Look Back: Paw-Paws and Fort Boreman

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Paw-paws, aka the West Virginia banana. This wild fruit still flourishes in much of Wood County. The ones above were found on Fort Boreman hill, just south of the playground area, on Aug. 3. They are still well over a month from being ready to enjoy. (Photo by Bob Enoch)

Paw-paws are ripe!

The paw-paw, a fruit found only in this section of the country and known everywhere as the West Virginia banana, is ripe and ready for gathering. That is, the early variety. There are several varieties of paw-paws as well as other fruits and the early kind is now ripe.

The youngsters of this section are in their glory in the paw-paw season; they hie to the hills and come back with baskets loaded down with the sweet fruit. They then proceed to eat paw-paws until they are ready to burst.

The youngsters are not the only ones that eat paw-paws, as many a bushel are shipped from here and other places nearby, to Pittsburg and other cities where they are sold at high prices in the fruit stands. On account of their spoiling too quick, paw-paws cannot be shipped any great distance and they are never heard of in places any great distance from here.

The best paw-paws are not ripe until after frost has put in its appearance. This variety is the black paw-paw and is prized more than the early fruit. There will be paw-paws on the markets here from now on until the early part of November.

The kids around here not only enjoy the fruit but they save the seeds and use them in games much the same as they would marbles. The seeds are of a flat oval shape and are black and very hard. They are a sort of currency in the kid world of this vicinity during the season of paw-paws.

Paw-paw patches are very plentiful in these parts. Nearly every hill around here has its paw-paw patch and one of the proudest possessions of any active boy here is to know where the best patches of paw-paws may be found.

In a short time it will be not an unusual thing to see parties of people returning from the hills with baskets of paw-paws, as paw-paw parties are as common as berrying parties in these parts.

Excerpt from the Parkersburg Daily State Journal

Sept. 3, 1910

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Coy Sams’ Memories of Fort Boreman Hill

by Bob Enoch

In 1999, while gathering information about Fort Boreman Hill, I had the opportunity to visit Coy Sams, who lived but a short distance from the historic hill.

Coy grew up in Slate (born 1910) and recalls riding the packet boats and the Little Kanawha Railroad. When they moved to Parkersburg they lived near the old Newport School, near the south end of the Juliana Street bridge, in the shadows of old Fort Boreman. He recalled seeing the old cannon (“Long Tom,” now in City Park) that pointed directly up Market Street. He also recalled “seeing people bringing wagons off the hill full of paw-paws, to take over town and sell.”

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Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $20/year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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