Pickens, West Virginia, located in Randolph County, was founded in the 1890’s as a lumber and coal mining community.
The formation of Pickens began in the 1860’s when James married Mary A. Hamilton Hefner.1 In 1862, James acquired all land from his heirs when his father died and later accumulated several thousand acres in the Pickens area. He later became a notary public and led the formation of Pickens and nearby Helvetia and Florence. He brought the first steam sawmill into the county in 1873 and assisted Senator J.N. Camden in starting up the Pickens Lumber Company and extending the Pickens & Hacker Valley Railroad into town in 1892.2
The Pickens & Hacker Valley Railroad had been formed in 1883 under the name of Weston & Buckhannon Railroad between Weston to Buckhannon, but was taken over by the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad and converted to standard gauge in 1891-92.3 It was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in September 1899, classified as part of its Monongah Division and becoming the Pickens Branch.
Noted as a “boom town,” Pickens grew to include a diverse downtown, several hotels, Presbyterian, Baptist and Catholic churches and a sawmill. But within a few decades, the lumber stands were exhausted and the then by the 1980s, the mines had been played out. In 1992, the railroad from Alexander south to Pickens was abandoned due to a lack of originating traffic.4
Pickens today is home to an annual maple syrup festival and a population of just 66.