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[Hawk's Nest Tunnel Disater Congressional Hearings] West Virginia Heritage, Volume Seven compiled and edited by Jim Comstock

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This is a book that is almost impossible to find, but provides a crucial  window into America's most deadly industrial disaster, the effort of a subsidiary of Union Carbide to drill through deadly silicone rock to build a tunnel for a pumped storage facility on the New River at Hawk's Nest near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. This project, that took place from 1930 to 1935, employed primarily African-American workers, almost all of whom contracted silicosis, a debilitating lung disease. This book reprints the Congressional hearings on the tragedy that concludes that 476 workers died as a result of this exposure. That's a conservative estimate. The first 193 pages of this book re-prints, without context, the Congressional hearings about the Hawk's Nest tragedy, and the rest of the 308-page book reprints -again with no background - a 1939 novel by Fairmont  author, Stella Morgan, Again the River. The only copy I can find on-line sells for $952.95. Previously I have not found any copies of this single volume for sale. Jim Comstock (1911-1996) co-founded the News-Leader, a newspaper in his hometown of Richwood, West Virginia, in 1946. The next year he founded The West Virginia Hillbilly, a newsprint periodical devoted to promoting his home state and its history. From 1967 until 1972 he published the seven-volume set of West Virginia Heritage volumes, including this book, and from 1974 until 1976 he published the 51 volume set of the West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia. He deserves great credit for amassing an amazing amount of material about his home state, but it is a shame that he didn't provide context for what he reprinted. He also deserves credit for defending Don West, who shared Jim's pride in being from the mountains and promoting its history and way of life, but who was on the left politically and attacked virulently by Jim's fellow right-wingers.

Richwood, West Virginia: West Virginia Heritage Foundation, 1972. 308 pages. Hardback issued without a dust jacket.