Date of Award


Degree Name

Curriculum and Instruction


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

L. Eric Lassiter

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Campbell

Third Advisor

Lisa A. Heaton

Fourth Advisor

Clyde Ellis


The story of the community of Holden, West Virginia (Logan County), Island Creek Coal Company, and its model school (Holden Central School) offers a counternarrative to the dominant deficit-oriented narratives concerning Appalachian education. In particular, the progressive nature of Island Creek Coal Company led it to create a model coal camp community and a school that educated their employees’ children. The school operated from 1922 until 1970, when the combined elementary and junior high school closed its doors forever. Island Creek Coal Company both designed, supplied, and oversaw the daily operations of a benevolent community with all the modern amenities of the day while paradoxically exercising strict, authoritative control of its mines. When it came to the Holden Central school, this conflicting behavior on the part of the coal company was perceived by former teachers and students as a positive, albeit contradictory “nurturing paternalistic” force of influence, rather than a manipulative force of exploitation. This study explores the complex dynamics of these relationships in an effort to construct a narrative for the larger story of Holden as a community, a school, and the headquarters of a powerful coal company. This was accomplished by combining the analyses of archival records and newspaper articles, along with oral histories of former educators and students from Holden Central School. This collaborative ethnographic research complicates larger, dominant narratives and provides scholars of rural education and Appalachian Studies with a new lens to view company towns and the industries that ran them.


Company towns -- West Virginia -- Logan County.

Education, Rural -- West Virginia -- Logan County.