Oak Hill is located on the plateau south of New River in Fayette County, elevation 1,961 feet. Settlement in the area began as early as 1820, and population grew rapidly after the building of the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha Turnpike by 1848. The turnpike served as the main street of Oak Hill, which is now located on modern U.S. 19 (Appalachian Corridor L).
Surrounded by the best farmland in the county, Oak Hill developed as a trading center for local farmers before the coming of the railroad. Then the construction of the White Oak branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, the completion of the Virginian Railway, and the mining boom in nearby Minden, Scarbro, and Whipple transformed Oak Hill into an important banking and regional trading center. Incorporated in 1903, the town’s population accelerated in the early 20th century, fluctuated with the coal industry’s boom and bust cycles, and stabilized in the 1990s near 7,000 citizens with the building of new highways and the growth of tourism.
Oak Hill emerged as the leading urban center in Fayette County under the guidance of distinguished leaders such as businessman, banker, and coal operator Charles T. Jones, who with Albert G. Sevy advanced public education by establishing the town’s first high school in 1902. In that year, James M. Ellis of Oak Hill became the second African-American elected to the West Virginia legislature. Now Oak Hill is the biggest town in Fayette County with a 2010 population of 7,730, and a communications center, with a newspaper and radio and television stations.
Written by Lou Athey
Posey, Thomas E. The Negro Citizen of West Virginia. Institute: Press of West Virginia State College, 1934.
Peters, J. T. & H. B. Carden. History of Fayette County. Charleston: Jarrett Printing, 1926.
Donnelly, Shirley. History of Oak Hill, West Virginia. Charleston: Jarrett Printing, 1953.