West Virginia December 02, 2020
The Untold Story Of The West Virginia City That Vanished Overnight
The New River Gorge is famous the world over for its magnificent, rugged silhouette. Tourists come from miles around to stand at one of the many overlooks lining its edges, or hike one of its many famed trails. But there’s more to this iconic region than meets the eye… much more.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
The New River Gorge is a fascinating place, full of stunning beauty and fascinating history... and more than a few crumbling walls, abandoned graves, and other mysterious secrets.
Just before you reach the Prince Depot in West Virginia if you're coming from Beckley on West Virginia Route 41, the road crosses the New River via a bridge with a nice pedestrian walkway on the left and an old railroad bridge on the right.
And just before that bridge, a small dirt road splits off to the right, marked with a sign that describes both its name and its ultimate destination: Glade Creek.
But long before you reach Glade Creek Campground or Glade Creek Trailhead or Glade Creek swimming hole, you'll find another spot worth seeing along this serpentine mountain road. In fact, this one is perched right above the old railroad bridge that runs along the main road, just after you turn off Stanaford Road (WV 41) onto Glade Creek Road.
It's marked by a small pull off and a little sign that tells the story of an old mining town that once perched among these woods, but has now nearly completely vanished from sight and memory. Only a few stone cellars and foundations remain to pay tribute to what was once the busy, well-respected community of Royal, West Virginia.
The Royal Coal and Coke Company, located along the southern slope of the New River Gorge opposite Prince, was the first mining company in Raleigh County. It consisted of 75 houses, a school, a church, a company store, a theater, and a pool room, as well as mining buildings like a coal tipple. It even had its own doctor, a rarity for the time.
It was also the first mine in West Virginia to transport coal from the mountain mine to the railway cars via aerial tram anchored on the Prince side of the river near Stretchers Neck Tunnel. Thirty-two buckets were spaced along this 2,800 foot aerial tramway, and carted 300 tons of coal per day out of the Royal mine. The half-ton weight of loaded buckets going down the slope pulled the empties up the mountain. The miners would also ride these swinging buckets over the New River Gorge to and from work.
The mine at Royal opened in 1891 and closed permanently in 1940. Throughout its existence, it played an important role in West Virginia's storied mining history.
According to information provided by the National Park Service, "in 1902 Royal miners participated in the national United Mine Workers of America-sponsored strike. When non-union workers were brought in to replace union miners, snipers from across the New River at Prince fired upon them. In 1903, 142 strikers passed through Royal as they marched from Quinnimont, up Piney Creek, to Atkinsville, near Beckley. Then at Stanaford City, the strikers were drawn into a gun battle in which seven were killed."
Now, there's almost nothing left of this once vital community... just a pock-marked mountainside with a few crumbling old stone walls. But if you ever visit, and stroll through these overgrown remnants of another era, it's still possible to imagine it as it once stood, a rugged, determined town of rugged, determined people plying their living out of an equally rugged, determined rock chasm that holds more than its fair share of such stories.
Did you know the story of the ghost town of Royal, West Virginia? Have you ever visited it on a drive through the New River Gorge between Beckley and Prince or Quinnamont?
If you do visit, consider continuing on WV 41 all the way to Babcock State Park for another glimpse into the history of a bygone era with a visit to
Glade Creek Grist Mill. Address: Royal, District 3, WV 25813, USA