CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The route U.S. 60 follows as it traverses the breadth of Southern West Virginia has gone through a number of name changes.
Known first as the Buffalo Trail in deference to the bison that trod out a pathway between grazing grounds and watering holes in the era before pioneer settlement, the route was later used by American Indians, European settlers, Civil War supply wagons and long-haul truckers.
"It was called the Lewis Trail, after Col. Andrew Lewis used it to take his militiamen from Lewisburg to fight Chief Cornstalk in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774," said James E. Casto, author of "Highway to History: A Midland Trail Scrapbook. "Then, in the 1820s, it became the James River & Kanawha Turnpike," after the state of Virginia converted the pathway into a 66-foot wide toll road.
Following the Civil War, when armies of both sides used the road to move personnel and supplies between Lewisburg and the Kanawha Valley, the route became the Midland Trail, an unpaved road connecting Washington, D.C., to California. The Midland Trail was equipped with signs and opened to vehicular traffic in 1913, with the West Virginia section of the road initially designated as State Route No. 3.
According to a 1916 auto guide to the Midland Trail, the West Virginia section of the route, "generally speaking, is in very good shape and gives the average traveler no trouble," if travel is postponed until after the first of July. "In other words, don't even think of tackling the drive in anything other than mid-summer," Casto said.
In the late 1930s, the Midland Trail became U.S. 60, the state's first paved and numbered road.
Today, the road is known as U.S. 60, with Midland Trail remaining its official National Scenic Byway designation.
Once the main east-west route through the southern part of the state, the Midland Trail is now largely bypassed by long-distance travelers who prefer the easier, faster ride available on nearby Interstate 64.
In an effort to encourage more drivers to discover the history, scenery and small-town charm available along the Midland Trail's slow lanes, Casto wrote "Highway to History," and used more than 200 postcard views and vintage photographs to illustrate it.