How much do you know about Mercer County—the home of Princeton, Bluefield, and at one point Gilligan? Here are 22 things we bet you didn’t know.
1. There are eight Mercer counties in the United States.
2. All of them, including the one in West Virginia, were named after Revolutionary War General Hugh Mercer.
3. Mercer, a friend and deputy to George Washington, became a hero and rallying symbol after dying from wound he incurred at the Battle of Princeton (New Jersey).
4. Princeton, the county seat, was named in honor of Princeton and Gen. Mercer.
5. With an elevation of 2,449 feet, it is the highest county seat east of Denver, Colorado.
6. During the Civil War, Princeton was briefly occupied by the Confederates. When forced to retreat, Col. Walter Jenifer ordered the town burned to the ground.
7. Few structures escaped that fire, though the county’s records survived. They had been moved to nearby Athens.
8. During Reconstruction, Republicans tried to move the county seat permanently to Athens.
9. Also for its Confederate-leaning tendencies, the county was stripped of 128 square miles to help form Summers County.
10. The first white settlers came into the county before 1800. It’s believed there was no native population at that time.
11. The first coal mine in the county opened on Mill Creek at Coopers in 1884.
12. In 1942 alone, Mercer County produced 3.5 million tons of coal.
13. Bluefield’s 12-story West Virginian Hotel remains the tallest building in the state south of the state capitol in Charleston (the tallest building in the state).
14. It’s now a retirement home.
15. It’s believed the town is named after the chicory flowers that colored fields around it a bluish-purple during the summer.
16. It’s also believed country singer Hank Williams was last seen alive in Bluefield. The 29-year-old singer died at Oak Hill, Fayette County, in route to a performance in 1953.
17. During the coal boom, Bramwell had the distinction of having more millionaires per capita than any other town in the country.
18. When the temperature tops 90 degrees in the summer, Bluefield’s Chamber of Commerce gives away free lemonade. It’s done so since 1938.
19. The town of Matoaka was named after famed Indian Chief Powhatan. She’s remembered today by her childhood nickname: Pocahontas.
20. Famed bluegrass musician Hazel Dickens was born in Montcalm in 1935. She was one of the first women to record a bluegrass album.
21. Bob Denver, who played Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island,” retired with his wife to Princeton in 1990. His wife is from Bluefield.
22. They owned an oldies radio station, WGAG 93.1 FM. Although Bob has passed, his foundation still operates the station.