Shinnston is located on the West Fork River at the juncture of U.S. 19 and State Route 131, in northern Harrison County. Shinns Run and Mudlick Run enter the West Fork at Shinnston.
Shinnston was settled during the Revolutionary War period by members of the Quaker Shinn family. Levi Shinn’s 1778 log house is now the oldest house in Harrison County. By 1785, Shinn (1748–1807) had established a local gristmill. Asa Shinn laid out town lots in 1815. Shinnston was chartered as a town in 1852 by the Virginia General Assembly.
Shinnston grew slowly over most of the 19th century, then boomed late in the century with the exploitation of local coal, oil, and gas. The area was heavily Northern in its sentiments during the Civil War, and many local men served in the Union Army. Shinnston was raided by Confederates during the Jones-Imboden raids of 1863.
Author and state founder Granville Davisson Hall fictionalized a Shinnston tavern in his 1899 novel, Daughter of the Elm, and native Meredith Sue Willis (1946– ) has drawn upon Shinnston memories for her novels. The Levi Shinn House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Shinnston Historic District.
Shinnston became famous for the Shinnston Tornado of June 23, 1944, a freak storm which left 66 people dead in the town and surrounding area. The town has suffered as well from floods on the West Fork. Shinnston’s population was 2,201 in 2010.
Last Revised on February 25, 2013