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MUB to honor John Edwards, escaped slave turned Morgantown water pioneer

MORGANTOWN — A century before the formation of the Morgantown Utility Board, Morgantown’s first water delivery service came via mule-pulled cart.

Pretty interesting.

Even more interesting was the man holding the reins.

After escaping slavery in 1864, John Edwards found his way to Morgantown at the age of 25, married, and began delivering water — 10 cents for a barrel of river water; 15 cents if you wanted your water from Deckers Creek.

“This water service puts Mr. Edwards as one of the earliest African-American business owners in Morgantown. It also places him as the owner of the first water service in Morgantown history,” MUB Spokesman Chris Dale explained. “This makes his legacy worth preserving, not just in terms of his relevance to the mission of the Morgantown Utility Board, but to the Morgantown community.”

The MUB Board of Directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to do just that with a resolution naming the four-mile long raw water pipeline between the partially completed Flegal Dam and Reservoir to MUB’s water treatment plant the John Edwards Pipeline.

Further, the rail-trail rest area near the treatment plant will be named for Edwards and will feature an informational kiosk depicting Edwards and explaining the importance of his work.

MUB will also commission a mural to be painted on the north side of the building located at 140/142 N. High St. which will include Edwards.

Dale said a formal ceremony will be held prior to the pipeline going into service and he’s hopeful MUB can identify living relatives who wish to participate.

“Despite unimaginable racism, and having nothing on which to depend but his own grit and determination, Mr. Edwards built a successful business hauling barrels of water with a mule-driven cart,” Dale read from the resolution. “Mr. Edwards’ determination and fortitude serve as an inspiration to us all.”