Hearts in Zion
Steel, Coal, and an Appalachian Family

by Bruce Hopkins

Hearts in Zion is available from your favorite bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher.

  Hearts in Zion
  ISBN 978-1-893239-88-3 
  220 pages.   $16.00

  Wind Publications
  600 Overbrook Drive
  Nicholasville KY 40356


From the end of the Civil War to the Great Depression, American industry enjoyed an unprecedented expansion, the greatest in world history, with burgeoning markets and raw materials easily available. What was lacking was labor, and the call went out to rural America and the world for working men to operate the factories and mine the coal that powered them.

To house these huge numbers of men and their families, American companies built entire towns to accommodate them, over twenty thousand of them across the country. Steel and coal companies built ten thousand of these towns, usually known as "camps," in the coalfields of the Southern Appalachians. They were usually built in isolated locations, seemingly overnight, and introduced an urban environment to pastoral landscapes where a few farmers might have raised corn or cattle. The greatest period of this construction lasted barely three decades, from the beginning of the Twentieth Century, when the railroads first penetrated into the hills, until the Crash of 1929 ended the time of the great coal camps forever.

Most of these company-owned towns disappeared with the onset of the Depression, as companies ruthlessly closed the mines and demolished the houses, salvaging whatever assets they could from an unfinished experiment, and leaving their former workers to fend for themselves. For the people of the hills, it was the greatest upheaval since the Civil War and the scars of that experiment still haunt the people of the coalfields.

In Bright Wings to Fly (2006), Bruce Hopkins recounted the story of his family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky during the Civil War and its aftermath. In their struggle to cope with an unimaginable catastrophe, his family became a metaphor for all the mountain families whose lives were forever changed in the nationís darkest hour. Now, with Hearts in Zion, Hopkins continues the story of his family, as a strange, new prosperity descends on the hills. The lessons learned in the aftermath of the Civil War are nearly discarded, until once again the people of his homeland face unbelievable convulsion and abandonment, but manage to survive and pass on the stories of their bloodline to yet another generation.