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History of Gary, WV - Model Coal Mining Town 

Gary, WV was once a wealthy thriving coal town in Southern West Virginia’s rich bituminous coal fields. 

Built in the early 20th century in the WV wilderness, Gary was built to be a model town by the United States Coal and Coke Company (USSC), a subsidiary of US Steel. The residences, businesses and churches were built with modern amenities including electric and running water. 

Gary Hollow became the industrial powerhouse in Southern WV and had some of the most productive coal mines in WV. Gary and it’s satellite towns employed thousands of miners. The work force was highly diverse with workers imported from all over the world, especially Eastern and Southern Europe and the deep south in the United States. 

By mid-1940’s, especially after World War II, things began to slip for USCC. Throughout the 50’s-80’s the steel industry was on a roller coaster of ups and downs. The need for coal and coal miners slipped until Gary’s parent company decided that the operation was no longer profitable and pulled out completely in April, 1982. 

Houses, stores, restaurants and recreation buildings that had been built by the coal company were closed down. The financial situation became bleak within Gary Hollow. Unemployment rate reached 90% and population dropped considerably as families and individuals who were able to leave left. 

Abandon homes, businesses and schools are now just ruins of the golden years when Gary was the model town of prosperity. The few remaining residents have lived in a true economic depression for many years. 

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Old Gary High School/School For Life 

The former Gary High School, built in 1914 by the USCC, has served for the past 15 years as a mission and outreach center that strives to bring hope and help to this devasted community. Efforts are now underway to convert a wing of the old school into rooms for ATV riders who have begun to ride through town on the old coal mine trails. Profits from this endeavor will go toward the mission and outreach programs while providing much needed employment in the community.


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