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Cherry River Navy


The Cherry River Navy, organized in 1937, is headquartered in landlocked Richwood. The informal honorary society was established by John L. ‘‘Bugs’’ Teets, along with A. B. Campbell and Lee Reese, to draw attention to the need for the completion of State Route 39 from Richwood to Marlinton. The tongue-in-cheek logic apparently was that a road should be built since the Cherry River itself was unnavigable. Teets was the editor of a local newspaper, the Nicholas Republican.

In the 1930s, Richwood was a major population center and a thriving community with many timber-based industries that included a lumber mill, a tannery, and the world’s largest clothespin factory. What the town did not have was a paved road connecting it to the east. The Cherry River Navy was successful in its mission. The extension of Route 39 linking Richwood to Marlinton was started in the fall of 1937. The road was finished in 1945.

In the Cherry River Navy, all members are admirals. The membership list has included presidents, governors, senators, astronauts, and local businessmen. Among past and present members are Jennings Randolph, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Byrd, Arch Moore, Jim Comstock, Jay Rockefeller, Jon McBride, and Babe Ruth. The navy has maneuvered in Richwood since 1937 except for a break during and after World War II and another break following the death of founder Teets in 1984. Nowadays the Cherry River Navy sails in August every year in the Cherry River Festival Parade on a wheeled boat down Main Street.

Written by Amy Donaldson Arnold