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Clarks Gap, West Virginia

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1887 topo map of Clark's Gap and vicinity
1911 topo map of Clark's Gap and vicinity
1925 topo map of Clark's Gap and vicinity

Clarks Gap, also known as Clark's Gap and Clark Gap, is a low gap on the summit of Flat Top Mountain near the heads of Beartown Fork and Left Fork of Widemouth Creek in Mercer County and Wyoming County. Since the 1920s, United State Geological Survey (USGS) topographical maps have demarcated the gap as Clark Gap.

Clark's Gap was settled sometime prior to the American Civil War. During the war, in the spring of 1862, a skirmish took place between Confederate and Union troops at Clark's Gap. The location of the engagement was noted as "Clark's house" in A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory. A first hand account of the engagement, published in Catholic World, Volume 57, referred to the location as Clark's Gap or "Clark's Hollow".

A post office was established at Clark's Gap, in Mercer County, at an unknown date, and was listed in the United States official Postal Guide of 1876 and 1886. The Clarks Gap Post Office was apparently closed sometime prior to 1910.

In 1902 the Deepwater Railway made a survey for a rail line through Clark's Gap. Within a few years the railroad crossed the gap by constructing a 1,200 foot long tunnel through the mountain. The Deepwater Railway and the Tidewater Railway were combined to form the Virginian Railway. Sometime prior to 1910 the railroad established a station at Clark's Gap. At 2,523.5 feet in elevation, this was the highest point on the Virginian's line connecting the coal fields of West Virginia with tidewater, near Norfolk, Virginia.

Because most of the Virginian's coal traffic originated west of Clark's Gap the long, winding grade from the rail yard at Elmore, WV to Clark's Gap presented an operation challenge for the railroad. The distance from Elmore to Clark's Gap was 13.4 miles. The grade for the first 2-1/4 miles was 1.21 percent and from there to the summit at Clark's Gap the grade increased to 2.07 percent. To overcome the grade some of the largest steam locomotives in the world were used on the Clark's Gap grade. Eventually the Virginian conquered the grade by the electrification of its line between Mullens, WV and Roanoke, VA. On Sept. 21, 1925 the Virginian began operation of electric locomotives on Clarks Gap grade.


Map of Clark's Gap and Vicinity