Parsons is the county seat of Tucker County. It is located at the head of Cheat River, at the intersection of U.S. 219 and State Route 72. Parsons became an incorporated town on June 12, 1893, and an incorporated city on February 18, 1907. Parsons was built on the route of the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg [sic] Railway, which was constructed through Tucker County in the 1880s. Parsons became the county seat on August 7, 1893, although the county records had actually (and unlawfully) been moved from St. George to Parsons on the night of August 1, 1893. Parsons was named for Ward Parsons, not the first settler but the most prominent and the largest landholder. The Battle of Corricks Ford, a Confederate defeat, took place near present Parsons on July 13, 1861.
Parsons boomed early in the 20th century and peaked during the period from 1920 to 1940, according to Cleta M. Long’s History of Tucker County. Census reports show Parsons with a population of 84 in 1890 and 2,077 in 1940. Changes in the natural resources economy caused the population to fall in the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1985 flood was hard on Parsons. On November 5, the Cheat River crested at 24.3 feet, more than eight feet above flood stage. More than 90 percent of businesses in the area, as well as hundreds of homes, were damaged or destroyed. About 40 houses located in the flood plain were later acquired and demolished by the federal government. Many of those whose homes were purchased after the flood chose to settle outside Parsons. A study completed in July 1999 by the Parsons Advocate, the county newspaper, showed that only 45 percent of the families relocated in Parsons; business licenses dropped 40 percent, and total receipts for city services dropped 24 percent while total expenditures increased 4 percent. The town’s population fell from 1,937 in 1980 to 1,453 in 1990. The town’s population was 1,485 in 2010.
Parsons entered the 21st century as a town in transition, building its way from an economy based on natural resources to one based on tourism, while recovering from the setback of a great natural disaster.
This Article was written by Mariwyn McClain Smith
Last Revised on October 22, 2010
Cite This Article
Smith, Mariwyn McClain "Parsons." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 October 2010. Web. 21 January 2017.