CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Ghost towns are an enticing attraction for all manner of explorers, adventurers and photographers. It just so happens that West Virginia is home to some of the best, due in no small part to its rich history.
Only accessible by hiking, and a descent down 821 stairs, you can find various ruins in this old mining town. Attractions include the main mining complex, the overgrown railroad and plenty of historic signs that are still hanging, among other such ruins. The old coal camp was in operation from 1899 to 1962. In 1960, a fire destroyed a large part of Kaymoor and was followed only a few years later by the mine shutting down. What remains is now owned by the National Park Service.
Thurmond was once a thriving railroad town whose businesses ran along the C&O Railway. Besides the usual well preserved buildings, one of Thurmond’s most striking features is the lack of a road or sidewalk along the commercial district. Instead, there is only a few yards of barren ground between the building entrances and the railroad itself.
It is also the sight of Ripley’s Believe it or Not’s “world’s longest-lasting poker game,” which took place at the Dun Glen hotel and supposedly ran for 14 years. Thurmond was also the site of the the 1987 movie Matewan. Nowadays, the National Park Service owns most of it, using it as part of the New River Gorge National River.
One of the best preserved ghost towns in the state, Sewell was a coal town located along the New River. With the help of Babcock State Park rangers and a bit of off-road driving, you too can visit the old mining equipment and many coke ovens that were left behind. The town specialized in turning mined coal into coke to be used to smelt iron in blast furnaces. When demand fell, so did the town. The last resident left in 1973. Now there are plenty of ruins for explorers to discover.
Named after the coal prospector John Nuttall, Nuttallburg was a coal-shipping powerhouse. Nowadays, visitors can look through abandoned mine buildings, tipples and railroad tracks. Despite rocky and narrow roads, a hike through the river gorge is a good idea when the weather is good. The C&O railroad, built in 1873, helped the town thrive until 1958, when the mines closed. The town is now owned by the National Park Service.
A great site for spooky overnight camping, Brooklyn was a mining town located along the New River. When the coal mines ran dry around 1904, the 200 population scattered. What remains are ruins and other concrete structures all covered in overgrown foliage.
By 1919, Layland had nine coal mines in operation, but one after another, the mines closed, until the 1980s finally saw the last one shut down. It wasn’t always prosperous though. A mining explosion in 1915 ended up killing 112 people. Today, tourists can still find the many coal houses where the workers used to live.
The name is not just for show. Volcano’s trade was petroleum, which made the fire in 1879 that much more unfortunate. The fire destroyed the meat market, the post office, Kennedy’s restaurant, the Nicholi hotel, and a Transportation Co. pumping station among other businesses and dwellings. Little remains of the once thriving town. Now, you can find a museum and gift shop that are more than happy to share the history of the site.
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