Industrialists: Coal Miners:
In 1879 a geological survey of the Cumberland Gap region revealed the presence of a wealth of mineral resources, especially coal and iron ore. About ten years later, the Appalachian coal industry was born and with it the need for labor. Former slaves from southern states, who hoped to escape the poverty of sharecropping; local residents, both black and white; and newly arrived European immigrants flocked to Appalachia and found employment in the mines. Many lived in mining camps or rented small homes near the Gap.
Extracting coal from the earth was hard and dangerous work. They pay was low; miners and laborers were paid by the ton. An African American laborer hand-loading five to seven tons of coal in a day might have earned only $3.00. Families, in need of more income, often had no choice but to send their young sons to work sorting pieces of coal. For them it was the beginning of lifelong work in the mines.