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McKendree, West Virginia

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USGS 1913 map showing McKendree
McKendree is located along a picturesque bend in New River in the southern Fayette County. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) established a station named McKendree by 1873, when the C&O completed its line through the New River Gorge. Between Oct. 1, 1873 to Sept. 30, 1874, 1,068.41 tons of freight were received at McKendree Station and 1,086.27 tons were shipped out. The C&O shipped and received 3,321.43 tons of freight through the McKendree Station during its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1880, and 556 persons left and 756 arrived through the station. A postal route was established between Raleigh County House (present day Beckley) and McKendree Station in about 1875.

McKendree's 1890s-era depot survived until about 1843 when it was dismantled by the railroad and replaced with a "flag stop" shelter. A block signal office built in 1897 as a combined depot and tower was demolished in the late-1930s.

Judging from the number of sidings shown here on the 1913 USGS map, during the early decades of operation the railroad maintained a good-sized marshaling yard at McKendree. Interestingly, a 1880 map labeled a location just slightly upstream of McKendree as "Siding." A C&O Employees' Timetable of 1889 noted that "shifting engines will work daily (both night and day) between East Sewell and McKendree ... keeping out of the way of regular trains."[1]

McKendree's population in about 1882 was given as 150 persons. In 1910 the population of McKendree was 61 according to the W. Va. Geological Survey. A 1919 publication listed McKendree's population as 52.


A 1880 map showing "Siding" at a location just upstream of McKendree

Lumbering

A C&O publication of 1879 stated that some of the finest furniture and veneer woods are shipped from the McKendree area to eastern ports and Europe. A gazetteer of 1882-83 noted that McKenree had a population of 150, and that a saw mill was located there and that lumber was shipped from this point. A listing for W. E. Mohler & Sons, lumber dealers, was shown under the McKendree heading. The January 1882 edition of The Virgnias indicated that Mohler & Sons operated a mill near McKendree that sawed 1,500,000 feet of lumber during 1881. This mill's operations took place along Slater Creek, which is upstream of McKendree in the area that would become known as Thayer in later years. According to the article, the mill was to be moved to a location on Coal River (in Kanawha County in February of 1882, but it noted that the company still had 400,000 board feet of lumber on hand at its site near McKendree.

Coal Mining

Some mining of coal was apparently done in the McKendree vicinity, but the venture doesn't seem to have been successful and we've found little documentation about it. The McKendree Coal and Coke Company was incorporated by William Beury and others in 1889, which listed the address of its offices in McKendree, however we have been unable to find any evidence of the company mining or shipping coal from an operation at McKendree. A article in the Coal and Coal Trade Journal publishing in 1891 indicated that the McKendree Coal and Iron Company was operating a mine at McKendree. According to the book, Geologic Section Along the New and Kanawha Rivers in West Virginia, published in 1896, "At McKendree a mine was opened and an incline built from the mine to the railroad, but the seam was found to be only about 18 inches thick and the work was abandoned." The McKendree Coal & Coke Company was organized in 1889 by William Beury and other investors.[2]

Oil Prospecting

A C&O Railway publication of 1879 noted that in the vicinity of McKendree "borings are in progress for petroleum which is said to have been found in the earlier explorations for salt." The Nov. 14, 1877 edition of The Coal Trade Journal reported that the New River Oil Company had found "oil rocks" in the area and "showings of oil" along the banks of New River. The article also noted that "some sixty years ago", from an old well was sunk 200-250 feet deep for salt near the mouth of Piney Creek (near McCreery), several quarts of oil had been recovered.[3]


According to an account in the Fayette County Geological Survey (of 1919) this test drilling was performed by Captain Thomas Allen. The effort was successful as the test drillings were not drilled deep enough to have penetrated the oil and gas zone.


McKendree Miners Hospital Number 2

McKendree Hospital
Miners Hospital Number 2 was established at McKendree in 1900 or 1902, the second of three Miners' hospitals established by the State of West Virginia in the coal-mining regions to serve miners and their families. Colonel Joseph L. Beury, one of the pioneer coal operators in the New River Coalfield donated six and one half acres of land for the hospital site and also furnished the hospital its coal supply for five years.[4]

The hospital's name was changed from Miners' Hospital No. 2 to the McKendree Hospital in April, 1916. A superintendent's house and nurses' building was constucted, about 200 feet west of the hospital building during 1916-17. The original six and one half acre site of the institution was increased to 121 acres after a few years. Vegetables were grown on the facility's grounds, apple tree were planted on the grounds, and pigs and hogs were raised and butchered on site.

By the 1920s, the buildings of the institution at McKendree consisted of the hospital building, a nurses' home, garage, and power plant. Sitting on a large natural terrace above a bend in the New River, surrounded by the wooded hills of the scenic New River Gorge, the McKendree complex resembled a vacation resort in many ways. Several towering trees had been left on the main grounds, with benches constructed around them for use by patients and staff. The main grounds were landscaped by the builders, and surrounded by walls of hand-cut stone quarried from the site. The side and rear lawns were terraced in similar fashion, and bordered with walls of native stone. An extensive rose garden was placed between the hospital and the nurses' quarters, and numerous flower gardens planted throughout the grounds.

A nursing school was established in 1910 and continued operating until 1939 when the hospital closed. The institution was reorganized soon afterwards and reopened, but the nursing school was only able to graduate one final class in 1941. The hospital then became a home for aged Afro-American citizens, and continued operation until 1956, when the hospital was closed and the patients moved to a facility in Huntington, WV.

The brick walls of the four-story McKendree Hospital and two-story nurses home stood well-into the 1980s but following much destruction by vandals (which began in the 1960s) the structures were eventually razed, reducing the complex to sprawling pile of brick and concrete. Much brick and masonry from the hospital has been removed (either legally or illegally) and incorporated in other area structures.

McKendree Hospital ca. 1915

Visting McKendee

Rafter's Reference: The ruins of the McKendree Hospital complex are located on river-right, midway between Dowdy Creek Rapids and Ledges Rapids and are also accessible by hiking and 4-wheel-drive vehicle via the Thurmond-McKendree Road (CR-25). A public river access point, with carry down for small boats, provides access to fishing the New River at McKendree.


Sources

[1] Eugene L. Huddleston, Riding That New River Train
[2] Acts of the West Virginia Legislature (1891) via Google Book
[3] Coal Trade Journal (1877) via Hathi Trust
[4] First Biennial Report of the State Board of Control ... (1910) via Google Books