(Editor's note: This is the latest installment from the Tyler County Planning Commission in conjunction with the Tyler County Bicentennial.)
One of the most intriguing, difficult to traverse, yet beautiful streams in West Virginia is Middle Island Creek. While the straight line distance from the creek's source at Smithburg, in Doddridge County, to its confluence with the Ohio River at Middle Island in St. Marys is only 26.17 miles, Middle Island Creek meanders a total of 77 miles. This length gives Middle Island Creek the distinction of being the longest stream in West Virginia not bearing "river" in its name. However, the Native Americans who passed through the region felt the stream was deserving of such a title, calling it the Diane River.
Along its lengthy course, the most unique area of Middle Island Creek is The Jug Handle, commonly referred to as simply "the Jug." The name was given because Middle Island Creek makes a five-mile loop in the shape of a jug handle and returns to within 150 feet of itself.
After the last mill at The Jug was demolished, Tyler County residents continued to visit The Jug on hot summer days.
As legend has it, The Jug was discovered by two homesteading families traveling up stream in search of suitable land. The families camped at The Jug, not knowing its unique terrain. The next morning, one of the families had taken ill, telling their companions to go ahead without them, expecting to catch up later. Eight hours later, the family which remained at the previous night's campsite, observed smoke rising behind them on the other side of the ridge. Upon investigation, they discover that the family that went ahead in fact was behind them. A full day of travel along the course of the creek had taken them only 150 feet from their campsite of the previous night.
This loop of Middle Island Creek encompasses about 568 acres of land well suited to farming. In 1796, this came to the attention of George Gregg. Could his family have been one of the two that discovered The Jug's unique geographic feature? Gregg also realized the power potential of the unusual situation of The Jug. The 13-foot drop between the lower and upper stream beds, inspired Gregg to envision a grist mill at the site.
Determined to bring his vision to life, Gregg dug a sluiceway across the low, narrow neck of the ridge to provide waterpower to operate a gristmill and a lumber mill. Both mills did a thriving business until they were destroyed by a flood. George Gregg's was the first of many mills to occupy this spot.
Over the years, The Jug also became a popular recreation location for people from all over Tyler County. Fishing, swimming, and picnicking were the activities of the day. In 1947-48, a low water bridge was constructed, using some of the stones from the mill, to divert the stream towards its normal course. That bridge remains in place to this day.
See coming editions of The Tyler Star News for more installments of "Celebrating the Tyler County Bicentennial" throughout 2014.
Acknowledgments, Sources: Tyler County History 1984, West Virginia Encyclopedia, Google Earth 2014. Photos courtesy of Jeff Watson / middlebourne.net