Skip Navigation

Sign In or Register

West-virginia-encyclopedia-text

SharePrint Gauley Bridge

Gauley Bridge, population 614, is located in Fayette County at the picturesque confluence of the Gauley and New rivers, where the two streams join to form the Kanawha River. The name Gauley Bridge dates from the early 1820s when a wooden covered bridge was built to carry the James River & Kanawha Turnpike across the Gauley River. Because it commanded entry into the Kanawha Valley, the village that sprang up was of strategic significance during the Civil War. Possession of Gauley Bridge was hotly contested, and the town was the scene of heavy fighting early in the war. During 1861 and 1862, Gauley Bridge, originally Southern in sympathy, was taken and retaken three times, and the wooden bridge was burned, rebuilt, and burned again. The piers and abutments of the old bridge still stand near the modern highway bridge.

The town achieved notoriety during the 1930s with the nearby construction of the Hawks Nest dam and tunnel. It was during the Great Depression and hundreds of unemployed workers, many of them Southern blacks, swarmed into Gauley Bridge to take construction jobs. The tunnel was driven three miles through Gauley Mountain, and tunnel workers almost immediately began to sicken and die. The cause was silicosis, a disease well known in Europe but not in the United States at that time. The death toll has been estimated at more than 750, making the Hawks Nest disaster among the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history.

Despite its long history, Gauley Bridge became an incorporated municipality only in 1978.

This Article was written by Lyle Blackwell

Related Articles


Cite This Article

Blackwell, Lyle "Gauley Bridge." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 09 February 2012. Web. 26 July 2017.

Comments?

There aren't any comments for this article yet.

West Virginia Humanities Council | 1310 Kanawha Blvd E | Charleston, WV 25301 Ph. 304-346-8500 | © 2017 All Rights Reserved

About e-WV | Our Sponsors | Help & Support | Contact Us The essential guide to the Mountain State can be yours today! Click here to order.