West Virginia Department of Commerce New River / Greenbrier Valley

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New River / Greenbrier Valley

Fayette County
Created in 1831 from parts of Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas and Logan Counties and named in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette.

Fayette County is considered the heart of the New River area. Offering the best whitewater rafting in the East, the New River has 21 major rapids in one 15‑mile stretch, the most concentrated span of whitewater in the United States. The New River is the oldest stream on the continent and flows north from North Carolina to West Virginia. A large section of the New River Gorge National River is found here and the New River Gorge Bridge is located on US Route 19 at Fayetteville, the county seat. The bridge spans 3,030 feet and towers 876 feet above the New River. Bridge Day in October is unparalleled fun, with hundreds of B.A.S.E. jumpers parachuting from the bridge to the New River.

, was incorporated in 1903 and named for Captain W. D. Thurmond who owned the land. Once a thriving coal town, it hosted a poker game which went on continually for 14 years and was stopped only because a fire in the saloon forced the players to evacuate. The movie "Matewan" was filmed here.

The leading industrial and agricultural products are coal, ferro‑alloys, lumber, livestock and dairy farming.

Greenbrier County
The second largest county in West Virginia was formed from parts of Montgomery and Botetourte Counties in 1778. The principal river in the area, the Greenbrier, gave the county its name. Frankfort, an unincorporated area, was the first permanent settlement in 1769.

White Sulphur Springs, incorporated in 1909, was named by the earliest settlers for the sulphur springs found in the area. Now the site of The Greenbrier, the springs have been a spa since 1778. The hotel was used as a hospital during the Civil War and many presidents and foreign heads of state have been guests. Ownership of the hotel has passed through many hands from Nicholas and Kate Carpenter, the original settlers on Howard's Creek, to Jim Justice, the present owner. In 1942, The Greenbrier was purchased from the C&O Railroad by the U.S. Army for $3,000,000 and turned into Ashford General Hospital where 20,000 soldiers were treated. It opened to the general public as a hotel again in 1948 and has remained a world-renown resort.

The Old Stone Church in Lewisburg, the county seat, was the first Presbyterian Church built west of the Allegheny Mountains and has been in continual use since 1786. Lewisburg was originally called Big Levels, Camp Union and Fort Savannah and dates back to 1763. It was chartered in 1782 and named in honor of General Andrew Lewis who led forces against the Indians at Point Pleasant in 1774. Chief agricultural and industrial products are livestock, hay, grain, poultry, fruit, dairying, coal, lumber and road materials.

McDowell County
Created from Tazewell County in 1858 and named for James McDowell, governor of Virginia, from 1843‑1846. This area is known for coal, lumber, livestock, corn and potatoes.

, the county seat, was incorporated in 1894 and named for Isaiah A. Welch, captain in the Confederate Army. It is home to the first municipally‑owned and operated parking building in the United States. The first memorial building erected in memory of World War I veterans in the United States was built in Welch; however, the building was destroyed by fire in 1979.

The town of War was incorporated in 1920. The name was derived from War Creek which runs through the area and was named by the Indians around 1788 due to a local battle. The town was once known as Miner's City because of the coal fields in the area.

Mercer County
Named in honor of Revolutionary War General Hugh Mercer, this county was created in 1837 from parts of Giles and Tazewell Counties. Leading industrial and agricultural products are coal, lumber, hay, grain, dairying, livestock, poultry and manufacturing. 

is located at the southern end of the West Virginia Turnpike (I-77), an 88‑mile, four‑lane toll highway which goes north to Charleston. The turnpike, an engineering achievement of heroic proportions, traverses mountainous terrain that required grades of up to 5% and the movement of 70 million cubic yards of earth. The elevation climbs from 600 feet at Charleston to 3,400 feet at Flat Top Mountain. The Memorial Tunnel, no longer used on the turnpike, was the first in the nation to be monitored by television when it opened in November 1954.

Bluefield, in the southern part of the county, was incorporated in 1889 and named for the luxuriant growth in the area of a species of chicory with dark blue flowers which grows in abundance. Also known as "Nature's Air‑Conditioned City,” the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce offers free lemonade on the infrequent days when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Bramwell, named for J. H. Bramwell, pioneer in coal development in the area, was settled by the Flat Top Coal Land Association in 1885, and was considered the richest town in the U.S. for its size, with as many as 14 millionaires residing there in the early 20th century. Bramwell’s Bryant and Newbold Pharmacy reportedly was the third drugstore in the United States to carry Chanel Number 5 perfume.

Monroe County
Created in 1799 from Greenbrier County, this county was named for James Monroe, fifth president of the United States. The chief agricultural and industrial products are tobacco, hay, grain, livestock, poultry, dairy farming, lumber and rubber fabricators.

The county seat of Union was settled by James Alexander in 1774 and chartered originally in 1799. The town received its name because troops rendezvoused there during the Indian Wars. Alderson, in both Monroe and Greenbrier Counties, was incorporated in 1881 and named for John Alderson, Baptist minister who settled the area in 1777. It is the location of the Federal Correctional Institution for Women.

Raleigh County
Created in 1850 from Fayette County, this area was named in honor of Sir Walter Raleigh, the English adventurer and soldier. The leading agricultural and industrial products are potatoes, poultry, strawberries, cattle, ponies, lumber, coal mining equipment, electronic parts and building blocks.

The county seat of Beckley was originally chartered in 1838 and named in honor of John Beckley, the first clerk of the Congress during the administrations of Washington, Adams and Jefferson. The city was incorporated in 1927 and is home to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, the only historically preserved coal mine in West Virginia. The mine was opened to the public after many safety precautions were taken. Portraying actual conditions of low seam coal mining from its beginning to today's technology certified retired coal miners guide visitors through 1,500 feet of underground passages. The mine maintains a year‑round temperature of 58 degrees and was used for interior shots during the filming of the movie "Matewan."

Summers County
Formed in 1871 from parts of Monroe, Mercer, Greenbrier and Fayette Counties and named for George W. Summers, a prominent jurist of Kanawha County. Leading industrial and agricultural products are lumber, livestock, hay and grain.

Hinton, the county seat, was created when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad bought land and laid out the town in 1871. Hinton became a boom town in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the brick streets which were laid in 1905 remain today. The legend of John Henry was born in Summers County. In the early 1870s, the C&O Railroad built the Big Bend Tunnel at Talcott. A mile of hard red shale had to be cleared through Big Bend Mountain by driving steel by hand into the hard rock. Reportedly one in five men was killed as tons of rock crushed them. Legend says John Henry competed against a steam drill in 1873 with a hammer in each hand. Henry won the race but died in his sleep that night, while others claim he was killed later by a rock blast. When a concrete floor was poured in the tunnel in 1932, the hammer and steel, supposedly used by Henry, were found in a dirt fill. They had been thrown there after the contest and John Henry's death because superstition prevented anyone from using the hammer again.

The Graham House, in Pence Springs, was built by Colonel James Graham between 1770 and 1772. In the spring of 1777, Shawnee Indians attacked the house killing two people and taking the Colonel's seven-year-old daughter. Graham spent eight years trying to find his daughter, finally rescuing her in what is now Maysville, Kentucky. Graham had the shoes of his horses reversed in order to hamper any pursuit by the Indians after the rescue.

Formed in 1850 from Logan County and named for the Delaware Indian word meaning "large plains." The chief agricultural and industrial products are livestock, poultry, hay, grain, coal, lumber and natural gas. Oceana was the first county seat, established in 1850. The area was originally settled in 1797 by John Cooke and known as Cassville and later Sumpterville. In 1855, Thomas Dunn persuaded the county court to rename the town in honor of the youngest daughter of Chief Cornstalk, Oceana. In 1907, the county seat was moved to Pineville, so named because it was the location of a black and pitch pine second growth forest.