Copyright 2013. Summersville Convention & Visitors Bureau. All Rights Reserved.
A HISTORY OF SUMMERSVILLE
Written by former Mayor Stanley Adkins
An Act of Legislation, dated June 20, 1820, gave life to
Summersville, Virginia and also provided that the County seat of
Nicholas County, formed in 1818, be moved from Hutchinson’s on
Muddelty to a square tree on Peters Creek Road, above Galoway
improvement. That tree, which had earlier been hewed with an ax,
turned out to be located in the center of the Quilt Shoppe in present
The name of Summersville was controversial as well. A Virginia legislator by the name of Burton claimed the County seat should be named for him because of his work establishing the town but found the honor had already been promised to Judge Lewis Summers who had lobbied hard for the formation of Nicholas County in 1818, and had also introduced the bill into the Virginia Assembly to form the new county. Even the boundaries of the town were controversial. According to historian W. G. Brown, “The boundaries of the new county seat, and fixed by the new county court, included an irregular area as it was laid off to exclude certain citizens who were opposed to the incorporation and only including the main business places and the citizens sponsoring the measure.”
John Hamilton was both a soldier and a well connected speculator and he was instrumental in the formation of Nicholas County. Unfortunately he passed away in September 1818, a short month after the county’s formation. Many still consider John Hamilton to be the father of Summersville.
From its early formation, Summersville was a sleepy farming community, and by 1860 was home to less than 100 residents. For Summersville, the Civil War changed everything. During the winter of 1864-65, both Union and Confederate armies were encamped in Summersville or nearby. It was during that winter that the town and all its buildings were burned to the ground. Although the war ended soon after, the destruction of the town was discouraging, and citizens were very slow to return and rebuild.
By 1884, Summersville was again home to over 100 citizens, and slowly became the commerce center of the county. Agriculture continued to be the major commerce of the area until the late 1930s when large coal operations began to spring up in various locations near Summersville. Since that time the coal industry has been the major employer in the area.
HISTORY OF SUMMERSVILLE DAM
Summersville Dam, located just off Rt. 19, in Nicholas County, West Virginia, is the second largest rock fill dam in the Eastern United States. Since the dam’s dedication by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, millions of local residents and visitors have enjoyed the largest lake in West Virginia as well as the surrounding wildlife management lands. Visitors continue to be awed by the clarity of the lake and the surrounding majestic sandstone cliffs. Over 2,700 surface acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline provide a large assortment of outdoor activities.
Construction of the dam began in February 1960, and work was completed in May of 1966. Western Construction of Sioux City, Iowa built the rock fill dam with clay center for the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $48,075,800. The Army Corps’ desire was to build a dam that would: reduce flood damage, augment low water flow, provide recreation, and enable fish and wildlife management.
Traditionally, the dam is usually named after the closest town. In this case, however, the town of Gad was closest and purposefully flooded for construction. Local residents were averse to naming the dam “Gad Dam,” and instead opted to name the dam after the town of Summersville.
On September 3, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson presided over the dedication of the dam.
The Corps of Engineers estimated the prevention of flood damage has saved over $407,400,000. Reservoir releases are maintained by a minimum release of 100 cubic feet per second and a maximum of 18,000 cubic feet per second along with a flood pool. The dam has a base thickness of 1,400 feet and a top elevation of 1,738 feet.