The Seclusion of Pickens: A Vestige of Appalachian Antiquity

Several years ago, I made my way into the heart of West Virginia – and came across Pickens.

In my travels through the rugged landscapes of West Virginia, I ventured deep into the Holly River valley and its tributaries, seeking out the region’s renowned waterfalls. However, as I traversed the winding roads and ascended the towering mountains, I encountered a forgotten realm – lands forsaken and left fallow. Residences that once tended to vast acres of crops and pastures now lay abandoned and in ruin, a testament to the fleeting nature of human endeavors.

After many miles of traversing narrow, serpentine back roads, I stumbled upon Pickens, a town whose origins can be traced back to the 1860s. Yet, it was not until the establishment of the Pickens Lumber Company and the extension of the Pickens & Hacker Valley Railroad into the town in 1892 that Pickens experienced any semblance of growth.

The Pickens & Hacker Valley Railroad, originally formed in 1883 under the name Weston & Buckhannon Railroad, operated between the towns of Weston and Buckhannon. In 1891-92, it was acquired by the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad and converted to standard gauge. Subsequently, in September 1899, the line was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, becoming part of its Monongah Division and christened as its Pickens Branch.

Pickens flourished, boasting several hotels, churches, and a bustling downtown district. However, within a few decades, the timber stands were depleted, and by the 1980s, the mines had been exhausted. In 1992, the railroad from Alexander south to Pickens was abandoned due to a lack of originating traffic, severing the town’s vital connection to the outside world.

Today, Pickens is but a whisper of its former self, with a mere 66 residents and few outward connections. Its railroad link has long been severed, and the few remaining hard-surface roads require an hour or more of travel to reach any major highway.

Yet, in the heart of this Mountain State, one finds a certain allure in the seclusion of Pickens. It is a haven of tranquility, where crime is virtually nonexistent and a small-town charm permeates the air. Despite the deterioration of some buildings, the town boasts well-maintained homes and businesses. It even celebrates its heritage with festivals, such as one dedicated solely to the art o


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