Industrialist J. G. Bradley died on March 16, 1971, at age 89. The New Jersey native moved to West Virginia in 1904 and soon became president of the Elk River Coal & Lumber Company.
The company’s landholdings in central West Virginia were so significant that the county of Clay couldn’t meet its financial obligations until the company paid its taxes each year.
Bradley built the coal town of Widen and lumber town of Swandale in Clay County. A major powerbroker in the first half of the 20th century, he served as president of the National Coal Association and the West Virginia Coal Association while living in an elegant estate at Dundon, near the town of Clay.
Bradley was staunchly antiunion. To keep the United Mine Workers of America out of Widen, he formed a company-sponsored union that was independent of the UMWA.
He kept his workers’ loyalty by providing attractive housing, schools, and a variety of recreational resources. Union organizers tried unsuccessfully on three occasions to get Widen miners to join the UMWA.
J. G. Bradley sold the Widen mine in 1959 and moved to Massachusetts, where he died.