By Bob Weaver

UPDATE 4/1/2019 - Today is April Fools Day.

But it's no fooling, the Town of Richwood may be down for the count.

The town has had at least three hard knocks, a town in which the late newspaper editor Jim Comstock created "The University of Hard Knocks."

First, the town and region had faded to a shadow of its former self, lost industry and jobs, with about 30 storefronts vacant on Main Street.

Second, the destructive 2016 flood, riddled with devastation.

Now, unaccounted millions in flood relief money.

The mayor, former mayor, police chief and former clerk of a West Virginia city have been charged with embezzlement after an investigation into financial mismanagement and the misuse of federal funds meant to rebuild the city after the massive 2016 flood.

Officials on Friday announced the charges against Richwood Mayor Chris Drennen, former Mayor Bob Henry Baber, police Chief Lloyd Allen Cogar and former clerk Abigail McClung.

State Auditor John B. McCuskey described his investigation as a whirlwind that began by looking at Baber’s purchasing card spending and quickly blossomed into a citywide accounting of where the more than $3 million in federal flood recovery money went.

He said that only about $400,000 of the federal money went toward flood recovery, with the rest unaccounted for.

UPDATE 6/22/2016 - In 2016, the struggling town of Richwood had 10 candidates for mayor, with former mayor Bob Henry Baber winning by one vote.

Baber has been ousted as the mayor over a money issues, and has filed a lawsuit for reinstatement.

The following story was done just before the devastating flood of 2016, which took a more than heavy toll on the town.

AROUND THE BEND - Grieving Richwood Surrounded By Awesome Beauty

Richwood's empty Main Street with memories
of the town's hey-day resting in the town's
cemetery on a mountain overlooking the valley

By Bob Weaver

Ten candidates are running for mayor of Richwood in 2016.

Like many towns tucked into the hills of West Virginia, Richwood's has seen better days, victims of centralization and a terrible economy.

"It is now a town for grieving," said a resident.

Its Main Street storefronts bustled with activity during the mining boom of the last century and the earlier days with the timber industry.

Efforts to revitalize the town have had few results

But as the mines closed in the 1970s and employment in the timber industry, so too did the stores, leaving nearly 40 shells to decay along the now-quiet main street.

While there is still some timbering and saw milling, the town has little to show for over a century of extraction. Calhoun forester Russ Richardson has often said state citizens have profited little from timber extraction by mega-corporations, except for a lot of tree stumps.

The town is surrounded by the awesome mountain vistas
and streams, like Cranberry River with trout fishing

Richwood is surrounded by some of the most awesome mountains and streams, including Cranberry and Cherry rivers, known for WV trout.

Create West Virginia an independent, grassroots organization launched by Vision Shared several years ago has tried to improve local economies like Richwood by building creative communities, companies and centers of learning geared toward an "innovation economy."

So far, there have been few positive results.

The illustrious timber industry is still hanging on

Richwood, during its boom days, had a population of about 10,000, now about 2,000, with the retail business shifting to Summersville on the four-lane corridor.

It still maintains it is the "Ramp Capital of the World," with a festival founded by the late Jim Comstock, longtime editor of the "West Virginia Hillbilly."

Perhaps 50 years ago, Comstock inserted ramp juice into his printing ink for the paper, causing a furious reaction by the US Postal Service.

The local newspapers founded by Comstock are long gone.

Comstock also founded the "University of Hard Knocks," to recognize WV citizens who were highly successful without a college degree.

A prolific reporter and writer, Comstock likely alienated local citizens when he wrote a parody about the "Sex Lives of Richwood" women in the 1960s, likely based on the Kinsey Report.

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 into Richwood.

It once was the site for the world's largest wooden clothespin factory.

Richwood has tried to be reborn as both an artisan community and a technology center. The town's grocery outlet, Foodland, has also departed the community.

The town is the headquarters of the "Cherry River Navy" community organization. Its membership list has included presidents, governors, senators, astronauts, and others who have distinguished themselves for outstanding service to community and country or are deemed worthy of the honor. Among past and present members are Jennings Randolph, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Arch Moore, John Echols, Bob Smith, Jim Comstock, Jay Rockefeller, Jon McBride, and Babe Ruth.