© Jerry F. Couch
Many communities combine to form the amalgamation we call “home” here in Southwest Virginia. One of those communities is Hanging Rock, located between St. Paul and Dante.
Hanging Rock takes its name from a nearby and quite impressive rock formation. Many people mistakenly believe this rock formation was the result of an act of nature. That could only be true if dynamite was found in nature – which it is not.
The first artificial modifications to Hanging Rock, originally known as Raven Rock, took place around 1902, That was the year the Lick Creek & Lake Erie Railroad Co. was incorporated. The purpose of this small railway was to provide freight and passenger access to and from the newly-opened coal mines at Dante, Virginia. Hanging Rock was cut back so the railroad’s tracks could negotiate the narrow gap through which the waters of Lick Creek flowed. The picture below was probably taken later, when the tracks at Hanging Rock were being modified for Carolina Clinchfield & Ohio rail traffic.
In the ‘teens a new highway was constructed to connect the communities of Dante and St. Paul. Once again, Hanging Rock was modified.
As originally built, the Dante-St. Paul highway had incorporated several railroad crossings. Some of the crossings were deathtraps due to limited visibility. The result was harrowing automobile vs. train altercations in which the train was the inevitable winner. In 1917, the highway was modified to eliminate most of these crossings, one of which was situated at Hanging Rock. The result is pictured in the old postcard view below.
The road between St. Paul and Dante had acquired additional significance in the ‘teens as a link in the Arctic-Tropic Highway chain connecting the Hudson Bay in Canada with Miami, Florida. Even so, the highway was not just for automobile traffic. The era of the horse drawn wagon had not yet drawn to a close. Though long-distance travel by automobile increased as roads improved, rail passenger travel remained the choice of most people. In time, all these situations would change.
—To be Continued.