Tourism in Pocahontas County has rich history
William P. McNeel
The Pocahontas Times
The first post office in today’s Pocahontas County was named “Traveler’s Repose” with the name coming from an inn on the road across the Allegheny Mountain. The post office was established in 1814, so the inn must have been in operation by that time. It is probably safe to assume this was the first lodging facility in the county. In the 1840s, the road was upgraded into the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike. The original inn building was burned during the first year of the Civil War when Traveler’s Repose became the site of a Confederate Army camp.
In 1866, a new inn was constructed. This post-Civil War inn contained 22 rooms when built and was owned by Peter Dilley Yeager.
Three hotels were reported to be in Marlinton in 1895. One was located near the bridge on the site of the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital and was constructed in 1882. It went under different names and was called the Marlinton Hotel when it burned on September 15, 1902. In 1904 work started on a large hotel building at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue. This facility opened as the Hotel DeArmit in June 1905. It was later called the Marlin and Sewell Hotel and finally the Alpine Hotel. The building was enlarged in 1924 and was destroyed by fire on January 1, 1968.
In Durbin there were two hotels during the boom years and one, the Greenbrier Hotel, served the traveling public until a few years ago. All of the many sawmill towns that were established after the coming of the railroad had boarding houses which mainly served company employees but were usually also available for travelers. In Cass, the W. Va. Pulp and Paper Company operated the Cass Hotel (later Mountain Inn). In competition with the company facility were the Central Hotel, Logger’s Home and River View Hotel, all located in East Cass. The Hillside Hotel was located at Thornwood during the years the sawmill was in operation.
Even though there were a few facilities dedicated to taking care of travelers, most lodging was on a more informal basis.
Dave Sharp writes, “The younger generation may not know that “Bed and Breakfasts” were in vogue at the turn of the century. A traveler on horseback or in a buggy on the dirt roads stopped at any farm house and mentioned he wanted to stay for the night. It was unheard of to turn a stranger away. The farmer would welcome him in and tell his son to take ‘Mr. Smith’s’ horse to the barn and feed it.’ After supper, the traveler would tell the news he’d picked up. After a good night’s sleep and breakfast of ham, gravy, cornbread, etc. and a small payment, he was on his way.”
This system probably benefited the farm family even more than the travelers. In the years before telephone, radio and TV, keeping travelers in the home provided the isolated (and it only took a few miles to define isolated) farm families a main source of information on what was going on in the larger world as well as a break from the routine of farm life. Even with the advent of more commercial lodging facilities, some farm families continued to house travelers until fairly recent years. Hunting season was a time when many farm homes had guests, with the same hunting groups coming back year after year.
Probably the first facility in the county built and operated strictly for the tourist business was the Hotel Minnehaha at Minnehaha Springs. A local enterprise, it was constructed in 1914 by H. M. Lockridge to bring visitors to the spring from which the community takes its name. Also constructed was a pool and bathhouse at the spring.
A 1914 brochure on the two story hotel states that it had its own electric and water plant, modern planning, running water and call bells in each room. Automobiles were available to drive guests to and from the railroad station at Marlinton. Fishing, horseback riding, tennis, dancing, pool and cards were available along with bathing in the mineral water in the spring.
Existing evidence suggests that, unfortunately, the hotel was not a financial success. The hotel property had a number of owners over the years and was not open to the public on a continuous basis, finally becoming a boys’ camp in 1944. The hotel building was destroyed by fire on February 4, 1945.
Also located at Minnehaha was the Allegheny Lodge, constructed by the Allegheny Sportsmen’s Association in 1913-15. In addition to the lodge, the Association owned a tract of 4,415 acres and had hunting and fishing rights on an additional 11,000 acres. Although not open to the general public (“One Hundred dollars and personal accountability, with $10 annual dues, admits to membership”), the purpose of the Association was strictly recreational. As with its neighbor across Douthat Creek, the Association also had financial problems and was sold for debts into private ownership in 1924. In the 1970s, the public got the opportunity to learn of the delights of the Allegheny Lodge when it became available for meetings and conferences. However, it all came to an end with a recreational and historic loss to the county when the lodge was destroyed by fire on October 17, 1983.
For a short time in the late teens, the Allegheny Club and the Cheat Club in Randolph County on the Shavers Fork, near Durbin, were merged. The fine old club house of the Cheat Club has survived the years and is now open to the public…
To be continued…