James River and Kanawha Company

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JAMES RIVER AND KANAWHA COMPANY. The vision of connecting tidewater Virginia with the Ohio River arose in colonial Virginia, with George Washington as a leading proponent. In 1785, the James River Company was founded to make improvements on the James River, and Washington was its first president. In 1820, the company's mandate was extended to connecting the James River to the Kanawha River and thus the Ohio, but it failed to accomplish its mission.

A new venture, the James River and Kanawha Company, was incorporated in 1832 and organized in 1835 to accomplish its predecessor's task. In 1851 the canal reached Buckhannon in western Virginia (later West Virginia), but with the company unable to refinance the venture, the canal ended there. Facing fierce railway competition, the canal company attempted to reach Clifton Forge and make a connection with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad by establishing the Buchanan and Clifton Forge Railway Company, organized in 1876. Work began in 1877 but languished because of financial exigency, and the company was sold to the Richmond and Alleghany Railway Company, which began construction of a 230-mile line from Richmond to Clifton Forge. The work was expedited by laying track on the canal towpath. In 1888 the Richmond and Alleghany Company was sold to the C&O Railroad Company.


Dunaway, Wayland F. "History of the James River and Kanawha Company." Ph.D. diss. Columbia University Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law. Vol. 104. New York: Columbia University Press, 1922.

Kemp, Emory L. The Great Kanawha Navigation. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Emory L.Kemp

See alsoCanals ; Ohio River .

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