The Killing of a Community: The Story of Lindytown

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Over Lindytown, by Jim Allyn

 

The story of Lindytown is a warning for Roşia Montană. It tells what happens to a community when corporate profits are valued more than the natural and cultural heritage of a community… when profit is valued more than the people, themselves.

 

In the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains of America, there is a town that no longer echoes with Sunday morning church bells or children’s laughter in the park. The peaches that ripen in late summer never become a part of Grandmother’s pie or Aunt Ellie’s cobbler. Instead, they lie untouched on the ground, turning the same color as the dust that settles on the deserted buildings; only a single occupied house is all that remains of a community that once thrived on the ore that lay under its feet. This is the story of how a coal mining community thrived, prospered and died in the mountains of West Virginia.

For generations of coal miners, Lindytown was home. Father and son donned their hard hats and miner’s lamps and descended deep into the bowels of the earth to extract coal from the rich deposits that lay undisturbed for millions of years. For a growing country hungry for energy resources, coal brought prosperity and abundance to the community. Families worked hard during the week, coming together on weekends for picnics and social gatherings, sharing the fruits of their labor with their friends and neighbors.

Lindytown was a community. It had a market and a school, a church and a cemetery. People lived and laughed and loved. They were born here and died here. Lindytown was alive with their hopes and dreams, their pains and their joys.

But time brought change as time always does. No longer was it profitable to send men down into galleries to blast and dig their way through miles of earth. It became a new game with new rules. Multi-million dollar companies took over the mineral rights choosing not to mine underground as before; instead, they removed mountains, filled in streams and forever altered the land. This was progress and progress had come to Lindytown.

In 2009, Massey Energy began to buy up the houses and land that made up Lindytown. This served two purposes; it allowed for the expansion of mining operations and it also removed the possibility that residents would file lawsuits against the Company for causing health problems. Several recent studies have linked open pit mining to increased health risks including a University of West Virginia study indicating residents near open pit mining operations were twice as likely to develop cancer.

At first, the townspeople said they would not move. They were a community and this was their home. Their heritage was tied to this land; their fathers and mothers and brothers were buried here.

But Massey was relentless in their pursuit of their homes, harassing the residents with daily phone calls and unannounced visits. They were “muscled out of their homes”, they told Time magazine. For those who sold, Massey forced families to get out so quickly they were unable to take all of their belongings. Promised they could return to get their valuables,  residents were refused entrance and any attempt to get their belongings was met with the sheriff and the threat of a trespassing charge.

For those who didn’t sell, it was simply a matter of time. As a home was sold, the bulldozers came to knock it down, a shameless statement to those who refused to sell of who was in control. Even the church was not spared. With the mountain removal operations devouring what was once their neighbors’ yards, the holdouts watched as their homes became covered in dust and shook in protest as heavy coal trucks passed by and huge blasts from the land above their homes rattled their windows.  One by one, they sold their homes to the Company leaving only the cold winds to navigate through the empty buildings. Lindytown was no more.

Less costly than underground mining operations, open pit mining, known as mountain top removal in mountainous areas, is becoming more and more common around the world. But serious questions are being raised about the harm it does to the environment. Besides removing natural habitat and native ecosystems, open pit mining increases the risk of flooding by compacting the earth until it is as hard as concrete. Moreover, mining companies routinely cover streams and stream beds with waste rock from operations. From West Virginia, alone, the US government estimates that over 1600 miles of streams have disappeared.

Harm to the environment is only part of the problem. Open pit mining devours towns and destroys communities. All in the name of progress. For the former residents of Lindytown, progress exacts a very high price.

 

 

 

 

Over Lindytown, by Jim Allyn

Inspired by an article by Dan Barry: www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/us/13l…ml?pagewanted=all

Close to Twilight,
down this old Appalachian road
night falls black as the coal over Lindytown
1895, my great-grandfather waded through those streams
crystal clear flowing through the green hills and down
over Lindytown

Now there’s no one at all
at the old union hall from the mines
and scattered on the floor
from a lifetime before
all the papers for wages and lost time

But I remember
that old schoolbus, the kids, and everyone
and the church bells ringing out when day was done over Lindytown
Before Massey started blasting all these mountaintops away
the dust falling day after day
covered Lindytown

Now there’s no one at all
’cause when mountains fall it’s hard to stay
Mr. Cook I’ve been told says,
“we got to have the coal, but I believe
with all my heart there’s a better way”

Now Mama she’s got
memories in rooms she can’t unlock
now and then one opens for a moment as she walks
here in Lindytown

Close to Twilight,
down this old Appalachian road
night falls black as the coal
But there’s one light
still burning in the place she calls home
over Lindytown

(Music and lyrics – Jim Allyn, copyright 2011)

 

A last view of Lindytown before it ceased to exist.

The final view of Lindytown…

 

 

 

 

 

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