By David Taylor
(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of West Virginia travel stories focused on the history of the state, and its communities, including those that are still thriving today and those that thrived in yesteryear.)
Here are a few pictures from our meandering through the southern Appalachian coalfields. These images are from the town of Iaeger, which is located in McDowell County.
In historical events, The First National Bank Of Iaeger printed $287,830 dollars worth of national currency. In today’s money, that’d be about $4,051,930.55, according to the US Bureau of Labor CPI Inflation Calculator.
This national bank opened in 1918 and stopped printing money for the U.S. Government in 1930.
I spoke to Iaeger Mayor Joe Ford on my visit there. He’s a super nice guy. Mayor Ford told me there are currently less than 300 residents of the town. Historically, the town had its largest population at the 1950 census with 1,271 residents. That was about the time West Virginia’s overall population began to decline with the great migration to other states looking for work.
Iaeger was incorporated in 1917 and named for Colonel William G. W. Iaeger, an early settler. Incorporated in 1917. Iaegar’s son, Dr. Williams R. Iaeger, had a plat of the present town made about the year 1885. It is located in the western end of McDowell County about midway between Bluefield and Williamson on U. S. Route 52. A junction of the Norfolk Southern Railway is located in Iaeger. The Town of Iaeger has had four different names through the years.
Mayor Ford, along with author Julia Solis, have penned a book on the community titled Capsule Out of Time: An Industrial Relic in West Virginia.
In the book’s Amazon description it says: What can a mostly abandoned town offer its curious visitors? A collection of unusual sights and experiences, especially if it’s the scenic coal-mining town of Iaeger, West Virginia. Part travelogue, part reflection, this book examines the rise and fall of a once-thriving community in the broader context of Appalachian history and American ghost towns. Over 100 photos of vacant houses, storefronts, banks and civic buildings offer portholes into stories of advancing entropy and decomposition, adorned with the fantastical botanies of decaying plastic flowers, sculptures of debris and peeling paint. They express the author’s wonder at the mix of Iaeger’s preserved stateliness and its showcases of neglect, the mystery of the buildings’ industrious past, and their deserted still-life presence. More just than a documentation of a vanishing small town, this book hopes to inspire creative perspectives on decaying historic architecture and its potential for art, science and play.
Iaeger still boasts a police department and a fire department, as well as a municipal judge and street commissioner. The town also has a number of businesses serving the community daily.
If you are ever in McDowell County, I would suggesting stopping in this historic little village to enjoy history, and some super nice folks who live there.