2021 was a year of numerous new beginnings in Logan County with a few challenges along the way.
Politically, Logan County’s year began with several newly elected officeholders taking office. David Wandling succeeded John Bennett as the county’s prosecuting attorney after 12 years, Paul “P.D.” Clemens took over as sheriff to succeed term-limited Sonya M. Dingess Porter, and local businesswoman Diana Barnette became one of the first Republicans to sit on the Logan County Commission.
At the state level, Jordan Bridges and German-born Margitta Mazzocchi began their two-year terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates, serving District 24. Both are Republicans.
2021 saw a slew of new businesses open in Logan County, beginning on Jan. 2 with the opening of Logan Yoga and Fitness by Britta Aguirre at Country Roads Development, LLC, in West Logan. Country Roads is located in the former Mathis Motel and Mountain Trail Inn, which had been a community eyesore until it was purchased by David and Crystal Gore and Jimmy and Angie Adkins.
Country Roads would go on to open more businesses in the building in 2021, including Studio Maletti, a hair and nail salon owned by Chelcee Pennington; the Smith Academy of Salon Professionals (SASPRO) next door; Logan Taekwondo with Kenny Jude; Zumba with Kayla Marcum; and Pinnacle Heating and Cooling.
The first floor of Country Roads is now fully leased by businesses, and the second floor is slated to become tourist lodging known as the Country Cardinal Lodge.
January would see the opening of two hair and nail salons in the Logan area — Foxxy Salon at Stollings, owned by Hannah Foxx, and BNC Hair and Nail Salon at Mount Gay, owned by Beth Workman and Chelsey Crum.
A historic building in downtown Logan also received new ownership. Michael Cline, owner of Hot Cup, completed the purchase of the White and Browning Building just two days before the New Year in December 2020, and he promptly renamed the building Stark Tower.
Almost a year later, Cline is still working to renovate the upstairs portion of the building.
Just up the block, another historic building in Logan gained new ownership. The former National Bank of Logan and O.J. Morrison Department Store building at 229 Stratton St., a grand five-story structure with a basement and mezzanine as additional floors, was auctioned off Jan. 26 at a price of $200,000.
The building’s new owner is Larry Jackson, a heavy equipment salesman from the North Springs area of Wyoming County. The building was previously owned by Jackie Tomblin.
The building would change hands once again in September, when Jackson agreed to sell it to David and Crystal Gore at a price of $175,000. The Gores have already been at work with revitalization plans, and several businesses — including Christine Runyon’s Beauty Within and Vivian Short Photography — are already slated to move into the building in 2022.
One business, Greg Dalton Nationwide Insurance, has already moved its downtown Logan offices into the mezzanine floor as of Dec. 1.
In July, the Appalachian Outpost, a cabin rental and business area located at the old Rita Mall, held its long-awaited grand opening celebration, despite it having been open for business about a year before that. Known as the Summer Shindig, the July 24 event was headlined by national country star Craig Morgan.
The Outpost’s owner, commissioner Diana Barnette, had originally planned to hold the event on July 25, 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced its postponement. She said she plans to host the Summer Shindig every year from now on.
July also saw the long-awaited reopening of popular local grocery store and deli Valley Market, which had been closed since April 2020.
In August, the Appalachian Outpost was toured by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D — W.Va.) as part of a Hatfield-McCoy trail ride organized for executives from off-road vehicle manufacturers Honda, Polaris and Kawasaki.
September saw the opening of the Brick’s Cuts 2 barbershop at Switzer and Big Guy’s BBQ at the old Long John Silver’s location in West Logan. Big Guy’s BBQ would close its doors for good less than three months later.
November would bring the opening of McCoy Station, an authentic Appalachian food restaurant, to the old Logan Corporation building in Logan. McCoy Station is accompanied by an axe-throwing facility known as Devil Axe.
In December, Kandee Damron and Eden Collins opened a home décor store in Chapmanville known as The Rustic Cabin.
Logan County gets redistricted
After years of pleading from several residents in the Man area to redraw the county’s magisterial district lines, the Logan County Commission voted on Dec. 1 to redistrict the county into four districts instead of the three central, eastern and western districts that had been in place since 1993.
The commission paid the West Virginia GIS Technical Center $5,000 to draft several maps for consideration, and they provided eight different maps that comply with West Virginia Code. Choosing one of the four-district maps was a 2-1 decision, with commissioners Danny Godby and Danny Ellis in favor and Diana Barnette against it.
The decision received a lukewarm reception from Man area residents, who preferred the county be divided into three north, central and south districts that encompassed the three main municipal regions instead.
Challenges, tragedies and goodbyes
No year would be complete with its set of challenges, and 2021 was no exception in Logan County.
The month of March began with heavy rainfall that brought the worst flooding since 2012 in parts of the region. The Mount Gay and Deskins Addition area, known historically for flooding, was once again underwater, and businesses like Stereo Video and the Mount Gay Lounge were faced with yet another cleanup operation.
At least one business, T&N Auto Body and Detail owned by Timothy Hager, moved shop entirely after the flood.
Tragedy struck the community on April 21 when Priscella Cline-Smith, co-owner of the Paradise Island campground at Christian, was struck and killed by a vehicle just outside the property along W.Va. 80. Cline-Smith was known for her monthly food giveaways and had been scheduled to hold one later that morning.
Her sudden death brought shock and sadness to the area and on April 24, dozens came to Paradise Island for a candlelight vigil in her honor. One of the speakers at the vigil was her former high school classmate, Mingo County Commissioner Gavin Smith, who died just a little over a month later on June 7 at 64.
In late December, Logan would say goodbye to longtime mayor Tom Esposito, who died at 69 following a year-long battle with a rare bile duct cancer.
COVID-19 rages on
As Logan County entered 2021, COVID-19 numbers in the county were high, with the county averaging more than 300 active cases per day throughout January. Numbers would rise and fall through the year, eventually reaching a spike again in September, when the county would see its highest active count to date — 660.
The ongoing pandemic would bring several challenges and even some controversies to Logan County over the course of the year. Just before the start of school in August, the Logan County Board of Education voted to make face coverings optional for students and staff, but they later reversed course in September after receiving new quarantine guidance from the West Virginia Department of Education.
Opinions on masking students were divided, with about an equal number of residents for and against it.
The pandemic would also, of course, affect some of the events planned around the county. In September, when case numbers were at their highest, the two-day Appalachian Heritage Days event, which was planned to be part of the Blair 100 series of events, was cancelled and is tentatively rescheduled for spring 2022. The City of Logan also cancelled its Shawnee Island Festival.
In January, municipalities received more funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the first piece of pandemic relief legislation signed into law by former U.S. President Donald Trump in March 2020. The City of Logan has used their money for several infrastructure and department needs.
One such project was unveiled to the public at the city council’s regular session on Dec. 14. The council met at their new storage and warehouse facility at Central City/Slabtown, which was built at approximately $200,000 using mostly CARES funding.
In March, current U.S. President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. From that plan, the Logan County Commission received an estimated $6.21 million, while the City of Logan received $610,000, Chapmanville received $460,000, Man received $260,000, West Logan received $150,000, and Mitchell Heights received $110,000.
Federal officials have still not provided a clear indication of how money from the American Rescue Plan may be spent.
In the community
2021 saw the return of several events that were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Among them were Chapmanville’s Apple Butter Festival, the Man Street Fair and Logan’s Hocus Pocus Festival.
In February, residents in the area were in awe of the thousands of ring-billed gulls that invaded parts of Logan, Mingo and Boone counties. The birds made their massive appearance around Midelburg Island and the American Legion Post 19 in Logan on Feb. 12.
Although initially reported to be seagulls by the locals, the birds were identified as ring-billed gulls by the National Audubon Society field guide on North American birds. According to news sources out of eastern Kentucky, the gulls are one of the most common in North America and were likely migrating toward Kentucky, something they do during the winter months.
On Feb. 26, local residents memorialized the 49th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster, which killed 125 on that date in 1972. Gov. Jim Justice placed a wreath on the Buffalo Creek Memorial at Kistler. Following the wreath placement, an annual informal meeting of survivors was held at the Buffalo Creek Memorial Library, which brought back emotions from the assembled residents nearly five decades later.
In April, following a community meeting at Fountain Place Cinema 8 by commissioner Barnette known as “Let’s Talk Trash,” numerous countywide litter cleanup efforts were organized. The efforts led to other beautification projects throughout the county.
2021 proved to be a year of sports championships for Logan County, especially in the Man area. In March, the Man High School cheerleaders won the Class A state championship. In May, the Man boys basketball team won its first state championship in school history with a 43-36 victory over Pendleton County.
In June, the Logan High School baseball captured its seventh overall state championship — and the first in 12 years — with a 13-0 win over North Marion in the Class AA division.