Rousing the Ghosts Of Appalachia

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Abandoned near the Potomac River headwaters in western Maryland are several old coal-mining villages historians believe are at risk of being forgotten forever.


VINDEX, Md. You could say that this old town is just a memory now, but even that might be giving it too much credit.

Actual memories of the place, from back when it had a school, two churches and a row of flimsy houses built by the coal company, are scarce now. The people who saw it that way are almost all gone.

nd here, even in the center of Vindex, there are almost no traces of it left. The tallest standing structure is a short flight of concrete steps, which once led up to the company store. They now sit, odd and alone, in the middle of an Appalachian forest.

"This is it," said Dan Whetzel, a local historian, whacking through underbrush to reach them. "This is the heart of town."

Vindex is a Potomac River ghost town, one of about 11 coal-mining villages that sit abandoned near the river's headwaters in Western Maryland and West Virginia. They make for scenes that don't seem to belong within a few hours' drive of Washington: foundation holes, broken-backed bridges, mossy stairs that look like part of a jungle ruin.

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