The second time Todd A. Hanson collected photos and history of his hometown of Campbells Creek, he found it much easier than the first.
“It seems like 25 years ago, the owners of the photos were very protective of their family albums,” he said.
Hanson, the author of “Campbell’s Creek: A portrait of a coal mining community,” would go into people’s homes with a portable scanner and copy them. Lately, though, he doesn’t have to.
“With email and Facebook, it’s much easier to share, and there seems to be a greater willingness to share photos,” he said. “That made it much easier around than the first time.”
Hanson’s book was first printed in 1989. He’s just released a 25th anniversary edition of the book, which has a new 136-page section with 200 never-before-published photos, maps and illustrations of the community. In all, the new book is 329 pages and has 450 photos, maps and illustrations.
“[The original has] been sold out for more than 20 years,” Hanson said. “So with social media coming on, a lot of people asked if I was ever going to reprint.”
Hanson said he thought about it and decided if he ever were to do a reprint, he’d like to update the book.
With the rise of the Internet, there is much more accessibility to photo collections from state and national archives, newspapers and those posted to social media sites, he said.
“It really opened a much broader field of research,” Hanson said.
Now a Jackson County resident, Hanson’s family goes back six generations in Campbells Creek. The book is dedicated to his grandfather, Charles Darty Hanson, a coal miner whose picture appears in the book. Hanson’s father also worked in the mines as a surveyor, he said.
Hanson’s fascination with his town’s history started early. As a child, when he found a local history book, he would flip to the table of contents to find Campbells Creek. Most often the books would mention something about Mary Ingles and a local legendary hanging, he said.
“That was the two events the history books covered,” Hanson said. “And growing up there, and hearing the stories, often I was disappointed that Campbells Creek was not included and recognized.”
He used to look through his grandmother’s pictures, copying the ones he thought were interesting.
“I’d run across pictures of trains and coal miners, and it was very interesting to me,” Hanson said. He started to show the pictures to others who would share their own. He showed the picture collection to Stan Cohen and the late Richard Andre, who at the time were working on their pictorial history of the valley “Kanawha County Images.” They told him he had enough pictures for his own book.
Hanson said the most surprising thing he learned while writing the book was about some of its earliest settlers. Walter Kelly is credited with being the first white settler in the Kanawha Valley, but Hanson found evidence to suggest that James Campbell, an early pioneer and namesake of Campbells Creek, was there before Kelly, and had a cabin and grew corn. Campbell was pressured by Native Americans to leave. He later died before a land patent could be secured. Had he lived, Hanson said, “I think the whole history of the valley would have been written differently.”
He was also surprised to learn that people in Campbells Creek were doing underground mining as far back as in the 1830s.
“They were pioneers in the river transportation industry,” he said.
The Campbells Creek Mining Company was unique in that it did it all — workers from the same company mined the coal, transported and delivered it to customers.
Hanson said he wants people to know that the people in his book were everyday, hard-working people. They deserve recognition for what they accomplished in their lives, he said.
“And I think, for young people, if they know their history and take pride in their community, I think it’s a building block for strong character,” Hanson said.
The book is available at Taylor Books, the West Virginia Marketplace at Capitol Market, Stepp & Son’s Garage Doors near Campbells Creek, online at www.campbellscreekhistory.com and anywhere else that the West Virginia Book Company distributes, he said.
Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.