Preston, West Virginia USA
Who are you and what do you do?
'My name is Joseph Hauger, and I am the editor of the Preston County News & Journal, which serves as the main source of news in Preston County, West Virginia.'
Why do you choose to live in Preston?
'There isn't much to the actual Preston within Preston County. When coal was a predominant industry here in the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a multitude of 'camp towns' throughout the county for the miners. Of the five dozen or so unincorporated communities that have existed in Preston County, only about a few are currently recognised and have any sort of population.
Preston itself is not one of them, and the only evidence of its existence is being erased with the demolition of three or four abandoned, deteriorated buildings that once were company housing. There may be one or two people who live in what was once Preston, but I'm not sure whether they would identify themselves as residents of such. Their mailing addresses and school districts would place them in either Kingwood or Rowlesburg, depending upon the exact location. If anything, they would be likely to call the area in which they reside Fourth, probably derivative of Fourth Camp.
In terms of Preston County, it recently celebrated its bicentennial, having been formed from Monongalia County in 1818. The main reason for it becoming its own county was the rough terrain, including the Cheat River valley, that deterred travel to the county seat for many people in the eastern region. It limited the ability to vote and pay taxes on time.
The county was named for James Patton Preston, the governor of Virginia at the time and is the only county named Preston in the entire United States. Settlers began populating Preston County in 1766, but growth really started when the National Road was built to the north in Pennsylvania. When the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad arrived in the 1850s, development took off to exploit the natural resources, chiefly coal and timber. Agriculture also has been an integral part of the county's economy since its inception.'
What's your favourite place in Preston and why?
'As far as natural landmarks go, the favourite would have to be Coopers Rock State Park, which provides a tremendous view of the Cheat River and its deep valley. At the scenic overlook, it's easy to see why early people would have had problems traversing that area (see my photo for reference).'
What is Preston proud of?
'People from Preston County are particularly proud of their hunting heritage. Each year, the county is at the top of the list in the state for harvesting of deer, bear, turkey and small game. While not a point of pride, the residents of Terra Alta in eastern Preston County endure an average of 175 inches (444 cm) of snow annually.'
Tell us something about Preston that people won't know?
'Preston County was the home of Mahlon Loomis, a dentist who experimented in long-distance wireless telegraph technology. Although his theories on upper atmospheric layers being conductive were disproven, it's possible that his equipment was the first to produce and receive radio signals in the 1860s and 1870s.'