Ghost towns along the New River in West Virginia are aplenty. What makes these three unique is that they lay within the New River Gorge National River. Prior to the creation of the national park in the late 1970’s, much of the land was used for the production of coal and coke. Small, company-owned towns were developed for the miners and their families, and when those mines closed out – so did the boroughs. Go explore Kay Moor, Nuttallburg, Fayette and Thurmond this weekend while the weather is still warm!
Kay Moor featured a small town, a large coal mine and coal processing plant. The town was located at Kaymoor Bottom along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, while the mine portal was located 560-feet above on Sewell Bench. The mine serviced the New River Coalfield’s 36-inch Sewell Seam, which was low-volatile bituminous coal that was “smokeless.” Kaymoor Top was located at the top of the ridge and served as the terminus for the mountain haulage.
The mining site was developed in 1899 and featured inclines, a tipple, processing plant, and coke ovens. The town had room for over 110 residences but had few amenities. The company town ceased to exist after 1952 and most of the buildings, including the residences and company store, burned in a fire in 1960. The Kay Moor mine closed in 1962.
Kay Moor is accessible today by several hiking trails at New River Gorge. Find out more via our partner site, American Byways »
Nuttallburg was a coal mining venture that was spawned out of England-born entrepreneur John Nuttall. The community quickly grew, becoming the second mining town in the gorge to ship “smokeless” coal. Nuttall’s first mine was at the confluence of Kenneys Creek and New River and opened in 1870; a second mine was opened in 1874 adjacent to Short Creek and was named the Nuttallburg Mine. It was only the third mine in the New River valley to open and the two at Nuttallburg were operated by the Nuttallburg Smokeless Fuel Company.
Of notability is the abandoned suspension bridge that formerly crossed the New River. It was built by the Roebling Bridge Company in 1899 – the same builders who had earlier completed the signature Roebling Suspension Bridge between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky.
Nuttallburg is accessible today by a hiking trail and a rail-to-trail – along with an improved one-lane road, at New River Gorge. Find out more via our partner site, American Byways »
Fayette and South Fayette
The towns of Fayette and South Fayette were established along the tracks of the Chesapeake & Ohio when it was completed in January 1873. A ferry operated between the towns between 1873 and 1889 when the Fayette Station Bridge was completed. After the bridge was opened, the two towns became essentially seamless operating as one collective, however, they remained their separate identities.
Fayette was seen as a mining town developed by the Fayette Coal & Coke Company while South Fayette was more known for its railroad activities. The towns once featured a post office, school, saloon, jail, coal tower and a water tank.
Fayette and South Fayette can be accessed by the Fayette Station Road / CR 89 in the shadows of the New River Gorge Bridge.
Thurmond features a population of five, according to the 2010 census. Peaking at a high of nearly 500 in the 1930s, Thurmond was an important stop for the Chesapeake & Ohio and the center of commerce. A passenger depot, freight station, engine house, water tank, coal and sand towers were constructed. To supplement this surging activity, houses began to line the hillside along New River, followed by the large Dunglen hotel, New River Banking and Trust Company, Armour Meat Company meat-packing plant, stores, boarding houses and eateries.
The surge was so great that during the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond handled more freight than Richmond, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio combined. 95,000 passengers utilized the depot yearly. Over 150 people worked for the railroad in the town, as laborers, brakemen, dispatchers and so forth, while many others served as tellers for the bank, waitresses and pharmacists.
Thurmond was a dry community, which led to the formation of a small community across the river and opening of the 100-room Dun Glen Hotel in 1901. The hotel became infamous for hosting the world’s longest-lasting poker game at 14 years long.
By 1910, Thurmond was producing $4.8 million of freight revenue for the C&O, which was 20% of the entire company’s revenue. It was ten times more than Richmond and 2.5 times more than Cincinnati. There were 18 train crews that operated out of Thurmond.
Prohibition curtailed the “boom town” mentality of Thurmond and certainly for the Dun Glen Hotel. A large fire destroyed parts of Thurmond in 1922 and the Dun Glen was burned in 1930. Owing to the Great Depression, the Thurmond National Bank folded in 1931 and the New River Bank moved to Oak Hill in 1935. Other industries and businesses closed up within the decade.
Thurmond saw a small revival during World War II when coal was in high demand that helped fuel the war effort, but the final nail in the coffin came with the introduction of the diesel locomotive. No longer was coal needed to fuel the massive steam engines, along with water and the associated stops in Thurmond. The C&O was one of the last railroads to convert from steam powered engines to diesels, but once it occurred, Thurmond was no longer an essential stop for the conductors.
The population decreased from 462 in 1930 to 339 in 1940, plummeting to just 39 by 1990.
Thurmond is accessible from a one- and two-lane road from Glen Jean. Find out more via our partner site, American Byways »
Explore these four awesome ghost communities in the heart of West Virginia today!