More than 80 years after death, indignities continue for Hawks Nest Tunnel victims


Charleston Gazette-Mail

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va.  They were lured to West Virginia from homes in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and other southern states for jobs on a long-term tunnel excavation project that would allow them to better the lives of their families during the Great Depression.

Trees cut for a power line right-of-way litter the ground and eliminate shade at a section of the Hawks Nest Workers Memorial Cemetery near Summersville. Recently cut trees fell on the cemetery. (Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson)

For their willingness to pull up stakes, move far from familiar territory, and work hard to improve their lot in life, they were rewarded with an early, often painful, death.

The 42 construction workers buried in the Hawks Nest Workers Memorial Cemetery along U.S. 19, five miles south of Summersville, were among at least 764 workers — about 75 percent of them black — known to have died while building the Hawks Nest Tunnel from 1930 to 1935.

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