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Rainelle, once one of West Virginia’s busiest sawmill towns, lies at the intersection of U.S. 60 and State Route 20 in Greenbrier County, near the Fayette County border. Rainelle was a company town, built by the Meadow River Lumber Company about 1910. It was named for Thomas and John Raine, the company founders.

Rainelle was a model lumber town. Its sturdy frame houses, built of the company’s hardwoods, were white-painted and plastered. The houses were provided with running water, bathrooms, and electricity long before such amenities were common in the area. The United Methodist church and company offices were finished in various fine woods, showcasing the company’s products. The Pioneer Hotel welcomed visitors to the downtown, while the larger King Coal Hotel opened in nearby East Rainelle.

For many years, the Meadow River Lumber Company operated at Rainelle what was said to be the largest hardwood lumber plant in the world. The company produced flooring and lumber for many other uses at Rainelle, including millions of women’s shoe heels annually in the 1930s.

Rainelle’s fortunes paralleled those of its major employer, and the town slowly lost population in the last decades of the 20th century. The Georgia-Pacific Company bought Meadow River Lumber Company in 1970 and closed the mill in 1975. The town’s population peaked at 2,408 in 1950. Since 1980, it has declined steadily in size, particularly after the devastating 2016 flood. In 2020, Rainelle’s population was 1,190, a 20.9 percent decrease from 10 years earlier.

Rainelle occupies historic country, at the base of Sewell Mountain and near the juncture of Sewell Creek and Meadow River. Early explorer Stephen Sewell was killed by Indians at his nearby cabin in 1776. U.S. 60 follows the route of the James River & Kanawha Turnpike, also known as the Midland Trail. The highway remained a major thoroughfare from the 1790s until Interstate 64 was completed in the 1980s.

Last Revised on February 23, 2023

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Rainelle." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 23 February 2023. Web. 24 June 2024.


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