Conjectures on the Location of the Original "Shafers Crossing"

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed May 18 17:26:38 EDT 2016

On Sun, May 15, 2016, at 8:59 AM, Abram wrote:

For sixty years, I have wondered where "Shafers Crossing" may have been.

Digging through the online newspaper archives offered by the Library of
Virginia turned up several references to "Shafer's Crossing" and "Shaver's
Crossing." In 1889, the Salem Times-Register called it "Shaver's Crossing."
In 1890, the Roanoke Daily Times called it "Shafer's Crossing." Perhaps the
articles will help shed some light on the location of this grade crossing
(and some other things, such as the West End depot).

Bruce in Blacksburg


The Evening News, Volume 6, Number 136, 13 April 1903, pg. 1


Many Miles of Additional Siding
Will Be Added to the West
End Yard - Contractor Flickwir Has a Large Force
Employed and is Pushing the Work Rapidly to
Completion--Will Be Largest Yard in the South
Considering Size of City When Completed

A reporter for the Evening News today went over the work that is being done
by Mr. David W. Flickwir, for the Norfolk and Western in the West End. This
work is immense and the average Roanoker has no conception of what is being
done there unless perchance he happens that way.

The Norfolk and Western has labored for many years under the great
disadvantage of a yard shortage. In fact the many miles of siding have not
been sufficient for the handling of the immense freightage of the road, and
hardly a day passes but that the present yard facilities are overtaxed and
it is only through the greatest of skill and care that the yard men are
able to relieve the congested condition that has confronted the company for
so long.

It is not an unusual sight to see many miles of freight trains side-tracked
in the West End and waiting to be moved. This condition of affairs has
necessitated the expenditure of many thousands of dollars between Roanoke
and Salem, and when Mr. Flickwir completes his contract Roanoke will have
yard and side-track facilities not equalled by any city in the south, all
things considered.

This work began last fall, when the office of the yardmaster at the
roundhouse had to be moved from its old quarters and the entire telegraphic
system was moved 100 yards southward. This was done so swiftly and so well
that the work of the operators was in no way interfered with. The stock
yards which were located at the west end of Jackson avenue and Eighth
street, were torn out and more commodious pens on more modern plans were
constructed just east of Shafer's crossing, at the West End tower. The
eastern part of the yard was graded and two new tracks laid from the old
stock yards to the tower, a distance of mile, thus giving two miles of
additional track service.

As the spring began to open up, Mr. Flickwir put new life into his
contract. Instead of the one shovel and one crew that worked in the winter
months, there are now three steam shovels and a force of about 150 workmen
on the job. This force will be maintained until the work is completed. They
are cutting out immense mountains and constructing great fills. The
engineering work is being carefully looked after by skillful engineers.
Five additional tracks will be laid from Shafer's crossing to the main line
on the river bluff, a half mile west of the West End depot. One shovel is
at work near the West End roundhouse, and is in charge of C. L. Stephens.
The second is cutting down the high bluff, in fact almost moving a
mountain, a short distance east of the furnace. E. W. Spicer has charge of
this work. This entire cut five tracks wide will average forty feet in
depth and the grade at the highest point is fifty-two feet. From this
bluff, west, for the distance of half a mile, a twenty foot fill will be
necessary. It will be the entire width of the yard. The fill will be
supported by concrete arches, and will be a piece of fine engineering when
completed. The third shovel is in charge of W. F. Stewart, and is working
eastward, beginning at the extreme end of the work, fully half way between
Roanoke and Salem.

At Shafer's crossing, which is one of the most dangerous in the country,
the grade will be raised and viaducts for the underground passage of
vehicles will be arranged. This will be a great improvement and one that
has been needed at this point for many years. It is also stated that a new
house will be constructed on some portion of the new work. This is said to
be imperative, as the present roundhouse is too small and it is impossible
for them to properly care for the many freight engines which are required
to be handled in the West End. The fact that a half million or more will be
spent in the West End this summer, coupled with the starting up of the
furnace, with the cotton mill near by, will have a tendency to create an
activity in this part of the city akin to a boom, and such as has never
before been witnessed by the people of Roanoke.

Roanoke Daily Times, Volume 6, Number 114, 16 April 1890, pg. 1

The Coroners Hold an Inquest.
A Verdict Brought in. The Cause Leading
to His Death Not Known. Had
He Been Drinking, or was He Murdered?

Monday morning about 5:30 o'clock as a colored man named Davenport was
passing along the Norfolk and Western railroad a short distance west of
Shafer's crossing he was horrified at seeing the mangled remains of a white
man lying across the track. The head, both arms and both legs had been
severed from the body and the sight was a horrible one.

He at once reported his ghastly discovery, and it was not long before a
large crowd had gathered about the remains, which proved to be those of
Owen Hughes, who was employed at the West End furnace.

Dr. H. V. Gray, the coroner, was notified, and as Hughes had been paid off
on Monday and nothing was found in his pockets except a pocket knife, an
inquest was deemed necessary. At 11 o'clock the coroner and the following
jury viewed the body: J. T. Collins, foreman; James C. Stone, George L.
Biggs, S. G. Robertson, B. S. Robertson and J. S. Gibson.

Two cuts, apparently made by a knife or some sharp instrument, were found
upon the head, but the mutilation of the remains was such that had there
been other wounds they would hardly have been discernible.

The body was then taken to the undertaking establishment of John M. Oakey &
Co. for interment in the City Cemetery unless disposed of otherwise by
relatives or friends of deceased, and the jury adjourned to the office of
the coroner, where several witnesses were examined.

The substance of the testimony was that Hughes had made several small
purchases in the city Monday evening, and about 8 o'clock had started for
his boarding house near the West End furnace. When last seen by any of the
witnesses he had about $12 in his possession.

The disappearance of money and effects and the cuts on his head were
sufficient to arouse suspicion of foul play, and after deliberating awhile
the jury rendered a verdict to the effect that, while Hughes had come to
his death in a manner unknown to them, the testimony and circumstances led
to the conclusion that he might have met death by a wound or injury
inflicted upon his head by some unknown party or parties, who afterwards
put the body upon the track of the Norfolk and Western Railroad to avert
suspicion. The city anthorities were therefore recommended to make a close
and thorough investigation of the matter at once.

Deceased was from Pennsylvania, was 40 years old, and was unmarried. It is
hoped the police will follow the suggestion of the jury and spare no effort
to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Hughes.


A Street Car Ride Over the West End.

A TlMES representative took a ride over the street railway line in the West
End one afternoon recently and found the trip a most delightful one. From
the Union depot to the end of the line the distance is two miles and a half
and the view from the West End boulevard is a magnificent one.

Eastward is the city with its towers and spires and imposing buildings and
Southwest and North is a succession of hills and valleys, all surrounded by
mountain ranges which rising a few miles away, loom up higher and higher in
the distance till the farthest off seem like cloud banks in the sky.

A few hundred yards from where the railroad line stops is the Roanoke river
fringed with trees and bordered with lovely vales as it pursues its winding
course towards the east, and just beyond is the new furnace of the Roanoke
Iron Company, already so far advanced towards completion that it will be in
full blast before the close of summer.

New dwellings and houses in degrees of construction are visible on every
hand, notably among the first being the line brick residences of Messrs. T.
T. Fishburne, James S. Simmons and R. H. Woodrum.

Mr. Peter T. Hiler, the conductor of the line, is polite and courteous to
all who travel over it, and besides its advantages to prospectors in quest
of elligible building sites, a trip to the West End in the railway car is a
veritable treat this pleasant weather.


The Salem Times-Register, Volume 25, Number 5, 20 June 1890, pg. 2

The Roanoke and Southern.

Touching the probable point at which this road will enter Roanoke, the
Herald says:

"The engineers of this road have surveyed a route on the west side of T. M.
Starkey's, and down the creek by John Persinger's, crossing the river east
of the West End furnace, and crossing the Norfolk and Western road near
Shaver's Crossing, and they find that this route has a lower grade than any
previous survey.

Engineers are now running a line down Fourth Avenue, and with the recent
heavy purchases of West End real estate by parties closely allied to this
road seems to indicate that it will enter the city in that direction."

An entrance at the point indicated would bring the road almost as near to
Salem as to Roanoke. The distance from Salem to Shaver's Crossing is not
over four miles, and a connection at, or near that point, ought easily be
made by Salem. It is possible that the Baltimore and Ohio may make their
connection at the nearest point to Salem, but in the event they do not, it
ought to be an easy matter for Salem to supply the needed connection, where
the distance is so short.


The Salem Times-Register, Volume 23, Number 52, 12 July 1889, pg. 3

A Danger That Should Be
Provided Against. -- A few evenings ago as Messrs. Wm. H. Tinsley, C. L.
Maury, and Judge Wm. M. Barnitz were coming from Roanoke in a two-horse
carriage they came near to being run over by a passing train at Shaver's
crossing, and but for the gentleness of the horses serious damage might
have otherwise resulted to these gentlemen. They were driving down the road
behind the high hill leading to the crossing, when, without any warning, so
far as they could hear, a train dashed by just as the horses emerged from
behind the hill and were within a few feet of the track. A few seconds more
and their fate would have been a horrible one. The point mentioned is
certainly a very dangerous crossing, and one of two things should be done,
and that without delay -- the railroad company should be compelled to
station a watchman there, or the road should be changed. It is too serious
a matter to longer be neglected.
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