The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Beckley, West Virginia
The seat of Raleigh County, Beckley, WV, (map) was incorporated in 1838 through the efforts of Alfred Beckley, a young Washingtonian who employed his knowledge of engineering to locate a town in what was then an Allegheny wilderness. The state's eighth-largest city (pop. 17,254 in 2000), it developed in the tableland of central Raleigh County and became a center of commerce and transportation. Interstate highways 64 and 77 converge at Beckley. Interstate access, proximity to parkland, and mountainous climate and scenery have been counted among Beckley's attributes.
Joe L. Smith, the first mayor of Beckley, was born in Marshes (present-day Glen Daniel) in 1880. Smith was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1928. In the gubernatorial election of 1944, Clarence Meadows (Democrat), of Beckley, WV defeated D. Boone Dawson (Republican), of Charleston, WV. In 1964, Hulett Smith (Democrat), of Beckley, WV defeated former Governor Cecil Underwood (Republican), of Huntington, WV in the governor's race.
Development of Beckley, WV
For many decades, Beckley's developement was slowed by the lack of a effective transportation link. (See: Autobiography of Alfred Beckley) By the late-1830s, the Giles,_Fayette_and_Kanawha_Turnpike was in place, linking Beckley with the courthouses in Fayetteville and Giles County, VA. In 1871, the Piney River Turnpike Company had been formed to construct a road from Beckley to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, which was nearing completion of its rail line connecting the tidewater region of Virginia with the Ohio River at Huntington, WV.
The West Virginia Legislature passed an act incorporating the town of Beckley, Raleigh County on Feb. 20, 1872. The original trustees resposible for government of the town were Alfred Beckley, Clarkson Prince, William Prince, John Bailey, and Richard McVey.
By the late-1800's a narrow gauge railroad, the Glade Creek & Raleigh Railroad (GC&R), had linked Beckley via a connection near the C&O mainline, at Hamlet, WV, and in 1903 the Piney Creek Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) was completed, linking Beckley to the C&O mainline at Prince, WV. The Piney River & Paint Creek Railroad completed its rail line through Beckley, connecting the C&O line at Beckley Junction with the New River Company's coal mines at Cranberry, WV between 1904-1906.
With the advent of vital rail links, the development of the coal fields in the vicinity of Beckley could began. In 1887, the Beaver Coal Company had purchased 47,000 acres of coal land in Raleigh County and by 1903, the company and it's mining operation, the Raleigh Coal and Coke Company, began marketing their coal via the trade name "Black Knight Coal."
A rail line connecting with the C&O was achieved by the Virginian Railway by 1907 further facilitating the opening of additional mines in the New River Coal Field in the vicinity of Beckley. By 1925 another seventy-six coal mines were in operation in the newly opened Winding Gulf Coal Field and the town of Beckley was quickly becoming the center of a newly developed coal field, serving both as a shipping and distribution point as well as a center for coal offices and sales agencies.
Variant Name(s) for Beckley, WV
Beckleyville, Raleigh, Raleigh Court House