West Virginia’s New California

The City of Spencer is one of the Kanawha Valley’s forgotten suburbs. Spencer has a rich and interesting history. Originally settled by Samuel Tanner who lived under the cliff below the today’s Spencer Middle School it grew to a major economic center of central West Virginia first named Tanner’s Crossroads then later as Cassville. In 1839, after hearing about the opportunity to find gold in California, a man named Raleigh Butcher sold his farm in present day Reedy to remove himself to that place and find fortune. Instead, he made it as far as what was then called Cassville and decided that was far enough so he erected a large frame house. So it was that the first name of official incorporation for the county seat of Roane County came to be named New California. It remained incorporated as New California and on some maps referred to simply as “California”. It remained under that name until 1858, when it was renamed Spencer. Later in 1926, the Times-Record in Roane County reported that gold was found in Roane County of a richness as good as that in Colorado. Perhaps Mr. Butcher was onto something after all.

Today, Spencer’s gold exists as one of the most beautiful historic towns in West Virginia. With unique assets such as some of the Mountain State’s best mountain bike trails, a winery in town, antique mall, and the nation’s oldest continuously operating movie theatre, the gold is in the eye of the beholder.


Cliff as seen today.
Cliff in the early 1900’s with old Spencer High School on hilltop (White Building)