Early Fish Culture in West Virginia

from: History of Hampshire County
by Maxwell & Swisher, 1897 pp. 323-326

The West Virginia Fish Commission

An act was passed February 20, 1877, creating this commission for the purpose of encouraging the culture of fish and the stocking the streams of the state. The first commissioners were, Major John W. Harris of Greenbrier, Hon. Henry B. Mi1ler of Wheeling, and Captain C. S. White of Hampshire. These were appointed June 1, 1877, for a period of four years. The commission organized July 17, 1877, by electing Major Harris president, Captain White secretary, and H. B. Miller treasurer.

State's First Fish Hatchery Located in Romney

In the summer of 1877 Captain White purchased of Charles Harmison the Maguire Springs near Romney, and erected and equipped a hatchery at a cost of seven hundred dollars. The commission also purchased the Maguire Springs, including one-fourth acre of land for five hundred and fifty dollars. In 1879 Major Harris resigned and N. M. Lowry was appointed in his stead. H. B. Miller was then elected president. In 1880 the grounds were greatly improved. New ponds were constructed and the grounds about tbe hatchery enclosed by a tight seven foot fence. A house for the manager of the hatchery to use as a dwelling was built in 1885. In June of 1885, Hon. L. J. Baxter of Braxton county, was appointed commissioner, succeeding Mr. Miller. C. S. White was made president. In June of the next year M. A. Manning of Summers county, was appointed commissioner, vice N. M. Lowry, removed from the state. Mr. Manning removed from the state the next year, and Hon. James H. Miller was appointed in his stead. This year the ponds were much enlarged. In 1889 N. C. Prickett, Esq., of Jackson county, was appointed in place of J. H. Miller. In the year 1891 a new hatching house was built and equipped, an addition was made to the dwelling. The ponds were also repaired and enlarged. The following persons have been managers at the hatchery:

From June, 1878, to May. 1880, Z. N. Graham; from October, 1880. to January, 1881, R. G. Ferguson; from January, 1881, to August, 1881, W. H. Maloney; from July, 1883, to February, 1886, William Montgomery; from April, 1886, to April, 1895, F. P. Barnes. Before Z. N. Graham was appointed manager, and during other intervals, when there was no manager, Commissioner White served in that capacity.

In the year 1877 and for some years thereafter it was confidently believed by United States Commissioner Baird and all leading fish culturists that the California salmon, a fish of fine quality, could be successfully introduced into our streams, and at his request the first and most cxpensive efforts of the West Virginia commission were made by hatching and depositing in adjacent streams large numbers of this fish. This hatching was successfully accomplished by Captain White in charcoal troughs of his own design and manufacture. The salmon did well in the South Branch and Potomac and went to the sea. Numbers of them were caught all the way from Romney to Washington. High hopes were entertained that this experiment would prove a success, but to the surprise of all interested in fish culture, the salmon never returned to our streams to spawn nor to any other stream entering the Atlantic ocean, although they invariably return to streams entering the Pacific. It will be interesting to give some figures showing the work done by the commission. In the years 1877-78 about 675,000 salmon, 100,000 trout, 1,200 black bass, most of them large enough to spawn, were distributed. In the years 1879-80 there were distributed 360,000 salmon, 165,000 shad, 600 carp, 2,000 g1ay bass and 1,400 native fish (black bass, pike, perch, jack and blue catfish), together with large numbers of mill-pond roach, as food for the bass. In 1881 and 1882 tbe commission put out 18,500 land-locked salmon, 7,000 trout, 2,000 carp, 600 black bass, 125 silver perch, 25 pike perch.

The appropriations since that time ($500 a year) have been so meagre that the work of the commission has been devoted almost entirely to the raising of carp and native fish, and food fish for the bass. The streams of the state are now pretty thoroughly stocked with these fish. New river, Gauley and Greenbrier rivers, with their tributaries, have been supplied with black bass until now they contain great numbers of these fish. Many depleted trout streams have been restocked and many streams have been supplied with small food fish for the bass. In 1893 the legislature failed to make any appropriation for the commission nor have succeeding legislatures done anything. All that is now done by the commission is to care for the state houses and ponds and furnish carp as they are called for.