Historical Sketch of Paw Paw

Written by Lewis Largent and featured in the book, “Once Upon a Time in Paw Paw”. I am adding these articles as they were written. They will probably contain typos or errors but that is part of the specialness of these!


The little town of Paw Paw, located along the historic Potomac river and among the quiet foothills of the eastern Alleghenies, was founded about 1800. It was by this way that many pioneers from the eastern shore made their journeys in search of new homes west of the mountains.

A ridge, located about one-fourth mile east of the present ite of Paw Paw, was Paw Paw Ridge because of the abundance of paw paws (a delicious wild fruit) growing on it; hence the name of
the town.

Our town is almost surrounded by hills and under all probabilities its site and the neighboring territory was at one time the bottom of a lake. The many round pebbles and smooth boulders that are found throughout this valley are good evidences that this land was once covered with water. The gap in the mountain east of here must have been worn by the Potomac which still winds its circuitous way through this deep notch.

Paw Paw has had an historical importance since the early history of our country. In 1838 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad while being constructed from Harpers Ferry to Cumberland reached Paw Paw and this town immediately became a centre of local industry. Prior to the above date there were several prosperous farmers in our neighboring locality who were men of more than ordinary distinction. Among them were thomas Gale, S. 6. Baker and Angus McDonald. Descendents from these families still reside here.

When the railroad was finished to this point a depot and two general merchandise stores were soon built. The town became a place where supplies were secured by the inhabitants of a large scope of territory on both sides of the Potomac river. About 1854 the Winchester and Paw Faw road was finished with opened up much isolated territory and over which there was constant travel by pack-horses and pedestrians. This road led through Bloomery Gap via the junction of Capon and North River and Bloomery furnace which is fourteen miles south of Paw Paw. While the construction work was being done the business activities of the vicinity would be a great surprise to the present population if the people now could have a panoramic view showing the stir of business in the early days along this route.
On the north side of the Potomac opposite the town is the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, which ws built for the purpose of joining the east to the west. General Washington thought of it as a means of joining the Potomac to the Ohio thus breaking down The canal was never built behond Cumberand on account of the the mountain barrier which lay between these important rivers.
advance of the railroads.

Paw Paw was a place of strategic importance during the Civil War. Union soldiers commanded by General Landers camped, and made preparations here to make an attack on Winchester, Virginia, a town about thirty-eight miles sould of this place. While the preparations were being made, General Landers very suddenly died and the army was diverted to Martinsburg which is about fifty- five miles east of Paw Paw. Landers soldiers carried out the plans of their late commander and attacked Winchester.
chief west

About 1862, Confererate sodiers, commanded by General McCauslan captured here here a company of Union Soldiers who belonged to the 54 Pennsylvania regiment, and took them south via Bloomery Gap. From this time till the end of the war, Federal soldiers were camped here as guards of the rialroad which was the way by which soldiers and supplies were brought from the to the Union armies along the Potomac. At different times, as conditions required, there were from one company to a full regiment of guards located here. At one time, Colonel Stow, a very brave officer, who had command of a regiment of one hundred- day-men from Ohio, held up for some time at Green Spring the Army of McCauslan and Johnson as they retreated after burning Chambersburg. Stow had only one hundred soldiers, but he compelled the Confederates to make concessions because they feared that a strong force from Cumberland would block their retreat. But they made a complete escape. General Fitzpatrick and his cavalrymen by a forced march attacked and defeated the retreating Confederates near Moorefield, and recaptured nearly all their booty and a large part of the Army itself.

Besides being of much historical importance, Paw Paw is of industrial interest. In 1868, J.B. Hoyt & Co., of New York, erected a leather factory here. Later this factory was opened and operated by Fayerweather and Ladew. It was not long till Fayerweather and Ladew were succeeded by the United States Leather Company. At present the factory is operated by the Union Tannyin Company, which sends from here vast quantities of leather to foreign countries.

Under Chapter 47, West Virginia Statute, Paw Paw was incorporated in 1891. We have now a population in our town of about one thousant. One can estimate to some extent the business that is transacted here by considering the following statistics of our town. We have four general stores, one furniture store, four churches, a first-class high school and a post office of third class. All of the sidewalks are concrete. When prohibition was voted on in West Virginia, this town voted ninety-eight majority to banish the saloons from within the boundaries of our state.

In 1914 the little town of Paw Paw received a great “boost” from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The railroad company built a short line through this vicinity at a cost of about seven milion dollars. Since this line was completed, Paw Paw is the only town in the country that is completely surrounded by a railraod. Paw Paw is stil growing and promises to be one of the most flurishing town is the state.

Lewis Largent

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