Terry Eads, the great-grandson of town founder Roman Pickens, who built a gristmill on the Upper Falls of the Coal River and served as Kanawha County sheriff from 1894 to 1898, was among those attending a Kanawha County Commission meeting dealing with the town's name two weeks ago. After hearing from town residents, the commission voted to support an effort to have the Board of Geographic Names officially make "Tornado" their town's one and only name.
"In my 65 years, I've never heard anyone complain about the name 'Tornado,'" Eads said Friday. "To those who live there, it's always been known as Tornado. Upper Falls is generally considered to be the falls area on Coal River -- not the town's name."
Eads, who lives in Teays Valley and grew up in Tornado, said controversy surrounded the town's name in its early days.
"My great-grandfather and his business partner, J.D. Gray, became involved in a dispute over what to name the new post office," which opened in 1886.
According to "Tornado Remembers," a history of the town, the two men argued so fiercely over what the name should be that "the people in the community said, 'Since there's been such a storm raised, let's call it 'Tornado.'" The name stuck.
"It could be an urban legend," Eads said, "but there was quite a brouhaha over what the name should be."
Bill Currey, co-founder of the Coal River Group, headquartered across the Coal River from downtown Tornado in Meadowood Park, was among those pushing for Tornado to be the town's official name.
Having the name designated and denoted on official maps "will be tremendously helpful to us in this era of GPS and smartphones," Currey said.
"Hopefully, 'Tornado' will be appearing instead of 'Upper Falls' in everyone's navigation systems in the next few weeks, since we're getting ready to order 30,000 Coal River Water Trail brochures. It will be nice for everyone to find us. Without the name change, if would be a different situation."
The Board on Geographic Names acknowledged that it received notices of support for making Tornado the town's official name from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the Kanawha County Commission, the Kanawha Metro 911 coordinator, the Tornado Volunteer Fire Department and the West Virginia State Names Authority.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.