Once it was a proud and bustling place. Now there's little left of its coal-boom days. That was before the Farmington disaster, before the Monongah disaster, before coal lost its place of glory in the energy world, before people got smart and formed unions to protect themselves.
In those days the streets were full of people. Saturdays were busy days as the miners and their wives came to town to spend their money.
We pass through this little town every time we visit our son Aaron and his family in Marion County, West Virginia.
There are still a few signs of the town's past: an aging building with an unusual door and curving brick was probably once a bank. Some houses still standing have the bravado of an old lady who once knew what it was to wear silk and now wears her faded cotton dress with her head held high.
Something about old coal towns speaks to me. A dark voice, virile and raucous, full of the tales of what once was, of the men and the women who made the place and fought for it and died too. The houses huddled close together as if seeking comfort from danger and cold, the boarded up stores that surely once were filled with goods and customers. These towns are like closed, worn diaries.
Find the secret lock and open it, and the stories of the people will spill into the light. Some of them too terrible, perhaps, to be viewed in full sunlight in all their gory truth; others sparkling with a beauty that blinds.
Davit McAteer told the story of Monongah in his recent book, and the 100th anniversary of the terrible mine explosions was observed on December 7, 2007. Worthington, just a few miles down the road, still holds its stories for the person who finds the key.