[caption id="attachment_9396" align="alignleft" width="216"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/07\/Watoga-1.web_.jpg"><img src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/07\/Watoga-1.web_-216x300.jpg" alt="Sam Arbogast's grandfather and grandmother, Dennis and Elizabeth Simmons Dunn, in the boat they used to ferry residents to and from the old town of Watoga." width="216" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-9396" \/><\/a> Sam Arbogast's grandfather and grandmother, Dennis and Elizabeth Simmons Dunn, in the boat they used to ferry residents to and from the old town of Watoga.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nChelsea Walker\r\nContributing Writer\r\n\r\nThe Greenbrier River Trail is one of many sacred and preserved pieces of history that still remains as a tribute to our once vastly divergent past. \u00a0\r\nDotted along the trail are countless \u201cghost towns;\u201d areas that once were sites of some of the most bustling and lively communities. The old town of Watoga was once a hidden riverside gem that first began as a lumbering town. The hidden, now overgrown town, was difficult to venture to. Without land access by foot, folks living in the town, or commuting, had to ford the river or catch a ride on the train. Mystery surrounds the riverside community, where questions about the history of the town still linger today.\r\nThe name Watoga, itself, is as mysterious as the town that once perched on the riverside hill. A newspaper article taken from June 1906 suggests the name is credited to W.A. Ross, a trainmaster and chief dispatcher for the Greenbrier Division, who is rumored to have taken the name from the Native American Cherokee tribe. To the Cherokee, \u201cWatauga,\u201d is a word taken from the Tennessee and North Carolina region, where the name\u2019s meaning translates to, \u201cbeautiful river,\u201d \u201cland beyond\u201d and \u201cbeautiful water.\u201d\r\nLocal historian Bill McNeel said the Native American name is unusual, since most logging towns were created by combining family names, or using the lumber company\u2019s title itself, to associate the family ownership with the town. McNeel said how Ross stumbled upon the name Watoga is a puzzle no one has yet been able to completely piece together.\r\n\u201cThe lumber operation centered at Watoga was one of the many that came in. Of course, after the railroad was constructed up the Greenbrier River in 1899-1900,\u201d McNeel said.\r\nThe boom of the lumber industry hit Watoga in the early 1900s, when the railroad first made its way into the county. For roughly 10 to 15 years the economy of Watoga relied heavily on the success of the lumber companies that operated in the area. From 1906 to 1916, lumber companies operated by J.R. Droney, Tomb Lumber Company and Watoga Lumber Company, timbered the hilly terrain of Watoga, while in 1908 the Empire Kindling Wood Company operated a small kindling plant that lasted for \u00a0only a few years before succumbing to financial burdens. Logging towns like Watoga were self-sufficient, contracting with local doctors and selling needed items at the company store, where script was given out by the companies to purchase necessities for residing families.\r\n\r\n<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/07\/Watoga-2.web_.jpg"><img src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/07\/Watoga-2.web_-300x243.jpg" alt="Watoga 2.web" width="300" height="243" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-9406" \/><\/a>\r\n\r\nWatoga was the epicenter of a lively and modest community. It had a small schoolhouse, which most likely was opened on Sundays for church; and it had a baseball team. Archives from The Pocahontas Times in 1908 reported a tie between the Watoga and Warntown baseball teams, where more than 500 people were in attendance. Although the town was quiet and mystically enchanting, just as in any other community, there was always some type of drama brewing for some of the residents.\r\nDonna McGinnis, of Buckeye, remembers a story passed down through her family that told a tale of revenge by one of her distant relatives. Watoga resident Minnie George\u2019s brother married McGinnis\u2019 aunt, Ida Burgess.\r\n\u201cMinnie George lived in Watoga where a train ran over her cow and the company wouldn\u2019t pay her for it, so she set the railroad tracks on fire.\u201d\r\nAfter the boom of the logging industry finished its stint on the mountainside of Watoga, the barren land was placed on the market. It wasn\u2019t until 1920 that the arid landscape became a home place for families. Formed by a group of men in the Princeton and Bluefield area, the Watoga Land Association purchased land to create a community for African Americans. Laid off into lots and streets, the land was repurposed to eventually be a site for agricultural development, where the Watoga Land Association insisted the area \r\nwould create a fine establishment for families to raise livestock to sell. Upon the rugged landscape, those who inhabited Watoga most likely realized a booming agriculture industry could not be sustained in the mountainous and infertile territory. Taken from a gospel sermon in the Watoga newspaper, Reverend A.B. Farmer said, \u201cWe have built and have helped build cities for others and have neglected building one for ourselves, we don\u2019t want to stop helping other people, but let us build us a city upon the earth.\u201d\r\nThe Watoga Land Association dreamt of providing those of African-American descent a community filled with divinity and delight. While many lots remained unsold, a few families that made up the estimated 1920s town population of 33, did venture across the river to stake claim on what they would soon call \u201chome.\u201d\r\nSam Arbogast recalled a time when his grandfather, Dennis Dunn, was the main source of transportation for those living in Watoga.\r\n\u201cMy granddad ran, what I guess you could call, a ferry service,\u201d Arbogast said.\r\n\u201cHe boated people across the river there. That\u2019s how he made his money for years.\u201d\r\nUsing rocks to gauge the height of the river, Arbogast\u2019s grandfather knew exactly how to safely transport individuals across the Greenbrier.\r\n\u201cHe had three rocks,\u201d Arbogast said. \u00a0\u201cOne was a riding rock, where you could ride your horses safely across. One was a driving rock, and if it [the river] was any higher you couldn\u2019t take your vehicle across.\u201d\r\n\u201cI can remember the boating rock is on the other side of the river, and if the water was over top that rock, you couldn\u2019t boat across.\u201d\r\n\u00a0Using those rocks and a large wooden pole to guide and steer, Arbogast\u2019s grandfather was capable of knowing just where to put his boat in to glide the ferry to the landing dock at Watoga.\r\n\u201cHe knew exactly where to start when the river was at certain levels,\u201d Arbogast said.\r\nArbogast\u2019s family was nestled just across the river from the old logging town of Watoga. Arbogast, in his childhood years along with cousins and his sister, remembers fording the river to visit the town store. Owned and operated by JL Merle, Arbogast said he and his sister would venture to the town with his grandfather, where the two would enjoy a grape Nehi atop the store cooler.\r\nLiving across the river, and about a mile above Watoga, Genevieve Wilfong Totten remembers the first dollar she ever made and spent right at the company store. Mr. Merle was a busy character, entertaining the likes of children from near and afar.\r\n\u201cThe first dollar my little brother earned, which of course we thought it was something, we had never had one before, we spent it all right there in Watoga,\u201d Totten said.\r\nPlaying with the dollar high above the river on the train bridge, Totten\u2019s brother, Ted, dropped the monetary piece of fascination right into the river. Totten said she ran into the river while her brother stayed on the bridge to guide her to the floating dollar.\r\n\u201cI said, you stand up there, and you tell me where that dollar is going,\u201d Totten said. \u201cThank heavens the river wasn\u2019t high.\u00a0 It was low and traveling kind of slow, so I did, I waded out there, and he kept showing me and I got that dollar.\u201d\r\nGripping tightly to their dollar bill, Totten and her brother ran to Mr. Merle\u2019s store, where they purchased candy and pop.\r\n\u201cWatoga was our window to the world for a while,\u201d Totten said.\r\nThe town of Watoga was home for families right up until the 1950s, remaining as an isolated riverside town for years until the collapse of the railroad. Although the overgrown and desolate area seems far from a once animated town, Watoga hosted countless memories for Pocahontas County families of a now, almost gone and forgotten time.