The Town of Durban Spiked in Size in 1916
Jason Bauserman has studied the Town of Durban’s books located in the Durbin Town Office. He has been able to identify a peculiar growth spike of the town which happened in 1916. He used the number of hotels and restaurants operating there that year as the measure of the size of the town’s growth. But we will let Jason explain this spike, why it happened and why it began dropping down in 1917 and the following years.
“I seem to have found, going through the old books up here, the peak of when Durbin was really bustling,” said Bauserman. “Every June to July, everybody had to renew their business license for the Town of Durbin, and there were quite a few up here. I decided to go back from 1910 to 1920 to point out when the businesses became really booming. The trains came here in 1902, and that’s what really built the Town of Durbin.”
“In 1910 there were around four hotels and six restaurants. But then, there was a gigantic spike in the 1916 time period. And at that time there was an unbelievable thirteen hotels and twelve restaurants. Cass wasn’t like that, Marlinton wasn’t like that, that’s just incredible! I feel that spike happened because we are at the end of the line for the C&O (railroad), coming up from the Lewisburg-Hinton area, and we’re at the end of the line for the Western Maryland (railroad) coming down from Cumberland (MD) and ending up here at Durbin. So, if you think about it, the passengers got here in the evening; they had to find a place to stay; (and) get a meal. The next morning be on their way on the other train, whether they were going North or South, kind of a forced tourism thing, they had no other options.”
“Durbin has just been a (certain) size. It might have gotten up to 530 in population at one time, but Cass was the biggest city in Pocahontas County (at that time,) when it got over 2000 people. Of course, that was the saw mill that really brought them in at Cass.”
“When we got to 1916 and had all those hotels and restaurants, most of the easy timber had been cut out. Up the East Fork, they had a lot of nice buildings in a lot of these little towns, but when all that timber was cut out, all those little towns disappeared.”
“Also, looking at 1916, the First World War was starting to heat up in Europe. And then some of our men started going over there to fight with the Allies, probably in 1917, or that time period. And, I think that’s what caused (the spike to end) in one year from 1916 to 1917. In 1917 there were ten hotels and eight restaurants, but in 1918, when the was really going on, we were down to seven hotels and six restaurants. So, it was really a spike just for that one particular year (1916,) and then it was over. Even though the people were still here, there was a movement out of town. Now, I must admit, we had the leather tannery going up here at Frank, and that was certainly a big boom to keep businesses going. And, that actually ended up as the largest leather tannery in the United States. So, we did kind of stay our own, but I don’t think we had the timber going out like we used to. Well, we have been dropping in population like the whole State of West Virginia has, but we still have a town here that still elects a mayor. I think there is maybe around 225 to 250 people actually living in the town limits here at Durbin right now.”