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The Roads and Rails of Mercer County, WV /

WV 71

[WV 71] [WV 71] [WV 71]
[WV 71]
Highway Start Terminus Length (km)
WV 71 (current alignment) WV 10, Matoaka US 52, Bluewell 18
WV 71 (original alignment) WV 10, Matoaka US 19 (now US 19/460) south of Princeton, near Green Valley (two branches of roughly equal distance) 25


WV 71 is perplexing as a state highway. It passes through no tangible cities or incorporated towns on its route, and it starts and ends without even leaving Mercer County. It scarcely seems deserving of a two-digit number.

The rationale for this road makes a little more sense when you dig into its history. WV 71 did not exist in the State Road Commission's original plan of numbered roads from 1922...but WV 67 did.

[WV 71 map]

(WV State Road Commission, 1922)

West Virginia Route 67 ran from Logan County south to a terminus in Glenwood, southwest of Princeton. By 1931, this road had been renumbered as WV 10 (and thus is discussed in more detail on the WV 10 page). Barely two years after that, WV 10 was rerouted onto a more direct course to Princeton...leaving behind a serviceable road from Matoaka to Glenwood that the state still maintained. What was the state to do?

"Make another highway out of it" is what the state chose to do. So in 1933, the former southerly course of WV 10 became a new highway: WV 71.

[WV 71 map] [WV 71 map]

(Clarksburg Publishing Co., 1933) (WV State Road Commission, c1935)

WV 10 wasn't the only road in Mercer County that got a newly-built alignment in the 1930s. No sooner had WV 71 been commissioned when the State Road Commission completed a rerouting of US 19 and US 21 from Princeton and Bluefield, straightening out its course and moving it off of the interurban right-of-way. The result? The segments of old US 19 that abutted WV 71's terminus were tacked on to the latter road, giving the newly-christened highway an easterly extension that forked in two! This split routing was quite strange, since both "halves" appear to have been designated as equals instead of one leg being given an "Alt" designation and treated as subservient to the other.

All strange things must come to an end, and WV 71's routing was no exception. In 1977, WV 71 was switched to a completely new southwesterly course south of Rock that terminated at US 52 in Bluewell. This was done to service Montcalm (a tangible community that had previously been denied a state highway connection) as well as give Matoaka a direct highway connection to Bluefield: Route 71's previous zigzagging alignment had been a direct connection to nowhere. The decommissioned portions of the road are now designated CR 71/13, CR 19/33, and CR 19/29.


As discussed above, the entire length of WV 71's original alignment (save the "fork" on the southeast end) had been part of WV 10 from 1931 to 1933 and part of WV 67 from 1922 to about 1931. The "fork" had been part of US 19 and US 21, and part of WV 4 before the U.S. highway system was initiated in 1926. The roads themselves are older: The portion between Rock and Glenwood was in place by 1894; the remainder, by 1913.

WV 71 was realigned in 1977 along roads that had previously been numbered as CR 15 from Rock to Montcalm and CR 11 from Montcalm to Bluewell. Both of these county route designations survive in truncated form. As with much of the rest of WV 71's route, the roads themselves predate the advent of the state highway system and were in place by the 1890s.

Points of interest

[WV 71]

All photos by the author, 2013:

[WV 71 photo]

A: The disused, whitewashed remains of a Walter Teague-designed Texaco service station stand at WV 71's northern terminus in Matoaka, West Virginia. Thousands of these near-identical buildings were built throughout Canada and the U.S. from the 1930s to the 1950s, but this is the only one I've ever seen with this particular "lift" to the roof.

[WV 71 photo]

B: WV 71 parallels the Virginian railroad for the entire northern half of its course. The two paths cross outright in Rock, where WV 71 passes under a gritty plate girder bridge that may date to the railroad's original construction in 1908.

[WV 71 photo]

Rock itself is an unincorporated community that barely qualifies as a place, but it does boast a ZIP code and a modern-looking post office. The highway parallels the Bluestone River in this stretch, which is just north of the place where its pre- and post-1977 alignments diverge.

[WV 71 photo]

C: Today's alignment of WV 71 eventually leads from Rock to Montcalm...and there's not a lot to see there either, other than this colourful sign. Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, of course, was a French soldier who saw defeat at the hands of the British in Quebec in 1759. Montcalm, West Virginia is as far away from Quebec City in place and mood as you can be...and why this place was named after him is anyone's guess.

[WV 71 photo]

D: WV 71 has the dubious distinction of being a road that begins at the foot of one dead gas station, and ends at another. This is that point: The fields of asphalt and disused fonts of dirty energy that surround US 52 in Bluewell, where WV 20 also meets its present-day terminus.

Take a right, and you'll end up in Saskatchewan. Seriously. But that's a place to explore some other day.

Fractional spur roads

[WV 71]

CR 71/1 through CR 71/8 were numbered off southly from Matoaka as part of the original fractional number allocation circa 1935, with higher-numbered roads being later additions. This is less than obvious from the map; partially because WV 71's fractionals are scattered along both the road's past and present alignments, and partially because CR 71/1 and 71/6 were later reassigned to completely different roads!

WV 71's longest fractional spur is CR 71/12, a 16-kilometre road signed under various names and leading all the way to US 19 in Spanishburg. Unsurprisingly, this wasn't originally intended as a fractional road: The state originally treated it as a trunk road, and assigned it the whole number CR 12. The SRC's desire to give whole numbers to long and connecting roads ran head-on into the SRC's desire to avoid number duplication, however...and when WV 12 was extended into Mercer County in the 1940s, CR 12 was duly "demoted" to fractional status!

Road Names Start Terminus Length (km) Notes
71/1 (old) Old Lashmeet Rd. WV 71, Matoaka CR 71/12 near Lashmeet 5 Original 1930s assignment. Renumbered 71/20 at some point after 1945.
71/1 Main St. WV 71, Montcalm WV 71, Montcalm insignificant
71/2 Wheeler Rd. WV 71 near Matoaka CR 71/12 3 Original 1930s assignment. Road has been completely realigned since 1945.
71/3 Browning School Rd. WV 71 near Rock CR 11/4 3 Original 1930s assignment.
71/4 Black Oak Rd., Rockriver Rd. WV 71, Rock CR 10/7 near Kale 10 Original 1930s assignment.
71/5 Surface Hill Rd. CR 71/13 (former WV 71), Sandlick WV 20 near Littlesburg 2 Original 1930s assignment.
71/6 (old) (unknown name) CR 71/13 (former WV 71) east of Sandlick CR 71/4 2 Original 1930s assignment. Decommissioned by 1945; impassable.
71/6 Buckeye Hollow Rd. CR 19/33 (former WV 71), Glenwood dead end insignificant
71/7 Harmon School Rd. CR 71/13 (former WV 71), New Hope WV 20 north of Glenwood 5 Original 1930s assignment. Western half realigned by 1945.
71/8 Tabor Rd. CR 71/13 (former WV 71) WV 20 near Littlesburg 4 Original 1930s assignment.
71/9 Windy Hill Dr., Borage Ave., Kirby Addition Rd. CR 19/33 (former WV 71), Glenwood CR 19/29 (former WV 71), Glenwood 2
71/10 Hughes Rd. WV 71, Rock dead end insignificant
71/11 Mary Branch Hollow Rd. WV 71 near Matoaka dead end 2
71/12 Wright Mountain Rd., Rich Creek Rd., Reese Harmon Ridge Rd. WV 71 near Rock US 19, Spanishburg 16 Originally CR 12
71/13 Sandlick Rd. WV 71 south of Rock WV 20, New Hope 9 Former alignment of WV 10 and WV 71.
71/14 Gadd Ave., River Rd., 5th St. WV 71, Montcalm WV 71, Montcalm insignificant Loop
71/15 Eunice Ln. WV 71, Montcalm dead end insignificant
71/16 Lamplighter St. CR 71/9, Glenwood CR 71/17, Glenwood insignificant
71/17 Wedgewood Ave. CR 71/9, Glenwood dead end insignificant
71/18 North Dr. CR 71/9, Glenwood dead end insignificant
71/19 (unknown)
71/20 Old Lashmeet Rd. WV 71, Matoaka CR 71/12 near Lashmeet 5 Former alignment of WV 10 and WV 71's predecessor road. Impassable?
71/21 Caraway St. CR 71/9, Glenwood CR 20/31, Glenwood insignificant
71/22 Henry Hollow Rd. WV 71 near Lorton Lick dead end insignificant Intersects post-1970s alignment.
71/23 Packard Pl. CR 71/1, Montcalm dead end insignificant
71/24 Kade Hollow Rd. WV 71 near Lorton Lick dead end insignificant Intersects post-1970s alignment.
71/25 Tabernacle Hill Rd. WV 71, Montcalm dead end insignificant
71/26 Gypsum Ave. CR 71/25, Montcalm dead end insignificant
71/27 Tabernacle Hill Rd. CR 71/25, Montcalm CR 71/29, Montcalm insignificant
71/28 Marble Ave. CR 71/14, Montcalm dead end insignificant
71/29 Ring St. CR 71/27, Montcalm CR 71/28, Montcalm insignificant
71/30 Dahlia Rd. WV 71 near Lorton Lick dead end insignificant Intersects post-1970s alignment.
71/31 (unknown)
71/32 Snow Vista Rd. CR 71/13 (former WV 71), Sandlick dead end insignificant
71/33 Turtle Creek Ln. CR 71/13 (former WV 71) near New Hope dead end insignificant
71/34 Hare Ct. CR 71/33 dead end insignificant

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