Appalachian Thursday – Boom Town to Ghost Town

bankMy soon-to-release novel, When Silence Sings, is set in part in Thurmond, WV. While there’s plenty to make this southern WV town interesting, one of the main things is that in the early 1900s it was a rich boom town. Today, it’s essentially a ghost town owned largely by the National Park Service.

Of course, the thing that’s nifty about that, is the main street (a railroad track) is largely the same as it was in 1930–the year of my story. Many of the buildings are still there–the Thurmond National Bank, the Mankin Drug Company, and the train depot among others. Which means I had a chance to walk into the pages of my story.

As the day draws closer for readers to step into those pages as well, I thought I’d share some fun facts about Thurmond.

  • Thurmond produced more freight revenue for the C&O Railroad than Cincinnati, Ohio; Richmond, Va.; or Charleston, W.Va.–about $5 million in 1910.
  • The town was accessible only by rail until around 1921. Yet it boasted two hotels, two banks, a meat-packing company, stores, restaurants, and it’s own electric-generating plant.
  • In the early 1920s nearly 100,000 rail passengers made use of the depot annually.
  • The town deteriorated in the 1930s with the final blow coming in 1949 when diesel engines began to replace steam making the rail yard obsolete.
  • Data USA says that the 2017 population of Thurmond was 7. That’s a decrease of 125% since 2016 when there were 8 residents. Interestingly, the average car ownership is 3.
  • Today, the National Park Service owns about 80% of the town and has turned the historic depot into a visitors center.

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