Located hidden deep in the forested New River Gorge lays a town nearly forgotten. Thurmond, West Virginia was once the definition of a “Boom Town”. With the completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1873, Captain W.D. Thurmond saw opportunity in 73 acres of land for sale along the railway nestled between nearby coal mines and fields. Thurmond knew this would be a strategic location to develop a small town. The town grew along side the coal and timber industries that were also growing due to their location in the Gorge. By the year 1910, Thurmond became the railway center for the Chesapeake and Ohio railway, making Thurmond into a boom town. During this time, C&O Operation at Thurmond became the highest in revenue recipients, producing more then locations such as Cincinnati, Richmond, and Ohio combined. The town of Thurmond excelled through the roaring twenties. Having coal barons and 95,000 passengers a year grew Thurmond’s bank to become the richest in West Virginia.
The decline of Thurmond, West Virginia started in the 1930’s with the devastation of the Great Depression. Businesses had to close such as the bank and coal moved away from the New River Gorge. Two fires also destroyed major business in the town. As the automobile came and steam moved away, so did it’s residents. Thurmond was located deep in the gorge and the roads made it impossible for automobiles to navigate down. Workers left due to railway structures being useless for new diesel locomotives and the price of change too high. Eventually, not only Thurmond, but many towns and coal mines along the gorge closed and the land to remain to mother nature.
Today Thurmond remains a place of history. Though the town seems abandoned, a few residents remain. Most residents are living to supports the preservation of the Town. The railway depot is now a museum to share and spread light on the town that once was. In 2003, The National Park Service began to stabilize buildings to restore the town to it’s beginning. New River Gorge visitors can still travel to the town today to view in amazement the history and hard work that went into Thurmond, West Virginia.
National Park Service - History, Thurmond