The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Piedmont, West Virginia
A community in Mineral County, Piedmont, WV was originally chartered in 1856, the town being laid by the New Creek Company, owned by Owen D. Downey. So named because of its location at the foot of the mountain, the beginning point of the B&O's climb to the Allegheny summit, which was known to travelers on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) as "the seventeen mile grade."
Map of Piedmont, WV showing streets and highways, and nearby airports, parks, hospitals, buildings, churches, cemeteries, trails and more; with link to driving directions.
Topo map of Piedmont, WV and vicinity
Development of Piedmont, WV
Piedmont's earliest basis and stimulus was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), which reached the site of the future town in 1851, and soon afterwards established there a divisional shop complex. Prior to the Civil War, the B&O's Piedmont shop complex consisted of two small 16-stall roundhouses, and in between, a large machine shop. These buildings were destroyed during the war, but were replaced, sometime soon after the war ended, by a new pair of roundhouses, separated by a large machine shop. The new roundhouses were same roofed turntable variety that existed before the war, identical to the B&O's Martinsburg roundhouses.
The B&O's decision to establish a locomotive shop complex and switching yard at this point on its route was due to two reasons. Piedmont was the eastern terminus of the grades of the Allegheny summit, necessitating the location of helper locomotives (known as pushers) at that point on the line, used to push trains over the grade (Grafton performed a similar function west of the summit). Therefore, a roundhouse and shop was required there, to maintain, service and turn the steam locomotives. Piedmont also became an early freight generating point on the B&O line. Due to the nearby location of coal and iron deposits of the Cumberland basin, branch line railroads from Maryland mines connecting to Piedmont were built soon after the B&O line built through the region, in the early-1850's. Therefore, Piedmont was the logical location to build a rail yard, needed to assemble coal trains.coal fields of Northern West Virginia. The railroad found itself in need of additional shipping and repair facilities and freight yards in the vicinity of Piedmont. But because the B&O's Piedmont location lacked a sufficient amount of flat land for expansion, the railroad decided to built new facilities at nearby New Creek Station, the present-day location of Keyser, WV, where the railroad had access to a sufficient amount of flat land to built a larger switching yard.
The B&O continued to maintain its shop complex at Piedmont, together with the Keyser shops, until the early decades of the Twentieth Century, when the B&O's shops at both locations were superceded by the B&O's new shop facilities at Cumberland, MD, which was completed in 1916. Sometime afterwards, the railroad demolished the its Piedmont shop complex. Today, the site of the historic B&O shop facilities in Piedmont is merely a vacant plot of land.
Henry Gassaway Sutton
Much of Piedmont's early growth was largely due to Henry G. Davis, who, after assuming the duties of station agent of the B&O at Piedmont in 1854, became aware of the region's industrial and commercial potential. Davis soon afterwards opened a store in Piedmont, of which he placed his brother, Thomas, in charge. Through the use of the barter system, Davis soon began acquiring undeveloped coal and timber lands in exchange for goods from his store. In 1858, Davis resigned his postion with the B&O railroad, becoming the head of the firm, H. G. Davis & Company. That same year he organized the Piedmont Saving Bank, of which Davis served as president.