A coal town, also known as a coal camp or patch is typically situated in a remote place and provides residences for a population of miners to reside near a coal mine. A coal town is a type of company town or mining community. "Usually, the coal camp, like the railroad camp, began with temporary housing-tents or boardinghouses—until more permanent dwellings could be built. Gradually, within a year or so, the camp grew into a Company Store, the most essential structure in the town...". The more typical structures such as churches, and schools would appear later as the town grew.
Given the typically remote location and the absence of any travel infrastructure at the mines, coal camps became a part of being a coal miner. "In point of fact, the operators built towns because they had no alternative. The mining of coal requires miners; miners require houses. Since most mines were opened in virtually unsettled areas, there was no existing housing....Since the almost complete absence of all weather roads made it necessary for the miner to live close to his work, small villages (often called "camps") were built close to each mine". Miners were often paid under the truck system in company scrip called coal scrip.
In the 21st century, many coal mining areas are no longer remote, as development has spread to include them. Coal towns in such areas are no longer dominated as substantially by one company, although that company may still be the most important employer in the region.
- Sadler, Spencer (2009). Pennsylvania's Coal and Iron Police. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-6470-8.
- Shiflett, Crandall (1991). Coal Towns Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia 1880-1960. University of Tennessee Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-87049-678-6.
- Shiflett, Crandall (1991). Coal Towns Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia 1880-1960. University of Tennessee Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-87049-678-6.
- Tams, William (2001). The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia: A Brief History. Morgantown, West Virginia: West Virginia University Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-937058-55-6.