Stories of the River: Peg Mansberry

Peg Mansberry can trace her roots in this area back for over 12 generations. She began
her life on grandparents farm, now the Jordan Farm, in Normalville and has spent all 68 years of
her life close, never straying more than 5 miles away. Peg’s parents raised her in Melcroft but
she spent all her summers on the farm tending to the garden and helping with the produce
business. Peg was even baptized in Poplar Run, in the water that flowed from the top of her
grandparent’s farm down throughout the community she would later have to fight to protect. The
farm that was kept in her family’s hands for generations, protected from the resource extraction
so much of the area faced, is now subject to possible stripmining. This stripmine would not only
impact the land Peg grew up on, but also her current home and the entire community.

Most of the creeks ran orange with mine runoff during Peg’s childhood. Other than the
water that flowed from the spring on her grandparents farm, feeding Poplar Run, which Peg’s
family admittedly protected and preserved. “It was so common as a kid, I didn’t realize anything
was wrong,” Peg says, “if you walked in it, the orange would stick to your clothes.” Growing up
in Melcroft, Peg says she could look off in every direction and see houses covered with black
soot from all the coal mines. “We now know the damage that being down in the mines did to
people’s health, but what about the people above ground too? We were kids playing outside
during recess in clouds of smoke,” Peg recalls. During the winter months she said the sky would
turn green and black.

The area has changed drastically over the course of Peg’s life. She says, “Without MWA
we would still be looking at it, all that orange in our creeks. Now the trout have come back. It is
nothing like it was in the 60’s, I thought it was finally getting better.” Now Peg fears for the
possibility of Jordan Farm being mined as it would mean negative impacts on the land, water,
air property value, and overall health of those living near Poplar Run. A strip mine in that
location could pollute Poplar Run with sediment and acid mine runoff, which has improved so
greatly it is being considered to be named a designated trout stream.

In 1976, Peg purchased a few acres of the farm and has lived there on the land she
loves ever since. Peg’s connection to this land and desire to protect it inspired her to work with
MWA’s community organizer Stacey Magda to raise awareness of this issue. Peg and Stacey
have rallied the community together conducting monthly meetings to educate and prepare
themselves for what a stripmine in the area would mean for them and what they can try to do to
protect themselves. Right now, there is a sign in almost every yard along Poplar Run that reads
“NO NEW STRIP MINE!” and behind every sign a community member fighting to protect their
home. “I appreciate MWA because without them, I wouldn’t have known how to do this alone,”
Peg says, “MWA is helping me and my community fight.”