Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 6, 2014

Deep in love

Exhibition coal mine becomes chapel for a day

POCAHONTAS, Va. — Angel Kintz’s wedding gown was as white as the driven snow, but the walls of the make-shift wedding chapel were as black as coal. In fact, the ribs were made of coal. Genuine Pocahontas No. 3 seam coal, the world standard of metallurgical bituminous coal.

“We came through Pocahontas last June when we were on vacation and we fell in love with it,” David King, 57, of Laurel, Del., said as he followed behind Pocahontas Vice Mayor Jerry Gravely while the vice mayor transported King’s bride through a mud hole on a 4x4 all-terrain vehicle to protect the train of her gown.

“You call this a mud hole?” the Reverend Carlos Hess said. Hess is pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Pocahontas and a retired coal miner. “This isn’t anything compared to some of the mud holes I’ve worked in through the years.”

Still, it appeared as though Angel Kintz appreciated the ride through the section of the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine where the floor was wet and getting damper.

“It was dry in here before we got that rain during the last couple of days,” Juanita Labroski, Exhibition Mine manager said. As part of the preparations for the wedding, Labroski had placed a roll of white plastic on the floor of the mine from the mud hole to the altar that she set up in the dinner hole exhibit.

“I’ve done about everything else in the mines, but I’ve never done anything like this,” said Raymond Comer, also a retired coal miner who has served as the head tour guide in the show mines for several years. “I’ve even made moonshine in the mines, but I’ve never seen a wedding in the mines.”

Actually, it was the stories that Comer told David and Angel as they toured the world’s first demonstration coal mine last summer that sealed the deal for their return visit for their nuptials.

“Pocahontas is just a beautiful place,” David King said. “We stumbled on to this beautiful little town last year on vacation and we had to come back. I know a lot has changed and it’s a little old fashioned, but it’s still a beautiful place and the people here are so friendly and nice.”

“This is a first for me,” Reverend Hess said as he stood with his back to the dinner hole. “We’re underground, but God still sees us and has helped us come together here today.”

Hess conducted a traditional ceremony of joining the couple “in the holy state of matrimony,” and read scripture from 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13. “This marriage brings two families together and creates a brand new family,” Hess said.

No one threw rice, but the mine itself sprinkled coal dust on Mrs. King’s wedding gown.

And for their honeymoon? “We’re going to Kentucky into Hatfield and McCoy country,” Angel King said. “Thank you to all of you for doing this for us,” she added.

“They came back because they enjoyed the tour that Raymond (Comer) took them on,” Labroski said. “That’s what made them want to come back.”

Gravely, a lifelong resident of the Paradise Section of Pocahontas — the section of town that is nearest the Exhibition Mine exit — said that he asked other residents if they had ever heard of a wedding in the show mine, and no one said they had.

The exhibition mine opened in 1938 as the nation’s first demonstration mine. It was a drive-through mine for more than three decades, but declined in the mid-1950s when (then) Consolidation Coal (now Consol) closed the mine in Pocahontas. The mine closed in the late 1970s, reopened in 1983 for the Pocahontas Coalfields Centennial, but was closed until 1989 when a grassroots group from the community worked with the town to get it reopened.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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