Located in the heart of
Most ghost towns - and living towns for that matter - have a
Thurmond began in the 1870s when Captain W. D. Thurmond surveyed land in the gorge for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad. Instead of money, he took acreage adjacent to the railroad as pay. He felt strongly the area would serve as a valuable railroad junction and envisioned his acreage serving as the nucleus for a future railroad junction town. Coal and timber interests also eyed the route as a perfect place for railroad branch lines to reach the river bottom.
Thurmond operated a ferry at the
confluence of Dunloup Creek with the
The Thurmonds opened a store partnered with Charles and George Jones, as well as 30 or so houses and cabins for folks to live in. Thurmond quickly grew, and neighboring Glen Jean also expanded down into the gorge. Since the Thurmonds were strong advocates of clean living, vices settled on the Glen Jean side of the line.
The boom began. A post office was established in the Jones-Thurmond Store in 1888, followed in 1891, when the wooden Hotel Thurmond and a railroad depot were built. The hotel burned in 1899 and was rebuilt of brick, reopening in 1901, at the same time as the 100-room Dunglen Hotel on the south side of the river. When that hotel opened, it included a bar that never closed, much to Captain Thurmond’s displeasure.
By 1898, 175 folks lived here and the town had the following listed among its businesses: Adams Express office, two coal company offices, three general stores, a Western Union telegraph office, a barber, two dressmakers, hotel, jeweler, lawyer, photographer, railroad depot, restaurant, saloon and a shoemaker. There was also a constable and a justice of the peace.
In 1903, Thurmond incorporated, partially to
reap the benefits of incorporation, and partially to protect its own physical
interests from encroaching “civilization.”
The town of
Through the early 1900s, Thurmond continued to grow. In 1903, the Armour Company built a wholesale meat shipping office; the three-story, brick Mankin building was built; the railroad depot burned, but was quickly rebuilt.
1908, the railroad bridge washed out when the
In 1914, the state of
By 1915, the washed-out railroad bridge had been replaced, increasing access to the town. Until 1917, access to Thurmond was only by rail or the river, when the road down from Glen Jean was completed
November, 1922, fire devastated the Glen Jean-side river bank business
district, including the Collins Cash Mercantile, Lykens Drugstore, Collins
Mortuary, the movie theater, Panas’ Shoe Shop and
some apartments. The area was not
rebuilt. This was the beginning of the
end for Thurmond. Even though the 1920s
were kind to the town, it began to fade.
The 1930s were most unkind to Thurmond, starting when the Dunglen Hotel burned.
Then in 1931, the National
Bank of Thurmond. In 1932, the Armour
Company pulled out. In 1935, the New
River Banking & Trust Company moved to Oak Hill. In 1938, the telephone company moved to
During the 1940s the railroads switched from coal to more efficient and reliable diesel-powered locomotives, so the need for service and repair yards declined. In 1958, Thurmond’s light went out, when the last remaining steam locomotive in the New River Gorge made its last run. As Thurmond’s prosperity evaporated, the physical toll also continued. In April, 1963, the Lafayette (Thurmond) Hotel and the old Armour building burned. In 1984 the C&O Railroad closed its offices in Thurmond and in 1993, the massive engine house burned. The Thurmond Post Office finally closed in 1995, but, the National Park Service restored the two-story railroad depot for use as a visitor center/museum that same year.
Census figures share the graphic story of Thurmond’s decline:
· 1910 - 315
· 1920 – 285
· 1930 – 462
· 1940 – 339
· 1950 – 219
· 1960 – 189
· 1970 – 86
· 1980 – 67
· 1990 – 39
· 2000 – 7
For ghost town trivia buffs AND
movie fans, the John Sayles movie “Matewan”, was
filmed in Thurmond, about 100 miles from the real coal town of
SO, what’s left?
The huge, two-story railroad depot has been restored; several three and four-story rock and brick buildings face the still active tracks; the vine covered coaling tower and a pile of wrecked railcars sit on a siding where the roundhouse and car barns used to be; houses and a picturesque, white clapboard church sit up in the trees. Many details such as faded wall signs and window signs bring back the feeling of a town once on the move.
Coal brought the trains - coal
powered the trains that gave Thurmond its life - lack of coal brought its
death. Today, only river-rafters and
curious ghost towners visit where thousands once
strolled. Plopped deep in the heart of
This was our Ghost Town of the Month for Jun/Jul 2008
This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.
· Latitude: 37.9615016 / 37° 57’ 41” N
· Longitude: -81.0823220 / 81° 04’ 56” W
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FIRST POSTED: June 12, 2008
LAST UPDATED: November 17, 2012
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