Area attorney keeps coal mining history alive with scrip collection

By: Morgan Lentes Email
By: Morgan Lentes Email
Long before credit cards, coal miners relied on small coins called scrip to feed their families prior to payday.

MGN Online

PINEVILLE, Ky (WYMT) - Long before credit cards, coal miners relied on small coins called scrip to feed their families prior to payday.

While they have not been used in decades, a man in Bell County is keeping their memory alive with his extensive scrip collection.

Steve Cawood is an attorney in Pineville but in his spare time, he collects these particular kind of coins.

He said his hobby has helped him connect with the community he was raised in.

"It gives me a better opportunity to learn more about the history of this area," said Cawood.

He describes these coins as the credit cards of their day.

"It was a form of credit that was extended to coal miners and a currency they were advanced against their pay that could be spent only at the coal company's commissary," said Cawood.

Cawood said as coal mines moved in to rural parts of Kentucky and surrounding states, they began creating towns around them for their employees.

He added that when a worker needed more cash, they would be issued scrip to cover them until the next payday.

Each company had a unique coin.

One in Cawood's collection is from a town that does not even exist today.

"A community called Murtea that no longer exists, it was issued about 1890," said Cawood.

Cawood said having coins like this that are so rare warrants protection.

"I keep these in a vault over at the First State Bank," said Cawood.

In addition to scrip, he also has replicas of coal mining tools as well as prints of famous pictures featuring coal miners.

He is a member of the National Scrip Collectors Association, which meets twice a year.

The organization works to catalog all scrip still in existence.

They rate each piece based on how rare it is.

Cawood said he owns a few coins that he believes to be the only ones left.

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