Mercer County – Rich history of coal, war & railroads (Blog/Video Series #5)

Mercer County, WV, is a hub of unique recreation, marked by a rich and deep coal and rail history, which you can still explore today.


“We’re known for our history, and our Civil War and railroads,” said Marie Blackwell of the Mercer County CVB. One of the historic stops she and other leaders in Mercer County discussed in a video for Visit Southern West Virginia is Bramwell, the town that once housed the most millionaires per capita in the county.

“That is the town the coal barons built when it was big in this area,” Blackwell said. “It doesn’t even look like it belongs here in Mercer County. It’s just a quaint Victorian town that offers so much history.”

That’s not the only way to relive coal history in Mercer. The Eastern Regional Coal Archives are a frequent stop for those interested in area genealogy, and the exhibition coal mine gives visitors a chance to go down into an old mine to see what the work was like.

“I think WV has a unique culture because of how rough and hard it was 30-40 years ago when they were mining coal by hand, and not the mechanisms that they have today,” said Robert Farley of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce.  “I think that created a type of person that was hard-working for his family and enjoyed what he did.”

And coal isn’t the only history in Mercer. The are is a part of the Civil War Trail, and you can visit the war museum or Confederate cemetery.

The rail history is also preserved through the Princeton Railroad Museum, and other museums narrate the agricultural and Appalachian heritage.

In addition to the rich history, there are plenty of recreational opportunities.

“You can come any time of the year,” said Richard Bullins of the Coal Heritage Trail and Bramwell Depot.  “The falls are beautiful here. We have snow skiing in the wintertime, and of course the summertimes are beautiful for outdoor recreation.”

Pinnacle Rock is a gorgeous formation that overlooks the sweeping landscape, one of many scenic parks around the county. There are also miles and miles of ATV trail, part of the Hatfield-McCoy trail systems, which bring in riders from around the world for the scenic views and mountain terrain.

Another unique sporting event are games between the county’s 2 major-league sponsored baseball teams, which maintain a competitive rivalry.

“It’s a great evening event,” Blackwell said. “Small-town baseball on a cool evening. It’s a lot of fun.”

A certified arts community in Mercer thrives with galleries, theaters and boutiques, and there are plenty of unique dining options, including old-fashioned diners that have been around generations.