1908 - Bluefield's Start

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Fri Feb 22 07:30:00 EST 2008

Roanoke Times - February 22, 1908


Interesting Story Told by W. B. Morton of the City's Origin

An interesting story is related by Mr. W. B. Morton, of Union, W.
Va., in regard to a visit paid to that part of the country by the
late F. J. Kimball, for several years president of the Norfolk and
Western railway.
Mr. Morton says:
In the spring of 1881 John Graham and Dr. James O'Keefe, before
any others known to me, came into the section looking afters its
development. At that time S. M. Graham and myself were merchandising
at Falls Mills. One day the above named gentlemen stopped at our
store, inquiring the way to Abbs Valley. No one then suspected the
nature of their business, but very soon afterwards Dr. O'Keefe
returned and began taking options and buying coal lands at and where
Pocahontas is now located, making his head quarters in the Abbs'
Valley vicinity. It was not long until the lands which Dr. O'Keefe
had taken options upon were being purchased, nor until F. J. Kimball,
then president of the Norfolk and Western railroad, also visited the
section. With him were George Steele, of Philadelphia, and a young
lady, whose name I have forgotten. I remember the party called at our
store one Sunday morning to obtain some articles required in their
dining car, which was drawn by a pair of horses. From there they came
on to Graham ("Pinhook" is was called then) and dined on the side of
the road where the Keys planing mill is now situated. The fire used
in preparation of the meal was made with pieces of fence rails lying
about. While Mr. Kimball and his party were enjoying the picturesque
scenery of old Wright's Valley, the cook got out his long-handled
skillet and old-styled coffee pot, with the three-cornered rack upon
which it rested, and soon announced the "last call for dinner." This
being ended, the party proceeded on their way to Tazewell courthouse.
Next after Mr. Kimball's visit, was a party composed of C. D.
Wentworth, William Ingles, A. V. Shell (who still lives in Graham)
and others - all engineers, who made the preliminary survey of the
New River division of the Norfolk & Western to Pocahontas, which was
let to contract the same year.
When it was assured that the road would be built, I bought land at
Graham (or Pinhook). Soon after my purchase, Mr. Thomas Graham, Sr.,
and Mr. J Dickenson Sergeant, of Philadelphia, purchased lands from
Mr. J. B. Linkous, laying it off into town lots with a view to
building a town - the present town of Graham. However reproachful
"Pinhook" was in name, it was a location thought to be an important
point for a depot.
Mr Thomas Graham was a man of large affairs. On a return trip from
Mexico, where he had large mining interests, he stopped at Graham.
While here he heard rumors of the purchase of lands by the railroad
company three miles east of Graham - where Bluefield now stands, and
inquired of me what I knew about it. As I was not informed in the
matter, he sat down to my desk and wrote a letter to this partner,
Mr. Sergeant, who, in turn, wrote to President Kimball. A copy of Mr.
Kimball's reply was sent me by Mr. Graham, and read as follows:

N. & W. Railroad Company
F. J. Kimball, President
Philadelphia, July 7, 1887
J. Dickenson Sergeant, Esq.,
420 Walnut Street, City:

Dear Sir - The letter Mr. Graham sent me by you is before me.
Bluefield is a summit on our road about three miles east of Graham.
For the economical handling of our business, it is necessary that
we should have yards, sidings, etc., at that point, hence the
purchase for our railroad company of the land referred to by Mr. Graham.
Bluefield is very much as described by Mr. Graham, there being
only sufficient level ground for our yards and any houses which may
be built there will naturally be by the railroad company for the use
of their own men.
We propose to use the yards (it being a summit) in making up our
trains - particularly the coal trains - from our Pocahontas Flat Top
field. I should not consider, therefore, that it would in any way
compete with or interfere with the development of the town of Graham,
where there is plenty of level ground in the vicinity, with water for
manufacturing purposes, etc., and where will be the junction between
our Clinch Valley and our New River divisions.
Your truly,
(Signed) F. J. KIMBALL


- Ron Davis, Roger Link

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