Thanks to our interviewees, who are the soul of Paint Creek and without whom this tour would not be possible. Audio and transcripts of the full oral history interviews are available by contacting the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association. In addition to those listed below, Etta Weeks, Bob Nasby, Charlotte Cottrell, Ellen Bolt, Jimmy Miller, Joanne Martin Sprouse, James Martin, and Teddy Gray also contributed interviews.
Emra “Mim” Campbell
Emra “Mim” Campbell was born in Burnwell in 1927 and has spent his entire life on Paint Creek. The oldest of five children, he went into the mines at the age of 17 after his father was killed underground in a slate fall. Mim is one of the founding members of the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association and works tirelessly to improve water quality with the Lower Paint Creek Watershed group. He is especially proud of his work teaching kids to fish on Kid’s Fishing Day.
Irving Clark was born in 1930 at Standard and spent his early days living in coal camp houses all up and down Paint Creek. His father was a coal miner who marched on Blair Mountain in 1921 during the West Virginia Mine Wars. Irving himself worked underground from 1947 to 1980 and is active in the Lower Paint Creek Watershed group.
Dave Cottrell was born in 1941 in Mahan, the last of twelve children, and recently served as acting president of the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association. His father worked as a blacksmith for the coal mines and his mother was a hard-working, religious, resourceful housewife. Despite a childhood of relative poverty, Dave has fond memories of the many adventures he enjoyed growing up along the Paint Creek.
Billie Fay Dunlap
Billie Fay Dunlap was born in Milburn and married her high school sweetheart, Rhual, 53 years ago. She grew up as the eldest in a family of five, with an imaginative mother and a coal mining father who later became an organizer for the United Mine Workers. Billie worked for 20 years as a toll clerk along the West Virginia Turnpike and is a terrific storyteller.
Howard Hughes, born in 1941, is one of the founders and leaders of the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association. His great-great grandfather, a surveyor, founded the town of Pax, and his grandfather was an accomplished stone mason who built many beautiful stone structures still standing today in town. Howard is the former mayor of Pax and a member of the city council.
Henry Meredith was born in Kentucky and moved to Paint Creek at a young age so that his father, a coal miner, could find work. The family lived in many towns up and down the creek, including Kingston, Weirwood, and Pax. Henry left West Virginia and spent 22 years in the Air Force before moving home and becoming active in the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association as the group’s former president and webmaster.
Jim Reed of Beckley has actively worked to improve the water quality of Paint Creek since 1972, when his work as a fisheries biologist for the Division of Natural Resources brought him to the watershed. He was instrumental in securing agency partnerships for the community’s work and served for a time as president of the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association. His father was a coal miner who participated in the West Virginia Mine Wars on Cabin Creek.
Dwight Siemiaczko was born in 1952 of Polish ancestry and is a lifelong resident of Holly Grove, near the mouth of Paint Creek. Growing up, he heard stories about the West Virginia Mine Wars that were fought nearby, including the large tent camp that was located in his home town. He entered the coal mines in 1972 at the age of 19 and worked over 22 years underground. He is a founder of the Lower Paint Creek Watershed and has worked hard to improve the water quality in Paint Creek.
Karen Vuranch is a storyteller, actress, and writer who weaves together a love of history, a passion for stories, and a sense of community. She is known for her traditional storytelling, plays based on oral history, and living history presentations of famous American women. She brings history to life through her unique performance style, which combines storytelling and drama to create an engaging presentation.
Dianne Anestis and Doug Wood
Dianne Anestis and Doug Wood live in St. Albans, WV, and have been involved in historical reenactment of 18th century American Indian and European cultures in West Virginia for 30 years. Doug is a retired biologist with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and portrays Cherokee War Captain Ostenaco. Dianne, an authority on medicinal herbs, has spent over 25 years working on the Mary Ingles story. She also portrays Skiagusta, a Cherokee War Woman.