Tucker County can easily be seen as a location destination for area Washington, D.C. residents. The West Virginia Potomac Highlands has a wide variety of options.
Before I get to that, let me first tell you that scenic U.S. Route 48 (US 48 or Corridor H) provides a great forerunner to what travelers have to look forward to when arriving to West Virginia’s eastern county. Total travel time from downtown D.C. to Tucker County estimated at 2 hours and 45 minutes. Don’t turn your nose up on the distance, for two reasons: 1) Without US 48 – it would take 4 hours and 45 minutes through Maryland and the Appalachian Mountains to get to Tucker County; 2) you’re going to miss a chance to view over a 1000 historical structures, five pristine historic districts, a couple of Civil War battlefields and several other archaeological sites within five miles of the highway.
The highway is also part of the Appalachian Development Highway System. There are many scenic overlooks to take-in the immense beauty of the rugged and mountainous land.
Once you make it to Tucker County, you should make plans to visit the city of Parsons, the county’s county seat.
There’s an interesting story about how it became the county seat, as told to me by one of the locals in Thomas, West Virginia. He said from 1889 to 1893 there was the commonly referred to Tucker County Seat War. War might be a stretch, but people living in Parsons wanted their city to be the county seat; although the city of St. George held the title since the county hd been established. On August 1, 1893, Parson residents mobbed a courthouse in St. George and swiped county records and even took the courthouse bell – this all, in part, reestablished the county seat as Parsons…thus, ending the war.
While I was visiting the county I toured two different cities: Thomas and Davis.
City of Thomas
Thomas, West Virginia, is a located along the North Fork of the Blackwater River and is a former coal town that was named after Thomas Beall Davis; with a population of 586, according to the 2010 census. I was told the seasons are mild, and generally cooler than you’d find in the District of Columbia. During the spring, summer, and fall seasons, you can expect to find an adequate amount of rainfall; whereas, being in the mountains you’re going to get a decent amount of snow in the winter.
You’ll have to visit the Thomas Commercial Historic District – it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the buildings along East Avenue (or to the locals: Front Street) still have the same charm and appeal of the days of old.
MUD Ceramics is one of the businesses I visited. Ben Nelson, owner, makes all the mugs by hand, so each one means something special to him. Moving out to West Virginia was a no-brainer for him. He mentioned that creating pottery gives him the ability to control the process and quality of work produced, and coming out to West Virginia gave him a chance to focus on farming and community development as well.
Other places that we stopped to along the way were the Cottrill Opera House, The White Room, and my favorite spot: Tip Top, a coffee shop with a bar for drinks in the back. My advice is to definitely try the Moscow Mule when you make a stop there.
The highlight of the trip (outside of zip-lining at Timberline) was going to The Purple Fiddle to hear area favorites, the Hillbilly Gypsies, perform. The Purple Fiddle is in eatery that also have space for live music. There is live shows there many nights of the week. Drinks were very very reasonably priced, compared to the high price of basic beer here in the DC area. I would highly recommend anyone traveling to Thomas, West Virginia to stop for food and fun.
Town of Davis
Davis, West Virginia was named for Virginia Senator Henry Gassaway Davis [or his family in general] and also along the Blackwater River; two miles north of Thomas. The 2010 census lists the town’s population as 660, but officials at the Tucker County Convention & Visitors Bureau says the number is closer to 1,000. Davis has the distinction of having the highest elevation of any West Virginia town, at 3,100 feet above sea level.
The town has many attractions: the Herman August Meyer House (it’s also on the National Register of Historic Places), near the beautiful Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley State Resort Park, the Dolly Sods Wilderness, the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and part of the town is bordered by the Monongahela National Forest. And if you know your American polka trivia, you know that Davis is the birthplace of Frankie Yankovic, “America’s Polka King.”
From what I experienced while on my visit to Tucker County, I strongly believe that there is an abundance of kinetic energy created by the locals who have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and progressive drive needed to move forward. The county is filled with numerous possibilities, and I encountered many people who were doing some very creative things. They seems to be a shared vision, and that vision is improving the situation in West Virginia. I believe that the area that I saw on my trip there may look very different upon my next arrival to the location.