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Keyser

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On October 30, 1811, a post office named Paddytown was established on the east bank of New Creek in Hampshire County, Virginia. Patrick McCarty, whose brother was the first postmaster and whose father built the town's most imposing house several years later, provided the name. Although the McCartys did their part, Paddytown did not flourish. The post office was discontinued in 1844, and most of the McCartys left, but after the B&O Railroad arrived in 1851, Paddytown took a turn for the better. The post office was reestablished in 1852, and in 1853 Col. and Mrs. Angus McDonald moved into the former McCarty mansion. Mrs. McDonald convinced the post office department to change the name to the more dulcet Wind Lea. After the McDonalds left, Wind Lea became New Creek Station. Because of the railroad, Confederate and Union forces considered the town a prize worth fighting for, and it changed hands fourteen times during the Civil War. New Creek, along with most of western Hampshire County, was pro-Union.

After hostilities ceased, Hampshire County was divided, and the western portion became Mineral County. Brothers Henry Gassaway, William, and Thomas Davis, formerly of Piedmont, laid off 600 lots in New Creek and donated an acre for a county courthouse. The time for another name change came in 1874, when townsmen and the brothers Davis persuaded the B&O to relocate its Piedmont facilities here, sweetening the proposal by renaming the town Keyser to honor the company's first vice president. The West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railroad, another Davis family enterprise, branched off from the B&O in the 1880s and spurred Keyser's continued development as the railhead for a growing hinterland.

On February 1, 1901, the West Virginia legislature created a secondary school to prepare students for the state university. When Thomas Davis donated sixteen acres for a site, the legislature decided to locate the school at Keyser. Later renamed Potomac State College, it opened the next year.

Although the college continues as a major presence in Keyser's affairs, the railroad no longer plays a role. Keyser Square, a shopping mall that employs an iron horse motif as its logo, stands on the site of the once extensive yards. With a 2000 population of 5,303, Keyser is Mineral County's largest city.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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