fraziers Bottom areas of WV. I believe we may be cousins. I was just in Chelyan to visit the Slaughters Creek Cemetery where my great grandparents and 2nd great grandparents are buried, but the footbridge going across Little Creek has been washed out and I couldn’t get up to the cemetery. I know that Chelyan Calvert Smith was the daughter of James Willard ‘Willie’ and Ida Little Calvert. Willie was the son of Cornelius Calvert who was the brother of my great grandfather, James Turner Calvert. Their parents were Mills Witt and Kittie Slack Calvert who are buried in the cemetery. I met a relative of yours, Sam Smith, while I was visiting Fraziers Bottom. He said that his sister or aunt (can’t remember which), Debbie, was well versed in family genealogy. While I was in Chelyan the other day I found Calvert Street, a small street with a big white frame house at the end of the lane with a huge yard. A neighbor said it was the Calvert House and that a Mrs. Calvert had lived there. The man who now owns the house said the one who negotiated the sale of the house was named David Calvert, but he could not remember the first name of Mrs. Calvert. I’m wondering if you would know her name? I am working on a a writing project about these families. Are you willing to share your memories of the town and the people of these families? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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