Place:Bluefield, Mercer, West Virginia, United States

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NameBluefield
TypeCity
Coordinates37.262°N 81.219°W
Located inMercer, West Virginia, United States
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Bluefield is a city in Mercer County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 10,447 at the 2010 census. It is the core city of the Bluefield WV-VA micropolitan area, which has a population of 107,342.

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History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The European-American history of Bluefield began in the 18th century, when two families settled in a rugged and remote part of what is now southern West Virginia. Others joined them and they built a small village with a mill, a church, a one-room schoolhouse, and a fort for defending the settlement against invasions by the Shawnee Indian tribe, which had a village on the banks of the Bluestone River.

In 1882, the descendants of the Davidson and Bailey family sold a portion of their land, when Captain John Fields of the Norfolk and Western Railway pioneered the area and began building a new railroad through the hills of Bluefield. The city is traditionally thought to be named after the chicory flowers in the area, which give the fields a purplish blue hue during the summer. Research has shown that this settlement, also known as Higginbotham's Summit in the 1880s, was probably named for the coal fields that were developed in the area of the Bluestone River.

Coal rush

Beneath the land of the Davidsons and Baileys lay the largest and richest deposit of bituminous coal in the world. The first seam was discovered in nearby Pocahontas, Virginia in the backyard of Jordan Nelson. President Frederick Kimball of the Norfolk and Western Railway described this as the "most spectacular find on the continent and indeed perhaps of the entire planet." The coal seam had been mentioned much earlier in Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, but it was not mined until 1890.

Around that time, coal mines were developed in the area around Harman, Bluefield, War, and Pocahontas, which together were known as the Pocahontas Coal Fields. They helped support the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The development of the coal industry in this area created a boom in the local and national economy, and attracted immigrant European workers and migrant African Americans from the Deep South to the mountains in search of industrial work. During the Great War and World War II, coal from this area supplied the navies of the United States and United Kingdom.

In the late 19th century, the Norfolk and Western Company selected Bluefield as the site for its headquarters and repair center, which greatly stimulated the town's growth. In the one-year period from 1887 to 1888, passenger travel along the railroad increased 317%. As with the extremely accelerated growth of San Francisco during the gold rush, Bluefield became a city that seemed to spring up "overnight." Growth far outpaced the existing infrastructure. Urban sprawl and blight were common complaints in the early days, as workers crowded into aging housing.

The growth and decay of the city depended almost entirely upon Norfolk and Western Railroad. When coal tonnage was good and the market for coal was booming, Bluefield was essentially a "Little New York," as it was called in the day. A bustling metropolis, it had a nightlife and a personality that was "a little bit Chicago, a little bit New York, and a whole lot of Pittsburgh"—rugged and with steel and coal embedded in its soul.

The coal boom generated a flood of money in the area. Nearby Bramwell, incorporated in 1888, boasted that it was the "Millionaires' Town" because more millionaires per capita lived there than anywhere in the nation. The city also had more automobiles per capita than any other city in the country.

In 1889, the city of Bluefield was officially incorporated. The city government was always known in those days as being corrupt, inefficient, with drunken brawls and fights breaking out on the floor of City Hall on an almost daily basis.

With a strong ethnic community, Bluefield was the site of the 1895 founding of the Bluefield Colored Institute, an historically black college. It developed as today's Bluefield State College.

20th century

During the 1920s, the twelve-story West Virginian Hotel was built. It has been adapted and in the 21st century is operated as the West Virginia Manor and Retirement Home. In 1924, nearby Graham, Virginia decided to rename itself as Bluefield to try to unite the two towns, which had been feuding since the civil war. Nobel Prize–winning economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash was born in Bluefield in 1928.

The Great Depression was particularly damaging to Bluefield. With the government nearly bankrupt, after a series of devastating structural fires swept through the downtown area, the city was nearly destroyed. It was not until the outbreak of World War II that coal production revived.

The strategic importance of the city was so great that Adolf Hitler put Bluefield on his reputed list of German air raid targets in the United States. Air raid practice drills were common in the city during this time.

Thomas Edd Mayfield, one of the Mayfield Brothers Bluegrass musicians of West Texas, died of leukemia in a Bluefield hospital in 1958 at the age of thirty-two. He was on tour here with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.

The Interstate Highway System was constructed through East River Mountain on December 20, 1974; for the first time automobile traffic could reach the city without crossing the top of the mountain. The dependence on the railroads waned and restructuring changed the industry. Bluefield lost jobs and population as a result. Its Amtrak station closed in the 1980s. Mercer Mall, the area's major shopping mall, opened in 1980.

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