100 Years After Capt. Thurmond’s Death – A Look Back


Capt. William D. (Dabney) Thurmond died at his home in Minden last Saturday (May 19, 1910) evening at 6:30 o’clock. The funeral services were conducted Monday afternoon by the Rev. Fitzgerald, the interment following immediately afterwards at the Thurmond family burial grounds in Minden.Capt. Thurmond was one of the best known characters in the New River Field. He came to Fayette County in 1842 (age 22) from Amherst County, Va., where he was born. He soon saw the advantages of Fayette County and invested in real estate, from which he derived a large fortune.

The town of Thurmond was named for him and for years he was one of its leading businessmen. On his property in Minden are situated some of the best coal operations in the country.

Had Capt. Thurmond lived until the 11th day of next November he would have been 90 years of age. For the past several months he has been in ill health but only during two weeks previous to his death had hope of his recovery abolished.

It had been but a month or so ago that Capt. Thurmond rode one of his horses into Fayetteville, and then seemed to be in the best of health.

Capt. Thurmond was married to Miss Sarah Bibb of Gatewood on February 5, 1852 and to them were born five children who are now living. They are J.S. and Charles Thurmond of Thurmond; J.W. Thurmond of Minden; Mrs. Mary Ford of Oak Hill and Mrs. Luther Harvey of Minden.

*(Content taken from “Thurmond and Ghost Towns of the New River Gorge” by Melody Bragg – page 27)

Interesting facts about Captain Thurmond:

Originally a farmer, accomplished woodsman and self-taught surveyor.

Fiercely religious Baptist – During the Civil War he earned his title as Captain of the Confederate guerrilla band of fighters know as Thurmond’s Rangers, who inspired fear and hatred among Union forces.

Traded his survey work to John Bowyer for a 73-acre tract of land on the north side of the river across from the Dunloop and Arbuckle Creeks. Thurmond had plans.

Established a ferry business crossing the New River above Arbuckle Creek to access the new railroad.

When the railroad finally built a bridge across the river for the Dunloop Branch line, Thurmond started building houses to rent railroad workers – the town would eventually grow to become some of the most valuable property in the country, becoming the busiest town on the entire C&O. In 1910 the town produced $4.8 million in freight revenue and more than 75,000 passengers passed through it.

Originally Capt. Thurmond wanted to call the town Arbuckle, but when he applied for it the post office turned him down – his sons then applied for the name Thurmond. The rest is history.

Standing at our spectacular Concho overlook, you can still see the town once known as the “Dodge City of the East.” Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, Thurmond has a rich and incredible history, filled with legends and myths – it is a story well worth sharing. I will attempt to tell some of these stories in future blogs.

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