(Although a portion of the town of Alderson lies within the bounds of Greenbrier County, for the sake of convenience and clarity, all of its entries are included herein under Monroe.)
Alderson exudes a sense of spaciousness and well-being, traits that characterize the popular image of small-town America. Comfortable frame houses are surrounded by large yards; the commercial area is small and well defined; and there is even a beautifully maintained boardand-batten railroad station. Added to this general ambience, Alderson has several buildings of individual merit that would be impressive in towns and cities twice the size of a place that has never had a population larger than 1,500.
Alderson is located in two counties because the Greenbrier River, which forms the boundary between Greenbrier County to the north and Monroe to the south, bisects it. Residential Alderson is concentrated on the level and expansive northern side, while the major commercial area is confined in a narrow valley between the river and hills to the south.
Until the Chesapeake & Ohio came through on its way from White Sulphur Springs to Huntington in 1872, Alderson was a small rural community, named for a ferry that had been established in 1786. After the C&O arrived, the settlement became the center of a large trading area. In the 1920s, a nearby tract was selected for the Federal Industrial Institution for Women (see entry in Summers County). Although the prison, now the Federal Correctional Institution for Women, or Federal Prison Camp, is off limits to casual visitors, it has provided a constant source of employment for local labor ever since it opened in 1928. In recent years Alderson has gained fame for its elaborate Fourth of July festivities, as much a fitting celebration of small-town America as it is an observance of the nation's holiday.
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