Van Lear was a sparsely populated farm community at the dawn of the 20th century. Known originally as Miller’s Creek, its pastoral nature was soon lost as it transformed into a thriving municipality. John C. C. Mayo, a young schoolmaster, was the force behind this development. With his geologic knowledge and his forward-looking business savvy, he foresaw the economic power of the veins of bituminous coal that lay undisturbed in much of Eastern Kentucky. Mayo and a small nucleus of businessmen acquired vast tracts of land and mineral rights. In the case of Miller’s Creek, these holdings were sold to a corporate behemoth, the Consolidation Coal Company (Consol). Mayo became one of Kentucky’s wealthiest citizens, and Miller’s Creek became Van Lear.