Mountaintop Removal, When Mountains Move, National Geographic: Sunday Afternoon Is For Visiting

Caudill family members gather on weekends and work in the garden and to maintain the homestead. They weed the potato patch and when the rains come, they sit on the porch and visit.

It took several years and a lot of money and determination, but kin of the Caudill family fought to keep their family homestead on Mud River from being taken over by the St. Louis-based Arch Coal Company. Nearly swindled out of their homestead, they battled all the way to the West Virginia Supreme Court where they finally won their case.

For 100 years, Miller’s wife and family owned the 75-acre tract that includes a farmhouse, built in 1920, several small barns and a garden. John Caudill, a coal miner who was blinded in a mining accident in the 1930s, and his wife, Lydia Caudill, raised 10 children in the home. Today, the family no longer lives there, though the heirs spend almost every weekend there.

Arch Coal wanted to tear down the family’s ancestral home. It stood in the way of the company’s plans to continue to expand its 12,000-acre Hobet 21 mountaintop removal complex. Hobet 21 produced about 5.2 million tons of coal, making it among the largest surface mines in the state. Mines like Hobet yield one ton of coal for every 16 tons of terrain that is displaced.

Under Hobet’s plans, statements from Arch submitted in court say that “ a valley fill and an impoundment pond would destroy the inundate the farmhouse and outbuilding and bury the immediate surrounding land under the valley fill.” A lower court agreed with the company, but in the end, the family won.

The mining operations have expanded to surround the Caudill property.