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The Early History of Mount Hope

Following the end of the American Revolution the region surrounding the area that is now Mount Hope remained a wilderness isolated from the civilized world of the white man. Even the Cherokee Indians that claimed the lands occupied the area only temporarily during hunting and war expeditions.

Under the agreement of a treaty, the Cherokee nation sold their rights to lands south of the Great Kanawha (River) on October 18, 1770 to the Governor of Virginia. But conflict with other tribes that controlled areas north of the Kanawha River soon developed. Indian tribes living north of the Kanawha River began to stage numerous raids into the area that is now Southern West Virginia in an attempt to control these lands. But the Indians' hold on the land would be short lived. On August 20, 1794, General Anthony Wayne won a decisive victory over the Indians at Fallen Timber, Ohio. This victory ended the threat of Indian invasions and resulted in a treaty that secured the peace for area's east of the Ohio River. As word of this treaty spread there was a great rush of people westward into the frontier regions of Western Virginia and Kentucky.

Perhaps being influenced by the recent peace treaty, in 1796 William Blake Sr. decided to purchase a three thousand acre tract of land from William and Sarah Austin. In the Spring of 1805, Blake and his family located on that land becoming the first white setters in the area that is now Mt. Hope. The family at first lived in an old Indian fort that stood near the present (1999) location of the town's Middle School. Shortly after settling in, Blake constructed a log cabin to serve as living quarters for his family.

The area that is now Mt. Hope was then a part of Montgomery County, Virginia, remained remote and isolated, totally lacking of man-made roads. Until 1786, an old Buffalo Trail was the primary route of travel through Fayette County. Through the most rugged sections of the nearby New River Gorge not even the buffalo had roamed, as there was not even enough room for large animal to travel within confines of that narrow and rugged canyon.

But despite the lack of an "modern" highway, Blake is said to have constructed an inn for the accommodation of travelers within a few years after moving to Mt. Hope in 1805. Perhaps Blake's motivation to build the inn was due to his involvement with other citizens of the region who were attempting to provide a transportation link for the region. The building of a highway was a innovation being promoted by citizens of Fayette, Mercer, Kanawha and Monroe counties during the early-1800's. Colonel Alfred Beckley, the founder of the city of Beckley, was one of many future-minded citizens of the region involved in formation of the company to see to the building of the turnpike.

According to an account written by Col. Beckley, the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike Company was formally chartered in 1843. A few years later, in 1848, the highway known as the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike was completed, stretching from the Giles County (Virginia) Court House to Fayetteville, West Virginia (then still a part of the state of Virginia). The turnpike joined with the James River and Kanawha Turnpike at Kanawha Falls which provided travelers with a transportation link to Charleston.

The Giles, Fayette and Kanawha turnpike, ran through the middle of what is now Mount Hope's business section, passing by the inn constructed by Blake years earlier, which had come to be known as the Blake Inn. The location of the Blake Inn is said to have been very near the present site of the Mountainair Hotel. Undoubtedly Blake's business at the inn increased dramatically soon after completion of the highway, as stagecoaches soon began traveling along the route of the newly completed turnpike on a regular basis. Blake's lodging business should perhaps be regarded as the first tourist business locating in Fayette County, an area now world renown for its recreational activities and natural resources that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Despite the building of the turnpike and resulting the stagecoach line, the area remained remote and isolated. For the next forty-five years the region would remain largely in its primitive state with very little development occurring. During this period through the late-1800's, only three families lived in the general vicinity that is now Mount Hope.

At some point during this period, some of the early settlers began removing coal from a "coal bank" located in the area now known as Turkey Knob. Another "coal bank" was also opened nearby in the area that is now Glen Jean. The early settlers took coal only from the outcrops, mining coal from the bank of the hillside rather than digging under ground. The settlers took the coal from the bank of a hill, thus the term "coal bank" originated. It is unlikely that these early settlers could imagine, even in their wildest dreams, how dramatic an influence this coal seam would have on the area during the coming years!

The history of Mount Hope continues, with the story of the it's development during -- The Birth of the Coal Industry

At right is a photo of  Mount Hope's first school building. Although only three families lived in the area that is now Mount Hope in 1872, education was important enough to the area's early settlers to compel them to erect the first school building during that year. This pioneer school house was the first of many early schools located in Mount Hope.

The first school house in Mt. Hope
Mount Hope's first school building

 

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