Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

A. Michal McMahon

Committee Co-Chair

Barbara J. Howe

Committee Member

Barbara J. Howe

Committee Member

Lawrence T. Nichols


In the 1820s, a revolution in transportation technology changed forever the shipment of goods, travel, and the process of communication as overland transportation shifted from turnpikes to railroads. This study examines the affect on community formation and development in two turnpike villages and one town along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, America’s first inter-regional commercial railroad line. Between the mid-1830s and 1860, as railroads replaced turnpikes, the villages of Fetterman and Pruntytown, Virginia, came into existence, flourished, and began to decline as railroads passed along the lower Tygart River in 1850, directly competing with turnpikes. The town of Grafton in Taylor County, Virginia, built for the railroad, began in 1850, and was large enough for incorporation by 1856. Emerging railroad technology would make turnpikes obsolete and draw Taylor County, along with much of northern Virginia, into a national transportation system, reducing the isolation of many small communities.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad represented a new technology that shaped communities. Cities, towns, and villages not directly along the railroad began to fall into disuse. Grafton received a further boost in 1856 when it served as the junction point for the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, which connected the Ohio River valley to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

This thesis examines the earliest industrialization of the lower Tygart River valley brought about by railroads. In the 1850s, choices over transportation modes and alignments helped form the town of Grafton and contributed to commercial and community development in Taylor County. In Taylor County, a new form of community came into existence: a railroad town which assumed characteristics of eastern cities, and provided a prototype for railroad towns of the west during post- Civil War expansion. Although still agricultural in 1860, the seeds of industrialization had been sown in Taylor County with the convergence of two railroads which introduced modernized transportation.

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