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The town at the mouth of Coal River was not named St. Albans until 1871, and by then it had already had three other names. As early as 1800, the settlement was called Coalsmouth. In 1829, Phillip R. Thompson, who owned a large tract of land within the present city limits, had it laid out as a town and named it ‘‘Phillipi.’’ However, a post office was never established in that name. In 1868, John Cunningham acquired the old Thompson property and redeveloped it as a town which he had incorporated and named Kanawha City. According to differing accounts, St. Albans received its permanent name either for St. Albans, Vermont, or St. Albans, England.

The area was occupied by Archaic Indians as early as 8000 to 6000 B.C., documented through an important archeological excavation in the 1960s. The first settlers of European descent were brothers Lewis and Christopher Tackett, who settled at the mouth of Coal River and built a fort about 1786. Keziah Young, a daughter of Lewis Tackett, many years later recalled a fatal Indian attack on Fort Tackett. Early industries included two gristmills, a tanyard, various lumber mills, a boat yard, a brick yard, and a carriage maker. St. Albans entrepreneurs established a lock and dam system on Coal River and promoted a branch railroad system there. The same group maintained a steamboat landing and wharf facilities on the Kanawha River and in 1911 obtained a streetcar line extension from Charleston. Manufacturing plants attracted to St. Albans included several sawmills, two glass plants, a foundry, a rubber plant, a chemical plant, and a TNT plant.

The town’s largest growth occurred in the first part of the 1900s, when the Kanawha Valley chemical industry was booming. During the 1940s, St. Albans’ population nearly tripled, reaching a peak of 15,103 in 1950. That number dropped off as employment in nearby chemical plants declined in the 1970s and 1980s but has remained relatively steady since that time. In 2020, the population was 10,861, making St. Albans the 12th largest city in West Virginia.

St. Albans has always provided educational and cultural opportunities. There were early boarding schools for both girls and boys, and the former Shelton College offered courses in liberal and cultural arts. Today St. Albans has become a residential community for industrial plants at nearby Nitro, Institute, and South Charleston, with other citizens commuting to Charleston, about 20 miles to the east. The St. Albans Main Street Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Read the National Register nomination.

This Article was written by Bill Wintz

Last Revised on August 03, 2023


Wintz, William D. Annals of the Great Kanawha. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1993.

A Century with St. Albans: West Virginia Centennial, 1863-1963. St. Albans: Harless Printing, 1963.

St. Albans Historical Society. St. Albans History. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Pub., 1993.

Rust, Mary Jane. Recollections & Reflections of Mollie Hansford. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1996.

Cite This Article

Wintz, Bill "St. Albans." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 August 2023. Web. 21 April 2024.


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