Starting in Bramwell and extending over forty miles, the West Virginia coal fields became extensive in 1873, contributing to Bramwell's affluence. The Pocahontas coalfields alone employed 100,000 miners and brought a great deal of wealth to the town. At one point, the Norfolk & Western railroad stopped at Bramwell fourteen times a day. The Historic Bank of Bramwell served as the financial center of southern West Virginia and was reputed to be the wealthiest bank per capita in the United States. Its janitor, Henry Wade, regularly transported bags of money via wheelbarrow down the town's brick-paved streets to the nearby train depot. Unfortunately, the Great Depression of 1929 led to the collapse of the Bramwell Bank.
In 1886, the Pocahontas Coal Company was established as the marketing arm for the coal fields serviced by the railroad, with offices situated in Bramwell. The town's population grew rapidly, reaching 4,000 by 1896, while the N&W had completed lines into McDowell County by 1897, expanding mining activities. The Flat Top field boasted thirty-eight mines by 1895, and Bramwell became the hub of commerce and finance for the coal mines. The Bank of Bramwell, founded in 1889 by James Mann and with his cousin I.T. Mann as its cashier, was instrumental in the town's growth. Mann himself controlled all of the lands of the Flat Top Coal Land Association, which he eventually sold to the N&W Railroad at a considerable profit. At the height of its prosperity, Bramwell counted seventeen millionaires among its residents.
At one point, Bramwell was the only town in the United States of comparable size to have three post offices (Bramwell, Freeman, and Cooper) within its limits. The Office of the Postmasters' General in Washington D.C. indicates that Joseph H. Bramwell was the first postmaster when the Bramwell Post Office opened on August 14, 1883. Joseph H. Bramwell, the town's namesake, was an engineer from Staunton, Virginia who surveyed the Pocahontas Coalfields with Captain I.A. Welch in 1873 before working as the general manager of the Crozier Coal and Coke Company. When the Bank of Bramwell was established in 1889, Joseph H. Bramwell was appointed as its first president on May 1, 1889. Official Post Office records indicate that he served as the first postmaster in Bramwell from August 14, 1883 until May 1886.
Bramwell, lovingly referred to as the "Town of Millionaires" gained notoriety for having the highest number of millionaires per capita in the United States during the late 1800s, with as many as thirteen residing in the town during the early 20th century. This wealth is evident in the magnificent homes that still stand today.
BRAMWELL, a History 1882-1935
1882 - 1899
1902 - 1910
1914 - 1935
In 1882, semi-bituminous coal mining began in Pocahontas, Virginia, which is located near Bramwell, West Virginia. This led to the arrival of thousands of workers from the United States and other countries to work in the mines surrounding Bramwell. Joseph H. Bramwell, a civil engineer from New York, named the community he arrived at in 1883 "Bramwell". He became the first postmaster of Bramwell and famously declared, "Every little baby has a name, and this little town must have the same. I therefore name it Bramwell." In addition to his postmaster duties, Bramwell also served as the President of the historic Bank of Bramwell. The Town of Bramwell completed its first rail system in 1884, a significant achievement that enabled coal from local mines to be transported across the country and to seaports such as Norfolk, VA. In the 1920s, ships like the I.T. Mann were loaded with coal from these ports. In 1884, John Cooper operated the first coal mine on the West Virginia side of the Flat-Top Coalfields near Bramwell. His mine in the Cooper section of Bramwell shipped coal from West Virginia's Pocahontas Coalfield over the N&W Rail Road on November 4, 1884.
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