Mineral County, one of five formed after West Virginia was created, was established in 1866. At the time, coal mining was rapidly expanding, and the county was named as an allusion to its chief mineral. Settlement in what was originally Hampshire County came much earlier. Fort Ashby ( MN12) was one of the chain of frontier forts that George Washington established in the 1750s after the outbreak of the French and Indian War. U.S. 50, the county's main east-west highway, follows the route of the 1830s Northwestern Turnpike. The Baltimore & Ohio arrived later, establishing shops first at Piedmont and later at Keyser. Both facilities are gone, and Westvaco is now the county's largest employer, although its huge mill lies across the Potomac in Maryland. Mineral County's 2000 population was 27,078.
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