I am almost finished with my summer library programs, and it has been great fun traveling to different parts of the state to tell tales, sing songs and engage children and adults alike in the delightful world of stories. A favorite this summer has been the indomitable Molly Whuppie, who in my telling is transported from Scotland to our mountains, and is one clever mountain girl. There's a bit from the story "The Well at the End of the World" mixed into my version too--all is fair in love, war and the telling of tales.
Another favorite this summer is the story of Jack and the Giant, known throughout the world of folktales as Tops and Bottoms. Again, this is an old European tale transplanted to the Appalachian mountains, and a fine story it is too.
While en route to Hamlin, my husband was engrossed in what he was seeing--places he had not seen in years, when he sometimes traveled this road. For a while, he said, he was seeing a girl who lived out there near Sumerco (pronounced Some AIR Co). She told him about a nearby church where snake-handling was part of the worship service. He wanted to see that, so one evening he and the girl walked down to the church. They went just inside the door, afraid to go any further. Sure enough, there were people dancing and holding up bibles with snakes on them. He was looking for the door as soon as he saw that, and left pretty quickly.
On our way home I suggested we drive through Kanawha State Forest. This was the former site of a CCC Camp, and I was interested in seeing it.
Oddly, though we live only 50-60 miles from this forest, I'd never been there. The road into the forest is long, narrow and winding, and lined with homes for almost the entire route. Once in the forest though---well, it's a magical, green place, and on this weekday almost deserted.
This land was once the property of the Black Band Coal Company for which Larry's father once worked (we still own some scrip from that company, and I just bought the pieces pictured below). The 10,000 acres was deeded to the state of West Virginia in the 1930's. The coal company got its name from the kind of coal mined from these hills, of a quality so high it won first place in the 1889 World's Fair.
Larry remembered many happy times in this forest. He said he would ride his bike about 10 miles over the mountains to come to the park by the back way, so he could go swimming in the pool there. He's do all kinds of work--helping people in the gardens, carrying water, bringing coal, etc--to get the money to get in. He'd leave early in the mornng and stay all day. For a boy from the coal camps, that must have been a real treat. I admit to being a bit jealous because even though I was raised in town, I do not recall even one time going to a public pool. He also recalled once coming to the park for a picnic with his brother, sisters and mother. His father, he said, would never go on an outing like that, although his Dad would find ways to get into the forest to gather ginseng. This wasn't allowed, of course, but for those who knew where to find it, 'sang was a good source of money and when times were hard a man did what he had to do.
A small enclosure caught our attention, and we were both surprised to find ti contained an old family graveyard, for the Shrewsbury family who were early settlers in the area, owning over 4000 acres here. The area is still called Shrewsbury Hollow.
Although there is no readable stone to mark his grave, Find-a-Grave gives the following information about John C. Shrewsbury:
"John C. Shrewsbury was born in Bedford County, Virginia, and at the age of nineteen came alone to Kanawha, settling about ten miles from Charleston. Three of his uncles, named Joel, Samuel, and John, preceded him and engaged in the manufacture of salt above Charleston. He engaged with them as wood-chopper for the furnaces, and later he learned to manufacture barrels which were used by the firm. Afterward, he manufactured salt on his own capital in the same neighborhood. About 1837 he went to Missouri, but returned in 1840. and resumed salt making, which he kept up until 1846. In that year, he settled on a 4,000 acre tract of land about six miles west of Charleston on Davis Creek, where he resided until his death in 1878. He was married in Kanawha County about 1828, to Elizabeth Farley of Virginia. Her ancestors were Virginians who settled in Kentucky in an early day. The marriage of this couple resulted in the birth of the following children: Dabney, Columbus, John, George, Hutson, Samuel, and Elizabeth."
From "History of the Great Kanawha Valley With Family History and Biographical Sketches”, Published 1891 Brant, Fuller & Co.Madison Wisconsin.
Their son Columbus eventually settled just north of my county, in Pleasants county, WV and was an oil and gas driller.
The Civilian Conservation Corps memorial:
We left the park by the back way, over a very steep mountain on a gravel road. The beauty and the sheerness of the mountains were both breath-taking, a reminder that such beauty and wildness could exist just a few miles away from the city of Charleston.
The view was marred in some places by a giant mountaintop removal coal mine, a sad sight to see.
|In the distance you can see the destroyed mountain, which will be much more visible in winter. The road below in the photo is the same one we were on, just further down. It snaked back and forth across the face of these steep hills for many miles.|
We emerged in the small community of Hernshaw, and as we drove through Larry pointed to a garage and said, "That's where we used to buy dynamite." I don't know about you, but dynamite played no role in my childhood memories. But for Larry, it was all part of living in the coalfields.
It was truly the long way home, but I am glad we took the time. I'd like to go back in the fall; the colors will be glorious, and perhaps a bit more of the views will open up as the leaves fall.
We'll be back over some of the same route tomorrow, and I am hoping to get more photos to share. Til then!
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.