PRISON LABOR CAMPS ONCE DOTTED REGION - Billy Burke Recalls Rosedale Camp In "Man Of Many Hats"


Concrete foundations of five buildings
at Rosedale Prison Labor camp still remain

In West Virginia in the 1930s through the early 1950s, state prisoners we brought to so-called prison labor camps around the state to provide labor for road construction, mostly moving and crushing stone.

There were such camps in Calhoun, but the remnants of a camp still exist along Steer Creek in Gilmer County, a short distance from Rosedale.

Gilmer resident, Billy B. Burke, in his book "Man of Many Hats," recalls his memories of the camp.

"I'm probably the only living person that not only remembers the Rosedale Prison Labor Camp, but also worked there. Those days in the quarry were a wonderful experience and I may many friends with the prisoners."

"I found many of the prisoners very interesting men. I always ate lunch with them, which was a good hot meal transported from the labor camp."

"I was working there when a prisoner attempted to escape...There were two busloads of prisoners that came from the camp every morning. Armed guards were stationed at each end of the quarry and along the river to make sure there were no escapes."

"One hot dry summer Friday, it was very dusty. Each Friday a Standard Oil truck made deliveries... a black prisoner in the dust down at the crusher caught the truck and climbed up a ladder on the back of the tanker and rode past the guard."

The guard saw the prisoner on the back of the truck. The guard shot a tire from out under the truck. The prisoner ran across the bottom toward the river... After a couple of shots were fired were fired by the guard's rifle, he fell to the ground. Three of the guards ran to the man and handcuffed him." Burke's book is full of personal reminisces, recording his life and times in Gilmer County, and history of the county, and has now passed on.

It is available from and regional book stores.