The Little Cannonball and Waddington Creek form such an expansive valley at their junction that it’s not easy telling where one valley ends and the other begins. If you attempt to discover the beginnings of the
by drawing a line between the downstream side of the last hill to its east and
the last hill to its west, you’ll find that the line nearly touches the north
shore of the Little Cannonball and covers a distance of over a mile. Doing the
same with the Little Cannonball in relation to the Waddington Valley Ohio, however, indicates a distance of only
about two-thirds of a mile, despite the fact that Waddington carries perhaps only
one-hundredth the flow of the Little Cannonball. Combining its wide valley with
the wide mouth of Waddington itself gives the impression that the stream is
much larger than it is.
Turning into Waddington from the Little Cannonball, you first pass under a trestle of the old B & O line to
On the left bank is a little
park which was given to the City of Washington,
by the neighboring factory that owned the land. Of course, one of the
stipulations was that the park would bear the company’s name. The city built a
boat ramp there which serves most of the boats docked on the Little Cannonball
and quite a few on the Ohio.
Its heaviest use, though, is by fisher-folk and duck hunters who don’t dock
their crafts anywhere except their backyards. The last few years, it has also
seen heavy use as a pick-up spot for males of a certain deviant persuasion.
Two hundred yards upstream from the boat ramp, a four-lane bridge crosses Waddington where the modern version of the Staunton Pike is located. The name of the road is properly pronounced “
Stanton” on the
southern end, while the good folks of Newport pronounce
it “ Staunton.”
Whether that Yankee mispronunciation is from ignorance or is a carry-over of
Civil War spite is hard to say. Like the old B & O line to Washington, control of
the old highway was considered of major importance to both sides; unlike the
rail line, neither side ever succeeded in securing it. The Confederacy generally
managed to maintain dominance over the eastern half of the roadway, while the Union managed to hold the western half. Still, that
allowed the North an adequate distance between the pike and the railroad to
maintain the safety of the tracks. There were many minor instances of sabotage to
the rails by guerilla fighters whom the South called “irregulars” and the North
called “bushwhackers,” and a few instances of major destruction by uniformed
troops, but no lasting damage was incurred.
Returning to the present, a little marina is located a few yards upstream of the highway on the eastern side of the creek. It has space for a few boats to dock and a small store that stocks a limited supply of groceries, picnic supplies and outdoor paraphernalia. During the summer months, it does a booming trade in the three necessities of life on the river: gasoline, beer and bait.
From the Staunton Pike, the Waddington flows between the old cut-stone abutments of an earlier bridge to run northeast for about a third of a mile, then dog-legs to the northwest for another third of a mile where it serves as a watery backyard boundary for an old section of city homes. Older residents of this neighborhood remember well the days before the latest dam went in on the
Ohio. The Waddington was a series of
gravel-bottomed pools and riffles back then and fishing for supper was a common
pastime for the residents. Since the newest dam, the water is several feet deeper,
has a mud bottom and seems to hold very few fish. The riffles, which once added
a certain musical quality to the scene, are now only distant memories.
Leaving that neighborhood, the creek rounds the end of a sharp ridge to run east-south-east another third of a mile where it marks the southern border of a sixty acre hardwood creek bottom. For the next half mile, the creek is pinched into a narrow part of the valley where it once again forms a moat for an older section of town.
As Waddington leaves the narrow area, it enters a much wider part of the valley where it grows more convoluted. Like the 60 acre wooded floodplain mentioned earlier, this section is mostly forest. Flooding too often to even make a good pasture field, the area abounds with the low-value, fast-growing hardwoods normally found on area creek banks. Sycamore, water maple, river birch, willow, box-elder and black gum form the bulk of the forest, although an occasional walnut, oak or wild cherry hides amongst their poor-boy kin.
These wooded pieces of bottomland are desolate places during the winter months. Only infrequent flocks of ducks or geese in nearby fields, or on the creek itself, add any interest during the daylight hours. Under the cover of darkness, however, the occasional muskrat digs for roots while deer and raccoon pass through on their way somewhere else.
With spring, though, the forest becomes a different world entirely. Birds not found there during the winter suddenly reappear and fill the valley with song. Wood ducks nest and raise their fledglings in hollow trees and muskrats are so plentiful they’re frequently seen swimming the creek in broad daylight. An amazing array of blossoms treat the eye, whitetail does drop their fawns among the growing weeds and the raccoons, which wintered on the oak-covered hillsides above the creek, prowl the now food-filled valley. When the water warms enough, snapping turtles, stink-pots, leather-backs and other creatures of that persuasion reappear and start sunning themselves to warm up their cold reptilian blood.
A mile or so later, Waddington passes first under a bridge that marks the site of the old Northwestern Pike, then runs through a deep fill that carries a more recent incarnation of that highway. The Northwestern Pike links
with Washington, D.C.
and was the brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, who sought to open up the Northwest Territory by its construction. Like the
Staunton Pike and any other road called a “pike,” it was a toll-road for many
years after its creation.
After passing through the fill, Waddington passes by the east end of a small hay field and then winds northeast by north through a narrow wooded valley for about a third of a mile. It then passes near two units of low-income housing located on a high section of bottom land and turns north-west-north to snake roughly a half mile along the western edge of a wide, wooded creek bottom. At that point, it enters the property of the Waddington Golf Club.
Surprisingly, when the 18 hole golf course first opened for business, it was on 88 acres of leased land. A local real estate agency of questionable honesty had laid out the former corn field as a housing development back in 1938. Fortunately, folks back then had better sense than to buy building lots on land that flooded at least twice a year. As a result, the agent was left scrambling to find some way to turn a profit on the property.
By coincidence, a local businessman with tuberculosis was advised by his doctor to find some outdoor activity where he could exercise and while away a few hours of the day breathing fresh air. He and a local plumber, who was a friend, decided that golf was just the game. They formed a partnership, leased the bottom-land from the agent, built 18 sand greens and were in business.
Unfortunately, their course didn’t open until the spring of 1942, just a few months after the Japs had paid a surprise visit to
With no actual ownership of the land to protect and little profit to divide
between them, the ailing partner soon offered to step out of the partnership
for the cost of one fur coat for his wife. The deal was struck and the
fledgling business, with only one owner, managed to keep running during the lean
war years and even to buy the property soon after the war ended. Eventually,
another 32 acres were purchased and added to the course and the fairways taken
from their somewhat rough state and given a well groomed appearance.
By coincidence, Waddington Golf Club is located midway between “The Rice Fields”, another course located south of town which was named for a failed agricultural experiment on that site, and the Newport Country Club, a supposedly upper-crust establishment located north of town in nearby Salzburg. The new club was designed to serve folks in the mid-town area who felt no need to study pedigrees or harbored any desire to travel to the south side of the Little Cannonball.
The land in this area was once part of the 2000+ acre Waddington Plantation for which the creek was named. It was settled by James Monroe Waddington in the very early 1800’s after he received the property by land grant, probably for some service rendered the federal government or the
Like many of the “well connected” folk of his era, his descendants sided with
the south when choosing sides at last became necessary. His eldest son, who had
by that time inherited the place, lost his only boy at the Battle of Piedmont
where the young officer fought under General “Grumble” Jones as the
Confederates attempted to stop the Yankee push for Commonwealth of Virginia Staunton.
His daughter and her husband, also a Confederate officer, both survived the war and eventually inherited the plantation. By that time, however, it was a shadow of its former self. Much of the land had been sold well before the war; still more was sold after the war when there was no slave-labor to tend the fields and the livestock. Today, the old mansion-house stands on a large city lot and is owned by a local attorney of no relation to its builder.
Returning once again to the stream, Waddington rises on its first riffle from the river as it winds its way through the velvety green of the links. Finally free of the silt from the Little Cannonball’s frequent bank-filling backwaters, it starts becoming a stream of sandbars, gravel-bars, riffles and pools. A small, un-named run passes by the clubhouse to mingle its waters with those of the larger stream midway across the course.
Beyond the clubhouse, a row of homes faces the winding
Laurel Lane while turning their backs to the
course until is reached. Like
the clubhouse and the homes, it sits on high ground overlooking the stream in
the distance. It was built in the 1960’s by people with “progressive minds.”
That explains why, in Waddington
Grade School West Virginia,
a California-style school was built where the students must go outdoors between
each class period to change rooms—rain, blizzard, wind or sleet.
Just past the school, Combs’ Run drains much of the Sand Plains area of
Newport to enter the golf course and join
Waddington. For many years, it marked the city limits for that end of Newport, the end of 45th Street and the
beginning of the St. Ambrose Pike (now called the Old St. Ambrose Pike). That
honor now belongs to Boar’s Hill
Road, a road which turns east from the pike at the
northern limit of the golf course.
An interesting phenomenon occurs near this section of the creek. Business people have always known the sales value of a pretentious name, and Waddington does have a certain upper crust ring to it. As a result, clustered around the golf course is Waddington Acres, a housing development;
offices for shrinks; Waddington Marine, a boat dealer and Waddington Manor, a
nursing home. Waddington Center
As the creek passes beneath the
of Boar Hill Road, it
leaves the golf course behind. By this point, the creek has lost its early
width and depth, along with its high, steep banks. The areas at the ends of the
bridge often flood, but Boar’s Hill attained wet-weather access from the
Northwestern Pike when the big fill was made over the Waddington for that
highway in the mid 50’s. As a result, the city limits of Newport have jumped the floodplain along the
road to include many acres of high bottom land on the far side of the valley. That
bottom land is built nearly full of houses; and a small chunk of Boar’s Hill
which the city also annexed, adds a few more homes to the city’s tax base. Many
other homes are located on Boar’s Hill, but their owners have chosen not to ask
Back at the bridge, the stream now finds itself beyond the city limits also. With a turn to the northeast, it gains a companion to travel with for a few miles, the Old St. Ambrose Pike. The old roadway was once the main route between
and St. Ambrose, the county seat of Cordial
County, the next county upstream from Stone County
as you travel the Ohio.
These days, the road is termed a secondary state highway and mostly serves to
take people to and from their homes in the country and their jobs in Newport and elsewhere.
Now that the banks of Waddington aren’t so formidable, fisherfolk can be found along its shores in decent weather. During intolerably hot weather, you may even find modern-day Isaac Walton’s wading the stream as if fishing for trout rather than the catfish, bluegill and bass they’re really after. Most turn their catch loose; a few eat them, some out of ignorance of the chemicals which may be in their flesh this close the river, others due to lack of choice.
As you turn the bend on the pike that draws it closer to Waddington, you leave the sights and sounds of town behind you and enter true country, free from grid-like streets and stoplights. You’ll also immediately notice the air feels 10 degrees cooler. If you travel much on foot, you’ll know what a blessing that is in the summer. Winter, of course, is a different story.
From the bridge on Boar’s
it’s about a half mile, as the creek meanders, to where Hickory Run enters
Waddington from the left and slithers under a low bridge to enter the larger
stream. That bridge is the first place on the pike to flood when the Little
Cannonball sends its backwaters looking for room to spread out. Just barely before
reaching the smaller stream, you’ll notice the creek and the pike drawing quite
close together. A riffle crosses Waddington there and you can still see traces
of the old ford that used to take farmers to the large hayfield across the
creek. Only a few feet past the little bridge over Hickory Run, Newman’s Road
follows the smaller stream down the hollow to intersect with the pike almost at
the end of the bridge. Back when hay was still put up in that field, and
Newman’s road was still gravel, some dangerous moments would occasionally occur
Realize first that the road and the creek both have a bend there and that when the leaves are on the trees, drivers approaching the bridge can’t see vehicles approaching from the other directions. Then, picture a farm-tractor and hay trailer coming from the ford, a kid in a hotrod screaming down the gravel road, and a factory worker heading for the country and home. Add to that a farmer in a two-ton truck racing for town and the nearest parts dealer. Imagine them all bearing down on that little bridge and its intersection at the same time and you can see how things could get really interesting. Despite quite a few wrecks there, no one has been killed—yet.
Newman’s Road isn’t the “real” name of that side-road, incidentally, at least not in the minds of the old-timers from those parts. It used to be called “Layman’s
Hollow Road” before
some New England-born governor decided to bring West Virginia out of the dark ages and
into the politically correct twentieth century. By his way of thinking, words
like “hollow”, “run”, “coon”, and a few others, sounded colloquial and uncouth;
as a result, such places were renamed. Probably no one in the state minded him
changing the name of Nigger Run, but the opposition party, at least, thought he
took things a little far in most cases. Hickory Run retains its name on county
maps only because there was never a sign for it.
The governor in question was from a
family which was big in national politics. He’d come here during the Vietnam
War to serve as a VISTA volunteer and escape
the draft. Once here, he surveyed the political climate and soon figured out
that, if he’d register as a democrat, most citizens of the state would be foolish
enough to vote for him because of his name. He proved that thought true when, a
few years later, he was elected governor. You might say that changing the name
of rural roads was one of the more important things he accomplished as
governor. In fact, the good citizens of the state were so impressed that they
elected him senator so he could go to Washington
and accomplish more great acts of statesmanship. Of course, one of the New
Yorker’s accomplishments which will always be remembered locally is how the
name of one of the area’s early settlers was replaced with the name of a dead
neighbor whose nephew worked for the Department of Highways.
Beyond the bridge at Hickory Run, Waddington forms a series of pools and riffles as it parallels the pike for a distance. The creek then parts company with the pike only to loop leisurely to the right for a quarter-mile and rejoin it where the large hayfield ends on the far side and the old Robinson place begins. The creek joins the road so tightly at that point, in fact, that the state had to drive pilings between them a few years ago to keep the road from crumbling into the creek. For a few years, old paving bricks from an earlier version of the pike littered the stony creek bank below where some locals picked them up for small masonry projects.
Just past the narrow spot a few yards,
Run Road (now Anderson Creek Road)
comes from the north to enter the pike in a right-hand bend. The bend ceases
where the bridge over Anderson Run begins. Like the spot above the bridge at
Hickory Run, high water sometimes blocks the pike there in rainy weather.
Andersons still live
along the little stream that bears their name. The Anderson clan was one of the first to settle
in the Waddington valley. They took seriously the Lord’s instructions to go
forth and multiply and the whole county is now crawling with Andersons, (and
their cousins bearing other names.) As a result of this saturation of the
county gene-pool, marriages sometimes occur where the guests aren’t certain on
which side of the aisle they should be seated. It’s not that the family
intermarries; in fact, several promising romances have been tearfully abandoned
when the couples compared genealogies and found they shared too many relatives
to feel comfortable about the situation. As it is, many people find that they
share several relatives, yet are not actually related themselves. Living a
couple centuries in one county can do that to a family. Interestingly enough, whether
nervous about their genetics or their humble farm roots, very few branches of
the family openly admit that they sprouted from the same tree.
Straight across the pike from Anderson Run Road was a ford in the creek which took you then, and can take you yet today, to the huge creek-bottom pasture of the Robinson farm. George Robinson was part of a large family from neighboring
The father and brothers were all oil men and the sisters all teachers. They had
several farms scattered over Stone and Worth County
and their oil, gas, timber and farm holdings totaled several thousand acres. At
one time, they had the largest herd of Polled Herefords east of the Worth Counties Mississippi.
Just above the ford on Robinson’s place was the old baptizing hole. From the ford, the bed of the creek slopes gradually into deeper water as you walk upstream, so just the right spot to match the height of any individual can easily be found. In days of yore, hardly a warm Sunday afternoon would pass but what some new child of God was ceremoniously dunked under the sometimes milky, sometimes muddy waters of Waddington Creek. Then again, some churches didn’t wait for warm weather and occasionally broke the ice from the creek’s surface to perform the ceremony. It’s always been said that you’ll never catch a cold being baptized; it’s a matter of faith no doubt.
It was usually the Methodists and Baptists you’d see gathered there; although, occasionally some Pentecostals, United Brethren or Nazarenes would show up. No one remembers seeing any “high church” denominations there; most folks figured they were turned off by the cow pies and therefore preferred sprinkling.
In fact, there have been times the faithful have actually had to share the spot with wading cattle taking a respite from the heat. No one ever minded too much since they realized that they, not the cattle, were the trespassers. Of course there were those unpleasant moments when some cow would take water in one end while letting it out the other. At such times, wise pastors usually gave the stream a few minutes to flow before they returned to their religious rites. These days, most churches have a little swimming pool back behind the preacher or one of those portable bathtubs you can wheel around where you want it. With them, you don’t have to watch where you step, worry about swallowing a minnow or cringe every time a yellow‑jacket buzzes by.
From the baptizing hole it’s only about a hundred yards to where Waddington passes under the interstate. Nearly everyone uses interstates these days, but those who remember small towns, mom and pop country grocery stores and one-pump gas stations often wonder if the progress was worth the price. Misusing eminent domain, the builders of the big highways sometimes ripped entire neighborhoods from the earth, butchered beautiful farms and tore down historic homes that had sheltered generations of founding families. “Progress requires change,” the old folks told their young’ns, “but not all change is progress.” © 2013
Please remember, this is historical fiction. While based on the oral history of the area, names and locations have been changed so much that any resemblance to individuals living or dead is strictly coincidental