West Virginia, 1938: A Glimpse into the Past

In 1938, West Virginia, a state rich in natural beauty and resources, faced a period of significant economic and social challenges. The story of a former miners’ boardinghouse in the abandoned mining town of Mohegan, West Virginia, captured by photographer Marion Post Walcott, offers a poignant glimpse into this era.

West Virginia, 1938: A Glimpse into the Past

The Plight of Mohegan

Mohegan, once a bustling mining town, experienced a drastic shift in the late 1930s. The decline of the coal mining industry led to widespread unemployment and economic hardship. The town, which had thrived on the back of the mining industry, found itself grappling with the realities of abandonment and despair.

The Boardinghouse: A Symbol of Change

The miners’ boardinghouse, once a hub for the workers who powered the town’s economy, became a shelter for seven families, nearly all reliant on relief efforts. This transformation from a workplace residence to a refuge for struggling families symbolizes the broader economic struggles of the region.

The Impact of the Great Depression

The Great Depression, which ravaged the United States in the 1930s, hit the mining communities of West Virginia particularly hard. The collapse of coal prices and the shift in energy sources led to a steep decline in mining operations, leaving many without work.

Reliance on Relief

With jobs scarce, many families in Mohegan and similar towns turned to government relief programs for survival. These programs provided essential support but also highlighted the extent of the economic crisis.

Marion Post Walcott’s Photographic Legacy

Marion Post Walcott, a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, captured the struggles of rural America during the Depression. Her photograph of the Mohegan boardinghouse is a powerful testament to the resilience of its inhabitants.

Capturing the Human Element

Walcott’s work often focused on the human aspect of the Depression, showcasing the strength and dignity of those enduring hardship. Her photographs from West Virginia are particularly evocative, capturing both the beauty of the landscape and the grit of its people.

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The photograph of the former miners’ boardinghouse in Mohegan, West Virginia, serves as a poignant reminder of a challenging period in American history. It reflects the resilience of communities that faced economic upheaval and the transformative impact of the Great Depression on the American landscape. Through Marion Post Walcott’s lens, we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of this significant era.

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