Thomas in Tucker County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
Connecting Thomas to the World
Thomas, West Virginia
The West Virginia Central and Pittsburg (WVC&P) (Former Railyard, Tour No. 36) was founded by Henry Gassaway Davis, one of the most important figures in West Virginia history.
Davis began his career as a brakeman and conductor for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and eventually undertook his own business ventures in railroads, coal and banking. Davis also served in the West Virginia legislature and United States Senate and was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1904.
His company began building the WVC&P along the North Branch of the Potomac River in 1880 to access the natural resources in Tucker County. On August 10, 1884, the first train rolled into Fairfax, later renamed Thomas after Henry G. Davis's brother and business partner, Thomas B. Davis.
The WVC&P's structures around Thomas included a machine shop, roundhouse and freight depot, which are not part of the historic district and are no longer in existence. The brick passenger depot, built in 1900, was accessible only by foot via a wooden overpass and staircase until
In 1902, the WVC&P was sold and became part of the Western Maryland Railway. The railroad transitioned through several mergers, becoming part of the Baltimore and Ohio, Chesapeake and Ohio, and finally CSX. The last train traveled through Thomas in 1983.
An Essential Link
The arrival of the railroad connected Thomas with the world and was responsible for the growth of the Thomas Commercial National Register Historic District.
No longer was the area an isolated wilderness, accessible to only the hardiest explorers. People from all over the United States and Europe poured into town to work for the booming coal and timber industries, every one of them arriving by train.
Daily trains took residents to Cumberland, Maryland and beyond for shopping and travel. Trains also brought all manor of goods and communication to the Thomas Commercial District— imported food, new home appliances, the latest movies, newspapers, letters from friends and relatives, automobiles (Milkint's Garage, Tour No. 33) and even entire houses (residence, Tour No. 36) arrived by boxcar. Molly and Lil Schilansky, two sisters who operated a dress shop on East Avenue (Tour No. 5), frequently traveled to New York City to purchase the latest fashions for their customers.
The building materials, including glass storefronts, carved wooden brackets, cornices, pressed tin ceilings and other items to construct almost every building in the historic district were brought by train. Most importantly, however, the railroad was the Davis Coal and Coke Company's essential link for converting coal to money.
Erected by The City of Thomas, West Virginia.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), and the West Virginia, The City of Thomas series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is August 10, 1884.
Location. 39° 9.024′ N, 79° 29.896′ W. Marker is in Thomas, West Virginia, in Tucker County. Marker is on Appalachian Highway (West Virginia Route 32), on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 218 Appalachian Highway, Thomas WV 26292, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Melting Pot of Thomas (here, next to this marker); A Lesson in Resourcefulness (within shouting distance of this marker); Out On The Town (within shouting distance of this marker); Dwellings and Design (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas, West Virginia Mine Disaster Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); A "Howling Wilderness" (about 400 feet away); A Window to the Past (about 500 feet away); The Story of a River / Life in a Coal Mining Town (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Thomas.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 18, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 45 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 18, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.