Named for the valuable coal fields of the Bluestone River, Bluefield prospered greatly with the addition of the Norfolk and Western Railway, and the discovery of large deposits of bituminous coal. Mining of the ore began in 1890 and the town of Bluefield became an instant metropolis.
Several grand mansions were built in Bluefield during this time. The area’s coal helped forge the Industrial Revolution and fueled both U.S. and British Navies.
The 1858 completion of the Northwestern and Virginia Railroad led to the rise of Cairo. Cairo was incorporated along the banks of the North Fork of the Hughes River. At that time the community was a booming oil town prospering with the discovery of oil-rich fields throughout the area.
West Virginia ranked high in the production of quality oil and gas, and Ritchie County was one of the leading oil producing regions in the state. The beginnings of the area’s oil industry date back to the “Wildcat Wells” of the 1860's when a well near Cairo, “Big Run”, showed great promise. After a devastating conflagration and decline at the nearby oil field, “Volcano Fields”, the industry concentrated on Cairo. Much speculation and development occurred in Cairo at the time, as reports of abundant oil fields circulated.
Elkins was developed by Senators and industrialists Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins, as a coal mining and timber harvesting community, in 1890. The town, named for Elkins and situated along the Tygart Valley River, was served by the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway. The railroad was brought to town by the two men. Elkins served as Secretary of War under President Benjamin Harrison from 1891-93. Davis and Elkins both built grand Victorian mansions that later became part of Davis and Elkins College.
This detailed map was published in 1898 by Rand, McNally & Co. It shows relief, drainage, cities, towns, counties, stations, post offices, and the railroad network of 1898.