The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Thayer, West Virginia
The town of Thayer likely takes its name from O. A. and W. T. Thayer of Charleston, WV, who, in association with Joseph L. Beury, created the Little Fire Creek Coal Company in 1880. The company was successful in acquiring several valuable coal lands and leases in the New River Coal Field.
The Slater mine located just upstream of Thayer was opened in the late 1890s by the Sterling Coal & Coke Company. The company's post office address was Coit, which was where the company's offices were located. The Slater mine was a drift opening, mining the three-foot-high Fire Creek coal seam. West Virginia mining records indicate the Thayer Coal Company operated the Slater mine during 1902. The Annual Report for the year ending June 30, 1903, listed the Slater mine as being operated by the New River Colliery Company. The 1903 report indicated the Slater mine was working the Fire creek seam, with thickness of 2 feet, 10 inches, to 3 feet, 2 inches, and commented that the Slater operation had only been working on a small scale for several years, consequently the mine's number of employees had not exceeded 20 or 25 persons. In 1906, a C&O publication and, in 1911, a Fayette County publication, listed the Ridgeview Coal Co. as operating the mining operation. The 1911 publication cited the name of the mine as Ridgeview.
During the early 1900s, another mine was opened just downstream of Thayer, at Ephram, by the Ephraim Coal Company. Eventually two mines were opened here, known as the Buffalo Mines Nos. 1 & 2. By the 1920s, the Slater mine and the Buffalo mines were being operated by the Ephraim Creek Coal & Coke Company. Thayer's population was reported as 403 persons in 1910 by the West Virginia Geological Survey (WVGS). The 1920 Census listed the town's population as 420. A theater and amusement hall with bowling alley were located in the town during its heyday.
In the vicinity of Thayer the New River Silica Company, with principal offices at Hinton, operated what is claimed to have been the only plant quarry for the manufacture of glass-sand in the U.S. It operated for several decades, being first opened in 1915. The quarry was located 1/2 mile northeast of Ephraim, near the summit of Mann Mountain at an elevation of 2,610 feet, and was established in the Upper Raleigh Sandstone ledge. The raw stone was carried off the mountain by two six-ton monitors more than 3,300 feet to a crushing and washing plant on the main line of the railroad just above the mouth of Buffalo Creek where it was crushed, washed, screened, and dried. The finished product was shipped west via the C&O to glass manufacturing plants in West Virginia at Dunbar, St. Albans and Huntington, where the sand was used in the manufacture of window and flint glass ware. According to stockholder S.B. Thomas and superintendent T.H. Price, in October 1916 the plant employed 25 to 30, and the plant's average daily output was 150 tons of prepared sand, bringing about $1.50 per ton. The quarry was then described by the WVGS as about 300 feet long, 25-to-30 feet high and had been worked eastward 50-to-60 feet from its original outcrop. Survey geologists reported the sand to be "very pure and suitable for the manufacture of the finest flint ware requiring great brilliancy and uniform density."
Thayer is among the smallest of the few inhabited communities that exist in the New River Gorge today. The population today is estimated at about 10, though its remaining homes are often inhabited only seasonally as vacation homes. Several historical buildings remain, including brick, stone ruins and large concrete silos used to store glass sand.
Though largely isolated by surrounding forest, Thayer is accessible by the Thurmond-McKendree Road (CR-24), a gravel route that travels above the east bank of the New River, connecting Thurmond, WV, and Prince, WV. This scenic route through the gorge from Thayer north to Thurmond is open to traffic year-round except in the most inclement winter weather, though the route from Thayer south to Prince is often impassible without four-wheel drive vehicle.
Variant Names for Thayer, WV
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Additional Sources of Information
The following article about the Ephraim Creek Coal Company from The Black Diamond, Vol. 62 can be read and downloaded (PDF) at Google Books.
Rafter's Reference: The obvious remains of Thayer, including many inhabited buildings, are located on river-right on the long pool downstream of Ledges Rapids.