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Fayetteville sits on the plateau south of New River. Originally called Vandalia because of its location on Abraham Vandal’s farm, it became the seat of Fayette County in 1837. The name was later changed to Fayetteville.

Located on the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha Turnpike, the town remained small until after the Civil War. Fortified and attacked by both sides during the war, the town was devastated and its courthouse destroyed. The completion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway through the New River Gorge in 1873 accelerated population growth in the county, but the town was handicapped since it was located a few miles away from the nearest point on the railroad and much of that distance was precipitous mountainside. Two attempts in the early 20th century to fund construction of an electric trolley from Fayetteville to the railroad failed, but building a road connecting the town to the railroad solved the problem. Widespread automobile use and new highway construction assured that Fayetteville, incorporated under that name in 1883, would remain the county seat.

Fayetteville prospered as the county became a leading coal producer after 1880, and it declined after 1950. The New River Gorge Bridge, completed in 1977, and an emerging tourism economy spurred economic activity among motels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, and other businesses related to whitewater rafting and other outdoor activities. Development of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has been a particular boon to the tourism economy. In 2020, the population of Fayetteville was 2,873, a 67.8 percent increase since 1970.

A distinct historic courthouse, built in 1895 in the town center, is the centerpiece of Fayetteville. Prominent citizens have included financier-philanthropist Morris Harvey, and two governors of West Virginia, Okey L. Patteson and Homer A. Holt. The town’s longtime police chief Tunney Hunsaker was once a professional boxer who lost to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) in Ali’s first professional bout, in 1960.

The proud heritage of its citizens is celebrated in the New River Gorge Heritage Festival held each year in Fayetteville on July 4. The Fayetteville Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Read the National Register nomination.

Written by Lou Athey


  1. Peters, J. T. & H. B. Carden. History of Fayette County. Charleston: Jarrett Printing, 1926.

  2. Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. History of Fayette County, West Virginia: 1993. Oak Hill: 1993.