Jewell Ridge Virginia, a community rich in history and deeply rooted in the coal industry, stands high astride the Tennessee and Ohio Valley Divide in the northwestern corner of Tazewell County. Jewell Ridge was built in the early 1900's as a coal mining town, located on the top of a beautiful mountain, 3500 feet above sea level. In 1902, George W. St.Clair, an attorney from Wytheville moved to Tazewell to practice law. Soon after Mr. St. Clair’s move into the county, Thomas M. Righter, a Pennsylvania anthracite coal mine operator joined him. They procured contracts from the landowners for the purchase of the land. The entire boundary consisted of more than 18,000 acres. In 1908 the survey was made for a railroad in the southeast corner, which is on Big Creek in Tazewell County. The first mine began producing coal in 1910, and shortly thereafter, the Jewell Ridge Coal Corporation was chartered. Located near the mine was modern machine shop - it was fire proof, the electric repairs, general shop, car shop and blacksmiths were all under one roof, which better served the mines.
The two men began construction on a community for their employees and their families. They chose the highest point for the community, which set Jewell Ridge apart from other coal communities because it was removed from the noise and dust. The community was used as a model for other coal mining companies planning to build their own in other regions of the country.
The Jewell Ridge Community included more than houses for the employees, it had a school, churches, post office, theater, hospital, park , ball field, bowling alley and gymnasium, restaurant, Club House, Skeet Shooting Club, YMCA, and a company store that offered a wide variety of items - Taylor made suits for men and women, clothing, furniture, groceries, etc.
. In years past, Virginia Tech University brought their mining engineering students to Jewell Ridge during the summer for their underground mining training. Students from as far away as Germany spent the summer in this unique area learning about coal mining. John L. Lewis, former president of the United Mine Workers of America once attended a meeting at the Jewell Ridge Union Hall in the early 1900s.
Today, the “mining community” houses are owned by individuals making their homes high atop the mountain. The community has an active Recreation and Development Corporation and an active Fire Department. These organizations work together to maintain the community’s heritage and activities with special events throughout the year. The “Welcome to Jewell Ridge” signs offer more than directions to the town. It embodies the warm welcome Jewell Ridgers give to visitors. The people are pound of the town and its place in history, both when the mining operation was at its peak and now when times are quieter. A sense of belonging to an era when friendship and loyalty and a strong work ethic were important seems to be woven into the rich fabric of Jewell Ridge, Virginia.