Settlement patterns in the Appalachian regions were originally constrained by the dominant topographic features of the areas such as stream, mountains and valleys. Primarily for transportation and agricultural purposes, communities settled along rivers and within valleys.
Appalachia had the largest percentage of self-sufficient farms in the United States from the early 1800s to the early 1900s, and as late as the 1930s Appalachia had the highest concentration of low--income farms.
Industrialization, via coal, the railroads and other industries, transformed the society and economy of Appalachia following the Civil War.
Immigrants played a big part in both the development of the industry and the ensuing labor struggles. Right off the boat from Europe, immigrants provided cheap labor for the coal bosses.
The industrialization period from the 1870s to the 1920s, basically from the Reconstruction era through World War I, saw the metropolitan areas of America send workers of all ethnic types into Appalachia.
Salt and iron were among the first industries in the era, and they contributed to the development of the coal industry: coal was used to fire the salt brines in the early nineteenth century and after the salt industry declined, coal mining took it place.
Approximately 152 million tons of coal were produced from 1,369 surface mines in Appalachia during 1985.
In 2009, West Virginia accounted for about 43 percent of the surface coal mining production in Appalachia.
Coal mining in Appalachia