The town of Thurmond was no more than a man’s dream in April of 1873 when Captain William D. Thurmond received 73 acres of land as payment for his services as a surveyor. With access to the newly completed C&O Railroad, as well as the rich coalfields of Southern West Virginia, the soon-to-be named town of Thurmond was positioned to become an important cog in both the coal and rail industries. It was not until the late 1880’s with the completion of the Southside Junction railroad bridge that crosses the New River at the mouth of Dunloup Creek that Thurmond saw its prosperity and important to the area grow.
The town of Thurmond was incorporated in 1903. In the following years, Thurmond’s population and economy boomed. The town’s steam engine repair shop was one of the primary reasons for its success. The raucous nature of Thurmond’s neighbor across the river, Dunglen, has also been credited as an aid to Thurmond’s thriving economy.
Thurmond’s importance started to deteriorate when roads arrived in 1917. Around that time, two major fires, one that burned through the south side of Thurmond in 1922 and the Dunglen Hotel fire in 1930, destroyed much of the town’s infrastructure and many establishments moved away. The final blow to the rail industry in Thurmond came in 1949 when the C&O Company purchased its first diesel engine and began phasing out its steam engines.
Commercial whitewater rafting came to Thurmond with the founding of Wildwater Unlimited in 1968. The outdoor adventure business has continued to grow in and around the town of Thurmond. In 1987 the National Park Service established the protected area know today as the New River Gorge National River.
Presently, the park owns approximately 80% of the town of Thurmond, including the historic Thurmond Depot. Three times each week, Amtrak uses the Thurmond Depot as a passenger stop and coal trains continue to roll through town hourly.
Though it is a shell of its former self, the historic town of Thurmond still stands as a reminder of the past. It truly is where the River meets History!