Jack Feller was about three years old when his family moved to Mullens from Raleigh County. The 13-year-old city was bustling with money from the timber, coal and railroad industries.
Feller’s father, C.V. Feller, for whom the family-owned business is still named, moved his insurance business to Mullens.
“It’s probably the oldest family-owned business in Wyoming County,” Feller said of his family’s insurance business. Though he is retired, both his sons — Charles and Steve — now operate the business in Mullens and Oceana.
“They had just put in the streets, the water lines, and the sewer,” Feller said of his family’s move to Mullens.
In a sense, the city and Feller grew up together. The city was incorporated in 1912; Feller was born in 1922 and moved to Mullens in 1925.
About the same time, Mullens had three banks, Feller recalls. Two of the banks failed in the mid-1920s.
“The depression hit in Mullens before it hit the rest of the nation,” Feller said.
A.J. Mullins, city founder, and a few others bought one of the banks and created the Peoples Bank of Mullens, which today is First Peoples Bank.
Feller said there was a push to make Mullens the county seat of Wyoming County and Ben Dunham, a prominent citizen, would donate the land for the courthouse.
Of course that plan fell through and the land went to the site for what became Ben Dunham Elementary School, then later a high school, Feller said.
Feller did a series of five books on the history of Mullens, through 1946. He began the series in an effort to put his father’s large collection of photos and other memorabilia into some type of order.
He also began talking with people in his own age group and added to his own vast collection.
Then, he researched old newspaper articles along with high school newspapers and yearbooks to add to the collection.
“It was more of a scrapbook collection, things I had gathered up piece by piece,” he said. “Memories and photos, just like the title.”
The books are now sold out and much of Feller’s collection was lost in the July 8, 2001, flood in Mullens.
The Jack Feller Coalfields History and Culture Information Center, or more briefly the Feller Heritage Center, is expected to open later this fall at the Mullens Opportunity Center.
The mini museum will house items from the area’s railroad, coal, timber, and other Appalachian legacies, according to Dewey Houck, director of Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL), which is coordinating the project.
The structure is a replica of the Virginian Railway telegraph office, located in Ellett, Va., that controlled eastbound movement of trains through the mile-long Allegheny Tunnel.
While Feller’s love of Mullens’ history continues, he maintains someone else will have to pick up the gauntlet from 1946 to the present.