The town of Thomas is a tiny town perched along the hillside rising from the north fork of the Blackwater River. Here rich, diverse history intersects a lively present-day infused with arts of all sorts. Just 2.5 hours from D.C., this little hideaway is a popular weekend destination for folks who want to escape the bustle of city life. Loved for its art galleries, live music, and culinary scene—you won’t find a chain restaurant here—Thomas strikes the perfect balance between remote and charming.
History of Thomas
The historic roots of Thomas are evident in the facades of the early 20th century buildings flanking its main drag. The town was named for Thomas Beale Davis, the brother of Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, for whom the town of Davis is named. The brothers opened the Davis Coal and Coke mining operation in the last quarter of the 1800s. Davis would become the site of a flourishing timber business while Thomas was the coal town. Ove the next twenty-plus years, Davis Coal and Coke would become one of the largest, most well-known coal operations in the nation, employing 1,600 workers.
At the height of the boom, immigrants from 22 countries descended upon what was then a much larger town than it is now. Thomas was the melting pot on which the nation’s identity was forged. There were so many languages spoken among the employees, the brothers sought and hired Wladyslaw Dackiewicz, a Polish-born interpreter who spoke 8 languages.
While Thomas’ diversity is a fascinating and noble history, the town was also one of the stages on which the bloody mine strikes of the late 1800s and early 1900s played out. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) struggled to protect the rights of the immigrant workers who operated the mine. In the end, the Thomas strikes were unsuccessful, but labor rights eventually won out across West Virginia. Descendants of those uproarious days still live among the 557 residents of Thomas.
Twin Towns—Thomas and Davis
No summary of Thomas would be complete without a mention of its sister (or, in this case brother) town Davis, WV, located three miles to the south. Where Thomas is an artists’ haven full of cultural delights and oddities, Davis is a rough and tumble town beckoning outdoor adventurers. As they say, opposites attract…the tourists with good taste. Well, it goes something like that.
Not To Be Missed
No matter the time of year, Thomas offers enough diversion to keep you entertained while maintaining a vibe of restorative escape. Music pours out onto the streets from The Purple Fiddle, where locals and tourists descend to hear the best bluegrass and Americana bands playing anywhere. You can even stay in the hostel upstairs, but, if you do, you better prepare to play a late-night round of pool with the band. The next morning, fuel up in the adorable coffee shop or one of the breakfast spots before an afternoon spent wandering the galleries and antique shops. Don’t overpack for your trip because you’ll definitely be bringing something home. And, when evening comes, be sure you visit Mountain State Brewing Company’s taproom. There’s so much to explore within the few square miles of Thomas, you’ll need to remind yourself Blackwater Falls State Park is a 10-minute drive away.