Coal operator Justus Collins was born in Alabama on December 14, 1857. He got his start in coal mining in the Deep South but moved north about 1887 to pursue his fortune in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.
In Mercer County, Collins organized the Louisville Coal & Coke Company, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk and Western Railway. In 1893, he opened Collins Colliery at Glen Jean in Fayette County. About the same time, he started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.
He built identical octagonal company stores at Collins and Whipple. The Whipple store still stands today as a local landmark. After selling the Collins and Whipple mines to the New River Company, he ventured into the new Winding Gulf Coalfield, located largely in Raleigh and Wyoming counties.
He’s often remembered as one of the most disliked coal industry officials of his era—both by miners and by fellow coal operators. Collins eventually left the coalfields, moving first to Charleston and then to Cincinnati. Justus Collins died in 1934 at age 76.