It is an interesting political tale as to how the Tucker County seat was moved. In 1888, the railroad came to Parsons, adding quickly to its growth. Parsons already had an advantage of being more centrally located in the county and now had an important transportation advantage. In three attempts (1889, 1890, and 1892), Parsons residents petitioned to have the county seat moved, but fell short of reaching the required level of support.
Finally, in 1893 it appeared that they had garnered enough support, but the outcome was challenged—first in court and then as an appeal to the state government. Rather than waiting for the state’s response, vigilantes took the matter into their own hands and marched to St. George to forcibly capture the seat of county government. The county records were seized and relocated to Parsons. They even stole the bell from the clock tower of the old county courthouse at St. George! This happened on August 1, 1893, six days before the state officially recognized Parsons as the new county seat on August 7. If you think politics in local government gets crazy now, just think what that must have been like!
The upper Cheat River is only rated as Class I-II rapids. Some people choose to float this section in innertubes, but I think kayaking is more fun. We put our kayaks in the water at Parsons, and very quickly we were going through rapids—the first of many that day. To me, it is both fun and challenging to try picking the best route to take through the rapids and avoid getting stuck on a rock—or worse yet, dumping your kayak.
Most of the time, we were alone under a beautiful blue sky surrounded by lush green trees, following a fast flowing river through a series of descending rapids to each subsequent pool. There was some farmland bordering the river at times, and on rare occasions some houses were visible. Some of the steep hillsides featured cascading waterfalls, as small tributaries flowing from recent rains joined the Cheat River.
Several times we encountered islands in the river, and we always followed the advice we were given to choose the path to the right side. There was only one time that I momentarily became stuck on a rock in a shallow spot, but I was able to extricate myself and get back in the flow.
We had been told that we would go past two bridges, and then the third bridge would be at our destination of St. George. The first bridge was a modern one for a small road, but the second one was merely the remnants of an old suspension bridge that had been destroyed in the devastating flood of 1985. The final bridge at St. George gained some media notoriety after that 1985 flood, because there was a widely circulated flood damage picture showing a dead cow with its legs hanging down, stuck with other flood debris up in the air within the metal framework under that bridge.
All too soon we arrived at the St. George bridge and realized our wonderful day on the Cheat River had come to an end. However, it will not be our last visit there, because I hope to return to explore more of this beautiful river. Earlier this year, the state officially recognized the Cheat River Water Trail, running from Hendricks (3 miles above Parsons) to Rowlesburg (24 miles below St. George), so there is a lot more river for me to explore. For more information, check out http://www.cheatriverwatertrail.org/.
Although I didn't bring my camera on this trip, the good folks at Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (who shuttled us from their location in St. George upstream to Parsons) sent me this picture of the St. George Bridge.