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Review of a good book; some not so good news

January 16, 2010
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

How many of you have heard of the town of Yeager? How many have heard of the Pringle Pack Road or the Horseshoe Road or the Cheat River Road?

Would you be surprised to learn that at the time of the Civil War modern day Belington was called Yeager? Some might even be surprised to learn that the Pringle Pack Road, or the Horseshoe Road, or the Cheat River Road as it was also known, is the trail over which the first settlers came to what is present day eastern Barbour County. That's according to Violet Gadd Coonts in her book, "The Western Waters: Early Settlers of Eastern Barbour County West Virginia."

Coonts' book was first published in 1991 and the third edition was printed in 2008. She titled it from the reference made to the area by those living east of the Appalachian Mountains prior to the frontiersmen's laborious migration westward into the area. Sketchy information carried back to the eastern "civilized" world after the migration began realized that the waters of the region flowed north or westward, draining the massive watershed into the mighty Ohio and eventually into the Mississippi River. Thus the name Western Waters.

Coonts' book is indeed a wealth of information on present day Barbour County beginning around the middle of the 18th century when the area was a part of eastern Virginia, specifically Augusta County. Coonts writes, and rightly so, that at the time the area was a trackless wilderness that the Indians used as a hunting ground in spring, summer and fall. She notes that they occasionally established villages in the area, one of which was in the Cove District of the county. She also reminds us of a fact, seemingly lost in today's understanding of the region, that the region was not devoid of human occupation; it had been occupied for tens of thousands of years by Native Americans, who, when faced with the ever increasing threat of encroachment by the Europeans, fought tenaciously to hold onto their rightful access to the area.

It is hard to imagine the time, effort and dedication Coonts put into her book. It is not a study of one single facet of the area but of a multitude of interests. It covers the formation of the county, early settlements, tax records, deeds, Indian wars that took place in the area, forts and massacres and many other historical areas.

One of my favorite sections is titled "What's in a Name?" This section, along with the one titled "Duplicate Names," brings to light the difficulties associated with researching a subject such as Coonts undertook. Multiple spellings of names on records, such as deeds and other official records, present formidable challenges when writing a book such as this one or any book on history for that matter. She has done an enviable job, however, of pointing out these ambiguities in the hopes that readers will gain useful knowledge from it while understanding that writing history puts every author at risk of the facts. Historians who follow will recognize, through additional research of records and data that may come to light in years to come, the errors and correct them. Despite the challenges presented by the various spellings, and misspellings of names and the errors incumbent with trying to read the writing of scribes who kept the official records, it is a great source of information for genealogists, too.

The postscript is a poignant and emotional salute to those rugged and resourceful people who settled the wilderness that we know today as eastern Barbour County.

She has written nothing new about the area. All of what she has assimilated between the covers of her book can be found in courthouses in both Virginias. What she has done, though, is to put all this information together in one easy-to-read volume and save everyone else interested in the county's history countless hours of searching. The appendices are a wealth of information on the county commissioners of the time, their actions and decisions and the 1810 census. For the history student, the notes and bibliography are treasure troves of sources for information.

This 422-page book would make a great addition to anyone's coffee table collection. All you have to do is pick it up, open it and begin reading.

One of the author's sons is the well known New York Times Best Selling author Stephen Paul who resides part-time near Boyer in Pocahontas County.


Here's a scam that everyone should be aware of that was reported in the Jan. 18 issue of Woman's World. According to an article in that magazine, a recent report revealed a dramatic 600 percent spike in phishing - phony e-mails that look as though they're from banks, stores, or social networking sites aimed at tricking you into handing over account information. These phishing (pronounced fishing) scams are so convincing, FBI Director Robert Mueller admits that even he almost fell for one.

Cyber crooks have found a new way to target you with texts to your cell phone telling you that your account has been deactivate and you need to call a number listed in the message to reactivate it. To avoid becoming a phishing victim, never respond directly to e-mails or text messages or click on links in those messages. Instead, call the bank or company's customer service number directly to verify that the message came from them.


As if the previous two "bad news" stories aren't enough, here's one more - and I'll quit with this one. The Food and Drug Administration issued the following news release concerning the use of Zicam on June 16, 2009. Having been issued at a time when few people were concerned with cold remedies, you might possibly have missed it.

I don't have the space to give you the full report, but here's the thrust of the bulletin: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today advised consumers to stop using three products marketed over-the-counter as cold remedies because they are associated with the loss of sense of smell (anosmia), which may be long-lasting or permanent. The products are Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs - Kid's Size. According to the FDA, the kid's size product has been discontinued, but if you have them in your medicine cabinet at home it would be advisable to get rid of them.

The FDA said that they had received more than 130 reports of loss of sense of smell associated with the use of these three Zicam products.

In these reports, many people who experienced a loss of smell said the condition occurred with the first dose. Others reported a loss of the sense of smell after multiple uses of the products.

For more information regarding this report and comments by users, go to



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