Settlement began in this vicinity, near an early trail, at the end of the eighteenth century. When Fayette County was formed in 1831, the community, then known as New Haven, became the first county seat, but it held that honor for only six years. Major growth began in 1873 with the organization of the Londonbased Gauley Kanawha Coal Company, Ltd. Former Confederate General J. D. Imboden and Professor David Thomas Ansted, the company's chairman and a geologist, came to supervise mining operations. Professor Ansted also served as a mentor to William Nelson Page, who supervised construction of a narrow-gauge railroad from the coal mines down to the then recently completed C&O Railroad in the New River Gorge.
In 1881 The Virginiasannounced that “the Hawks-nest Coal Co., Wm. N. Page, Supt., Ansted,” was preparing to erect, “from drawings made in England,” eighty coke ovens “to meet the increasing demand for New River coke.” By this time, “the mines had drawn two or three members of the Episcopal Church from Virginia,” and the Church of the Redeemer was begun, largely through efforts of the Page family. Ansted was incorporated as a town in 1891 and grew to a population of exactly 1,000 by 1900, according to the census. It almost reached the 2,000 mark in 1980, with a population of 1,982, but by 2000 the figure had receded to 1,576. By remarkable good fortune, Ansted has managed to preserve buildings from almost every important period of its history, though few are in pristine condition.
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