“Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.” – Pablo Neruda
Ever Heard Of A Near-Ghost Town?
Some call this place a ghost town; others say that’s not quite accurate. A somewhat peculiar, yet serene place, Thurmond, West Virginia today has only 5 permanent residents. All of them hold elected offices and together give a unique character to this near-ghost town. It’s located between New River and Beury Mountain in West Virginia and served as an important stop for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad prior to the advent of the diesel locomotive era. And we, your travel maniacs at Hop America, had a blast here.
The town was named after Confederate Captain William Thurmond, who had surveyed land in the county and was offered 73 acres of it along the river for just $20 as a good will gesture. It was formally incorporated in 1900, but there was very little growth. As a matter of fact, only one house was constructed. The subsequent boomtown that Thurmond became was thanks to Thomas G. McKell of Glen Jean, who had negotiated with the railroad for a branch up Dunloup Creek in 1892. As it happened, the Loup Creek line was one of the railroad’s busiest branches in the New River region.
The Rise And Fall Of Thurmond, West Virginia
And when we say boomtown, we mean it. During the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond handled more freight than Cincinnati, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia combined. The growth was so great that the railroad depot hosted over 95,000 passengers yearly. The town was a dry community, which is why McKell built another small community across the New River. This is also where he opened his Dun Glen Hotel in 1901, which had 100 rooms. It ultimately became famous for hosting the longest-lasting poker game in the world of 14 years.
Much of Thurmond’s boomtown rhetoric was crippled with the passing of prohibition in 1914. Subsequently, in 1922, a large fire destroyed parts of the town, in addition to the fact that just 8 years later, in 1930, the Dun Glen Hotel also burned. From then on, the town was in a downward spiral. The Thurmond National Bank closed in 1931 and the New River Bank moved to Oak Hill in 1935. The Armor Meat Company shut down in 1932 and a telephone district office went out of business in 1938.
Why Not Visit Thurmond And Witness Its Charms In Person?
As the Great Depression overtook the county by the 1930s, the hustle and bustle of the town pretty much died down. A small revival touched Thurmond during World War II, as coal was in high demand at the time to fuel the war effort. Fast forward to 1978, when the National Park Service established the New River Gorge National River for preservation purposes. The area, as well as the river itself, are outstandingly breathtaking, much like the historic values of the entire region. In 1984, the Thurmond Historic District was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nowadays, there are only 5 folks in Thurmond, which is the main reason for the designation “near-ghost town.” What’s peculiar is that, despite increasing interest by people from around the country to purchase land and settle in Thurmond, as the remaining residents either move on or pass away, the houses and land they sit on become property of the National Park Service. Hence, the National Park Service removes intrusive buildings in town and only restores ones that contribute to the historic district.