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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. During the Civil War, 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 a peak of 2,077 in 1940. Changes in the natural resources economy caused the population to fall significantly in the 1950s.

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 city’s population fell from 1,937 in 1980 to 1,453 in 1990. The population in 2020 was 1,322, an 11.0 percent decline from 10 years earlier.

In the 21st century, Parsons has been a city in transition, building its way from an economy based on natural resources to one based on tourism, such as the annual Pickin’ in Parsons Bluegrass Festival, while recovering from the setback of a great natural disaster.

This Article was written by Mariwyn McClain Smith

Last Revised on February 22, 2023


Cite This Article

Smith, Mariwyn McClain "Parsons." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 February 2023. Web. 15 April 2024.

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