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


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 […]

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, […]


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

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 […]


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 […]


Travelling 219: The Carrie Williams Civil Rights Trial

A few years back, the radio program Travelling 219 visited Tucker County to learn about the history of the Carrie Williams case, a trail that set the precedent for equal education in West Virginia. Listen below for this short radio story. You can hear Friends of Blackwater board member Tom Rodd telling part of the […]

DePollo's Store in Thomas, circa 1914

Tucker County’s Immigrant History

For those who couldn’t make it to the July 1st lecture on immigrant history, we’ve put together some of the key information. Thank you to Prof. Gorby and his students, Corey Ptaszek, Elena Dugan, Matthew Tenaglio, and Ashton Wilson for their great research.   In 1916, Tucker County had the highest proportion of foreign-born residents […]

historic photo of railroad workers near Hendricks in 1923

Immigrant History Lecture a Success

On July 1st, over 70 people packed Cottrill’s Opera House to learn about the history of immigration in Tucker County. The lecture, sponsored by Friends of Blackwater, was led by Professor Hal Gorby of West Virginia University, who has worked with his students to digitize oral history recordings from north central West Virginia, including first-hand […]