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Tucker County lies in north-central West Virginia and includes some of the state’s most rugged and mountainous terrain. The county was named for Henry St. George Tucker Sr. (1780–1848), a Virginia soldier, statesman, and jurist. The early settlers included Thomas and James Parsons, John Minear, and John Crouch. In 1778, Minear brought to what became the community of St. George, by horseback and in pieces, the machinery for the first sawmill west of the Alleghenies. Tucker County was formed from Randolph County by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia, March 7, 1856; on February 7, 1871, the legislature of West Virginia added a small portion of Barbour County to complete Tucker’s 421 square miles. The 1860 census counted 1,428 residents in the new county.

Tucker voted for secession when Virginia left the Union, but local allegiances were deeply divided during the ensuing war. Mostly, the Civil War in Tucker County consisted of skirmishes and raids. The Battle of Corricks Ford, the best-known conflict in Tucker County, occurred July 13, 1861, when Confederates led by Gen. Robert Selden Garnett encountered U.S. troops under Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris. Garnett died in the battle, the first general to be killed in the Civil War.

The high plateau surrounding Davis originally had a magnificent red spruce and northern hardwood forest stretching mile after mile. Henry Gassaway Davis and his son-in-law, Stephen B. Elkins, both industrialists and both U.S. senators, developed plans for building a railroad into this untouched wilderness. On November 2, 1881, the first section of Davis’s West Virginia Central & Pittsburg [sic] Railway was completed from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at Piedmont to the coalfields at Elk Garden, Mineral County. The track was continued into Tucker County to the town of Davis by 1884.

Development quickly followed the arrival of the railroad, when J. L. Rumbarger, a hardwood manufacturer from Indiana, began buying timber in the vicinity of Canaan Valley and built a band sawmill at Davis. He sold this mill to Albert Thompson, who formed the Blackwater Boom & Lumber Company. Under successive owners and names, this mill cut more than one billion board feet of lumber before closing in 1924. Other major industries at Davis included a tannery, another large lumber mill owned by the Beaver Creek Lumber Company, and a huge pulp mill owned by the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Company, now MeadWestvaco. By 1924, all these operations had closed due to the depletion of the original forest.

Although Davis was the hub of the lumber industry in Tucker County, band sawmills also operated in the county at Bretz, Hambleton (two mills), Jenningston (two mills), Laneville, Parsons, Porterwood, and William. Manufacturing wood products is still the major industry in Tucker County, apart from tourism. Today, Kingsford Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of charcoal, is the county’s largest private employer, making briquettes from sawdust at its plant north of Parsons. Hinchcliff Lumber Company makes shipping pallets and in 1994 added a scragg mill to use small and marginal timber once left in the woods. The Ricottilli Lumber Company, a sawmill operating at Moore, employs about 20 people and provides income for dozens of private loggers in Tucker and surrounding counties. In 2010, other major employers were Canaan Valley Resort, Tucker County Board of Education, Timberline Resort, Cortland Acres Nursing Home and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Tanneries operated in the county from the late 1800s until 1975, at Davis, Hambleton, Parsons, and St. George. A planing mill opened in Parsons at the turn of the 20th century. In 1927, the building became a woolen mill, which at one time employed 270 workers. The mill closed in 1971. Parsons Footwear was next to occupy the facility, but foreign imports, local strikes, and the devastating floods of 1985 and 1996 closed that business.

The playing out of jobs in coal mines and at about 1,000 beehive coke ovens meant the loss of hundreds of Tucker County families in the mid-20th century. County population peaked at 18,675 in 1910 and fell to an estimated 6,995 in 2012. Ruth Cooper Allman’s book, Roots in Tucker County, reports that the highest enrollment in county schools occurred during the 1919–20 school year, when there were 4,144 students. With three state parks and a good share of the West Virginia ski industry, Tucker County’s leading employer today is tourism. Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley state parks and the privately owned Timberline Resort are year-round attractions, with Canaan and Timberline among the state’s top ski resorts. The tiny Fairfax Stone State Park also sees hundreds of visitors yearly. Tourism brings thousands of visitors each year to Tucker County, and there is a thriving second-home industry.

Railroads operated for 100 years in Tucker County, from 1884 to 1984, carrying passengers as well as freight for much of that period. After the loss of rail passenger service the county was left with only narrow secondary roads. Corridor H, a modern four-lane highway, entered the county early in the 21st century.

Parsons, the county seat, is located near the juncture of Shavers Fork and Black Fork, at the head of Cheat River. The town was incorporated in 1893. It was named for Ward Parsons, the most prominent resident and largest landholder.

This Article was written by Mariwyn McClain Smith

Last Revised on June 04, 2013

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Sources

Fansler, Homer Floyd. History of Tucker County. Parsons: McClain, 1962.

Long, Cleta M. History of Tucker County. Parsons: McClain, 1996.

Cite This Article

Smith, Mariwyn McClain "Tucker County." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 04 June 2013. Web. 19 July 2018.

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