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Franklin is the county seat and only incorporated municipality of Pendleton County. It is situated along the banks of the South Branch of the Potomac River at the junction of U.S. 33 and U.S. 220, elevation 1,739 feet. The town originated in 1788, when the first county court of Pendleton County selected land owned by Francis Evick as the location for the county courthouse. Shortly afterward, Evick divided 46.5 surrounding acres into lots for a town and settlement began. The town initially became known as Frankford, an apparent abbreviation for ‘‘Frank’s ford,’’ as the river crossing was called.

The town was officially established by a legislative act of the Virginia General Assembly on December 19, 1794, and renamed Franklin for Benjamin Franklin. The town’s population grew slowly, from the few early settlers in the late 18th century to approximately 200 residents in 1910, 500 in 1929, and 777 in 1950. Franklin reached its peak population of 914 in 1990 before declining rapidly, to 721 in 2010 and 486 in 2020, a decrease of 46.8 percent in three decades.

A prominent event in the town’s history was a fire that destroyed the entire business section, the courthouse, and 19 private residences on April 17, 1924.

Tourism is a major industry due to nearby recreational areas such as Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, Dolly Sods, Smoke Hole, and Seneca Caverns. The Franklin Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Read the National Register nomination.

This Article was written by Mary Dunkle Voorhees

Last Revised on February 14, 2023

Related Articles


Morton, Oren F. A History of Pendleton County. Dayton, VA: Ruebush-Elkins, 1910, Reprint, Regional Pub. Co., 1974.

Boggs, Elsie B. A History of Franklin: The County Seat of Pendleton County. Staunton, VA: McClure Printing, 1960.

Pendleton County Commission. Pendleton County, West Virginia, Past and Present. Waynesville, NC: Don Mills Inc., 1991.

Cite This Article

Voorhees, Mary Dunkle "Franklin." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 February 2023. Web. 18 June 2024.


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