The Town of Cass was founded in 1900 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company and settled by William Luke and his sons, who purchased over 70,000 acres of timber. Sam Slaymaker and Emory Shaffer supervised the building of the town, including the mill and the railroad. Cass was named for Joseph Cass, who was the vice-president and company investor.
Just like the company houses, all the buildings in the commercial district of Cass were painted white. The focal point of this area was the company store. Three stories high, the first floor today is used as a gift shop. Loaded with souvenirs of all kinds, including post cards and homemade items, the company store was a center of activity. Here, I purchased a yellow leaf paperweight made from West Virginia Glass. The other two stories were closed to the public.
Other buildings in the town included a church, city hall/jail and a post office. City hall was a small white building with a brick basement. On the outside of the basement, a black iron door with a barred window separated prisoners in the tiny cell from the outside world. Back then, it was mostly drunken brawls that landed one in jail.
Fascinated as I was with sleeping and shopping in a town that had such atmosphere, the main attraction of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park was the Shay engine train. So, after purchasing a boxed lunch from the company store, we headed down a small hill to the train depot and purchased tickets for our ride.
Since the train wasn’t scheduled to leave for a few hours, we passed the time by joining a tour group and viewing what remained of the old logging mill. Not much is left of the mill today. However, before the mill was closed in 1960, the cut logs were hauled down Back Allegheny Mountain on one of the Shay engine trains. They were then processed at this mill for use by paper and hardwood-flooring companies.
In keeping with the historical romance of the logging town, we discovered that Orville and Wilbur Wright had written a letter to the West Virginia Spruce Lumber Company requesting their finest grades of spruce for use in constructing flying machines. Later we obtained a copy of that letter.
We continued to listen as our knowledgeable guide explained the ins and outs of train life during the height of the logging era. Our tour ended at the Cass Shop, a locomotive repair shop, where two Shay engines were in the process of being repaired.
To be concluded next Wednesday…