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Bramwell near Bluefield in Mercer County, was incorporated in 1888. The town was named for its first postmaster, J. Herbert Bramwell, superintendent of the Flat Top Coal Company (later the Pocahontas Land Corporation), the land-leasing firm that established the town as its headquarters on a bend of the Bluestone River in 1885. Bramwell quickly became a business center for the Pocahontas Coalfield and a hub of southern West Virginia’s financial network with the opening of the Bank of Bramwell in 1889. By 1909, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph had dubbed Bramwell the ‘‘Coalfield Capital.’’

In the town’s bustling heyday, passenger trains stopped 14 times a day. Bramwell was home to numerous wealthy coal operators who built substantial late Victorian mansions there, including Edward Cooper, W. H. Thomas, Philip Goodwill, and Isaac T. Mann, the founder of the Bank of Bramwell and the Pocahontas Fuel Company. Once considered the ‘‘richest small town in America,’’ Bramwell enjoyed an exclusive, prosperous status until the Bank of Bramwell closed in 1933 during the Great Depression.

A heightened awareness of Bramwell’s historical and architectural significance began when the town was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The Bramwell Millionaire Garden Club inaugurated a popular series of annual tours of coal operators’ homes, several of which had been restored by private homeowners. Several bed-and-breakfast establishments operate in Bramwell, and the Bramwell Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, works to secure and support the preservation of the historic district’s architectural integrity. Bramwell’s population in 2010 was 364.

Read the National Register of Historic Places nomination.

Written by Beth Hager


  1. Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 11/1/1896.

  2. Hager, Beth A. Millionaires' Town: The Houses and People of Bramwell. Goldenseal, (Winter 1982).

  3. Sullivan, Kenneth. Coal Men of the Smokeless Coalfields. West Virginia History, (Winter 1980).