St. Charles, VA

“St. Charles is a small, incorporated, rural coal mining community of approximately 370 people in the upper part of Lee County, Virginia. 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, Kentucky, 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.”

–Excerpt from “Final Report: Appalachian Project Rural Student Health Coalition VI 1974,” PDF page 32.

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