On March 1, 1837, the Virginia General Assembly formed the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha Turnpike Company to build a 15-foot-wide road from Pearisburg, Virginia, to Gauley Bridge in Fayette County.
Begun in 1838, the turnpike was completed a decade later, running from Pearisburg to Red Sulphur Springs in Monroe County, to near present-day Hinton and Beckley, through Fayetteville, crossing Cotton Hill and New River, and connecting with the James River and Kanawha Turnpike—present Route 60—near Gauley Bridge.
It was a valuable trade route and became strategically important during the Civil War. Traveled by Union and Confederate troops, the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha was a focus of Confederate efforts in September 1862, in coordination with Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland. On September 10, Union troops under General Joseph Lightburn were routed in Fayetteville and driven back to Charleston.
In the late 19th century, the Giles, Fayette & Kanawha, like many turnpikes, was bypassed by railroads. Portions of the old route were reused when roads were paved in the early 20th century—one example being Route 16, which still runs north and south from Fayetteville.