I don’t think many people fully realize the size of ACE Adventure Resort.It sits on 1,500 acres and that’s huge! The property boundary is irregularly shaped, but it is 2.4 miles across east-to-west and 2.1 miles across north-to-south. We own almost a mile of the New River shoreline including a giant sandy beach and private river access.
There are two large creeks bordering the property with dozens of beautiful waterfalls and loaded with wildlife. We have nine lakes and ponds. One lake is the one-of-a-kind Lake Water Park and another one is Truman Lake, a remote beaver pond with a large beaver dam and den.
And Thurmond Mountain rises up more than 1,000 feet above the river in the middle of the property offering fantastic overlooks into the gorge, including the spectacular Concho Overlook that looks down at the historic town of Thurmond with rapids and panoramic views. We have private climbing cliffs and more than 25 miles of trails.
No wonder we were featured on the Travel Channel as North America’s Largest Adventure Resort.
Think about that. No other adventure outfitter in the country can offer everything we have here. With all those activities, amenities and cabins, we truly are a “World of Adventure in One Place.”
For me, one of the coolest things about this property is the fact that there were actually three towns once located here: Concho, Erskine and Dun Eden.
Dun Eden is a mystery. Located up near the horse stables, I have found very little information concerning it other than old maps showing its general location. There are two old graveyards and a few fragments of stone foundations, but little else. It was most likely a farming community. If anyone has additional information about it, I would love to hear from you.
For the first few decades, locals simply referred to Concho as Thurmond Mountain. Coal was first mined here in 1892 (more than 118 years ago) by the Thurmond Coal Company. By 1893 the community had grown to more than 200 people and they needed a post office. Michael Erskine Miller (one of the primary founders of Fire Creek Coal and Coke Company), a Texan who ran this early mining operation, chose the name Concho.
In Spanish the word means “shell,” kind of a strange name for a coal town in the mountains of West Virginia. But he named it after the old family ranch that was located in Concho County, Texas. The ranch was devastated after the Civil War and I guess he wanted to keep its memory alive.
It was a typical coal town, rough! The picture of Concho above shows the type of two-family shanties the coal companies built for their workers. They were built cheap and not made to last. All of these building are long gone now. There is very little evidence left except for a few old dump sites where you can find old bottles and rusted pieces of metal.
The town was located above Arbuckle Creek, near the edge of the gorge on Thurmond Mountain. It had a school, store and most likely some kind of a church, though I have found no graveyard as of yet – they may have walked to Minden for services.
The mine was located below the town on the side of the gorge facing the river, approximately 580 feet above it. You can still look into the gated mine entrances if you take a mountain bike or hike along the Erskine Trail (one of my favorite trails).
The Concho Mine No. 1 was a drift mine that mined the Sewell Coal Seam with an average thickness of 4 feet high (miners had to bend over and walk long distances to get to the face). It was considered to be a “good” mine – it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as some of the other mines in the area. In 1910 the mine had a 500-ton daily capacity. According to the state records, the best coal production year was in 1919 when they mined more than 103,000 tons of coal.
In 1914 the mine had worked all the way through Thurmond Mountain to exit into the Rock Lick area. Rock Lick got its name from the fact deer were seen licking a natural salt seam in this area. The name of the operation was changed to the Rock Lick Smokeless Coal.
Its biggest claim to fame was the fact that it was the first electrified coal mine in West Virginia, supposedly the second in the country. It was powered by two Sprague generators located in the powerhouse along the river at Erskine. They used the power to light the mines and operate machinery. Concho eventually became a fairly large operation employing 197 miners, not including family members.
Thurmond Coal Company mined both Concho and also Erskine. I think you can guess how it got its name. It was much smaller than Concho, and many of the workers at the Erskine mine lived at Concho. Erskine was located down along the river next to the railroad tracks. There are some well-preserved stone foundations here that I will photograph and share with you in a future blog about Erskine.