History of the Milam Creek area and Ritter Rail Trail
The Milam Creek area was first settled by a hunter/trapper named "Milam", who was said to be a Revolutionary War soldier. Milam had three (3) camps in Wyoming County: one near Herndon, one in what is now the Oceana area, and one near what is now Twin Falls State Park. It is this latter location where "Milam" built a small house, planted a garden in "Garden Branch", and raised his family. It was near Garden Branch that John Cooke encountered Milam, and negotiated the rights to lands that Cooke had been awarded as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Cooke chose the land in the Oceana area as his own, and settled there.
In West Virginia, a History by John Alexander Williams, (American Association for State and Local History), Williams writes: "Pennsylvanian William M. Ritter established a series of circular and band sawmills along the N&W, beginning at Oakvale in Mercer County in 1890. By the time the railroad reached Huntington and made connections with the Midwestern rail network in 1895, Ritter's operations had entered the Tug Fork watershed and were on the way to making the firm the country's largest producer of Appalachian hardwoods. Other lumbering operations were started by the coal firms themselves, who used the timber for mine supports and railroad ties and to build miners' houses, warehouses, and stores." (page 113)
There are families still living in the Milam Creek community who remember William Ritter and personally purchased land from him. The ruins of the local hotel (Sam Fami Hotel) where railroaders and miners stayed are located on Milam Creek, and can still be visited. The Sam Fami Hotel is the only remaining ruin of a once vibrant community of boarding houses, restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries that catered to many immigrant cultures, with maintenance buildings and other business structures needed for the timber, natural gas, and newly booming coal economies. Cleaning up the old rail bed and wetland is an opportunity for the community to remember its former history, and walk along part of a trail that was once the economic driver for our Nation's Industrial Revolution.
Milam Creek Park is the first stop along the Wyoming County Ritter Rail Trail.
Friends of Milam Creek
3677 McGraws Road
PO Box 159
McGraws WV 25875