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The story of the almost disappeared town of Thurmond, West Virginia

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On the shore of New River Gorge, in West Virginia, United States, lies the almost abandoned city of Thurmond. “Almost” because, the 2010 census, confirmed that five people still live there.

The village saw its heyday during the coal industry peak in West Virginia, with a population that reached several hundred inhabitants. Thurmond was named after a captain of the Confederate army, WD Thurmond. He received the 73-acre site in 1873 as payment for a surveying job and decided to make this place his home. Other people joined him and soon formed a settlement that eventually turned into a little city.

Thurmond got his post office in 1888 and in that year, there were already about twenty families living there. The population increased further in 1892, thanks to the construction of a level crossing at Dunloup Creek.
As the city grew, more and more different people began to arrive.
Captain Thurmond did not like this situation at all, because many things started to be out of his control. He then decided to ban alcohol from his lands, which were considerably large but not enough to include the new city. That city was built by the other large and powerful family, the one that built the level crossing, the McKells. They had no problems with alcohol and in their part of the city, and people were enjoying the excess and hedonism. A district called “Ballyhack” or “Balahack” on the south side near the Dun Glen became notorious as Thurmond’s red light district. In addition, the families shared the hotels in the area. It seems that in one of the two Thurmond hotels, the Dun Glen (belonging to the McKell family) was played the longest ever poker game: fourteen years!
There were also two banks: the Thurmond National Bank, which was closed in 1931, and the New River Bank of the McKell family which was transferred to Oak Hill in 1935.
The aforementioned 100-room Dun Glen became a nationally known resort, and burned down in 1930, marking the beginning of a decline that saw Thurmond a ghost town by the 1950s.

But in 1978 there was a turning point that gave a new shock to the town: the US National Park Service decided to bring the New River Gorge under its care. In this way, actions began to preserve the exceptional natural, landscape and historical values of the New River Gorge, and to ensure the free flow of the New River.
A couple of years later, the Historic District of Thurmond was also preserved and placed under the wing of the National Register of Historic Places. In 1992 the National Park Service succeeded in developing a plan worth $35 million for the promotion of Thurmond as a tourist site.



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