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South Fayette, West Virginia

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1861 map showing Townsens Ferry
USGS 1913 map showing South Fayette and vicinity
C&O diagram of 1901 showing early county road, a mill and other details of the South Fayette area
Fayette Station Bridge, completed 1889

South Fayette was located on the south bank of the New River at the mouth of Wolf Creek, just downstream and opposite the community of Fayette (Fayette Station) and nearly beneath the present New River Gorge Bridge, which carries expressway US-19 over the New River Gorge.

A 1861 map showed a ferry crossing (mistakenly) called "Townsens Ferry" (should read: "Townsend's Ferry") just downstream of the present-day location South Fayette and Fayette Station. An early wagon road leading from Fayetteville to South Fayette, is shown on maps as early as 1879. The Fayette Station Bridge was constructed in 1889 by the Virginian Bridge and Iron Company of Roanoke, Va, the first wagon bridge to span the river in the New River Gorge (the railroad bridge at Hawks Nest was the first bridge built across the river in the gorge, completed in 1873.)

By 1894, the Greenbrier & New River Railroad (G&NR) had completed its branch line along the south side of New River as far west as Butchers Branch, near South Fayette. In 1901, by merger, the C&O acquired the G&NR and its tracks along the south side. In 1907, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) completed a bridge across the New River near Sewell, the last link needed to complete the railroad's new mainline tracks on the south side of New River between Bridge Junction and MacDougal (across the river from Hawks Nest.)

Thereafter, C&O's eastbound trains traveled on the tracks on the south side of New River and westbound trains traveled the tracks on north side. Thus, passengers bound for White Sulphur Spring, WV would board the train at South Fayette, while passengers heading for Huntington, WV would catch a train at Fayette. Because of this, after 1907 the traveling public needed access to the stations on both sides of the river.

Some have claimed the reason the Fayette Station Bridge was built was due to the way the westbound and eastbound passenger trains ran. But this was not the case. The mainline track on the south side were not completed until eight years after the highway bridge was completed. The only mainline tracks at that time the bridge was built were on the north side. Although the branch line railroad on the south side was completed to South Fayette by the early-1890s, there were no through passenger trains running on those tracks. Only local passengers trains were using the south side tracks, and those trains moved both westbound and eastbound. The real reason the bridge was built was to provide Fayetteville residents and visitors with access to mainline passenger trains which stopped (only) at Fayette Station.

Horse drawn "hacks" undoubtedly started transporting passengers between Fayetteville and Fayette Station soon after the Fayette Station Bridge was completed. But this trip would have taken over an hour to complete, and during the winter months it was a rather uncomfortable journey. Because of the increasing numbers of people coming and going from Fayetteville, the County Seat of Fayette County, to conduct business the citizens of Fayetteville continued to seek a more elegant transportation link with the C&O trains at Fayette Station.

In 1905, a company was formed to build an electric railroad from Fayetteville to South Fayette. Some improvements were made on the existing road, but the company ran out of funds. Soon afterwards, the Gentry Road, named for Henry A. Gentry, County Engineer, was completed from Fayetteville to South Fayette, at least in part by use of prison labor. Following the building of the Cabin Creek Power Plant by the Virginian Power Company in 1914, another company was formed that proposed to convert the road into an electric rail line. After these efforts failed the road was turned back over to the Fayette County Court, and soon after was improved with funds voted by bond issue in Fay. Co.

By the 1920s, taxis of the Fayetteville Taxi Company were meeting all trains at Fayette Station and South Fayette. The ride from bottom of the gorge into Fayetteville was said to have taken about 15 minutes at this time. In 1940, a small colonial-styled brick station was built at Cotton Hill, providing the travel pubic of Fayetteville and vicinity with easier access to C&O trains. The C&O depot at South Fayette was closed June 7, 1963, and sometime prior to 1970 it had been demolished.