CALHOUN County sits in the middle of the state, isolated from any interstate. Industry, too, bypassed the county. With 7,627 residents in the 2010 Census, Calhoun's population is smaller than it was in 1890.
But a small population and little commerce give Calhoun an advantage over other places.
Astronomers say Calhoun Park off W.Va. 16 near Grantsville (population 561) is one of the darkest spots east of the Mississippi River. Spruce Knob is on the list, too.
People in Calhoun are playing up their dark side. Shirley Ball, a member of the board that oversees the park, said word of the place has long been out among astronomers.
"A lot of the stargazers like to come to our park instead of Spruce Knob due to access," Ball told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. Hundreds of astronomers have visited Calhoun Park over the years.
Brian Ottum, an amateur astronomer from Michigan, told the newspaper that Calhoun has many charms.
"It's dark. It's a public park with open space, without a lot of trees at the top of the hill. And it has camping," Ottum said.
Local leaders hope astronomers flock on Aug. 11 and 12 to watch the annual Perseids meteor shower.
Some say it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Calhoun residents bless the darkness.
The county has turned isolation into an astronomer's dream.
A gas explosion at the Little General Store in Ghent on Jan. 30, 2007, killed five men. Now the families of those men plan a permanent memorial at the blast site, Mannix Porterfield of the Register-Herald in Beckley reported.
Coleman Custom Building Inc., owned by James Coleman, a member of the Ghent Volunteer Fire Department, agreed to construct the monument for $73,400. Donald Starr of Beckley designed the monument, which will have a 10-foot high base measuring 21 feet by 54 feet.
The memorial will remember Frederick Burroughs, 51, and Donnie Caldwell, both of the Ghent VFD; Craig Lawrence Dorsey II, 24, a Ghent EMT/firefighter; and two Appalachian Heating technicians, Jeffrey Lee Treadway, 21, and Glenn Ray Bennett, 44.
They are gone but not forgotten.
Donations may be sent to First Community Bank, Attention: Nancy Poff, 1220 Ritter Drive, Daniels, WV 25832.