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Burnsville is located at the confluence of the Little Kanawha River with Salt Lick Creek and Oil Creek, in Braxton County. Originally called Lumberport, the town was founded in 1830 because of the readily available river transport and abundant timber resources in the surrounding area. Capt. John M. Burns established a sawmill there shortly after the end of the Civil War, in 1866. Later industries included the manufacture of wagons by a group including Fidler, Bodkins, and others, and a veneer mill.

The town prospered until the relocation of the lumber mill to Wirt County in 1899. The West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad came through in 1892. It was intersected by the Coal & Coke Railway in 1906, making Burnsville a railroad junction town. Paddlewheel riverboats traveled the Little Kanawha River to Burnsville until 1931. At the turn of the century, oil and natural gas production became the dominant economic activity, and two gas compressing stations were built. Burnsville, although long established as a community, was not incorporated until 1902.

From 1891 to 1905, the Burnsville Academy operated in the town, a private ‘‘normal’’ or teacher-training school offering a classical education. Burnsville had a combined grade school and high school from 1920 until the last class graduated from Burnsville High School in 1969. In 1960, Danny Heater set a single-game basketball record by scoring 135 points for Burnsville in a game against Widen. Today loyal high school alumni meet in this old facility, now housing only a grade school, for an annual reunion.

Burnsville is located at the junction of Interstate 79 and State Route 5, just west of Burnsville Lake. The town flooded many times before the completion of the dam in 1978.

The town’s population peaked at 1,088 in 1920. Burnsville’s population in 2020 was 401.

This Article was written by Harry V. Wiant Jr.

Last Revised on February 13, 2023

Cite This Article

Wiant Jr., Harry V. "Burnsville." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 February 2023. Web. 25 July 2024.


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