Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine

Useful Information

Location: Pocahontas.

(37.307129, -81.346173)
Open: MAY to OCT Wed-Sat 10-17, Sun 13-17.
Fee: Mine: Adults USD 10, Children (6-12) USD 8.50, Children (0-5) free.
Groups (12+): reductions available.
Museum: free.
Classification: MineCoal Mine ExplainCompany Store
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: Israel White (1891): Stratigraphy of the bituminous coal field of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 203–204.
Address: Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, Pocahontas Mine No. 1, Tel: +1-276-945-2134. E-mail: contact
Town of Pocahontas, 300 Centre Street, Post Office Box 128, Pocahontas, Virginia 24635-0128, Tel: +1-276-945-9522, Fax: +1-276-945-9904.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1860 first local coal used in a blacksmith shop operated by Mr. Andrew Stowers.
1867 blacksmith ship and land purchased by Jordan Nelson and business rapidly extended by using coal.
1881 town created and named Pocahontas.
1882 mine opened.
21-MAY-1883 railroad formally opened to traffic.
FEB-1884 The Old Company Store built, the company store was on the ground floor and on the upper levels were mining offices.
1895 opera house built.
1938 Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum opened.
1955 mine closed.
1970 driving through the mine in your own car discontinued.
1994 declared a National Historic Landmark (NHL).


The sedimentary rocks of the area contains numerous seams of sub-bituminous coal. The most famous is the Pocahontas Seam #3 which is 4.3 m thick, and thus easy to mine. The coal was mainly used for the production of coke. The smokeless quality allowed steamships to go undetected from distances, thus giving the Navy an advantage over enemies.


Pocahontas Coal Mine was the first mine in the Pocahontas Coalfield, opened in 1882 by the Southwest Improvement Company. Here the famous Pocahontas Number Three coal was mined, a spectacular 4.30 m tall coal seam. During its 73 years of operation the mine produced 44 million tons of coal. The name Pocahontas was chosen in honor of the Indian princess who had saved the life of Captain John Smith. This well known story was the theme of a Walt Disney movie some years ago. The coal seam, the mine and the nearby town are named Pocahontas.

The coal mining started with Jordan Nelson, who purchased the blacksmith shop operated by Mr. Andrew Stowers in 1867. He used the coal in the smithy, sold it, and heated his own house with coal. For this he modified the grate in his fireplace which was formerly used to burn wood. One day a customer arrived with an ox wagon, to haul a full wagon of coal. This event was obviously quite noteworthy and the news spread fast. Aunt Betsy Thompson who owned the neighbouring far was quite alarmed when she heard this and was horrified. She demanded to stop this because by removing wagon loads of the fuel, the supply would soon become exhausted.

She was completely wrong, actually more the 44 Million tons were produced in total. The coal was ten years later noted by the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company, who first broke ground for their development in an uninhabited narrow, swampy valley. Hungarian, German and Welsh miners came to the first permanent camp, known as Powell’s Bottom. The town was built by the miners, which moved to this area to work in the coal fields, and named Pocahontas in 1881. Most of the new inhabitants were European immigrants, coming from Hungary, Wales, Russia, Poland, Italy, Germany, or Ireland. At first the coal was loaded by hand and thus the mine provided a lot of work. In March 1883, the railroad reached Pocahontas, and it became the western outpost of the Norfolk and Western Railway. Immediately the production of the mine boosted.

The town became quite important, it even had the first theater in this region, the Pocahontas Opera House. The had many first run shows, operas, operettas and entertainers such as Weber and Fields. As a result there were special trains run from Bluefield, West Virginia to Pocahontas, Virginia to enable Bluefielders to enjoy such performances.

The Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum was opened as early as 1938, in a time when coal was still mined. It was the first show mine in the U.S.A. In October 1955 the coal was worked out and the mine was closed. The museum and show mine is now located on the site of this first coal mine opened in the Pocahontas Coal Fields.

Until the mid-1950s, visitors could drive their cars through the mine, but then government regulations changed. Today the mine is visited in underground walking tours, led by a guide. The Pocahontas Operators Association reserved 290 m of the original coal seam as an exhibit. The tour explains the dangerous and difficult labor miners faced. Visitors see how coal was cut, blasted down and loaded into mine cars, the old manual method of undercutting. Modern methods of cutting the coal and blasting down the coal are also explained. The Town of Pocahontas owns and operates the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum.