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Thurmond- The coal town in West Virginia from the late 1800s went from sveralhundred residents to 7

Ian Smith

Thurmond is a town in Fayette County, West Virginia, United States, on the New River. The population was five at the 2010 census. During the heyday of coal mining in the New River Gorge, Thurmond was a prosperous town with a number of businesses and facilities for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The town was the filming location for John Sayles’ 1987 movie Matewan since it still possesses many of the characteristics of a 1920sAppalachian coal town.

Thurmond was incorporated in 1900 and was most likely named for Captain W. D. Thurmond, who settled here in 1844. He served in the Confederate Army and died in 1910 at age 90. Thurmond post office was established in 1888 and discontinued in 1995.The community remained small until Thomas G McKell of Glen Jean negotiated with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for a crossing at Dunloup Creek in 1892.


There were two hotels in the town; one was called the Lafayette (known locally as the ‘Lay-flat’) which was close to the railroad, and the aforementioned 100-room Dun Glen, which opened in 1901, became a nationally known resort, and burned down in 1930, marking the beginning of a decline that saw Thurmond a virtual ghost town by the 1950sThe Thurmond National Bank (owned by Thurmond) closed in 1931 and the New River Bank (owned by the McKells) moved to Oak Hill in 1935.

The Thurmond Historic District comprises the entire town and a small portion of the opposite riverbank. Thurmond was accessible solely by rail until 1921. The town occupies a narrow stretch of flat land along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad track, with no road between the tracks and the town. Instead, a single-lane road crosses the New River on a single-track railroad bridge, crosses the main line, and climbs the hill behind the town so that it parallels the town 150 feet higher on the hill before dropping down next to the tracks



Today, much of Thurmond is owned by the National Park Service for the New River Gorge National River. The C&O passenger railway depot in town was renovated in 1995 and now functions as a Park Service visitor center. The entire town is a designated historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.During the June 14, 2005, city elections, six of the city’s seven residents sought elected office.

Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News