John W. Sigmon

Blacksmith Shop, Crane Creek, WV


Mr. Sigmon, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, worked 51 years as a blacksmith in several West Virginia coal mines. He retired in December 1950 at the age of 72. He received frequent recognition for his innovative work and safety record. Throughout his 51-year career he never had a lost-time accident. Picture taken sometime in the 1940s.

Jim Mathena (grandson) stated that "Paul Walker(son-in-law) and Sis(granddaughter) had told him last year that Mr. Sigmon designed a tool or equipment for sharpening drill bits for drilling through rock in coal mines. According to Paul, representatives from Ingersall-Rand came to see Mr Sigmon to learn about this equipment. They took pictures and Ingersall-Rand later got a patent on this equipment."

"The worlds first foot controlled electric hammer was invented and patented by Andy Seincrack in the blacksmiths shop at Thomas. This machine allowed the blacksmith to shape large pieces of iron, while holding it with both hands. Andy also started a tradition at Thomas that was carried on by the blacksmiths John Sigmon, Brammer Jones and Ed Sheets down through the years. It was a blackboard that hung in the shop. If a person could roughly draw and give dimension of the tool or part they needed the blacksmiths could make it with a piece of iron." quote from Ken Bowens article Thomas Coal & Coke

Photo and family history supplied by John's grandson Jim Mathena, Orlando, FL (son of Lucille Sigmon and Clarence Howard Mathena). Jim retired in 1997 as the Chief of Security for Lockheed Martin at Cape Canaveral AFS, FL. He is still actively involved with his WV roots and family members.

John and Leona Sigmon Family

John and Leona Sigmon settled in Mercer County in the early 1900’s. John William Sigmon came to WV from Catawba County, NC shortly after the turn of the century. He was born, November 13, 1877, in Rock Hill, SC. When John was a youngster his family moved to Catawba County, NC. At age 13 John began working in a Wagon Foundry. When the US declared war against Spain, President McKinley called for volunteers for the Spanish-American War. One of the first to volunteer, John enlisted on April 27, 1898, in Statesville NC, and was assigned to Company E, 1st NC Regiment, 7th Army Corps. He served in Cuba and was discharged on April 22, 1899, in Savannah, Georgia.

Following the war, John came to WV to find work as a Blacksmith in the coal mines. While living in a Greenbrier County boarding house he met Leona Hill, who cooked for the boarders. She was born in Vale, WV on November 4, 1884. They were married in Dawson, WV on July 9, 1905 and moved to McComas, WV and a few years later to Maybeury in McDowell County. In the 1920’s they made Mercer County their permanent home.

Leona spent her time taking care of the family. She was a wonderful cook, especially, with breads and pastries; often she would prepare big family dinners on Sundays. A skilled seamstress, Leona made beautiful quilts. She also made clothing for her children and aprons for other relatives, often from feed sacks. She always had a garden full of vegetables, and canning was a summer ritual for her. Leona’s garden was adorned with beautiful flowers, mainly dahlias. Rarely did she leave home except to attend church or visit family members. Shopping trips were to Bluefield on the bus with her sisters or neighbors, and they always wore their best dresses and hats when they went to town.

On December 1, 1950, at age 72, John retired from a fifty-one year distinguished career as a Blacksmith in the West Virginia coal mines. He worked in Fayette, Raleigh, McDowell and Mercer Counties. Mr. Sigmon received recognition and frequent awards for his innovative work and outstanding safety record. He worked 51 years as a Blacksmith without a lost-time accident. After retirement John continued his skills in his home blacksmith shop making coal shovels, pokers and miniature anvils, which he enjoyed giving to friends and family members. On July 10, 1955, John and Leona celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary with a reception at their home on Lorton Lick Road. Fifteen months later, on December 10, 1956, Leona died in Bluefield, WV. John Sigmon died November 12, 1970, in Bluefield, WV.

The Sigmons had eight children.
  • Thelma Mae was born in Maybeury on December 2, 1907. She graduated from McComas High School and completed nurses training at the Bluefield Sanitarium. Thelma was a Registered Nurse for the State of WV. She died April 16, 1977, in Denmar, WV.
  • John Ray was born in Maybeury on November 8, 1909. He married Lucy Vaughn and they had three sons: Nolan, Norman and Eddy. Ray worked for American Coal Company, Mercer Motors and Hardeman Motors in Atlanta, GA. He died December 6, 1980 in Atlanta, GA.
  • Julius Lowell was born in Maybeury on October 14, 1911. He married Ellen Beatrice Blackwell and they had one daughter, Sue. Julie worked for the Thomas and Sagamore Company Store’s and the Sagamore Mine. He died July 12, 1981 in Princeton.
  • James Woodrow was born in Maybeury on October 21, 1913. He married Bernice Jean Tabor. They had four daughters: Patricia, Melinda, Barbra and Sue. Woody worked for the Thomas Coal Company, the Wilson Coal Company and the Pitston Coal Company in Logan. He died December 12, 1985, in Huntington, WV.
  • Lucille was born in Maybeury on October 2, 1915. She married Clarence Howard Mathena. They had four children: James, Linda, Nancy and John. Lucille graduated from McComas High School. She died October 17, 1995, in Princeton.
  • Virginia was born in Maybeury on August 9, 1918. She married Vanis Gills. They had three daughters: Shelby, Carolyn and Sue. Virginia worked for the Sagamore Company Store and the J.B. Boyd IGA Food Store in Montcalm. She died March 2, 1998, in Bluefield.
  • Mildred was born in Maybeury on January 17, 1921. She married Paul Walker. Mildred graduated from McComas High and was Manager of the Virginia B. Coal Company Store in McComas. She died March 26, 1999, in Princeton.
  • Harry was born in Bluestone, WV on February 22, 1923. Harry graduated from McComas High and served in the US Navy during WW II. He married Ruth Tabor. They had seven children: Carmen, Andra, Laura, Vickie, Todd, Gregory and Tammy. Harry retired from the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan. He died on August 28, 1995, in Bluefield.
  • Earl was born in Jenkinjones, WV on June 23, 1926, and died on July 15, 1928.
  • Yvonne Legg was born June 26, 1931, at Bellburn, WV. A niece of Leona Sigmon, she lived with the Sigmons since she was four years old. Yvonne graduated from Bramwell High School. She married C.M. Hurst and they had two children: Larry and Lani.