Location: Athens County
Contact: Little Cities of Black Diamonds
In the late 1800s three rival railroads pierced through rugged hills to reach abundant deposits of coal, iron ore, clay, and oil in the Hocking River Valley. “Little cities” appeared overnight as the rush to extract the mineral resources brought thousands of people here from all over the country and world in search of work and prosperity. These cities were quickly populated with a rich mix of races and ancestries. For over fifty years the mineral resources were feverishly extracted to feed the fires of America’s industrial revolution.
The people who came during this period lived out provocative stories ranging from civic and social development to playing nationally significant roles in the emerging labor movement and struggle for racial equality. The prosperity was relatively short lived and the bust that came in 1925 kicked off nearly a century of gradual economic and population decline. Most of the dramatic stories faded from the collective consciousness of the people and historians.
For over a decade the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council has been working to rediscover and collect this natural history and share it in an effort to understand what happened here and how the area can approach re-development in a more sensible way this time around.