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.

beginning of history hike at B&L

Latest News

historic photo of JR Clifford and other attendees of the Niagara Conference

Who was J.R. Clifford?

John Robert Clifford was West Virginia’s first African-American attorney, a newspaper publisher, editor and writer, a schoolteacher and principal, a civil rights pioneer, a founding member of the Niagara Movement (forerunner to the NAACP), a Civil War veteran, and a graduate of Storer College. Clifford was born in 1848, near what is now Moorefield, West […]

history hike participants admiring new sign

New Signs Debut

On May 26th, Friends of Blackwater unveiled 5 new historic interpretive signs near the town of Thomas. These signs help bring to life the industrial heyday of Tucker County, when the railroad helped create an economic boom and connected rural West Virginia to the rest of the country. We celebrated with a guided tour, led […]

the courthouse in Parsons is pictured at left, and a historical marker about the court case Williams v. Board of Education is at right

The Coketon Colored School

Located along the North Fork outside of Thomas, the Coketon Colored School was a two room school house that played an important role in West Virginia’s civil rights history. The town of coketon was named after “coke”, the coal-based fuel product that was the town’s major export. A small African American community formed around coal […]

historic photo of a logging camp near Davis in 1886

Book Review: A Gunfight in Parsons

Ronald Lewis, a distinguished historian from West Virginia University, has written a colorful new book that tells an exciting tale of human conflict from the early days of Tucker County’s timber industry. The central incident in Lewis’ book, “The Industrialist and the Mountaineer,” published by West Virginia University Press, is a “Wild-West-style” gunfight in Parsons […]

large group of teachers holding signs protesting on the steps of the WV state capitol

History Day at the Legislature 2018

On February 22nd, historical organizations from across the state gathered in the capitol building in Charleston to celebrate West Virginia’s rich history. Although there were many unique signs and artifacts on display, the history gathering was partly overshadowed by the first day of the teacher’s strike. With all 55 counties represented, the strike was historic […]

Check out our new historical signs with the guide below

Use the icon in the upper right hand corner to get the easy to print version