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Buckhannon and its river were named for a Delaware chieftain who lived in the vicinity. Joseph Martin wrote in his 1835 gazetteer that Buckhannon, then in Lewis County, “cannot be called a village, but rather a small settlement, having about 330 scattered dwelling houses extending along both sides of the river about 25 miles.” While the nucleus was hardly that extended, Buckhannon definitely developed in a linear fashion, stretching along the river and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. A drawing of the town made in May 1869 by itinerant artist Lewis Miller shows a pattern that still prevails: major houses and commercial structures line both sides of the pike, now Main Street. Miller showed the county's first courthouse, occupying the same site as its successor, near the center of his sketch. He also showed a large house at the western end of town, more or less on axis with the turnpike before it veered northwestward. In all likelihood this is the 1847 Islair House, a handsome Jeffersonian dwelling with a pedimented portico that still surveys the cityscape from its hillside perch.

The writer of the Buckhannon entry in the 1941 WPA guide to West Virginia liked the place enormously and described it in poetic terms:

Buckhannon, seat of Upshur County, is a college town, with shady streets unblemished by factory soot. Sedate frame and faded brick houses, ornamented with iron and wooden scrollwork, pass their declining years in the shade of stately elms and sycamores. A gentle lavender-and-lace atmosphere pervades the city, reminiscent of the days of octagonal-lensed gas street lights, of tassel-topped buggies with high red wheels.

Some sedate houses remain, but not much lavender and lace. Unfortunately these older buildings now flounder in a sea of automobile dealerships and service stations that characterize downtown Buckhannon. The city had a 2000 population of 5,725.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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