The moving human stories and historic artifacts of the Blackwater region are a colorful and inspiring part of today’s vibrant culture.

Friends of Blackwater is installing interpretive signs along the Blackwater Canyon rail grade, explaining historical structures associated with the railroad, the coal and coke industry, and the communities of the Canyon.

We also operate the J.R. Clifford Project, which since 2004 has celebrated the history of civil rights in West Virginia by highlighting local heroes.

To get more details about our history projects and see the latest signs, click the button below.

beginning of history hike at B&L

Latest News


History Day at the Legislature

On February 21st, Friends of Blackwater participated in History Day at the West Virginia legislature. In honor of Black History Month, we highlighted our J.R. Clifford Project and the history of civil rights in West Virginia. It was great to meet with so many history enthusiasts, and we gave out many copies of our J.R. […]


J.R. Clifford Site Update Complete

We have completed our update of the J.R. Clifford project website. Although the content of the website has remained largely the same, we’ve fixed all of the broken links and updated the look of the site. Although those are the main changes that will be visible to the public, behind the scenes the new content […]


J.R. Clifford Website Being Rebuilt

Our J.R. Clifford Project was founded in 2004 to highlight the history of pioneering African American attorney J.R. Clifford and other West Virginia civil rights leaders. As part of the project we put on plays, produced educational materials, and held public events. In recent years, the J.R. Clifford Project has been less active, and the […]

volunteers who have been cleaning up the historic roundhouse foundation along the rail trail

Volunteers Clean Up Historic Site

On September 22nd, a volunteer event organized by Friends of Blackwater, in partnership with the Forest Service, improved the visibility of the historic roundhouse foundation, located along the Blackwater Canyon rail trail near Thomas. The roundhouse was once used to turn trains arriving in Thomas around and send them back down the canyon. All that […]


The JR Clifford Play

Friends of Blackwater’s J.R. Clifford Project organized plays dramatizing the court case that brought equality in education to West Virginia. The video below features some of those performances. The case was brought by schoolteacher Carrie Williams, who demanded that her African American students got the same length school year as white students. J.R. Clifford, a […]


A New Home For Liberty

Friends of Blackwater presented a series of historical plays about the founding of the state of West Virginia, as part of our J.R. Clifford Project. The video below shows some highlights from the performances. The “New Home for Liberty” plays highlight the important role that civil rights and anti-slavery advocates played in the creation of […]

performer Doug Wood as explorer Gabriel Arthur

Gabriel Arthur

On September 2nd, Friends of Blackwater is sponsoring a living history presentation focused on the early West Virginia explorer Gabriel Arthur. If you don’t know anything about this historical figure, you can catch up now. Gabriel Arthur is believed to be the first white person to see the Kanawha Valley in 1674. The previous year, […]

historic marker is unveiled in Hendricks

New Historic Marker Debuts in Hendricks

On August 4th, a small crowd gathered on the Blackwater Canyon Rail Grade in Hendricks to see a new historic marker unveiled. The marker explains the history of the railroad, once an important route for the timber and coal industries, as well as a major connection between the mountain and valley towns. The steepness of […]

Henry Gassaway Davis on a horse

Henry Gassaway Davis

Henry Gassaway Davis was an early industrialist and politician who helped shape West Virginia history. Born in 1823, Davis came from humble origins, and did not get a formal education beyond elementary school. After a youth spent working as a farmhand, he joined the Baltimore and Ohio railroad  at the age of 19, saving his […]

historic photo of street in Hendricks

Hendricks History

Featured image: Street scene in Hendricks, circa 1910 The first settler arrived in what is now the town of Hendricks in 1803, when a Revolutionary War soldier named Henry Fansler made his homestead there. The town was not incorporated until 1894, and is named for Thomas Andrew Hendricks, who was the vice-president at the time […]