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Kimball: 1935

October 1935. The coal mining center of Kimball, West Virginia. View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration.

October 1935. The coal mining center of Kimball, West Virginia. View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration.


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Kimball WV or Vivian WV

One more thing: I think that this is a photo of Vivian, WV rather than its neighbor Kimball, WV.

In the photo, we are looking toward the West over East Vivian Road. The highway above Vivian to the right is U.S. 52.

Kimball WV today

I was last in Kimball in 2005. If memory serves, most if not all of the houses in this photo have been torn down and not replaced.

The company store, a pale yellow brick building in the upper center, was standing in 2005 but in bad shape. You can see a photo of it taken in 1998 on my website It's is in the second row, third from the left.

A two-story red brick school building that was built in 1929 was also standing as of 2005; however, all of the windows have been broken out and the second floor was beginning to give way. In this photo, the school building would have been behind the company store.

The nicer houses, probably bosses row, were behind the school at the bottom of the hills. I believe that I can make out one just above and to the left of the company store. Some of those houses were still inhabited in 2005.

I hope to make it back out to the region in February or March.

Hatfields, McCoys

IIRC, the Hatfields and McCoys were in Kentucky. [Wikipedia entry: The Hatfields were in West Virginia. - Dave] At any rate I've always been told my great-grandfather owned the plot of land adjacent to the one they fought over - and the family land is still in Kentucky and still owned by my relatives. (Anyway, it certainly gives something to think on next time you feel like complaining of your noisy neighbors, doesn't it?)


The town probably does look similar today. According to, 55% of the homes there today were built before 1939 and there has been no new home construction in this century. Median income in 2005 was $18,400 and median house/condo value was $26,700. Another statistic -- in 1999, 33.2% of the population was below the poverty line and 23.1% of the population was below 1/2 of the poverty line. On the plus side, there was no crime in 2001 and in 2005.

Kimball WV

Probably doesn't look a whole lot different today ... Isn't this Hatfield/McCoy country?

...the rest of the story

He tied the horse to a sturdy fence rail and stepped around several townsmen in rocking chairs as he passed through the swinging half-doors of the saloon. After three quaffs of passable whiskey, the earlier gloomy spirits lifted from him like a morning fog runs from the sun. Got to get the hell out of here before the whiskey wears off, he thought.

Poe Boy

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year 1935, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of West Virginia; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy coal mining center of Kimball. I know not how it was, but, with the first glimpse of the buildings, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.

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