The City of Elkins, which celebrated its centennial year in 1990, can still be considered a relatively young community when one compares it with the longer-established cities throughout north central and eastern West Virginia. The near­by town of Beverly was already one hundred years old and steeped in history and tradition when the inroads of in­dustrialization penetrated and opened up the bypassed Potomac highlands area of the mountain state in the late 1880s. Other West Virginia communities had already become recognized for their industrial vitality and firm business growth, when the potential for economic gain was finally recognized in the riches to be had from the mineral and timber resources of the Tygart's Valley and surrounding mountainous countryside.

Stephen Benton Elkins as a younger man in New Mexico.

His father-in-law, Henry Gassaway Davis

   To enter this region, visionaries such as Henry G. Davis and Stephen B. Elkins were willing to risk their capital and political fortunes to undertake a massive development of railroad lines, coal mines, and other allied business interests. Their ambitions demanded that a center for their sphere of interest be established from which they could control their expanding domain. Hence, the founding of a town, named Elkins, was an imperative which brought them in the late 1880s to the vicinity of Leadsville, Randolph County, in their quest for an ideal location for railroad shops within proxi­mity of their landholdings.

Upon coming into the area, Davis and Elkins found that the rural setting was occupied by several farms encompass­ing the choice lands needed for railroad rights-of-way and building sites for their planned industrial expansion. Families, some of whom were relatively prosperous, occupied these farmlands and were in control of vast acreage which had to be purchased, and sometimes traded for, in order to secure properties needed in their enterprises. Some of the families were second and third generation property owners in the vicinity and had an established lifestyle and ambience which were not unlike those found in other rural settings in late nineteenth century America. Reference will be made to some of these families who provided the "reception committee" for the men of national prominence upon their arrival on the local scene.

Within a few years of the railroad's coming to the bend in the Tygart Valley River near the mouth of Leading Creek, a city began to evolve under the constant guidance of the two prominent statesmen. They bestowed their benevolence upon the major institutions of the city and provided political leadership in the sometimes spasmodic growth of the city during its first two decades of nurturing.

This period in the development of the town produced a major change in the landscape of the old Leadsville environs. The town was laid off, railroad car shops constructed with supporting foundries, three large lumber dimension mills with dry kilns, a refrigerator factory, a pail factory, a large tannery, flour mills, bakeries, bottling works, creameries, schools and a college, churches, hospitals, utility companies, institutions for the needy, and a host of other human endeavors came into being to support an influx of professionals and laborers who migrated to the fastest growing city in the state.

The changes in the appearance of the community over its first century have been significant.

Donald L. Rice February 21, 1990

Adapted from:
"The Elkins Centennial Album 1890-1990"
Copyright ©1990 Donald L. Rice and
The Randolph County Historical Society
Library of Congress Catalog Number 90-61709
McClain Printing Co. - Parsons, WV - 1990