The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Princeton, West Virginia

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The County seat of Mercer County, Princeton, WV, (map) was originally established in 1837 by act of the Virginia General Assembly and reincorporated as a town by the State of West Virginia in 1873. The town is named for Princeton, New Jersey, where during a Revolutionary War battle of 1777, General Hugh Mercer, a Fredricksburg, Va., apothecary, was killed. In 1909 the Legislature of West Virginia amended the charter of The Town of Princeton incorporating it as The City of Princeton.

Princeton was established as the county seat of the newly formed county of Mercer in 1837. For a brief period, the county seat was moved to Athens after the counthouse was burned in Princeton in 1862, during the Civil War. A few years after war's end (1865) the county seat was moved back to Princeton.

Princeton, WV

Located in the extreme southern section of West Virginia, Princeton is about 12 miles northwest of Bluefield, WV, and about 36 miles south of Beckley, WV. Less than a mile from the junction of Interstate 77 and the U.S. Rt. 460 expressway, Princeton is a popular lodging center for interstate travel.


Mercer County Airport: (map) in Bluefield, WV.


Princeton, WV Hotels: Find nearby hotels and make online reservations


Princeton, WV: Current conditions, forecasts, weather alerts, and more

Chuck Mathena Center
Princeton Community Hospital
Princeton Railroad Museum
W.Va. Tourist Info. Center

Map of Princeton and Vicinity

View a larger version of this map


Camp Creek State Park, about 12 miles north of Princton, off I-77. Pinnacle Rock State Park, about 15 miles west of Princeton on Rt. 52.
Pipestem State Park, about 17 miles northeast of Princton.
Winterplace Ski Resort, West Virginia's most accessable ski resort, located just off I-77 about 25 miles north of Princeton, WV.


City of Princeton


Craft Memorial Library


Radio Stations
WAEY, the first AM radio station in Princeton, began broadcasting in 1947. In 1973, WAEY, the first FM radio station in Princeton, went on the air.

WAEY (AM 1490) : WSTG (FM 95.9) : WKOY (FM 100.9)

Princeton Times


Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce


Colleges and Universities
Concord University, formerly Concord College, located about eight miles from Princeton, in Athens, WV.

Public Schools
Mercer County Schools



Map of Princeton, WV showing streets, airports, parks, buildings, churches, cemeteries, trails and points of interest; with link to driving directions.

Topo map of Princeton, WV, showing terrain features, etc.

Census Data

Population: 6,347
(2000 Census)


Elevation: 2460 feet
Longitude: -81.1028
Latitude: 37.3661


Development of Princeton, WV

In 1775, Mitchell Clay established a settlement near the present-day location of Princeton, WV. The Virginia General Assembly passed an act establishing the town of Princeton in 1837.

Early Turnpikes

In 1856, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Raleigh and Tazewell Line Turnpike Company to supervise a portion of the Raleigh and North Carolina Turnpike located between the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike in Raleigh County and the boundary line of Wythe County and Tazewell County as an independent turnpike road.

Civil War

On May 1, 1862, during the Civil War, Confederate troops, under Colonel W. H. Jenifer, set fire to much of the town of Princeton in an attempt to destroy stored supplies, prior to withdrawing from Union troops led by Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox. The fire destroyed the Mercer County Courthouse building and some of the town. Three days of fighting, May 15-17, 1862, between a Confederate troops under Brig. Gen. Humphery Marshall (CSA) and Cox's Union forces, centered around the vicinity of Princeton Courthouse and Wolf Creek, resulted in the Union forces retreating 20 miles to Camp Flat Top during the night of the 17th, after sustaining 129 casualties.

The Virginian Railway

The completion of the Virginian Railway in 1909 by Henry H. Rogers connecting the coalfields of Southern West Virginia with the Virginia shipping ports was a major factor in the growth of Princeton, WV during the early decades of the Twentieth Century. In 1900 the census gave no separate return for Princeton. In 1910 Princeton's population had grown to 3,027 and in 1920 the town's population was 6,224 persons.

The Virginian Railway established a large shops complex at Princeton. A 15-stall roundhouse for steam locomotives was completed in 1905 and soon afterwards a car repair shop, an erecting shops, and a reclamation plant were built. By the mid-1920s, 195 workers were employed at the roundhouse, 285 at the car repair shop, 436 at the erecting shop, and 26 at the reclamation plant. The total average monthly pay-roll at the four shops was $106,000.

Princeton Power Company's Electric Interurban Railroad

The Virginian Railway established a station at Princeton in 1909. In December of that same year, a trolley line operated by the Princeton Power Company began operaton of a line from the station to the Court House, a total distance of 6,000 feet. By the 1920s, the trolley line had expanded and was providing interurban rail transportation between Princeton and Bluefield, WV and Graham, VA, thus providing travelers a way to make connections with the passenger trains of the Virginian Railway (in Princeton) and the Norfolk & Western Railway (in Bluefield).

The company began work on an extension of the line to Bluefield in 1914 and it was placed in operation on July 1, 1916. In December 1920, the Princeton Power Company purchased the trolley railroad in Bluefield, WV and Graham, VA, from the Appalachian Power Company. Shortly afterwards, the Virginian Power Company built an extension of 1-1/4 miles to West Graham, Virginia, in 1921 that was placed in operation on December 24, 1921.