Deborah M. Thorne Keys family’s connections to The MCCOMAS, Pinnacle and surrounding area

Note from Pat Smith webmaster - Deborah has such a unique and pleasant way of telling her memories to us in this article - Item 8 below she begins a tale of her family at McComas - thank you Deborah I loved reading every memory you shared - I went to school with Deborah's brother Robert, Russell was in the same class as me and I remember Connie very well also.

Debbie Keys            9/17/2007

1.     James Allen Thomas and Sue Caroline Coalson Thomas My Great Grandparents.

·         Were married on June 10, 1891 and lived at Elkhorn in McDowell County, In 1910 the United[PS1]  States Census shows James and Sussie Thomas living in Thomas with children LG (Garnet), Beulah, May and with boarders Marquis Kennedy, and Frazer Kelley who were also coal miners. The Thomas family also lived at Crystal, Pinnacle, and Browning & Lambert Mt. In Mercer Co. 

·         James was a coal miner and worked at Crozier, Pinnacle, and Crystal. While working at Pinnacle a powder shot went off in his face and embedded pieces of coal deep into the skin of his face and hands.  He wore the black marks the rest of his life. In another accident in Crystal James lost his life on June19, 1920 he was overcome with powder smoke in the mines. James and Sue are buried on Browning and Lambert Mt. Mercer, West Virginia.

2.     Joseph Burke Thorne and Rhoda Smith My Great Grandparents

·         Were married June 18, 1885 in Giles Co. Virginia and moved to the Rock area in 1890’s and owned land on Browning and Lambert Mountain.

·         Joseph was a farmer and well driller and later served as sheriff of Mercer Co. Around 1900 to 1902.

3.     Rennie Elmer Thorne and Beulah Annis Thomas My Grandparents

·         Were married on June 16, 1915 The 1920 United States Census show Rennie, Beluah, and Children Ruth and Henry B. living in the Crane Ridge area of Thornhill Precinct #9 and shows Rennie as a coalminer. They also lived at Crystal and Crane Creek before moving on Browning and Lambert Mountain. The 1930 census of the United States shows Rennie and Beulah with children Ruth, Henry, Lehona, Effie, and Bernard living on the Rock, Matoaka Ridge Road of Rock Magisterial District of Mercer Co. West Virginia . In the golden years of their lives moved to Montcalm.

·         Rennie worked from a very young age as a farmer and coalminer. He worked at Pinnacle, Crystal and was working at Dearfield when he retired in early1953. He continued working as a farmer until failing health forced him to stop.

·         Rennie was recording secretary and Charter Member of the UMWA at Crystal.

4.     John Wesley Huffman and Candis Louvenia Jones My Great Grandparents

·         I have no record of them ever having a home in W.Va. They were from N.C.
(note from Pat Smith - John Wesley Huffman was a 1st cousin to my grandfather Robert David Huffman of McComas - John's father Benjamin married Martha Cardwell and they remain in NC to raise their family)

5.     Ambrose Jones and Sarah Elizabeth Jones My Great Grandparents.

·         Were married October 24, 1890 in Sparta North Carolina and lived around Grayson Co and Smith Co. Virginia. Ambrose is shown  as a widow, living in the New Hope area of Mercer Co. with his son Lee in the 1920 Census of the United States. And in the 1930 Census of the United States he is shown living on Cumberland Rd. in the Bluefield Area of Mercer Co. living with his daughter LouEmma Coomes and her family. Ambrose is buried near Pipestem and Lerona  in Mercer Co. And Sarah is buried in Smith Co. Virginia

6.     Emmett Curtis Jones and Lutie Mae Huffman My Grandparents.

·         Were married in 1914 in Ash Co. North Carolina.  They lived in the Ingleside Rd. area of Mercer Co. In the 1930 Census of the United States with their children Edgar, Ambrose, Mary, Thellma, Grover, and Helen. They also lived in Glen Lynn; and Staffordsville, Va., and Princeton and Athens, W.VA. Before moving to Browning and Lambert Mt. where they raised their family.

·         Emmett worked at many things as well as farmed; He cut timber, worked in Virginian Railroad Yard, and During World War 1 he worked at Radford, Va. Powder Plant.

7.     Henry Burdis Thorne and Mary Louvenia Jones My parents.

·         Were married February 25, 1939 at Tazewell Co. Va.

·         Henry worked from the young age of 14 cutting timber and in the mines and with his father on the farm.  He worked at Crystal Coal Company, Piedmont American Coal Company, at Pinnacle, Turkey Gap Coal Company, and Crane Creek Company. During World War II Henry join the Navy, and for a while worked at Radford Powder Plant.  In 1957 the tipple at Crane Creek burned and left many man out of work.   Henry took his family to Baltimore, Maryland and he worked at Monarch Rubber Co. for about a year.  As soon as the tipple was rebuilt Henry returned to the beautiful Mountains of West Virginia and went back to work at Crane Creek. He retired in 1978 after 50 years in various mines in Mercer County. He received a certificate from the UMWA for 50 years of service in the mines.

·         Mary worked growing up helping with home chores, gardening, sewing, milking, churning, etc. Mary did sewing for others as well. During the time the mines were shut down due to the tipple burning she worked outside the home as custodian at the Pinnacle Elementary School.  While living in Baltimore Maryland she worked at Eastern Product Company.

·         Mary and Henry lived at Crystal at the time their first child Clara Eilene was born in December 16, 1939. They moved to Browning and Lambert Mountain and lived on His father’s land in a two room house when their second daughter, Hazel Arletta was born on June 2, 1941 and their first son Robert Henry was born April 8, 1943. Henry then moved his family to Tater Knoll near Matoaka, Henry and Mary’s second son Russell Clinton was born November 21, 1944. On July 4, 1946 their third daughter Connie Belinda was born.  It was in 1947 that Henry and Mary moved their family back to Browning and Lambert Mountain where they lived when their fourth daughter Deborah Marilyn was born on March 21, 1951. In December of 1952  Henry and Mary moved their family again to the Pinnacle and McComas area. With four girls and two boys, Henry and Mary were always looking for a larger house. They lived in two or maybe three company houses on the hill that ran from the company store out behind the elementary school. , the last of which was a house behind the empty lot beside the Pinnacle Elementary toward the trestle. (Pauley’s lives beside us there.) The next move was to a house on The Coke Road in the row of company houses (shown in some of the pictures on this site.) The Brady’s lived on one side, and the Carlo and Inez Fuda family lived on the other. (I think this is where they lived when the tipple burned.) The last move in this community was on the hill on the other side of the road. (This house can be seen in the photo on this site of the garages)  The Buster Kennett family lived at the foot of the hill on the coke road where you went up the path to the house. The Lee’s lived beside us here. Eilene had graduated and moved to Norfolk Va. In July of 1959 after the tipple had burned Henry moved his family to Baltimore, Maryland. In December of that year, Hazel was married.  It was in the spring of 1960 that the tipple was rebuilt and Henry, Mary and the four remaining children returned to Mercer County. First they rented a house for about a year on Lortin Lick Road beside the Pine Grove Church. And then they bought a home in the Kirby Addition section of Bluewell and found many of their friends from the McComas area had already moved to this area. This was their home when Henry retired. Mary died on June 9th 1995. And Henry lived there until he had several strokes and was moved into Ridge Care on Halls Ridge Rd. and Hazel and Bill bought the home and moved here from Baltimore, Md.. Henry died on Nov. 19, 2005 at Ridge Care. Both Henry and Mary are buried in Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Bluewell. 

·         Being the youngest child. I was the last to leave the nest.  After Graduation from Bluefield High School, in 1970 I worked at Asco Warehouse Co. in bookkeeping. Later going back to Baltimore for a time and working at St. Agnes Hospital as Unit clerk.  Deciding Baltimore was still not for me I returned to Bluewell and met and married Phillip D. Keys. We moved into a home on Lortin Lick Rd. in the Bluewell area.  I went to work at Bluefield Daily Telegraph and worked in display ads. Working there until my son Kevin was born.  I once again went to work this time at Sealy Mattress Co. as receptionist. Leaving there when my son Gregory was born and working next at Woodlawn Greenhouse part time.  Deciding I needed fulltime work I went to work at R & T Electric.  I worked there until it was sold to Emerson Electric. And the company began down sizing.  After leaving Emerson Electric  I had my daughter Candace. I next worked at Roses Dept Store until mother became sick with Cancer and I quit too help her and Dad with Dr. appointments and things around the home.  I worked next  at Kroger Deli and then at Arrowhead Deli.  Then went to work at Bluewell Post Office and Athletes Closet.  Where I continue to work.  All three of my Children graduated from Montcalm High School.

8.     Memories I have of growing up in the McComas and Pinnacle area.

·         I remember playing dolls. I got a doll that played London Bridge for Christmas on year.  Playing cow girl, I was either Dale Evens, or Anne Oakley. Watching black and white television.  Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket. We had a Davy Crocket board game. I remember watching Snoop and Scoop. Hop along Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry. I love Lucy. Nothing was rated. Everything was family oriented.  Wrestling was the roughest thing on television then.

·         I remember all the family sitting in the living room while mother would read books to us at night. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Little Women, were some of them.

·         I remember going with Dad to buy feed for the stock. The sacks were made of material with print on it and when it was empty, it was made into a dress or shirt. And if you got to help pick it out you were the one who got a new dress.

·         I remember putting a nail or penny on the railroad tracks and after the train came through you would go back and it would be flattened paper thin.

·         I remember green stamps and labels off milk cans you saved and turned in for merchandise. 

·         I remember walking with my brothers and sisters and sometimes with mom from Pinnacle to my grandparent’s house on top of Browning and Lambert Mountain to help with the animals, and gardens. And carrying glass jugs of fresh milk, (we called it sweet milk and buttermilk, butter), eggs, sacks (those feed sacks) of potatoes, or apples, fresh vegetables from the gardens.

·         I remember mom taking all us kids berry picking. Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberry, Dew berries, what ever was in season. Mom would use them in baking and would can all she could for fall and winter. We would also pick up walnuts and hickory nuts to dry and use for baking and candy.  My grandparents had orchards. And we would pick up apples for mom to can. The ones that were picked were put in the root cellar to keep fresh through the winter. Other things kept in the root cellar were beets, potatoes, onions, turnips; we found a scrub peach tree once and mom pickled the peaches. (They were great.) Pears were picked before they were ripe and wrapped in newspaper to ripen slowly and have during the winter the best pears I can remember eating. The biggest Copperhead (snake) I have ever seen was on one of our trips out to pick strawberries. It was along a railroad track. Mom killed it with stones.   

·         I remember the only time we got oranges and store bought nuts was at Christmas.

·         I remember it raining when we lived on the coke road and the creek behind the Pinnacle Elementary School being to the top of the bank and churning roughly and a little boy falling in, and my Dad going in after him and pulling him out.  Saving his life.  I think he was the little Cantos boy living a few houses away.

·         I remember Mr Cooke was the principal of the Pinnacle Elementary School. Mrs. Stone and Miss Bratton were my teachers.  I attended 1st and 2nd grade there.  And my mom was the custodian. Some of my class mates and I (Yvonne King and Linda Browning) spent the night with Miss Bratton. She lived in Glen Wood with her mother. I think Mrs. Stevens was the cook.

·         I remember Mr. Wiley Huffman bringing me candy on his way home from work in the mornings. Sometimes it was a sucker he must have packed just for me.

·         I remember my brothers getting up early and folding news papers and delivering them before they went to school. I remember them using hand cycles to cut grass for the Brady family and Mrs. Brady would give them homemade filled pastries.

·         I remember all of us helping mom at the school and walking down the coke road going home I would try to keep a hoola hoop going all the way.

·         I remember my Mom having her leg broke and in a cast.  She would sit in the floor and scoot around and scrub the floor.

·         I remember mom making homemade cottage cheese. Mondays was always wash day, using a wringer washer by the time I was a kid. And hanging the clothes on a line in the yard or on the porch. You always tried to have the wash off the line before the evening train with its black smoke. If it rained you hung the clothes in the house.  Monday’s brown beans were always for supper you could put them on in the morning and they cooked slow all day while you worked on the wash.

·         I remember Dad buying a hundred chickens and building a chicken house and when we killed the chicken’s mom canned them. There were two left and we give one of them to Mr. Wiley Huffman, and one to Steve and Anna Mae Barlow.  They kept the chickens for pets for years.

·         I remember going to the community center to catch the bus to Bluefield, and buying a little bottle of coke for 5cents. While in Bluefield, you always wanted to go to Kresgee’s for a bag of fresh hot donuts.

·         I remember going to Church in I think Thomas Hollow the Pentecostal Church for Sunday school. And there was a house near there that sold penny candy we would stop and get a little bag before we went home.

·         I remember the night the tipple burned.  The sky was bright red and I cried. I still have a fear of fire.

·         I remember picking wild greens with mom, poke, planton, dandelion, lambs ear, cresses, and wild mustard.

·         I remember mom taking car loads of kids to Dr. Prudish’s office in Montcalm to get typhoid shots after a flood. There was a line of kids getting shots. 

·         The first car I really remember was a new 1956 ford, light green. Dad kept it for the next 10 years.

·         Here are some photos from that time period

House in view above the garage is where I lived last.

Picture of me and Linda Browning



Photo of me


Photo of me on the hill behind the elementary school

 Note from Pat Smith (was Ann Sanders the teacher (back right)?  If anyone can identify those in this picture let me know I'd love to add their names here.  Is that Gary Fuda front center?)

This photo was taken at Pinnacle Elementary School in the spring of 1957 and I didn’t start school until that fall. But they let me take the picture with them. I think one of

The girls were a little Pauley girl I use to play with.

Two more pictures on the hill above the school.

Two of my school photo’s


This Photo is of Mom and Dad and me.