Prior to Hinton’s establishment in 1873, the land was owned by Isaac Ballengee, the area’s first settler.(3) Ballengee most likely served in the War for Independence, taking an oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1777 and was later presented a land grant of 210 acres. Ballengee departed from Botetourt County with his wife to claim his land grant near the Bluestone River. Native Americans forced him away from his claim, which required them to relocate to the mouth of the Greenbrier River in 1785 – claiming land that later became Hinton and the Avis and Bellepoint settlements. When the Native Americans burned his second home, Ballengee built another log house that survived until the 1940s in the area of the Bluestone Dam.
Ballengee lived on his claim until he passed away in 1792, leaving his wife and their three sons to divide up the land. Isaac Jr. settled in the Hinton area and built a house, while Henry settled in Avis before selling his claim of the land to John “Jack” Hinton and moving west. George located at the mouth of the Greenbrier in what is now Bellepoint.
The first roads into the area followed Native American trails that junctioned at Hinton. The New and Greenbrier Rivers were used to ship freight, logs and lumber to other destinations. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), however, would spur development of what became Hinton.
The C&O, which was formed in 1867 from various earlier railroad enterprises, was conceived to link eastern Virginia to the Ohio River.(4) Work proceeded on the Kanawha and Western sections, having been completed to Charleston from the Ohio River by December 1871, and to Kanawha Falls by 1872. The Greenbrier Division had the task of constructing a 6,500 foot tunnel through Big Bend Mountain east of Hinton, which was not completed until May 1872. Although the line opened in March, it was not until that September that the line was turned over to the C&O for full operation.
On November 6, 1871, Isaac’s lands were sold at auction to the C&O for $3,600. A town was platted by civil engineer Bennett R. Dunn (1) into 178 building lots and in early 1873, the C&O conveyed all of the lots, sans five lots and the land needed for a terminal yard, to the Central Land Company for $12,000. The original land plan consisted of five named streets running northeast to southeast, paralleling the C&O, and nine numbered streets running perpendicular.(2)
The first major industry to take root was in regards to lumber, which included timbering operations and saw mills, followed closely by the development of coal mines and coking operations. Branches from the C&O led to various coal operations and timber cuts, which led to good fortunes for not only the railroad, but for the area. A major flood in 1878 set back the town temporarily, but the community rebounded, incorporating in 1880. Hinton, as the new town was called, was named after John “Jack” Hinton, a prominent lawyer of Summers County and husband of Avis Gwinn Hinton, who owned the land upon which Hinton was later founded.(1)
In 1892, the C&O completed shops at Hinton, which included a roundhouse with 17 engine stalls and a car repair shop that held 40 cars, employing 540. Freight and passenger depots were built in 1891, and a YMCA was added in 1891.(2)
Hinton’s population increased quickly, adding 300 in just one year to Hinton’s roster.(2) By 1908 the population had jumped to 6,000, and by 1925, that number had increased to over 8,800.(1)(2)
Employment for those industries remained relatively steady until the late 1950s when all timber stands had been exhausted and the coal mines were wiped.(1) Coupled with the changeover from steam locomotives to diesel mid-20th century, many workers were no longer needed at the terminal yards and railroad employment began to decline.(1)
The completion of the Bluestone Dam in 1949, a flood control and recreation project, along with the creation of Bluestone State Park, led to an increase in tourism in the region. Additional tourism developments included Pipestem State Park and New River Gorge National River.
In 1984, downtown was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. Hinton Historic District. Comp. Paul D. Washington. Washington: National Park Service, Sept. 1983. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. Article.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. Hinton Historic District (Boundary Revision). Comp. David L. Taylor. Washington: National Park Service, July 2004. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. Article.
- Marhall, Paul D. & Associates. “Hinton: Historic and Architectural Survey.” Charleston, W.Va.: 1983.
- “History of the C&O Railway.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. Article.