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Keyser () is a city in and the county seat of Mineral County, West Virginia, United States. It is part of the Cumberland, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 5,439 at the 2010 census.
Keyser, the county seat of Mineral County, is located on the North Branch of the Potomac River in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The place was first called Paddy Town, supposedly for Patrick McCarty, an early landowner who operated a nearby iron furnace. Later the community was called New Creek Station, for the creek that joins the North Branch of the Potomac at this location. The community was finally named after William Keyser, a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad official.
The first white men to pass through present Keyser are believed to have been William Mayo and George Savage, sent by Lord Fairfax in 1736 to seek out the source of the Potomac River. The first local land grant was issued by Fairfax to Christopher Beelor on March 20, 1752. Early industry included an iron furnace and foundry, a salt well, and a salt-making plant. The town received an economic boost with the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1852, and was renamed for B&O official William Keyser. Mineral County was created in 1866, with Keyser as its county seat.
The Civil War came to Keyser in 1861. Fort Fuller was built on the present site of Potomac State College of West Virginia University. Keyser changed hands 14 times during the war due to the importance of the railroad.
The Thomas R. Carskadon House and Mineral County Courthouse are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.92 square miles (4.97 km2), all land.
The type locality of the Silurian/Devonian Keyser Formation, a limestone, is located in a quarry and roadcut east of the town.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,439 people, 2,224 households, and 1,253 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,832.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,093.8/km2). There were 2,525 housing units at an average density of 1,315.1 per square mile (507.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.4% White, 8.6% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.
There were 2,224 households of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.7% were non-families. 37.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.88.
The median age in the city was 36.1 years. 19.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 19% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 19.8% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 17.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,303 people, 2,241 households, and 1,333 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,791.7 people per square mile (1,077.6/km²). There were 2,542 housing units at an average density of 1,338.2 per square mile (516.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.55% Euro American, 7.07% Black, 0.40% Asian, 0.32% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.72% of the population.
There were 2,241 households out of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.3% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.5% were non-families. 36.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city, the population was spread out with 20.0% under the age of 18, 13.5% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 21.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $23,718, and the median income for a family was $32,708. Males had a median income of $29,034 versus $20,818 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,813. About 16.3% of families and 18.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.2% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over.
Keyser is the home of the Potomac State College of West Virginia University, a junior college that serves primarily as a feeder college to WVU's main campus in Morgantown.
Keyser's public schools are part of the Mineral County school system. The schools in Keyser include Fountain Primary School, which covers Pre-Kindergarten through Fourth Grade; Keyser Middle School, which covers sixth through Eighth Grade; Keyser High School, which covers Ninth through Twelfth Grades; Mineral County Alternative School; and the Mineral County Tech Center, a vocational school. The mascot of Keyser High is the "Golden Tornado."
A new Keyser Primary School is scheduled to open on January 8, 2014. The new facility is located just north and adjacent to the campus that previously housed both the primary and middle Schools for the Keyser area. Once the old facility is vacated by the Keyser Primary School, it will remain in use by the Keyser Middle School.
The city and surrounding county are served by a daily newspaper, the Mineral Daily News-Tribune.
Keyser is mentioned in the BBC television mini series The State Within (Season 1, Episode 1). British Ambassador Mark Brydon just landed from a round trip to the U.K. where he was told he will be nominated to a new position in the British Government. En route to the embassy, a plane that just departed explodes above the highway, killing all the passengers and a few people on the highway. Rapidly, the Secret Services pinpoint that it is a terrorist bombing and that the terrorist was of British nationality. British SAS are shown on a raid, the screen clearly labels the location "Keyser, West Virginia." One of their members is killed in a shoot out and dumped in a nearby stream located in the fictitious "Fairmont County, West Virginia."
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