Among some of the most rugged mountainous terrain in all of central Appalachia, the region surrounding the Bluefields has a fascinating and highly significant history that dates to numerous Native American villages along the rivers that course through the beautiful landscape. Pinnacle Rock State Park’s pillar of granite demonstrates the forces of nature that created the limestone valleys and bluestone granite deposits that mark the region of the Two Virginias.
The first Europeans entered the remote valleys in the years after the American Revolution, fiercely fighting the original inhabitants for possession of the rich farmlands of Mercer and Tazewell counties. These settlers carved out a hardy existence — farming, hunting and assisting western settlers along the Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Largely southern in sympathy during the Civil War, the settlers found themselves split along state lines after the birth of West Virginia in 1863.
Soon after the creation of the Mountain State out of the Old Dominion, large deposits of bituminous coal began to attract massive industrial investment into the often impenetrable mountains. Soon, the Norfolk & Western and later the Virginian railroads chose the Bluefields for their regional headquarters. Hundreds of coal mines opened up in southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, bringing thousands of European immigrants and African-American coal miners to swell the region’s population.
Large cities sprang up to serve the growing population of miners and their families. The coal they mined transformed America from a rural to an urban nation. The abundant and plentiful energy enabled the United States to become a world power. During World War I and II, the region’s national significance was demonstrated by the exclusive reliance of the United States Navy upon “smokeless” coal from the region.
With a rich past that tells the story of opportunity and development, the Bluefields await a new chapter in a rich and fascinating history.