1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Only Yesterday, In Alderson
Picture Tour

Tom Dixon

Two centuries ago this year a Baptist Preacher named Elder John Alderson settled beside the Greenbrier River in Western Virginia, established his church, and began his good works among the sparse settlers in the wilderness just beyond the Alleghany range in what was the known as the "Transmontaine" region of Virginia. Through almost a century following the little settlement grew hardly at all, with a few more families being established nearby. The Old Greenbrier Baptist Church was chartered in 1781 and Elder Alderson established a Commercial venture in the form of a ferry across the river in order to supplement his income (1786). This ferry was the only remarkable thing about the settlement in its early days except for the church. Then, in 1872 the tracks of the westward building Chesapeake & Ohio Railway reached Alderson's Ferry and within the decade it was the largest settlement in Monroe County and had become a commercial and shipping center for a large rural area. The coming of the railroad made Alderson. From the mid-1870's through 1915 Alderson grew steadily in area, population, and commercial importance; it boasted two fine hotels, a large flour milling company, a wholesale grocery company, several planning mills, and a host of businesses. The town bustled; it was the age of the small town when rural America was at its Zenith.

Alderson remained strong in the commercial field until the good highways came and the common people gained easy access to the personalized transportation offered by the proliferation of the automobile. Soon these once simple farmers and workers were no longer so simple and their tastes and good autos lead them to larger centers ever further afield. Thereby the town lost much of its hold not only on the rural community around but even on its own citizens; it is a pattern that runs throughout American history in this century. But Alderson was a strong and vital town up to the early 1950's. Its decline was most marked in the early 1960's, but now a new life has found its way back to the town and it probably boasts a larger population than ever before though little of the commercial life has revived; transportation is still too cheap and convenient and the attractions of the larger town hold too strong an influence.

This booklet does not pretend to be a complete history of Alderson, but rather it is a glance backward not so many years when the world was much more innocent and Alderson was a town to be reckoned with in Southern West Virginia. It is a nostalgic look. We tend to think of these earlier time as better days, and perhaps they were, in the spirit and the attitude of the people if not in convenience and comfort. We look to the past with respect and we must look to the past as a great teacher so that we can shape a better future. This book is for the people who have known and loved Alderson since the days pictured; it is even more for the young who missed the experience lest they forget from whence they came; and it is for those who follow in the future that the Story of Alderson and her people who represent a typical American community may not become obscured in the mists of time.

Let us then look back to the way it was in Alderson, only yesterday.

Picture and commentary tour starts here.


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