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Pocahontas County

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Established in 1821, the county was named for the Indian princess credited with aiding the earliest Virginia colonists at Jamestown. Thomas Mann Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's son-in-law, governor of Virginia, and descendant of Pocahontas, selected the name. Its 942 square miles make it West Virginia's third-largest county, and it has the highest average elevation of any.

Pocahontas County is West Virginia in a nutshell; resources range from pioneer dwellings to one of the most modern engineering complexes in the state. In between are the birthplace of one of America's great authors, simple country churches, a restored lumber company town, and some of the state's best Depression-era, CCC-built state park structures.

Pocahontas County residents have depended on the forests for shelter from pioneer days to the present, and at the end of the nineteenth century, the county became a center of the state's burgeoning timber industry. Workers began laying tracks for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railway's Greenbrier Branch in 1899. Beginning east of Ronceverte, in Greenbrier County, where the branch joined the main line, by 1902 the tracks reached Durbin, in northern Pocahontas County, to connect with the Coal and Iron Railway. Three-quarters of a century later, after the forests were cleared, the Greenbrier line was history. Rails were subsequently removed, and the 75-mile-long right-of-way between Caldwell (in Greenbrier County) and Cass is now the Greenbrier River Trail, one of the longest rails-to-trails conversions in the state. The popularity of the trail reflects an increasingly important component of the county's economy, tourism.

Although one of the state's largest counties in area, Pocahontas has never even approached that distinction in population. In 1860 the population was only 3,958, but at the height of the lumber boom, in 1920, it reached 15,002, its historic high. The 2000 population was 9,131. Only seven West Virginia counties have fewer inhabitants.

Pocahontas County sites are generally accessible from either U.S. 219, which traverses the western portion of the county from southwest to northeast, or from West Virginia 28, which follows the same parallel direction on the eastern side of a series of Allegheny Mountain ridges.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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