If Kanawha County hadn't existed in 1999, Putnam County would not have
grown at all, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.
Except for about 400 Kanawha residents moving in, as many people left
Putnam County that year as came in.
Most of Putnam County's growth in the last several years has
come at the expense of Kanawha County. Between 1994 and 1999, more than 80
percent of Putnam County's population increase came from Kanawha, a
Gazette computer analysis of IRS migration data showed.
About 2,600 people made the short trip west on Interstate 64 to settle
in new subdivisions like Teays Valley Meadows North, where former Dunbar
residents Lewis and Judy Gandee live. Judy Gandee said that number doesn't
"I've met a lot of friendly people since I moved out here," she
"Most are from Kanawha County."
Like a new car
Lewis Gandee pushed his 6-year-old granddaughter in her backyard swing
on a recent sunny winter afternoon. From his large, level yard, they can
one trampoline. The muffled roar of I-64 sounds in the distance.
The Gandees began to think about where they want to retire more than
five years ago. Lewis worked as a sales representative, Judy as a teacher
at Roxalana Elementary in Dunbar. They wanted a new house so they wouldn't
have to worry about renovations or repairs.
They drove around to new houses in other areas, but about
three-quarters of the new houses were in Teays Valley. Some new houses in
Kanawha County were surrounded by older houses, which concerned Lewis.
"If we're buying a new house, we want to live in a new neighborhood
where the houses all have comparable values," he
The Gandees settled first in White Pines subdivision, next to the
Winfield exit. After Judy's mother suffered a stroke and moved in with
them, they found a house in Teays Valley Meadows North, with a downstairs
bedroom for her mother.
Their daughter, Leah Gabhart, her husband John and daughter Sarah soon
followed the Gandees to Teays Valley. They were living in a Cross Lanes
townhouse built into a steep hillside. They couldn't put a swing set for
Sarah out back and Leah was afraid to let her ride a bike in the driveway.
"We didn't consider anyplace else," Leah
yard where the houses aren't on top of each other."
The Gabharts can see cattle grazing from their home in Moorefield Place
the creek or play on its sandy banks.
Sarah likes being able to walk to the Dairy Queen nearby. Leah likes
being so close to Sarah's school, Teays Valley Christian.
Leah feels the neighborhood is safe from both traffic and crime, and
crime statistics support her. Putnam County's crime rate is about half the
rate as Kanawha County's, although both are low by national standards.
According to the 1998 state Uniform Crime Report, Putnam County has a
crime rate of 23 incidents for 1,000 people, compared to Kanawha County's
rate of 52 per 1,000.
Leah doesn't know if anything could have kept her from moving to Putnam
"There aren't that many new subdivisions in Kanawha County," she
"I like the newer neighborhoods. They have underground utilities, and
they're laid out better."
Lewis added, "It's like the appeal of a new car."
Mike and Suzanne Reid are both "Dunbar kids." They grew up in Dunbar,
went to Dunbar High School and lived there after they married in 1982.
Mike works for AEP's John Amos Power Plant near Poca and his wife for
Acordia in Charleston.
Several years ago, the Reids remodeled their Midway Drive house. They
didn't think they would ever move, Suzanne
Two years ago, their son Nicholas turned 4. At the same time, Kanawha
County school officials announced plans to close the Reid's neighborhood
Suzanne went to school at Roxalana and felt it was the best she could
offer her son. The consolidated school was a wild card, something she
didn't know about. She already mourned the loss of Dunbar's high school,
which she still wished was open for her son.
A relative who works at West Teays Elementary gave Suzanne glowing
reports about that Putnam County
The only thing that worried her
was its size - more than 700 students, larger than her high school had
Knowing that Putnam County had top-notch schools made it easier for her
to move there, she
Putnam County ranked third in the state's
Stanford-9 test scores last year, while Kanawha ranked 14th out of 55
The Reids thought briefly about moving south of Charleston, in one of
the new houses being built near Corridor G, but the traffic at Southridge
They scouted back yards for bicycles, sandboxes and swing sets when
they looked for their future neighborhood. They wanted a place with lots
"I wanted a quiet, safe, dead-end street," Suzanne
Nicolas to ride his bike or play kickball without cars zooming by."
They bought a two-story house in Fox Run subdivision, near Teays Valley
Road. The house has a modern, open layout with a family room, casual
dining area and kitchen all connected. They got to choose some of the
details of their new house, such as hardwood floors and gold-colored light
Moving to Teays Valley meant an extra half-hour drive to work for
Suzanne. More than 57 percent of Putnam County workers commute to a
different county for their job, the highest rate in the state. Kanawha
County only sends 7 percent of its work force out of county.
She has found it slightly perilous, having been rear-ended twice, once
recently on I-64 on her way into Charleston. But she believes the commute