Richwood, West Virginia

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Richwood is a city in Nicholas County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 2,477 at the 2000 census. A former coal and lumber boom town, the city's population once flirted with 10,000 but the closure of many underground coal mines caused many of Richwood's residents to leave the state in order to find work. The area is currently focusing on niche tourism as a means to revitalize the local economy. It calls itself the "Ramp Capital of the World" and hosts a large festival every April in honor of the pungent wild leek.



The area surrounding the forks of the Cherry River has been populated since the late 18th century CE. Local legend holds that Shawnee chief Blue Jacket was in fact a young white hunter named Marmaduke Van Swearingen who was kidnapped in the area. This theory, however, has generally fallen out of favor with most scholars.

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 with its present name, a nod to the abundant hardwood forests in the area. Soon the area possessed a large sawmill and the world's largest clothespin factory. Coal mine closures, however, crippled Richwood's economy in the 1970s and 1980s.

The town was once home to several large businesses and industries. In addition to the sawmill and the clothespin factory, there were other factories that produced wood-based products such as axe-handles and paper. Coal also came into the industry picture during Richwood's boom-era during pre-depression years. During this time the city's population neared 10,000 citizens. Banking was also a white collar industry that succeeded in the city with the large companies investing into the city's financial corporations. Once the large factories closed or relocated, many of the people followed. The final hit was when the coal industry took a downward turn and most of the local coal mines ceased operation. This was combined with a deep mining disaster when one of the local mines collapsed.

The city has also had problems with periodic flooding. Recently, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved impact studies in order to determine the propriety of the construction of dam on the South Fork of the Cherry River in order to limit future flooding. The proposed name for the possible lake is Eagle Lake. Depending on the exact location of the dam, the reservoir could become the largest lake in the state of West Virginia, surpassing nearby Summersville Lake.

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