The houses were old, but they were the only homes some of the residents had ever known. Now about half the houses are gone.
In 1999, Superior Bottom had about two dozen homes clustered along Island Creek, about two miles south of Omar in Logan County. When the mining was at its peak in the first half of the century, the community had nearly 100 homes, climbing up the hill and even on stilts. It was known as the "colored community" and had its own school, one of the largest in the county.
The blacks stayed on after mining dwindled away. They were able to buy the houses, most of which had been owned by the Curry family. Some thrived. James Major was a leader of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. His daughter, Joan Hairston, founded New Directions for Women. And his grandaughter was valedictorian at Logan High School. Joan Hairston still lives in Superior Bottom, and New Directions for Women continues. She works with black teenagers in the high school, setting many on a successful path to college and careers.
Mining is returning to the area, only now it is a Massey mountaintop mine. It will take the mountains behind Superior Bottom. But that isn't all Massey desires. It plans a preparation plant on the flat land of the community. In the fall of 1999, company officials began approaching residents with offers to buy them out. The houses were large, but mostly dilapitated. Most were long, two-story structures, with room enough to hold several families. One house, to the right of the bridge over Island Creek, is well-maintained, with an abundance of flowers and lawn decorations. Still, the mine officials offered most people only about $35,000for their homes. Some felt they had no alternatives--they didn't want to live by a prep plant.
In late October 1999, a black woman in her 70s sat in a living room surrounded by the boxes and bags of her life. It had been her father's house and her only home. She would be leaving soon. But $35,000 wouldn't buy her a house in Logan. She was moving in with her son. "It's sad," she said.
Bulldozers and shovels removed her house and several across the street in the first months of 2000. But so far, there is no prep plant. At one end of the community, the closed school building remains. Joan Hairston bought it and isn't letting Massey have it. They can't build the plant without that land. Joan herself remains, too, as does the teacher who lives in the house to the right of the bridge. In the fall of 2000, the bridge was dedicated to James Major. Whether it will be a bridge to nowhere remains to be decided.