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Thurmond Town

Fayette County, West Virginia

Thurmond Town Hall is located at 174 Main Street, Thurmond, WV 25936.


Historic Significance [1]

Thurmond West Virginia is historically significant for its extraordinary commercial vitality in the early twentieth century in spite of extreme inaccessibility. For thirty-five years, Thurmond, located in the heart of the New River Gorge, was inaccessible except by railroad. Yet, as the chief railroad center on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad serving portions of the fabled coal fields of southern West Virginia, Thurmond produced more tonnage and revenue than Cincinnati and Richmond combined. The town had not a single street, yet boasted two banks, two hotels and a thriving commercial block. Architecturally, the town is significant for its railroad architecture and for its vernacular worker housing and simple commercial buildings, not because they have great style or beauty, but for what they say about the thriving life in the West Virginia coal fields for some sixty years. Archaeology is possible at the hotel sites.

Thurmond is named for William Dabney Thurmond (1820-1910) who moved to the area in 1844 and served during the Civil War as the leader of a band of Partisan Rangers supporting the Confederate cause. In time, following the war, he became an active businessman, banker and proprietor of Thurmond. He acquired a 73 acre site as payment of surveying a large tract in 1873, the same year the C & O Railroad opened its main line from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ohio River. Yet, only a single house was built on the land (1884) until the C & O bridged the New River in 1888-1889 just a couple hundred yards east of his property to reach coal mines on the south side of the river. A railroad station was also built in 1888 at the bridge location, and soon Thurmond's land became an assembly yard for the railroad. The completion of the DunLoup Creek railroad branch to Glen Jean (instigated by Thomas G. McKell opened more mines and stimulated Thurmond's growth. A hotel was built in 1891, but burned in 1899. In the first decade of the twentieth century another 35 room hotel (first called the Thurmond, then the La Fayette) was built (1901), then the Goodman-Kincaid building with two stores and two floors of apartments (1901), the Mankin-Cox building also with two stores and two floors of apartments (1904) and the National Bank of Thurmond with three floors of apartments (1906) and an Armour and Co. wholesale meat plant with apartments on the second floor (1906). W. D. Thurmond also built about 30 houses, both one and two story houses, for rent to workers. He had a policy never to sell, and by his death, only three lots had been sold to commercial interests like Armour.

A second source of Thurmond's history rests in the personage of Thomas Gaylord McKell (1845-1904). His father-in-law had speculated in West Virginia land, and at his death, McKell and his wife Jean Dun McKell, took their share of the estate in West Virginia land and moved from Chillicothe Ohio in 1887. McKell came to own 25,000 acres including the land just east of Thurmond around the station and railroad bridge and across the river and up DunLoup Creek. He laid out the DunLoup Creek railroad branch, opened new mines, built the town of Glen Jean on the plateau five miles away, and crowned his work with the fabulous one hundred room Dun Glen resort hotel built across the river in 1901.

  1. Harper, R Eugene, PhD, University of Charleston, Thurmond Historic District, Thurmond WV, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, DC

Nearby Towns: Fayetteville Town •