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Thomas, West Virginia

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Thomas Concert Band, ca. 1906
A business street in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Cottrill Opera House in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
Central school building and Methodist Episcopal Church in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
The large mercantile branch store of the Buxton and Landstreet Company in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
Davis Coal & Coke Company Office Building in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Davis Coal & Coke Company's Club House in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Davis Coal & Coke Company's houses on Brown Steet in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Davis Coal & Coke Company's dwellings in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Davis Coal & Coke Company house in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906
Mine Superintendent's house in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
General Superintendent's residence in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
Western Maryland Railway's homes in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.

A community in Tucker County, on the North Fork of the Blackwater River, Thomas, WV, was incorporated as a town on June 16, 1892. The town was named for Col. Thomas Beall Davis, pioneer railroad operator and coal-mine owner in the Allegheny Mountains of northern West Virginia. Thomas' development in the late 1800s was largely due to the arrival of rail lines to the area which in turn facilitated the opening of a mine in Thomas and several other coal mines in the vicinity of the town. Circa 1906, seven mines producing 4,000 tons of coal per day and operating 570 coke ovens were located within a one mile radius of the town.

During the coal boom, Thomas was home to the administrative and technical offices of the Davis Coal & Coke Company, as well as the location of a large mercantile branch store of the Buxton and Landstreet Company. Davis Coal & Coke Company built numerous homes in Thomas, as well as a club house, recreational buildings and grounds. During the town's early period, the town and its businesses and homes were furnished with electricity generated by the central power plant of the Davis Coal & Coke Company in Thomas, which also supplied power to the coal company's 14 mines in Tucker County as well as the Kempton mine in Preston County and the Henry mine in Grant County.. By the first decade of the 20th century, Thomas has three hotels, a weekly newspaper, several churches, schools, and fraternal organizations, a community band, a bank, an opera house, numerous general merchandise stores, a tailor shop, a meat shop, a paint and wallpaper shop, a dry goods store, two hardware stores, two barber shops, a jewelry store, and several restaurants. According to the US Geological Survey, the population of Thomas in 1920 was 2,099 persons.

Today, Thomas is an important tourism center, serving the ski resorts of the Canaan Valley and hundreds of square miles of the surrounding Monongahela National Forest. The town's national historic district includes shops, galleries, and restaurants. The Thomas Commercial Historic District is a national historic district.


Weather: Thomas, WV
Lodging: Thomas, WV hotels
Population: 452
Elevation: 3,040 feet


Thomas, WV, ca. 1906, showing a section of the town. The coal plant and miners' dwellings of the Davis Coal & Coke Co. can be seen on the right side of the photo in the distance.

Railroads

The original railroad through Mineral, Grant, and Tucker counties was first organized as the Potomac and Piedmont Coal and Railroad Company in 1866, but was reorganized under the name of the West Virginia and Pittsburg Railway (WV&P) on June 25, 1881. Construction from Piedmont westward was begun about April 20, 1880, and completed to Thomas on November 1, 1884. The Western Maryland Railway's Davis Branch, a 6.3 mile line heading southward from Thomas to Davis, was also completed on November 1, 1884. The WV&P established a machine shop at Thomas soon after the line was completed, and in 1900 a much larger shop and roundhouse was built. Circa 1906, the Western Maryland employed between 125 and 150 workers at Thomas. The railroad erected an elaborate depot at Thomas in 1901.

Depot of the Western Maryland Railway in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
Roundhouse of the Western Maryland Railway in Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.

Coal Mines

In 1885 prospectors employed by H. G. Davis & Bro. discovered the Davis or Kittanning seam of coal near Thomas and soon afterwards a small mine was located near Pendleton Run, between Thomas and Davis, with coal being shipped from the mine that same year. The Thomas mine (later known as No. 23) at Thomas, was opened bh the West Virginia Central Railway Company, but it soon closed. In 1886, H. G. Davis and Brother bought the Thomas mine and reopened the mine. That same year, that same company and Hon. S. B. Elkins formed a partnership for the purpose of opening the Davis coal at a point about a mile south of Thomas, at what later became known as Coketon, WV. In September, the mine known as Davis mine No. 1 (later No. 35) at Coketon was opened by H. G. Davis and Bros. In 1887, the company enlarged its operations and build two coke ovens and began experimenting with producing coke. In 1888, Davis Bros. & Elkins decided to reorganize the company, and on January 17, 1889, the Davis Coal & Coke Company was organized. A large number of improvements were soon afterwards made to the company's coal properties. Additional coal lands were leased and consolidation was made with several other coal companies operating along the West Virginia Central Railway. In July, 1893, the Davis Coal & Coke Company absorded the Davis & Elkins, and the Farifax Coal & Coke Company, acquired possession of the Jefferson Coal & Coke Co., as well as additional coal properties.

Circa 1906, the company owned 100,000 acres of coal lands and had an output of 8,000 tons of coal per day. Circa 1909, mines No. 35 and 36 (at Coketon) were connected to mine No. 34 (at Thomas) and 500 beehive coke ovens of the Connellsville design were in operation at the Coketon plant.

Davis Coal & Coke Company's Thomas Colliery, ca. 1906.
Davis Coal & Coke Company's mine at Thomas, WV, ca. 1906.
Davis Coal & Coke Company's No. 36 Tipple at Coketon, WV, ca. 1906. Coke "larry" cars used to transport coal to the coke ovens are visible in the photo.
Davis Coal & Coke Company's Coketon Colliery, ca. 1909.
Davis Coal & Coke Company's Coketon Colliery, ca. 1906.
Davis Coal & Coke Company's Coketon mining oerations, ca. 1909.

Lumber Mills

Circa 1906, the firm of Dubois and Bond Brothers of Maryland operated a lumber mill located just one mile west of Thomas, and another lumber plant located just north of town along the Western Maryland Railway. The mill west of the town was the larger of the two. A tram railway about two miles long connected the plant with the Western Maryland Railway.

Saw mill located just north of Thomas, ca. 1906.
Saw mill located just west of Thomas, ca. 1906.

Sources

"Thomas, West Virginia : History, Progress and Development", compiled by T. Nutter, published 1906.

"U.S. Geological Survey: Tucker County", by I. C. White, published 1923.

"Mines and Minerals", November 1909.

"The Black Diamond", June 22, 1918.