Shirley Donnelly: Down From Glory (History of Thurmond WV)

Yesterday and Today was a regular column written by Shirley Donnelly, Fayette County native and West Virginia historian.

This article, Down From Glory, gives us a glimpse back to a time when Thurmond WV was a bustling train town.

I have transcribed the article at the bottom of this blog for easier reading.

I hope you enjoy.

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
30 Nov 1977, Wed  •  Page 4

Yesterday And Today

Down From Glory

By SHIRLEY DONNELLY

There came Walter R. T. Witschey, president of The Computer Company of Richmond. Va. He is a great great grandson of the late Captain W. D. Thurmond (1820-1910) of Cvil War celebrity. Witschey is a graduate of Princeton University and has a Master’s Degree in business administration from the University of Virginia.

He told me that the average age of the 250 employees of his company is 26 years. Nestor of the 250 employees is an old fellow who has attained the ripe old age of 43 years! This old Virginia concern is proof of the old adage that “youth served.”

WHILE DOING research in my library for several days, Witschey put at me to accompany him to Thurmond to visit the building which once housed the bank of his great great grandfather, Capt. W. D. Thurmond.

It was on a bright, sunshiny day that the sentimental journey was made in Witschey’s Jaguar to the noted New River town of yesteryear’s renown.

There we found Thurmond, the town, like the old cottage home on the brow of the hill, in the old folklore song, “all quiet and still”.

The only person we accosted was Mrs. W. E. Pugh, wife of the mayor of Thurmond. Very graciously, she invited us in and permitted us to tour the Thurmond building. She was busy with what seemed some of the town’s business affairs. At her side, on the floor, reposed half – a – bushel of Idaho baking potatoes.

HISTORY of the National Bank of Thurmond came to mind as we walked about the interior of the old structure with its very imposing front. This bank began business on Dec, 1. 1906, with Capt W. D. Thurmond as president. William E Deegans was vice – president. Cashier was J. Hugh Miller, once the cashier of the Bank of Raleigh here in Becklev.

It was first a private bank but was changed to a National Bank in January 1908. Upon the death of Capt. W. D. Thurmond in 1910, W. E. Deegans became the president.

Directors of the bank were J. S. Thurmond, J. H. Grubb, F. H, Gill, Ben Hurvitz, G. J. Kraus, G. L. Johnson, John Faulkner and J. R. Ford.

This J. R. Ford was a son – in – law of Capt Thurmond. He had married Mary Thurmond, daughter of the Civil War Partisan Ranger. This bank started out with a capital of 550,000.

WHEN W. E. DEEGANS took over as president of this bank, John E Faulkner became vice – president of the institution. With the coming of the automobile and the building of paved roads the town of Thurmond was plagued with a decline in business. Towns in the uplands of Fayette County siphoned off Thurmond’s trade.

The result of this was that the National Bank of Thurmond closed its doors to the public patronage on Feb. 13, 1931. It was another victim of the Great Depression of the early 1930″s.

IN THE DAYS of its strength, this bank at Thurmond issued currency in its own name to the extent of $12,500. As Mr. Witschey and I, accompanied by Mrs. W. E. Pugh, strolled through the bank structure we saw, under glass, on a counter, a photograph of one of the bank’s Ten Dollar bills.

There were old blank checks and other paper items that brought the light of other days around us as we gazed upon them.

Adorning the walls of the interior are pictures of Thurmond establishments that flourished like the green bay tree of Holy Writ distinction when that town was in flower.

One was a picture of the Dan Glen Hotel (1901 – July 22, 1930), The Waldorf Astoria of the mountains.

Another picture was that of the Sewell Chapter, No. 24. Royal Arch Masons Chartered Nov. 14 1898. This was the largest chapter of the Masonic lodge in West Virginia and the first one of its degree in the whole wide world. It had 1,000 members.

AS WE LOOKED at other pictures, it was recalled that Thurmond once had a newspaper, West Virginia Herald as early as 1898. Looking across Main Street – which is the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway tracks – we saw the railway shops where 175 men used to be employed.

There are 15 miles of track in the C & 0 Yards there. Fourteen passenger trains rumbled through Thurmond up to about 1915 or thereabouts. 14 each week. As many as 25 taxis used to meet those incoming trains at Thurmond.

TODAY ALL Thurmond’s hustle and bustle has gone to where the woodbine twineth and the whanghoo moaneth. Lo, all Thurmond’s pomp and power of yesterday are one with Nineveh and Tyre!

There came to mind as we talked of Thurmond’s heyday times, the phrase from Byron — “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome”.

‘Thurmond was incorporated in 1903 and still is. Its 1970 population was 86. It’s elevation is 1071 above sea level.

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