Businessman W. D. Thurmond died in Fayette County on May 14, 1910, at age 89. He was born in Virginia and came to Fayette County as a young man with his family in 1845.
During the Civil War, he served as a captain with Thurmond’s Rangers—a Confederate guerrilla force commanded by his brother Philip, who was killed in Putnam County in 1864. According to his family, W. D. Thurmond remained an “unreconstructed Rebel” the rest of his long life.
In 1873, he was commissioned to survey land on the north side of the New River Gorge. In exchange, he accepted 73 acres as pay and built the town of Thurmond. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway was completed that year, and his town prospered while developing a reputation for rowdiness. Ironically, W. D. Thurmond himself was a strict Baptist who banned drinking and carousing in his town. However, to his dismay, the area just outside the town limits became known far and wide for decadent behavior—and everyone referred to the whole area as Thurmond—“Hell, with a river through it.”