As Mother Nature begins to paint the Wyoming County landscape with her vivid reds, oranges, and golds of autumn, a day-long driving tour can provide an opportunity for leaf peeping as well as visiting historic sites across the county.
Beginning in Mullens, the historic district – roughly bounded by Lusk and Highland Avenues, the railroad tracks and Water Street – was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 1993.
Andrew Jackson Mullins, who first settled the area in 1894 when he purchased 69 acres, built his farm at the junction of the Guyandotte River and Slab Fork and built his family’s cabin at the intersection of First Street and Moran Avenue.
Mullins also established a saw mill, half-a-mile up Slab Fork. Two years later, he and his neighbors built a one-room school, post office, store and boarding house, creating a small town.
With abundant timber and coal in the area, the Deepwater Railroad obtained right-of-way. By 1906, the railroad ran from Mullens to the Kanawha River.
By 1915, the town was surrounded by booming mining towns, lumber mill communities, and railroad settlements.
Two fires destroyed many of the downtown buildings in 1912 and again in 1918.
“The city of Mullens can trace the construction of numerous commercial buildings and dwellings to one family, Jubal Anderson Early, a direct descendent of Confederate General Jubal Anderson Early, and his two sons, Robert Lester Early and Anderson Cabell Early,” according to historic documents. The men built mining houses, tipples, company stores and commercial buildings in Mullens.
On March 4, 1904, A. J. Mullins filled out the application for a new post office to be at Mullins, Wyoming County, West Virginia. The spelling was changed from Mullins to Mullens, with a capital E marked over the small “i” on the original post office application filed by A. J. Mullins, according to historian Jack Feller (1922-2013).
Twin Falls Resort State Park, off W. Va. 97 between Mullens and Pineville, offers visitors plush surroundings in the lodge, a more rustic adventure in the cabins, or, for outdoor purists, there are 50 camp sites.
One of the park’s greatest assets are the deer which roam the 4,000 acres.
Additionally, the park features an 18-hole golf course, a driving range, an 1830s pioneer homestead – still a working farm, indoor swimming pool, museum, nature programs, along with hiking and mountain biking trails that range from a gentle quarter-mile stroll to a three-mile wilderness challenge.
• In Pineville, the county courthouse, built in 1916, and adjoining jail building, constructed in 1929, were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.
Built with native stone by Italian stonemasons, the surrounding property also has a statue of Rev. W. H. Cook – local soldier, statesman, minister – as well as monuments honoring area veterans and Kenny Shadrick, a native son who was one of the first casualties of the Korean War.
The courthouse lobby has been renovated to restore the stone structure to its original historic elegance. Chandeliers replaced the institutional look of the florescent lighting. The original trim was restored on the ceiling, emphasizing the workmanship and architectural details of the original structure.
Pineville also boasts Castle Rock, a 165-foot sandstone rock which towers over the mouth of Rockcastle Creek. The easily identifiable formation was used by Native Americans, scouts and early settlers as a landmark.
The town of Pineville, the county seat, was built where seven Native American trails converged, according to historians.
In the late 1890s, the town was known as Castle Rock. That was changed, however, to match the name given by John W. Cline to the post office. Cline reportedly chose the name Pineville for a nearby forest of pine trees and the Wyoming County court made that name official in 1907.
• In Oceana, on Rt. 10, the Wyoming County Historical Museum is home to myriad items of historical significance. More than 200 items have been contributed or loaned to the museum, showcasing the area’s culture and diverse past, encompassing the county’s heritage involving coal mining, railroads, timbering, Native Americans, early settlers, among numerous other legacies.
In the late 1790s, John Cooke, recognized as the county’s first known permanent settler, built his cabin at the mouth of Laurel Fork, in what is today Oceana, according to historians. Cooke fought in the Revolutionary War and fought against Native Americans as a soldier, according to historians.
• Near Oceana, on Rt. 971, is Clearfork Valley Golf Club, which stretches across historic land that was once roamed by Native Americans and early white settlers and was first known as the McDonald Plantation.
The plantation was burned to the ground by Union forces during the Civil War. This tragedy is now memorialized with a West Virginia Civil War Trails marker. The marker stands under the flag pole near the restaurant, noted for the best cheeseburgers in the eastern United States.
In the first half of the 20th century, a large portion of the McDonald land was purchased by businessman Edgar H. Crouch, and the area today is still known as Crouch’s Farm. Bob Crouch, the deceased grandson of Edgar H. Crouch, leased about 60 acres of the farm to the golf course board of directors in 1957 to construct the first nine holes. Bob Crouch’s family continues that tradition today.
The 18-hole course is open to the public and draws players from throughout West Virginia as well as Ohio, Kentucky, and other states.
• Returning to Rt. 97, toward Hanover, R.D. Bailey Lake was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a flood-control project. The dam has 17 miles of shoreline with 630 acres of surface.
The dam’s random rockfill design is unusual and has drawn visitors from across the globe.
Most dams have a clay core, but clay is hard to find locally and it was too expensive to ship to the site.
The random rockfill dam is a carefully designed mound of closely compacted rock, according to information provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and this was the first concrete-faced dam built by the Corps.
Constructed in 1974, the dam includes 5.7 million cubic yards of rock, 6.4 million pounds of steel, and 240,000 bags of cement.
It was also one of the first dams on which new laser technology was used. The lasers were used to guide the blade along the concrete face.
Visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the dam from the Visitor’s Center, which sits 365 feet above the lake, on Rt. 52. The center also exhibits information and photos concerning the dam project and it’s flood control.
Open to boaters year-round, the lake is home to largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, tiger muskie, catfish, crappie, bluegill, stripers, and panfish.
While two state record-breaking-size bass have been caught in the lake, the project is fast becoming known throughout the country for the trophy bucks which sprint through the lush forests.
The county is part of a region with no rifle season, so the hunters can get trophy-size bucks, according to officials.
Additional features include picnic facilities, hiking and biking trails, and a 168-site campground stretched over six miles along the Guyandotte River.