|The James River and Kanawha Turnpike |
crossing Little Sewell Mountain.
If you do much investigation into the history of western Greenbrier County in West Virginia, you will read that U.S. Route 60 follows the historic James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Well, that's true for the most part. As U.S. Route 60 (now known as the Midland Trail) was constructed, it generally followed the path of the old turnpike road, swallowing up the historic road in contemporary highways accommodating faster and safer travel. In
Early in the history of the
White men settled the Greenbrier Valley beginning in the mid-1700s, but little is recorded of the western end of the county other than that Stephen Sewell hunted there. We occasionally dug up arrowheads in our garden, so Indians also hunted there. Population in western Greenbrier was sparse until the arrival of the Raine brothers. John Raine and his brother, T. W. Raine, appeared in 1903 when they purchased land on
The town of
Stage coach service along the Turnpike began in 1827 with a stage line operated by the Caldwell-Surbaugh stage company, which ran from Lewisburg to
Twentieth century developments necessitated changes in highway construction to accommodate automobiles. The road from Rainelle to
A tour book produced by the Midland Trail Association in 1916 describes the road as running from Meadow Bluff and over Little Sewell Mountain, the original course of the old Turnpike. By 1926 when Percival Reniers and Ashton Reniers wrote The Midland Trail Tour in West Virginia, the Midland Trail had deviated to follow the present Route 60. They write, “At Sam Black Church the Turnpike runs straight ahead over Little Sewell Mountain while the modern route bears right, down the easy grade of the Old Wilderness Road along
The Midland Trail had begun its modern incarnation, while the direct route over Little Sewell Mountain was historically preserved in its rural, peaceful nature, used mostly by the residents of the mountain and valleys between Rainelle and
In Rainelle the original turnpike, which is clearly marked with a street sign on
A few years ago I talked with Bobby Ayers, who at the time lived near Rainelle on the old turnpike. Near Dennis, where a post office had been located, he had found a watering trough used during “old” days on the Turnpike, as stated on the homemade sign someone long ago posted over the trough. Unless Bobby had told me about the trough, I would never have noticed it hiding under a clump of overgrown brush.
There is a lot of history hiding in just 10 miles of turnpike. The grave sites of the famous Greenbrier Ghost and her mother are located at
|Highway marker which tells the story|
of the Greenbrier Ghost.
After the turnpike improved travel through the mountains to
|Bible school held at Sewell Valley Baptist Church|
in the second building which was
erected in 1962.
|The Osborne house as it appeared in the 1920s. The |
road is the Turnpike. Picture from
K. C. Farren.
In 1947 the Osbornes sub-divided the farm into building lots, creating what is still known as the Osborne Addition, a residential suburb of Rainelle. The road that had once provided a rocky trip on a stage coach from Lewisburg to
As homes continued to pop up in the Osborne Addition, Denzil and Audrey Simms opened a small store at the corner where Oak Street now connects with the turnpike. In the 1960s Squire Haynes developed a grass landing strip on top of Little Sewell Mountain that accommodated small aircraft, and he eventually opened a restaurant at the airport that served meals to flyers from all parts of the United States.
|The building along the Turnpike|
where Denzil and Audrey
Simms had a store.
|The site of the Osborne house |
as it appears today where Airport Road
intersects the turnpike.
Just as the old horse trough with its faded sign leaves only a trace of earlier travelers, the appearance of the
|The home-made sign above the horse trough near |
the old site of the Dennis post office along the Turnpike.