St. Charles, VA

St. Charles is a small, incorporated, rural coal mining community of approximately 370 people in the upper part of Lee County, Va. Several hollows branch out from the town itself with a total population of 2780. This is essentially the area north of Stone Mountain to the Kentucky line bordered on the West by Route 421 proceeding to Harlan, Ky., and eastward to Jordan Branch just west of the community of Keokee.

There are no red lights in all of Lee County–the only semblance of one is a yellow warning light in the county seat, Jonesville. In the last census, Lee County was the poorest in Virginia, and the mining area in the northern section (location of St. Charles) is the poorest in the county. St. Charles remains the Democratic stronghold in spite of the fact that Lee County has turned fiercely Republican in the last six years. Eighty per cent of the people in the county are on welfare, and most are no longer able to work because of heart and lung conditions. Many are still awaiting black lung benefits. Governmental regulations about black lung benefits are constantly changing, and there are still 21,000 cases pending: some St. Charles people have not heard anything since they filed four years ago.

See page 32 of the 1974 Annual Report for more information.


Related People:

Cathy Barrow Heck and Jeff Heck

Contributed by Cathy Barrow Heck I was absolutely sold on the Appalachian Student Health Coalition upon seeing the video as a nursing student in the fall of 1973. The idea of a team of students working in partnership with rural… Continued

Rebecca Joffrion Ingle

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Nancy Raybin

Nancy worked with SHC in the summers of 1973 and 1974 as a community organizer in St. Charles, Va. and then as co-director of the Coalition in East Tennessee and western Virginia.  She was at that time an undergraduate student… Continued

Tish Crane Rainey

Contributed by Tish Crane Rainey, March 2017. I participated in the Student Health Coalition the summer of 1975. I had just finished my first year in nursing school at Vanderbilt with an eye on becoming a nurse midwife. That fall… Continued

J. Thomas “Tom” John

I am a bit late in getting my bio in, best done in the earlier stages of pending dotage. I am originally from Laurinburg, N.C., a small farming and, then, textile community in the eastern part of the state. I… Continued

Related Stories:

Post-Reconstruction African American migration and the St. Charles coal camps

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“I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.”

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The renaming of “Negro Head Rock”

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1976 St. Charles Health Clinic, VA

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Hearts of Gold

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Dr. Daniel Gabriel’s legacy in St. Charles, VA

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First integrated band in St. Charles, VA: Smith Carson and the Black and White Melody Boys

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Related Resources/Links:

Interview with Mary Herr by Jessie Wilkerson, May 19 2011, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

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