Ghost Towns of America: Thurmond, West Virginia

The old Thurmond train depot in Thurmond, West Virginia.

Ghost Towns of America: Thurmond, West Virginia

Several ghost towns exist in the United States. While they once thrived with people and business and even contributed to the general economy, they were deserted due to various reasons. One of the deserted places that is now considered a ghost town is the town of Thurmond in West Virginia. Thurmond is located in Fayette County, where it lies between the New River and the Beury Mountain. The most recent census conducted revealed that Thurmond was inhabited by five people.


The town of Thurmond was formally incorporated in 1900 and named after Captain William Thurmond who was a Confederate captain. The Captain had surveyed the land and in return he was offered 73 acres of the land along the New River for $20. Shortly after Thurmond acquired the land, a rail line was constructed through the valley, but it was not until 1892 when Thomas G. McKell who was among the shareholders of coal company Glen Jean acquired Dunloup Creek that it became a bustling town. A rail line was constructed to serve the several coal mines in the Sewell coal seam and became the busiest line in the region. The town grew quickly and became a hub of commerce. Several facilities were constructed including a passenger depot, a banking and trust company house, water storage facilities, stores, restaurants, meat packaging plant, and residential houses.

William Thurmond banned alcohol on his land which consisted of part of the town, but the McKell family who also owned part of the town served alcohol in their Dun Glen Hotel which is attributed for hosting a fourteen-year-long poker game. According to Ripley's Believe It or Not, it is the longest poker game ever played on the globe. Thurmond grew very fast and it handled more freight than Cincinnati, Virginia, and Richmond combined. The railroad depot handled approximately 95,000 people annually. By 1910, the Thurmond railroad accounted for 20% of the entire rail line which was about $4.8 million, twice as much as Cincinnati. In 1914 a fire broke out and part of the town including the Dun Glen Hotel was razed to the ground. The economic depression led to the collapse of the Thurmond National Bank. The meat plant and the telephone office closed down in 1932 and 1938 respectively and people began moving out of the town.

Restoration of the Town

By 1978, the town had become a ghost town. The Chessie System, which owned the railroad, sold the passenger depot to the National Park Service who restored it at the cost of $2.5 million in 1991. In 1992, $35 million was used to restore the town but in 1993 a fire burnt down the engine house. In 1999, the water tower was brought down after it became unstable. Much of the initial houses still stand to date and it is home to about five people. The houses and the land are under the National Park Service which has the responsibility of maintaining Thurmond as a tourist attraction site.


More in Travel