My grandfather, Everett Lett, was a coal miner in Paint Creek, West Virginia. I've heard many stories over the years regarding life in a coal-mining town, however, the scariest I've ever heard was concerning a flood that hit the town when my aunts were toddlers.
The flood came up suddenly. My grandfather was coming from town with my Aunt Alice in tow. He came to a part of the creek where a man was on the other side, offering assistance. Everett had to make a quick decision and, in an attempt to save my aunt's life, tossed her across the creek to the man to insure her safety. He was planning to get back to the house and try to rescue the rest of his family.
My grandmother, Virginia, was home with my Aunt Betty. As the water rose, it started to fill the small house. Virginia, being only 18 years old herself, was terrified. She stood on furniture, holding my aunt in her arms, until the water rose too high for her to stay there. In a desperate moment, she climbed up and sat on the mantel of the fireplace, holding her little one around the waist. She knocked the picture off above the mantel, held on to the nail sticking out of the wall and stayed there all night until my grandfather was able to get to her.
My grandparents didn't find out until later the next day that my Aunt Alice was safe.
Years ago, a book was written about the flood. My Great-aunt Bertha, my Aunt Alice, and my Aunt Betty gave interviews. They also spoke to the man who caught Aunt Alice that night. In fact, a local paper had reunited them not long before. It had been the first time they had met since that horrific night. In the book, there is also a "lovely" sketch of my grandmother on the mantel with Aunt Betty.
The website I use for my West Virginia records has a brief story regarding the flood: Paint Creek Flood of 1932