|UPDATE 6/22/2016 - In 2016, the struggling town of Richwood had 10 candidates for mayor, with former mayor Bob Henry Baber winning by one vote.|
This story was done just before the devastating flood of 2016, which took a more than heavy toll on the town.
Richwood's empty Main Street with memories
of the town's hey-day resting in the town's
cemetery on a mountain overlooking the valley
By Bob Weaver
Ten candidates are running for mayor of Richwood in 2016.
Like many towns tucked into the hills of West Virginia, Richwood's has seen better days, victims of centralization.
"It is now a town for grieving," said a resident.
Its Main Street storefronts bustled with activity during the mining boom of the last century and the earlier days with the timber industry.
Efforts to revitalize the town have had few results
But as the mines closed in the 1970s and employment in the timber industry, so too did the stores, leaving nearly 40 shells to decay along the now-quiet main street.
While there is still some timbering and saw milling, the town has little to show for over a century of extraction. Calhoun forester Russ Richardson has often said state citizens have profited little from timber extraction by mega-corporations, except for a lot of tree stumps.
The town is surrounded by the awesome mountain vistas
and streams, like Cranberry River with trout fishing
Richwood is surrounded by some of the most awesome mountains and streams, including Cranberry and Cherry rivers, known for WV trout.
Create West Virginia an independent, grassroots organization launched by Vision Shared several years ago has tried to improve local economies like Richwood by building creative communities, companies and centers of learning geared toward an "innovation economy."
So far, there have been few positive results.
The illustrious timber industry is still hanging on
Richwood, during its boom days, had a population of about 10,000, now about 2,000, with the retail business shifting to Summersville on the four-lane corridor.
It still maintains it is the "Ramp Capital of the World," with a festival founded by the late Jim Comstock, longtime editor of the "West Virginia Hillbilly."
Perhaps 40 years ago, Comstock inserted ramp juice into his printing ink for the paper, causing a furious reaction by the US Postal Service.
The local newspapers founded by Comstock are long gone.
Comstock also founded the "University of Hard Knocks," to recognize WV citizens who were highly successful without a college degree.
During the 19th century, the area was a sparsely settled semi-wilderness of homesteads and subsistence farms. This changed in 1898 when a railroad was extended into the area, then known as Cherry Tree Bottoms. In 1901, the town was incorporated into Richwood.
It once was the site for the world's largest wooden clothespin factory.
Richwood has tried to be reborn as both an artisan community and a technology center. The town's grocery outlet, Foodland, has also departed the community.
The town is the headquarters of the "Cherry River Navy" community organization. Its membership list has included presidents, governors, senators, astronauts, and others who have distinguished themselves for outstanding service to community and country or are deemed worthy of the honor. Among past and present members are Jennings Randolph, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Arch Moore, John Echols, Bob Smith, Jim Comstock, Jay Rockefeller, Jon McBride, and Babe Ruth.