Established as “The Rock” in Mercer County, Virginia on Sept. 18, 1855. Near the town is a rock cliff, approximately 80 to 100 feet high on Route 71. The town was named after this rock. The first post office and postmaster were also appointed on Sept. 18, 1855. West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863 and the town’s name was changed from Rock, Virginia to Rock, West Virginia on December 15, 1892. Rock settlers built their first church out of logs in 1853. A Methodist church was built first, and called “Old Zion”. Each family made and carved their own pew. A Baptist church was built later, between 1914 and 1916. Both churches are at their original locations today.
Rock started as a small community. William O. Keys established the first US. mail route in 1926, using a horse and buggy to deliver the mail. With the coming of the rural route, Rock became a much larger town. At the present there are two rural routes serving nearly 2000 customers. Also a new brick post office was built in 1991.
Rock is located along Bluestone River on State Route 71. Four swinging bridges were built across Bluestone River and a passageway called a ford was made in the river near the post office, so horses and buggies could cross. In 1917, a one lane steel bridge was built across the river near Rock school. It served a useful purpose for many years. The steel bridge was torn down in 1988 and replaced with a new two lane concrete bridge. Work began on the new bridge on February 18, 1988. The new bridge was opened to traffic on November 2, 1988.
Rock had many business’s in the early 1900’s including three General stores. One of the stores had a barber shop and a post office was located in one of the others. James David Rufus Wright owned the General Store with the Post Office and served as one of the first postmasters at Rock. He also helped found the Rock Methodist Church. Later he sold the store and bought a farm on Wright Mountain. He is the grandfather of Margaret Wright Keys.
A concrete block plant was located in Hughes Bottom. A casket company was owned and operated by a Mr. Sales. An embalming service was located in the same building. A Plaining Mill was located in Rock where logs were made into smooth finished lumber. There were three saw mills in Rock. The Tunnel Grist Mill ground corn and wheat into flour and meal. This mill was located about two miles down Bluestone River on what is known as Rock River Road. The tunnel which was bored through solid rock to provide water power to the mill still stands today. A hotel and boarding house were located in midtown Rock. The men who built the railroad stayed there. The Virginia railroad and The Norfolk and Western railroad were built through the town of Rock in 1907. A tunnel was cut through the rock cliff that Rock was named after for the railroad to go through. There was a passenger station located near the steel bridge for the Norfolk and Western Railroad. Another passenger station was located near the Bottling Plant for the Virginian Railroad. Combined, both railroads had as many as ten passenger trains as well as several freight and coal trains passing through Rock everyday.
A hospital was built at Rock in 1910. The attending physicians were Dr. John Bird, Dr. Fred Barger, as surgeon and Dr. E. Vermillion. Dr. John Bird made house calls on horse back and on foot, carrying medicine and supplies. His office was in his home beside the hospital. The hospital is still standing today, occupied by the Bernard Sutherland family. Also, Dr. Bird’s home is still there with a family living in it.
Another business that came to Rock as the Rock Mineral Springs Bottling Company. A galvanized pipe was run from a good distance on Black Oak Mountain to provide water for the plant. Later a well was dug near the plant. The original well didn’t provide enough water so another well was dug nearby. It was an Artesian well and still furnishes water to homes located near the site of the old plant. The bottling company was well known for it’s Rock Cliff Ginger Ale. The plant also bottled Rock Cliff soda pop in many different flavors. There were as many as 50 people employed there. The Coca Cola Company of Bluefield bought the plant and it’s bottling machinery was moved there in 1970. Most of the people who worked at the Rock plant were transferred to the Bluefield plant. The Bluefield plant continued to bottle Rock Cliff products for many years afterwards.
The first school in Rock was a one room building made of logs located on the Black Oak Mountain road. Later a school was built on Wright Mountain. Also there were two, one room school buildings near the Rock Baptist Church. These schools were closed in 1913 and a two room brick building was built near the steel bridge. Later two more rooms were added over the two existing rooms making this a two story building. Grades 1 through 8 were taught in the school. Later it was reduced to grades 1 through 6. Miss Ethel Clark was the first teacher of the school. Some of the other teachers were Gladys Vaughn, Blanche Vest, Elizabeth Hall, Mamie Parks, Mary Underwood, Ray Bailey Josie Alger and Harless Cook. Rock School had a total of 21 principals during it’s history. The school was closed in 1973 due to declining attendance and consolidated with Montcalm Elementary School. Jim Bailey of Rock was the principal there.
Rock had many recreational facilities, such as Rock Swimming Pool for the public, with a Skating Rink nearby. Also, Rock Baseball Park, owned by the Crockett Bailey family. The ballpark was a favorite family activity. Baseball players from all over southern West Virginia came to play ball with The Rock Team. Families packed picnic lunches and spent the day. Often there were gospel and country music concerts in the park. Rock School always had their last day of school picnic there.
At first it looked like Rock would be a growing town, but promoters could not buy land at a reasonable price and it resulted in an undeveloped town. Businesses and industry’s went elsewhere. Rock is a quiet. peaceful community today. A lot of the former residents have passed away or moved to other places. It is still a good place to live.