The Forgotten Ghost Town Of Thurmond West Virginia

thurmond wv ghost town

Looking to explore Thurmond West Virginia? Or maybe learn more about it’s history? If so, you’re in the right place. In this article we’ll explore how Thurmond became a ghost town, and see exactly what’s left to explore today.

The History Of Thurmond

Before Thurmond blossomed into a bustling boom town, it was once one of the most isolated places in all of West Virginia. Accessible only by train, Thurmond played a key role in serving the local coal industry where short coal trains would be assembled into longer trains and sent further down the line.

But before the tracks were built, this plot of land was founded in 1900 by a confederate captain by the name of W.D Thurmond who first laid claim to the land back in 1844. The 73 acre plot of land was awarded to him for completing a surveying job for the military.

Founder of Thurmond West Virginia Captain Thurmond
Captain Thurmond poses on his horse in his town

With all this land, Captain Thurmond proudly named the small area after himself, hence the town of Thurmond was born. Thurmond remained a small and modest outpost until 1892 when a man by the name of Thomas G Mckell struck a deal with the Ohio Railroad company to turn Thurmond into a railway stop along the way.

Seeing his own town grow quickly, Thurmond declared a ban on all alcohol in his town, but this largely went unnoticed and ignored. The Mckell family blatantly ignored his request and would host wild parties into the night. They even broke the world record for the world’s longest lasting poker game, which lasted 14 years inside the Dun Glen Hotel.

The impressive Dun Glen hotel sat a few feet from the active railroad right near the river.

With the newly installed railroad, even more coal miners and curious travelers began to visit the Thurmond area. The town became a well known stop along the way, and soon a commercial district was formed.

Thurmond had two hotels, The Lafayette and the infamous 100 room Dun Glen that became nationally known as a resort hotel. There was a post office which remained open until 1995 and the ‘Thurmond National Bank’ that stayed in operation until 1931. In its prime, Thurmond had two banks, two hotels, a movie theater, and half a dozen restaurants, clothing stores, and general stores.

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Like most boomtowns, Thurmond’s population and success of the railway would rise and fall in tandem. During its peak in 1910 the C & O Railway Company processed more coal and timber by weight than the larger Cincinnati and Richmond companies combined. This success and traffic played a major role in the growth of Thurmond.

steam engine in Thurmond West Virginia
A steam engine makes it way through Thurmond past a newly constructed coal tower
modern day Thurmond West Virginia

How Thurmond Became A Ghost Town

Overtime Thurmond fell victim to the economic effects from the Great Depression. To make matters worse, the Dun Glen Resort caught fire in 1930 completely destroying the hotel which brought in a healthy amount of tourism. A few other fires over the years would destroy even more shops and businesses.

As America fell in love with the automobile, less people relied on trains for transportation and preferred newly paved roads across the countryside. As technology progressed the C & O Rail Company switched its trains from stream, to diesel powered engines in the 1940s. This left many of the Thurmond train services unable to accommodate the new gas engines.

Railroad workers line up for a photo circa 1923
hilltop view of Thurmond wv
Hilltop view of the Thurmond’s North end
Handsome railroad workers circa 1917

As the railroad moved it’s route to more modern stops, and more people began purchasing automobiles, Thurmond was slowly forgotten. By 1950, the area was considered a ghost town.

Thurmond West Virginia Today

Today, Thurmond quietly rests on the edge of the New River Gorge with many of its buildings boarded and sealed up. The town has a handful of the original buildings still preserved, so much so that you can easily imagine what it was like some 100 years ago.

Rather than letting the town become lost with time, the National Park Service allocated funds to maintain and restore a large part of Thurmond. The tracks are still active and you can still regularly see trains pass through on occasion.

There are a number of hiking trails to explore, most notably the six mile Brooklyn Southside Junction trail which takes you through a number of other smaller abandoned mining towns such as Rush Run and Red Ash.

Photo Credit: Bruce Fingerhood circa 1985

The best time to visit Thurmond West Virginia is in the fall, especially if you want to take photos. The changing leaves provide a great backdrop for the old buildings and passing trains. The falls season also makes the longer hikes more enjoyable, and the lack of leaves makes it easier to find some of the other lost structures scattered along the nearby trails.

Have you been to the ghost town of Thurmond? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to also check our growing list of abandoned places in West Virginia.



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