The heritage of Pocahontas County is rich in traditions and achievements. Today, the proud people of this area work hard to preserve our past and remember the many contributions made in railroading, logging, and during the Civil War. We also continue to cherish our beautiful mountains and natural resources that have been an important part of the lives of generations before us.
Early Frontier Heritage
Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell were the first English settlers to reach present-day Pocahontas County. In 1749, they built and shared a cabin on the banks of the Greenbrier River near present-day Marlinton.
When Andrew Lewis (early American pioneer, soldier, surveyor, and soldier from Virginia) came to survey one of the land grants for the Greenbrier Company in 1751, he found Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell living where Marlinton is found today.
On December 12, 1821, Pocahontas County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly from parts of Bath, Pendleton and Randolph counties. It was named in honor of Pocahontas (1595-1617), the Indian princess and daughter of Chief Powhatan, the King of the Confederated tribes of Atlantic Virginia.
Pocahontas is famous for having saved the life of Captain John Smith, founder and Governor of Jamestown, the first, permanent English settlement in America.
The area was first settled by the Scotch-Irish with the Germans and Dutch coming about fifty years later. Today pioneer surnames can still be found in names of brooks, streams, hills and regions.
Civil War Heritage
Although most of Pocahontas County's residents supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, the area sent sons to the armies of both sides.
The Battle of Greenbrier River, where the Confederates had established Camp Bartow, occurred October 3, 1861, resulting in the withdrawal of Union troops to Cheat Summit Fort. Confederate trenches are still visible today on the open hillside.
Soon after the battle, Confederate forces relocated to Camp Allegheny. Located at an altitude of 4,400 feet, it was one of the highest of the Civil War.
West Virginia’s last significant Civil War battle occurred on November 6, 1863 in the Greenbrier River Valley, north of Lewisburg. Union troops pinned the Confederates, who had concentrated their army on the ridge crest, by attacking from the right, left and rear. The Confederates were driven from the summit and retreated south into Virginia.
After a bloody battle that lasted about an hour, the Confederate Army retreated to Lewisburg. Following this battle, which today is the site of Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, Union forces continued to meet scattered Confederate resistance in West Virginia, but the Confederate Army's presence in the state subsided substantially.
Railroad & Logging Heritage
The rugged mountain country of Pocahontas County was a latecomer in the railroad boom that swept America during the second half of the 19th century.
The use of trains to haul lumber off the mountains was impractical until 1880, when Eprhriam Shay invented a geared steam locomotive capable of managing the steep mountain grades and sharp curves.
By 1900, laborers had completed laying track from Cass to Ronceverte and then north to Durbin by 1902. Commercial timbering quickly began upon completion of the railroads. By the end of 1920, dozens of small railroading towns on the C&O Line dotted the landscape to form a vast lumber network, including Denmar, Warntown, Watoga, Campbelltown, Deer Creek, Boyer, Nottingham, Thornwood and Winterburn.
Trains meant more than just a boom to the logging industry. They made possible passenger, freight and mail service as well.
Today, both the traditions and the heritage of Pocahontas County railroading come alive for visitors to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. The loggers may be gone, but our trains are still going full steam ahead.
Pocahontas County is fortunate to have more parks and forests than any other county in West Virginia. Over sixty-percent of our 900 square miles is protected state parks or federal forest land. These treasures are a tribute to the preservation of our vast natural resources.
Pocahontas County, like so many rural regions in the country, has its own distinct and novel history. Land is rich, forests are thick and waters are abundant and clean.
Watoga State Park, the states largest, was once a favored hunting ground of many Indian tribes. Beartown is the name given by early settlers to the State Park that dates back to the Pennsylvanian Age.
The oldest of West Virginia’s state forests derives its name from the Seneca tribe of Indians who patrolled a vital trail through the Alleghenies. Today, at Seneca State Forest, visitors can still enjoy its rustic pioneer cabins.
More than one-third of the Monongahela National Forest lies within Pocahontas County, about 310,000 acres.
“Monongahela” reportedly came from one of several interpretations or spellings of one or more American Indian words. The forest was established following passage of the 1911 Weeks Act. This act authorized the purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management.
In 1915, 7,200 acres were acquired to begin the forest, called the Monongahela Purchase, and on April 28, 1920 it became the Monongahela National Forest. Today the forest is over 919,000 acres in federal ownership in 10 West Virginia counties, making it the fourth largest National Forest in 20 northeastern states.
Pocahontas County is also the Birthplace of Rivers, as eight rivers have their headwaters here. These are the Cherry, Cranberry, Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier, Tygart, Williams, and the
Shaver Fork of the Cheat.
Pocahontas County Seat
The first meeting of the Pocahontas County court was held on March 5, 1822 at John Bradshaw's home near Huntersville. Huntersville served as the county seat until 1891 when the county's residents voted to move the county seat to Marlinton.
Marlinton, known as Marlin's Bottom until 1887, had only about 100 residents, but Colonel John McGraw, of Grafton, through the Pocahontas Development Company, had offered $5,000 for the construction of a new courthouse if the county seat was moved to Marlinton. Once the railroad line was completed in 1901, the town began to grow.
Pocahontas County Heritage Preserved
Stories and relics of Pocahontas County fill a century-old house perched above the western bank of the Greenbrier. The Pocahontas County Historical Society Museum, located on Route 219 south of Marlinton, preserves and tells the history of the area through a collection of mementos, artifacts and documents. The grounds that surround the Museum are a final resting place for people who lived there and the Confederate soldiers who were once encamped along the river. The Museum opened June 5, 1963.