Stapleton, Virginia: C&O railway mile post 130.8–elevation 458.4
C&O Railway Mile Post 130.8 Elevation 458.4
A community’s railroad station was often the center of activity. This was no different at Stapleton however this area’s roots go back even further to the James River.
The James River has played an important role in the history of Virginia. George Washington’s idea of transporting goods between the east and west (the Tidewater of the James River and the navigable waters of the Ohio/Mississippi River system, via the Kanawha river) has become a reality; however, the vision has taken many different forms to get where it is today. Starting off with dugout canoes and progressing to bateaux in the river, developments later saw freight and packet boats in a canal and eventually wheels rolling on steel rails. Improvements and developments such as these have brought about improved transportation, which in turn has given birth to many a river community as well as significantly contributing to the prosperity and standard of living of the James River basin.
Stapleton is one such Virginia community that sprang up along the riverbanks. The James River & Kanawha Company UR&K Co.) built a canal to create “a great highway” that would provide for the transportation of goods by boat. This involved digging a trough for the water beside the James River and building stone aqueducts and culverts to carry the canal over the creeks that flow into the James, as well as many other specialized stone structures.
The JR&K Co. built Porridge Creek Aqueduct (now called Partridge Creek) for its canal. It is a stone aqueduct with a 34-foot arch that crosses the creek, with curved wing walls on each end of the structure. The wing walls are significant in that the canal company typically built aqueducts with square wing walls. (8 pg13)
On November 9, 1838, “Mr. Wright, consulting engineer, submitted a plan and estimate of the aqueduct recommended for Stovall (up the river at Galtsmill) and Porridge Creek, which were laid upon the
table.” (1 bk21 pg295) Three days later there was quite a squabble over the design of these two aqueducts. Mr. Early (perhaps another consulting engineer) suggested that each aqueduct have two arches, while several other officers of the canal company voted against the design. (1 bk21 pg295, 298) The issue was resolved by building a single arch over the creek over Porridge Creek and a double arch over Stovall Creek.
On July 12, 1841, David Staples was paid $1,125.00 in Post notes for completing the Porridge Creek Aqueduct. It was also resolved by the JR&K Board that, “David Staples be allowed to take from the canal, …. the necessary water for driving the machinery of his mill at the Porridge Creek Aqueduct…” (1 bk22 pg403) The aqueduct’s 493 cubic yards of stone were taken from Turner Pinns land. (Another 70 yards were taken from his land for Lock No. 8, First Division, and he was paid $50.00 in total.) (1 bk22 pg446) The concrete repairs on the aqueduct are dated 1933.
Upstream of the bridge is a stone wall from the Canal Inn or boarding house. At the lower end are the ruins of David Staples’ flour mill, which used canal water. (2 pg13) Later, records indicate that James E. Homer operated Stapleton Mills and paid $500.00 annually in rent for water provided by the canal company to operate his merchant mill and corn mill. (1 bk25 pg45) In October 1868, the JR&K resolved that the toll from flour shipped from Staples Mills was the same as that charged from Lynchburg to Richmond. (1 bk26 pg 15)
The canal company eventually offered 220 miles of canal and slack water navigation for bateaux and freight and packet boats. Before the Civil War, railroads had begun building all around the country, as a new mode of transportation that many said was more efficient, weather proof, and could be built quicker and cheaper.
With the canal’s business slowing down, damage from the Civil War, damaging floods, and debt obligations soaring upward, Col. Henry C. Parsons made plans to purchase the canal company. First he made several associations in 1877 and secured the rights and parties of a Charter to build a railroad in place of the canal. A year later, the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad Co. was incorporated and purchased the canal company’s lands and rights-of-way to use as a railroad. The water course of the canal that had furnished a means of transportation for some 40 years was now being replaced by a new form of mobility that would bring new prosperity to communities along the river.
The Richmond & Alleghany’s railroad tracks were laid on much of the canal’s towpath; however, some areas of the canal were filled and the tracks were laid on top. Such was the case with Porridge Creek Aqueduct. The Richmond & Alleghany’s Annual Report #7 states that, “At Stapleton the track was put on the masonry of the canal aqueduct … to dispense with the exposed trestles over the stream.” (pg46)
The first rails laid by a railroad reached this area sometime between February and June of 1881. (3 pg12) The station stop was first listed in the June and July 1881 Richmond & Alleghany Railroad timetables as Staple’s Mills. In the August 1881 R&A timetable #11, howevr, the name of the stop changed to Stapleton. Annual Report #5 of the R&A mentions that a “1 Ox 140 foot platform was constructed” to accommodate passengers and freight. (pg53)
The C&O Railway built a station here in 1898 at a cost of $366.59. (4 pg33) The structure followed the railways S-3 standard station design.
A 1906 account in the C&O’s Industrial and Shippers Guide states the following. “Stapleton, 131 miles west of Richmond and 15 miles east of Lynchburg, is principally an agricultural region. Large quantities of beautiful snow-white sand and also deposits of copper are in this vicinity.” (5 pg164)
An early 1907 drawing indicated a station and water tower located on north side of the track at Stapleton. The tower was west of the station. (Dwg. 1787) Improvements were made in 1924 when a water column and water pipeline were built as part of Authorization For Expenditure (AFE) #4812. (Dwg X-4205)
In 1919 the population of Stapleton was 50 and the principal crops in this vicinity were tobacco and corn. (6 pg 113)
The railroad assigned an agent here in the station with the telegraph call code of “BU”. The earliest record in the archives of the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society in Clifton Forge, Virginia, is Station Agent Book #17, effective July 1, 1898. Mr. C.W Burks is listed as the agent. A.E Braden replaced him in August 1909. Mr. Braden moved to become the agent at this location from a position he held at Indian Rock, Va; however, his stay was short as he moved back to Indian Rock and C.W Marks resumed the agency. In July 1920, Mr. L.G. Bear, agent at nearby Walkerford, moved to Stapleton. Bear left in December 1923 and was replaced by M.S. Hunter. The agent again changed in January 1926 and March 1928 with agents AJ. Waugh and WE. Huffman serving the station. During late 1928 and early 1929, C&O petitioned the State Corporation Commission to discontinue the agency station and to close the telegraph office. “Permission was granted to change the station from an agency to a nonagency station, and to discontinue the telegraph office at said point on or after February 1, 1929; provided, that adequate room in the station building shall be provided for use of passengers and freight which shall be kept in good and sanitary condition. (S.C.C. Case 3668)” Mr. WE. Huffman was last listed as the agent in book #6, March 1, 1928. When the agent’s position was eliminated at Stapleton, he was transferred some 29 miles up the track to Pearch (Mile Post 159.4). (7)
In November 1936, the C&O took one more step to reduce its facilities at Stapleton. “The railway petitioned to dismantle and abandon its present station building granted, provided that it erect in place of the present -building a Shelter Shed which shall be enclosed on three sides and afford sufficient space for the convenience of passengers. (S.C.C. Case 6113)” The station was sold and moved across the road (Amherst County State Route 622) and used as a corncrib for many years.
A 1938 drawing (Dwg 13381) shows the shelter shed that replaced the station. After 21 years of service, the Shelter Shed was removed on May 5, 1959. (Dwg 30722)
The C&O made periodic track improvements in this area. In 1898, a new rail siding was installed at a cost of $2,193.85 (4 pg32). In 1926, an extension of the passing track was proposed to hold 100-car trains (Dwg 7441). In 1940, the passing track was retired. (AFE#14575 Proj.2). In June 1924, it was proposed to build a “Standard Section Foreman’s House,” replacing the old house. (Insert Dwg X 4359) This structure was used until July 1965 when the Section Foreman’s House was retired (AFE 25946). Also, the Section Tool Houses were retired in October of the same year. (AFE 26028) (8) (Insert Dwg. 31225-B) These structures were located east to the station and aqueduct, in the vicinity of canal lock #44 (First Division).
All that remains at the Stapleton of today’s CSX era are the “131” mile post marker, the foundation of David Staples’ mill, a pair of three-position signals (130.9 and 130.8), a phone box east of the signals, and a C&O Standard whistle post around MP 130.7. And, yes, trains still travel over Porridge Creek aqueduct.
The following drawings are available
1. Proceedings of the President and Directors of the James River & Kanawha Co. (located in the Virginia State Archives)
#1 Book No.20 Containing Records from May 29, 1835 to June 10, 1837, 335 pages.
#2 Book No.21 Containing Records from July 5, 1837 to May 13, 1839, 419 pages.
#3 Book No.22 Containing Records from May 15, 1839 to August 27, 1842, 528 pages.
#4 Book No.23 Containing Records from October 3, 1842 to June 23, 1848, 335 pages.
1 #5 / #6 Missing, no indexes either
1 #7 Book No.24 Lost Index only from January 6, 1854 to February 26, 1859. (Book No. 24 containing records from June 1848 to February 1859 missing either lost or burned at the evacuation of Richmond in April 1865 only partial index preserved to this book.)
#8 Book No.25 Containing Records from March 8, 1859 to Dec. 12, 1866, 609 pages.
‘ #9 Book No.26 Containing Records from Dec. 22, 1866 to January 12, 1881, 444 pages
2. Trout, W.E., III A Guide to the Works of the James River & Kanawha Company From the City of Richmond tcF the Ohio River. 2nd edition. Va. Canals & Navigations Society, Rt. 2 Box 254, Lexington, VA 24450. April 1988.
3. Armitage, Laura E. (C&0 Research Analyst & Historian) Typescript prepared about 1940 based on Decatur Axtell’s original manuscript written on the history of the C&O about 1920. (Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society Archives, Clifton Forge, VA)
4. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. 1889 Annual Report (Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society Archives, Clifton Forge, VA)
5. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. Official Industrial Guide and Shippers Directory. For the use of the company’s patrons and others seeking facts pertaining to its territorial resources mining, agricultural, manufacturing, commercial, financial and educational advantages. Issued by the General Freight Department. Copyright 1906 by WH.H. (Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society Archives, Clifton Forge, VA)
6. Official Industrial and Shippers Directory. US Railroad Administration. Chesapeake & Ohio RR, Chesapeake & Ohio RR of Indiana, Hocking Valley RR. Volume II Issued and circulated by the Freight Traffic Department. Published by The Railroad Advertising Agency 19191920. (C&OHS Archives collection)
7. C&O List of Officers, Agents, Stations, Etc. No. 17, 23 through 82 (issued 1898 through 1948). (C&OHS Archives collection)
8. Tench, R.C. Letter. to WM. Dowdy. 31 Mar. 1966, PAl 8 (3 pages) (C&OHS Archives collection) :
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