Sophia, WV (West Virginia), a community in Raleigh County, was incorporated in 1912 and named for Sophia McGinnis, who lived nearby. Its population was estimated at 1,344 during the 2010 census. It was the hometown of the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.
Part of the Main Street commercial district in Sophia is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and grants and tax credits are provided to property owners therein to help maintain its historic buildings.
Sophia is situated on Soak Creek, a tributary of Piney Creek, which is a tributary of the New River. The town is also associated with Winding Gulf Creek, a source of the Guyandotte River for which the Winding Gulf Coal Fields were named.
The town was an important commercial center for the surrounding coalfields, though it is now also a residential community and bedroom community of the City of Beckley. In addition to its historic downtown, the community boasts a thriving retail center on the adjacent Coalfields Expressway.
Sophia was named after Sophia McGinnis, the third wife of Pyrrhus McGinnis (1791-1873), a pioneer who received a land grant of 2,500 acres in what would become Raleigh County. The town was incorporated in 1912 and consists of stone and brick commercial buildings built after 1925 following three destructive fires. After the 1925 fire, the town council drafted an ordinance to forbid wood-frame commercial buildings.
The small-town setting is in the heart of the Winding Gulf Coal Fields, which were opened to development in 1905. Although Sophia was not a mining town, the inhabitants of the surrounding coal camps helped develop its commerce and economy.
The row of commercial buildings along Main Street dates from the decade between 1920 and 1930 and reinforces the architectural diversity of the region. The business buildings were first opened by J.H. Hunt, W. J. Lovell, P. G. Thomas, Max Fisher, and the Tosh Brothers.
Sophia is located in the National Coal Heritage Area. The Coal Heritage Trail, a national scenic byway, passes through Sophia and nearby coal camps. The town’s chief period of growth happened during the 1930 and '40s when the road system improved and after Mayor Criss Ruble brought water to the town from the Beckley Water Co.
Before the development of road and highway transportation systems, the Virginian Railroad was the only means of travel to Sophia. Its tracks are located along Main Street, opposite the commercial district.
Lodging near Sophia, West Virginia
Parks & Public Recreation
The Burning Rock ATV Trail System is located four miles south of the town.
Sophia is located on highway WV-16 one mile southwest of the Coalfields Expressway (WV-121), approximately three miles south of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, seven miles south of Beckley, West Virginia, four miles east of Lester, West Virginia, and 15 miles northeast of Mullens, West Virginia. The community benefits from its high accessibility from I-77 and I-64, which are located six miles to the north.