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“There ain’t no G in MARLINTON!” …so wrote Andrew Price, the first mayor of Marlinton. The town gets its name from Jacob Marlin who arrived here in 1749 with Stephen Sewell and built a cabin near the mouth of the Greenbrier River. This established the site as the first English settlement west of the Alleghenies.
After a disagreement over religion, Sewell moved into a hollow sycamore tree, and Col. Andrew Lewis discovered the two on this spot in 1751 while surveying for the Greenbrier Company. The “Greenbrier” River was named for the prickly vines of the plant that covered its banks.
Marlinton remains the business center of Pocahontas County and is home to the Pocahontas County Historical Society and Museum. The McClintic Library serves as the home base for the Award-winning Pocahontas County Free Libraries and houses The Heritage Room and The Appalachian Collection. Marlinton’s people continue the tradition of “rolling out the welcome mat” for visitors who come year round to explore their family history and to enjoy the wild beauty of the surrounding area.
Building the Railroad
The Chesapeake and Ohio construction of the Greenbrier Railway through Marlinton began in 1899 along the Greenbrier River south of Stillhouse Run. Construction crews are reported to have used mules, wagons, and tents that were army surplus from the Spanish-American War. It is estimated that 1,500 men were at work within a few months. A construction train belonging to the Greenbrier River Railroad Company and was used to haul materials for the work. The official “first train” arrived in Marlinton on October 26, 1900. The entire town turned out in their finery for the daylong celebration.
Marlinton Freight Depot
The Marlinton freight depot was constructed in 1905. Once a community was connected to the national rail network, almost everything came by train. This included the everyday material needs of the Upper Greenbrier Valley. Carloads of coal, food, retail goods, farm supplies and household furnishings, as well as mail, newspapers and items ordered from catalogs were all delivered to by rail. Even the first automobiles and the fuel to power them came by rail. One of the busiest stations was Marlinton with close to 50,000 tons of freight in 1907.
Greenbrier Division Freight Train
Freights on the Greenbrier Line were most commonly powered by Chesapeake and Ohio Class G 2-8-0 locomotives. The number of trains and their schedules depended on the level of business available. Many times the trains were freight only, no passengers. Freight trains were often run as “extra” and did not appear on the timetable. Part of the freight hauled was the bark used in the tanning process at the tanneries in Marlinton and Frank. Even though the sawmills would begin to close by 1910, the Cass operation of the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company would continue to keep trainloads of lumber, pulpwood and slabs moving along the Greenbrier Line into the early 1920’s.
Passenger Service on the C & O
Passenger trains during the early days had very few miles between stops. Existing communities coupled with the new sawmill towns gave rise to the saying that “a train had to back up after leaving a station in order to have enough distance to whistle for the next station.” With the development of the lumber industry, ridership increased rapidly. In 1906-1907 trains on the Greenbrier Line carried 139,848 passengers generating revenue of $93,147. Marlinton was the busiest station that year with 24,941 riders boarding the train.
Thanks to B.J. Gudmundsson for her contribution to this entry.