Before the construction of the Clinchfield Railroad, before the establishment of a post office and before the Yellow Poplar Lumber Co. erected a splash dam on the Russell Fork River, the Town of Haysi was a laurel bed referred to as “the Mouth of the McClure”. The area is surrounded by majestic cliff formations of the Appalachian Mountains and a riverside formed by the confluence of three major waterways of Dickenson County: the McClure River, the Russell Prater Creek and the Russell Fork Rivers.
In the early 1800’s James Colley, son of Richard Colley, secured a title of 5000 acres in the vicinity of Haysi. His daughter, Josephine, married Jonathan Lender Scyphers and inherited the portions on which Haysi now stands. Josephine conveyed the land to her heirs, with two of her children, James C. Scyphers and Winnie W. Scyphers receiving the Haysi portion.
Winnie W. Scyphers married Otis L. Sifers who owned and operated a general store with Charles M. Hayter. The business was located near the mouth of the McClure River and the nearest post office was several miles away. To better serve the area they petitioned the U.S. Post Office Department for a new post office to be established in their general store. The sur names of Otis L. Sifers and Charles M .Hayter were used in the naming of the new post office. The United States Post Office accepted the name Haysi and Miss Winnie W. Scyphers was the first postmaster when it opened on July 25, 1900.
At the turn of the century the first store was constructed to provide for the workers of the Yellow Poplar Lumber Co. As the timber business began to grow so did the construction of the Clinchfield Railroad. The railroad was built to provide a means of export for coal and timber being extracted and logged from the surrounding Appalachian Mountains rich with these natural resources.
Haysi’s first public elementary school was established in 1911. A Junior High School was organized in 1926 and in 1928 a brick school house was constructed to accommodate the elementary and high school students.
Other businesses were opened to serve the local workers, residents and travelers on the Clinchfield Railroad. By 1930 notable businesses in Haysi included the Haysi Supply Co., McClure Bottling Co., Bank of Haysi, Haysi Hardware Co., and a large grocery store, The Fuller Store.
Miss Elizabeth Shoemaker came to Haysi in 1929 to offer Sunday School services to the public. In the same year, Rev. Mowbray, an evangelist of the Abingdon Presbytery, was conducting preaching services in the Haysi High School. The attendance to his preaching services continued to increase as he conducted his church work in the community. The construction of the Haysi Chapel, one of three chapels representing the Dickenson First Presbyterian Church established in 1930, began in 1933 and was completed in 1934.
The town was incorporated on February 17, 1936. By this time the town’s main street was lined with businesses including movie theaters, several restaurants, car dealers and garages, a drug store, a department store and a doctor’s office.
In the following years, Clinchfield Coal Co. became the principle provider for employment for this small mountain town. The town’s economy continued to flourish while earlier established businesses provided services and commodities and new ones opened to fill the growing demands of the locality.
The Town of Haysi has suffered several major catastrophes. On December 5, 1934, a fire almost destroyed the town’s business section. The flood of January 29, 1957, devastated Haysi with flood waters eight feet high on Main Street. In 1977, the town experienced another flood that damaged every business and building on Main Street with nine feet high flood waters. Each time the town’s leaders, merchants and residents have survived the devastation to rebuild and improve the town.
The town administration has recently taken steps to begin a major downtown revitalization project. Studies and plans are being conducted that will include upgrades to the town’s infrastructure, store facades, sidewalks and landscaping. The project will also include an economic restructuring element to attract start-up businesses, tourism trade and growth in the technology sector.
With all the past events and what we envision for the future, our town of Haysi, Virginia could be coined as “THE TOWN THAT WOULD NOT DIE!”.