Estepp grew up in a coal mining family in Mingo County and started giving bus tours of labor-war historical sites last summer, with no previous tour-bus experience. He told the stories he learned as a history student at West Virginia University in an effort to prove the area, perhaps best known for mine disasters, could become a tourist destination. He broke even last year, and is expanding his tour this year with six new trips, departing from as far away as Washington, D.C. He will extend the trip to four days to allow more interaction with active and retired miners and those who re-enact the Matewan Massacre.
Smith reports Estepp's tour shows "everything from the squalor of company-run camps to coal barons' mansions in Bramwell." Donna May Paternio, who leads the Matewan re-enactment, told Smith the tours allowed her to stage 12 street-theater shows last year, the most she's ever directed. She said if Estepp continues his tours, she may be able to raise money for an outdoor amphitheater. (Read more)