Coal operator Sam Dixon died in Raleigh County on July 6, 1934, at age 77. A native of England, Dixon emigrated to Fayette County in the 1870s and worked for a while in his uncle’s coal mine. In 1893, he and a partner opened their own mine in Fayette County, quickly followed by several other mines.
When he was nearly 50, Dixon founded the New River Company, with financial backing from New England and Pennsylvania. The company would become the giant of the New River coalfield. By combining numerous mines under one operation, it foreshadowed the type of industry consolidation that would dominate coal mining during the 20th century. But Dixon’s tenure as head of the New River Company didn’t last long. A national recession caused a dip in coal prices, and Dixon’s financial backers pushed him out in 1912.
However, Dixon still controlled local railroads as well as newspapers in Charleston, Fayetteville, and Beckley. For many years, he ruled as the Republican boss of Fayette County.
Colorful ‘‘King Samuel’’—as he was known—was the most important and likely most controversial operator in the New River coalfield.