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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crimson Epic

November, 1995; Sunset, Crimson Chrysalis, Red Rock Canyons, Las Vegas.

We sat atop the classic pillar and looked out over the descending stone sculptures to the urban glitter of Vegas. Steve slowly ground out the stub of his Drum spliff and squinted into the haze, lips pursed in contemplation. Like me, he was calculating.

We had hiked into the Red Rocks during the annual government closure of the Parks over budget squabbles, reasoning that the closure of the loop road would reduce likelihood of competition for this classic moderate route. A ranger met us at the gate, stepping from his idling truck into the morning chill with a laugh as we parked at the wrong end of the canyon Road and preparing to hike in. After determining that we were properly supplied and veterans of at least survival level experience, he shook his head and chuckled, but nonetheless gave us a lift as far as the trailhead parking lot, where he eyed us thoughtfully before giving a final shake of his head and wishing us good luck.  We were already hiking as he drove away into the dawning light.

Our reasoning of the closure greatly reducing competition for the line proved correct. As we thrashed and wandered through the brush, feeder washes, and cactus groves, tacking towards the base, we seemed alone in the canyon, and, for a time, the world. Winded, sweating in the rising heat, we dumped packs after the last brutal approach march to the foot of the wall and sipped at tepid water like panting hounds.  but we were three weeks in the Vegas desert, and recovery came quickly in the face of our hunger.  We were ready for this.

Racking and the flaking of the rope was accomplished swiftly, the first pitches delegated and dissected the night before over beers and buds, the rack minimized for light flight. I took lead and swung up into the open 5.5 first pitch, a long run with little gear worth wasting time on, and beautiful views of the desert. As I set belay at the second Pitch, Steve began climbing, gaining the first twenty feet before I could take in slack. I shouted to him, and he paused, until I tugged his knot and he resumed, swarming smoothly through the pitch, relaxing at the belay to sip a cupful of water as I snagged off and sorted the cleaned pieces, then handed over the rack.

Four pitches or so passed in this fashion; smoothly, just the two of us, the occasional laugh or comment, and the clear quiet desert, with even crass, tasteless Las Vegas somehow beautiful in the afternoon light.

Then the next party appeared.  We heard them first; lost, crashing through the brush, cursing cactus encounters and falls into washes, shouting incoherent instructions to each other.  Finally we picked them out of the heat shimmer and dust.

I looked at them, and the sun, and thought of how long it had taken us. True, we were taking it very easy, but we were still strong climbers, and climbing quickly enough. They were cutting it VERY close.

We cruised the top, the final 5.8 section the easiest panel of rock on the entire upper pitches, just balancey, with perhaps one truly 5.8 move, and then the summit, Steve cruising casually up the moves and smiling at the view as he topped out. He glanced down at the group, still struggling to finish the second pitch, and shook his lean head.

"Not likely those fellas are gonna get up much 'fore we get down." he drawled in his broad cowboy way. I smiled at the character, but then frowned at the sun sinking behind the horizon, limning us in fire, and painting our silhouettes against the cliff behind our perch. We rapped the already-rigged ropes back to the previous stance, pulled, and re-rigged, dropping to the next belay. One rap below that, we ran into the ascending group.

"You guys make the top?" the kid asked. He was wide-eyed in the dusk, helmet askew as he absently belayed his partner up to the already crowded stance. Behind him, Steve grimaced and shook his head, eyes on the coiling rope as I sorted runners, attempting to stay out of the macramé creation this lad seemed intent on weaving.

He had no headlamp, no water, and wore only a t-shirt. His partner, when he arrived, had a can of soda and some cheese crackers riding in a cargo pocket. Nothing else, save harness, chalk bag, cleaning tool, and shoes.

Steve's glance met mine with a single shared thought.

Coyote bait.

As the sun set, the radiant heat drew moisture from the wicks of our bodies, even as the night winds became chilling, sweeping down out of the canyons. We set the rap, as they began to shiver, and shared our water, measuring those few cups of compassion against a desert hike in the dark, over three miles in total length. At our patient insistence, they rappelled s-l-o-w-l-y to the next stance, with gentle encouragement to "get the f*** down from here...NOW!!!"

We waited, sipping slowly and talking about the great climbs of the last weeks. Prince of Darkness. Dream of Wild Turkeys. Frogland. Triassic Sands. The afternoon we spent finding out that the 10b/c crux of "Children of the Sun" was either some other climb, maybe a 12 moderate, or broken beyond the abilities of the average 5.11 climber. Wandering the neon Babylon of the City, on rest days, swimming in the excess.

We rapped, and found the rope still threading the anchors. I clipped in around them, and called all clear. Steve followed, and still no motion. He looked down, just as the first really large puff of smoke rose up past us. His lips compressed in a thin line, he observed that the "little shmucks are getting STONED..." I thought longingly of our own cold beers and fine greenery waiting oh so far away in the bus, and finished pulling the rope with a shouted warning.

Steve finally lost all pretense of courtesy. He leaned over, and with a voice no doubt by now well-known on Mt. Hood, shouted-

"Excuse me!”

No response save another drifting puff of smoke. He looked at me and smiled, inhaling deeply and leaning out once more.

“YO! On the LEDGE” Heads finally craned up in recognition.

“Hey, bro-“ someone began below, but Steve had by now lost all pretense of any brotherhood with these dead-end branches of the spiral helix.

“The F***ing SUN is SETTING! Please PULL YOUR ROPE!"

There was an interminable moment, and finally, slowly, the rope began to move; first pulling the knot tight against the anchors, then, after another tug confirmed the mistake, reversing to begin moving downward. Steve snorted, and helped it along with several mighty pulls, yelling "ROPE" as it cleared the anchors and whipped out into the falling gloom. I quickly brought the end of our rope through the anchor and knotted it, then threaded the anchors and pull from the rap station above all in one economy of motion and effort, pitching our lines before the Darwin Days finalists below had even begun to coil their own.

Darkness was upon us when we finally reached the base, now in the lead, our headlamps lighting the other party as they finished their descent, the last courtesy we offered these failures of Darwin Days. Without a word, we turned, packed bags, and left them there, in the wastelands and the dark, without water or resources or, as far as I could tell, a single blessed clue.

If they were still missing the next day, I didn't hear about it.

But, then again, I didn't ask.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lyndon State College WV Trip '08

This is MY Appalachia

Let me tell you of my Appalachia.

My Appalachia is cradled in the folds of the oldest mountains in the world. It is nurtured by the oldest River, born in the oldest of seas and returning again to that same tidal call.

My Appalachia is covered in forests; oaks and hickories, ash and maple and tulip poplar, pines and cedars, walnut and chestnut, lost orchards of apple and cherry and pear trees blooming each spring above the fading foundations of some forgotten homestead. Stripped of almost 98% of her timber by the second decade of the 20th Century, my Appalachia is a place of healing wounds and continuing abuses.

My Appalachia is a hundred generations of women and men, seeking a new start or a place of peace, looking for solace and solitude.

There are archetypes here, as there are in every corner of the world, characters that come dangerously close to caricature and traditions that threaten at every turn to stereotype a people who are complex and varied, inspiring and pathetic, heroic and villainous by turns; resolute and solitary, communal and cordial, reserved and determined. They are Mountaineers, and there is something in that name that goes beyond the simple view all too many of us, myself included, have come to accept over the years.

There are many faces to this ancient landscape. Someone once said, “There is more known about Appalachia that is not true than any other place in the world.”

Here there are green valleys filled with wildflowers and crumbling cabins, and rocky slopes covered with blackberries and clear cuts and whitetail deer. Giant trucks roar down new highways past old towns and retirees putter along twisting backroads below climbers lost in an unimagined volume of adventurous ascents. Fishermen chase trout and bass down the stocked rivers and mountain bikes wend the ridgetop trails, agape at the beauty all around them, blind to the plight of the people who live in the midst of Eden.

A thousand years ago the tribes of the surrounding region of North America had ended their wandering, sorted themselves out and settled into nations with very different ways of life. The Seneca, the Catawba, the Shawnee, and the Delaware; all of these were peoples who walked ancient trails through these mountains to reach the abundant game that filled the forests and streams. They fought each other and the newly arrived settlers, and none can say on whose side the first or last blows fell. The signs of the Amerinds are few, these days, mostly road signs and the highways we still use, the occasional striking profile or headful of coal black hair among the population.

In many ways, it is a mercy that most of the First People of this continent are gone, for here too there are scars, the silent scream of outraged nature, echoing among the flat-topped tels and overburden-filled valleys where mountains once stood, streams once ran, and tiny communities once thrived. Here there are a hundred towns like Buffalo Creek, buried under a sudden tsunami of coal ash and mud and floodwater. Coal towns and chemical towns, towns where men and hope die young and girls grow into mothers who grow old before their time. Towns where the piles of felled wood lie as hills in sullenly glowing pools of tannic acid and sulfuric poison, a harvest of forests still recovering from near 98 percent destruction by the early years of the last century. The last of the hemlocks are falling, the mighty green sentinels of the mountainsides now only rotting logs and tinder piles in the wake of the fuzzy adelgid. The shadow of the chestnut blight stretches across the years. Another invasive species, another void in the forest ecosystem.

In the winding commute from Petersburg to Smoke Hole Canyon along Route 220, you will likely pass 86 year old Paul, hobbling determinedly along, a stick figure with a snarl of beard wrapping his tanned burl of a face. Several years ago, Paul was knocked unconscious in a car crash, which also ignited the car. Some unknown soul pulled the old man from the wreckage, covered him with a jacket, and left before the ambulance arrived. Although badly burned, he made a recovery that would have been impressive in a man of half his years. But there is far more than meets the eye to this unremarkable-looking man.

Seventy years ago, Paul was a young soldier, one of the early paratroopers who would go on to jump into the combat theaters of Europe. He logged dozens of jumps and served with honor, traveled the world and the settled back home to raise a family. But life in the hollows and mountains is never what you think, and Paul wound up alone in his singlewide trailer, tucked into the forest ridge below mountains he knows and loves so well.

Now he limps along the shoulder of the highway and on rare occasions visits with friends on his way to a cup of coffee and an hour of solitary company on the front bench of Kile’s Grocery in Upper Tract. From time to time, inclement weather will drive him inside to share jokes and observations on the weather, stock market, or local politics with “The Liar’s Club”, generally four to six men of ages from mid forties to late eighties. Carl Kimble and Skinner, Dave the proprietor or Marsha his wife, Mike Alt, the local EMT coordinator, any one of a dozen delivery drivers, salesmen and local farmers all pass the time and pass in and out of the tiny, crowded store.

Carl and his family owned most of Smoke Hole Canyon at one time, an acreage that accounts for a fair amount of Pendleton County. Skinner is a local veteran of the foreign wars, lean, sly, sharp, lustful for the younger shapes curving through the narrow aisles of the store, eyeing budding beauty and aging grace alike with an avid gleam that is thinly disguised as polite humor.

Behind the counter, Dave will smile from behind his enormous mustache, or Marsha will cast a weary eye at the gathering of Old Crowes behind you, wiping her hands as she finishes another sandwich and says “Beritewichanaminit, hon, k?” with a look that tells you that Marsha might have been a good time and a tough customer, back in the day. More often than not, someone in the group will offer Paul a ride back home, but unless the rain is falling in a flood, or snow is blowing like a blizzard, it is a rare occasion on which the old man will accept.

He is a “tough old codger“, old Paul; bent by years and injuries and sorrow and loss, bewildered by the changes in a world that seems to have forgotten his sacrifice and discounted his worth, but marching resolutely onward, determined to make it on his own, if he can.

This is Appalachia… MY Appalachia.

The town in which I once spent so much of my time is filled with characters like Paul, broken soldiers who served their country in one of three or four wars we’ve managed since the start of the Age of Reason. There are, as well, the last of the Old Guard, sons of the original settlers and older landholding families, like Carl Kimble and his brother Harlin, whose father bought up parcels of land in the years of the Great Depression to keep his neighbors from losing them to the government and out of state logging companies for back taxes. They persist, these last heirs to an empire of forested mountains and rich valleys without end, empires that have so silently, thoroughly vanished when they were not looking. They are racists without apology, but not a one of them would turn away from a man in need, no matter the color of his skin. They are gentlemen to a lady even if she is not, and ladies even when not in the company of gentlemen.

Appalachia has been betrayed so often and so badly that the concepts of novelty, progress and change are equated with the locals’ perception of rampant destruction of the American way of life. The state divided itself from the capitol of the Confederacy and was rewarded, in the aftermath of the Civil War, by being treated as an occupied territory filled with war criminals, just like the rest of the South. If one looks at predominant attitudes among the general population today, it is possible to see what the long-term outcome of military occupation looks like.

Local culture and heritage has been erased, overwritten by the program of consumerism and narcissistic regard. America’s current love affair with the “thug” is personified in nine out of ten of the local youth between the ages of 12 and 20, and persists late into life, incongruously blending with a country slant that is most often described as redneck, an ignorant slap in the face of the miners who fought for their basic human rights and denoted their dedication to the cause with a red bandanna.

Around these citizens of the global village circulate a lot of country folks, young adult urban couples of what was once referred to as the Middle Class, out-of-work Moms and Dads of Class of Lowered Expectations, an increasing number of drifters and transients, mostly itinerant workers (one of the reasons many of the Moms and Dads are out of work, but also victims of corporate greed), the usual suspects, carrying on the usual black market activities that include but are not limited to drugs, weapons, alcohol, and technology. 

Amid this populace dwells a tiny group of (mostly retired) intellectuals who patronize the Arts and read all the important journals and donate to missionaries and relief organizations and have not a clue what life is like for 98% of the people around them.

Petersburg, this contradictory place from which I sent my electronic consciousness out into the larger world, straddles the confluence of two of the most heavily-stocked game fish rivers in North America, and is home to its own particular mutation of the native trout, the Golden. It has been estimated that more than 75% of all trophy game fish caught in West Virginia come from these rivers. I have met piscadores from South Africa and Great Britain, from France and the former Soviet Bloc enthusiastically beating the waters to foam in search of their finny prizes.

But there is neither a boat sales nor is there even the vestige of a fly fishing shop in the closest city to one of the most popular fishing spots on the planet.

Petersburg sprawls within sight of the northern terminus of a trail that has been voted “Best in the East” by hikers and mountain bikers who have crossed America and the globe, and yet there is no outdoor shop selling maps and backpacks and assorted camping gear (unless one counts the military surplus store, which sells equipment that is appropriately out-of-date by a mere two decades).  Here you will find no mountain bike sales or rental center, no trendy little cafĂ© catering to the bohemian tastes and appetites of the cash-ready tourists who fill the local roads every weekend, no seasonal festivals of local artists or musicians.

This is not true across the entire state. In the towns bordering the New River, Fayetteville and Beckley, whitewater rafting companies and rock climbing guides and mountain bike rentals sit side by side with taverns, hostels, pizzerias and the renovated homes of vegans and environmentalists and world-famous outdoor athletes.

Thirty years ago, Fayetteville and the incredible rock climbing of the Gorge were just a little known backwater in the American extreme sports cosmos. But unlike Petersburg, that region saw an influx of eager young college students and urban professionals with families, most from more progressive cities in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. With the coal (and the powerful interests who controlled the region) long gone, the cities around New River Gorge desperately needed something to save them from the creeping oblivion that has rendered too many small towns little more than a road sign at an empty intersection of roads that lead nowhere. There was vision and energy, a need perceived and an answer offered and accepted.  Property was cheap and easy to come by, regulations were sparse and rarely enforced, interest rates and fees were low, and soon New River Gorge was a growing idea with a bright future.

In ironic contrast to the middle-of-nowhere status of the Gorge, Petersburg sits directly on the route between major tourist dollar sources like D.C., New York, and lower New England to the north and one of the oldest climbing areas in the country, Seneca Rocks, to the south. The cliffs of Champe and Nelson and Judy Gap and the virtually untouched adventure potential of Smoke Hole Canyon all wait within a half hour drive. The skiing and snowboarding of Canaan and Whitegrass are less than an hour to the west. The Allegheny Front rises impressive and blue to the south and west.

 But on these decaying streets you will find no shops selling skis or climbing equipment or guidebooks, no catchy graphics art signs announcing the offices of a rafting guide or climbing school, no fit young liberals lounging over a cup of espresso while debating “An Inconvenient Truth” or anticipating the next Banff Film Festival or trip to Burning Man.

This town and indeed most of this state is ruled by old men dreaming of an age of glory and missed opportunity, many of them in the halls of power, trying to turn back the clock to a past that never existed, or young men filled with the hatred and ideals of the old, opposed to change, opposed to exposure to outside concepts and lifestyles and answers. They are afraid and reactionary and strident in their opposition. The world they knew or imagined is gone, and the world they cling to is fading. Because Appalachia is once again emerging into the world, and life as it has been known here is changing.

And yet the story is one that has been told again and again in the history of the state and the country. Mentally-fragmented and physically-disabled military veterans, homeless families and immigrants legal and illegal appear in their streets in increasing numbers, and outside business presses close, offering compromise and desperately-needed jobs in return for just a little more of the states vanishing heart. “Humanitarian” efforts do little to end the misconceptions and stereotypes that are so useful as fundraising tools, and the inherent “us and them” of any “relief organization” comes inevitably into play, whether consciously or not.

Appalachia; myth and dream, a land of contradictions and paradox. West Virginia was the first state, THE FIRST STATE in the Union to create public schools for black children during the Civil War. Today, West Virginia’s children, black and white, cannot take books home from school to study at Circleville elementary, because there aren’t enough books for all the children to start with. Most of them will end up dropping out of school because they are pregnant, or have gotten someone pregnant, or because their families need the paycheck from a job at the mill or the mine or the poultry plant more than they need another high-school graduate with dreams that will never come true under the corrupt system of out-of-state ownership of resources that has been West Virginia’s doom since Grant was in the White House.

A thousand feet above this community sits an international agency with several hundred acres of private property, a multimillion dollar budget, and offices on three continents, a mountain institute whose credo states a goal of “preserving and advancing mountain culture.” While this lofty ideal sounds as good on paper as saving Tibet or the whales, in practice they have consistently tried to “ensure responsible stewardship and appreciation of Appalachia’s natural, cultural, and community resources” in spite of the people, instead of in support of the people. They have approached their goals in precisely the wrong order. You cannot save the forests and mountains, nor the predominately inaccurate illusions of mountain culture, without first saving the people, and ensuring the future, namely through the children of the small communities.

Not that such a thing hasn’t been tried, and by this very institute‘s founders. The plan was an interesting mixture of ideas that had failed a decade before and concepts that had never been tried at the time. But again, there was the persistent perception that the local people were far too backwards to be included in the process and they were, instead, presented with a fait accompli after private meetings and negotiations between institute founders and government officials in the distant capitol. Decisions had been reached for the good of the people in spite of the people and the local school superintendent was the last to know, informed in a congratulatory phone call that assumed he was already part of the process. A school board meeting had been called without his knowledge and the deal was all but done.

The bureaucrats and the intellectuals had forgotten that they were dealing with the first mountaineers. Phone lines hummed and lunch counters and barber shops and beauty parlors were abuzz with the news. On the night of the board meeting, almost 900 people turned up, some of them heavily armed, the rest desperate and ready to do just about anything to “save our schools“. Local police and sheriff’s departments as well as dozens of state troopers stood in a cordon around the crowd, unable or unwilling to interfere.

The Institute’s founder stood up and told what amounted to a series of very obvious bald-faced lies about how the entire situation had come about, according to him, “just by coincidence.“ Given that he had tried the same tactic some years previously, after leaving guests standing in a freezing rain at a locked gate, few were surprised, but many were amazed that the Institute would continue to treat them with such contempt when the truth, as they saw it, was so obvious.

Months passed, during which the founders of the institute and the school board chairman met again and again in urgent sessions, all while claiming that nothing was happening. The founder’s wife, writing for the local paper, had completely erased the confrontation between locals and her husband in her version of the story, in which the record attendance was not even mentioned, and the agenda was reported as “the board discussed alternative education.”

In the end, the “coincidental” coup failed. Within a few more years, the Circleville High School was closed and the school district integrated with that of Franklin, a community on the opposite side of the mountain geographically and the opposite side of the world culturally. Many still see this as punishment by the state for not cooperating in their bright vision of the future.

Since this time the institute in question has changed names and the faces at the top of West Virginia’s highest mountain and on the upbeat PC website are not those of the clueless self-promoters who once tried to steal a school district and who endorsed using local farmlands to farm fallow deer, harvesting and selling the spring waters of a county that routinely suffers severe drought, and “shipping” the unemployed out of state. The same folks who used Institute co-signatures on home loans (thus ensuring that, if they defaulted, at least part of their loans would be paid with grant money derived from taxpayer dollars) and who so divided the Pendleton EMS community that to this day, almost two decades later, that region still has trouble maintaining a firefighting and rescue staff beyond the good old boys who love having lots of lights on their trucks and an excuse to drive like hell with the siren on every time the scanner chimes their song.

But you can find their names sprinkled throughout the organization’s staff training manuals, where they are identified as “founders”, “friends and long-time employees” of the current incarnation of the institute, which insists, despite this seeming contradiction, that it has nothing to do with the bad old days.

Please don’t mistake my point- there is no denying that this institute and others like it do a great deal of good to and for people all around the world. But they began their story in the heartland of what the world perceives as “Appalachia”. Began their mission with good goals and bad ideas, and followed that launch with brilliant theories and poor execution. Time and again these institutes have shown skilled maneuvering in the rarified atmosphere of the boardroom and the halls of power, but incredible ineptitude when confronting the challenge of simply talking to their neighbors in the surrounding mountains to seek some insight into what the people they are “just trying to help” think of their assistance.

As one local put it, “You can pee down the back of my neck, and you can tell me it’s a warm spring rain, but don’t expect me to like it or to rush out and start planting corn on your say-so.”  A brown stream of tobacco juice and a squint of pale blue eyes in a weathered face. “Them folks up there-“ a head jerk toward Spruce Knob- “may have changed their names, but they still think we‘re a bunch of dumb hillbillies and they make millions sellin‘ that crap to city people who ain't never been here and don‘t plan on comin‘.”

Meanwhile, down in Big Run and Cherry Grove and Circleville, there are still not enough schoolbooks to go around.

In contrast to whatever contradictions the folks atop the state’s highest peak may or may not be able to resolve, the folks at Elkins-Davis College have done a fine job of repairing some of the damage their institute’s namesakes did to West Virginia during their rise to power. Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins were both heavily involved with coal, timber, and the railroads in the jolly days of stealing land from local landowners for a song or at gunpoint or by corrupt government.

However, the fine liberal arts college that bears their names has produced some truly authentic views into mountain life, primarily by letting mountain people tell their own stories, and respecting them without patronizing them. There are opportunities for employment, and real attempts to enrich the day-to-day lives of native West Virginians are made by people who want to know about the world in which many of those natives were born and raised and still live. It is because of this empathy and the college’s pragmatic approach to cultural preservation that so many of West Virginia’s own young people enroll in programs here every year. Quite simply put, Elkins-Davis is dedicated to saving Appalachian culture and biodiversity through empowerment, instead of regulation and legislation.

Non-profits in the region seem bent on simply being one more group that will not identify itself as West Virginian but are making a lot of money being in West Virginia. There are a number of great people involved in the mission to improve local living conditions and/or minister to the poor, whom they do not see as vicitims of out-of-state corporations and corrupt government so much as simply "backwards". Appalachia, it has been said, has been saved so much that it’s been damned near saved to death.

I know in my heart that the staff of many of these organizations well and truly believe that they are helping local people by coercing them into sharing the mission and goals of the organization. I know that there are also a great number of people for whom it is just a job, nothing more, a way to bring home a paycheck and make ends meet in an increasingly desperate world.

No matter what happens in middle management and down below where the rubber meets the road, at the top of this heap, hidden like viruses among the idealists and pollyannas, I inevitably find slick pros who are massaging environmental ethics and the current green market for a buck; corporate conmen looking to soften their resume with a touch of humanity.

Mixed liberally with these are manipulative control freaks who have slept or back stabbed their way to the top, sometimes both, in order to control the incredible flow of funds and resources that are mostly wasted on the effort to improve the housing of the poor in this country. Most West Virginians involved in these programs wind up being treated like a show pony or cultural exhibit, something the institute has accomplished, just another sound byte or PR image, rather than being seen for what they are, which is another human being with equally valid dreams and goals, potentials and problems of their own.

It is so hard for the missionary who brings the Word not to confuse themselves with the Word. None who sit at the head of the table can ever long resist the temptation of looking down from some height, be it moral, intellectual, or simply economic.

It is most often from this breathtaking height that Appalachia is seen, and it is from those biased perspectives that the misconceptions spring.

If these groups and corporations do indeed care about the place in which they conduct a very lucrative business, how in the name of Almighty God can any institute- government, private or spiritual- how can any group or cause which claims to care about mountain people, in this life or the next, sit idly by as billion-dollar coal interests attack not only the people of the Appalachians, their economy and their ecosphere, but the very geography of the region?

The corporations that have for generations stolen the wealth that belonged to every West Virginian and shipped either the resources or the profits out of state are now stealing even the mountains, among these the oldest in the world. I do not know of any other country in which 500 mountains have been destroyed in the middle of one of the richest biospheres on the planet, a place almost recovered from its original and ongoing rape of the early 20th Century, a place absolutely and quite literally soaked with the blood of history.

Where then are the mountain institutes and colleges, the churches and the humanitarians, the petitioners and the protesters?

Where are the multi-million dollar airlifts and fundraising concerts to bring aid and relief to the victims of a war that is being waged against the mountains themselves?

Which famous rock climber, kayaker, hiker, skier, mountain bike rider, fly fishing authority or motorcycle enthusiast has spoken out against this corporate assault on life itself?

West Virginia contains some of the most sublime examples of each of these, and yet who has truly taken this battle to heart?  And of those who may have, how deeply and currently are they involved in the battle to save one of the oldest biospheres on the planet?  Which institute has led a protest to shut down mine operations, if only for an hour?

It is fine and good to send aid to the peoples of the world.

But to do so while ignoring so many of the problems and rampant injustices in the world right outside your door is not only idealistic and foolish, it is losing the fight before you begin. The children of the people you are not reaching in the surrounding community will grow up to vote against every program you create today. They will be the enemy of all your fine ideals and theories forever simply because you cared far more for a child you had never seen than one you drove past every day on your way to and from work and meetings and saving the world.

And the corporations who smile and hand you a check and slap you on the back are the hands and minds behind the lower-tier companies that rape the land and steal the future from the people, who pay pennies on the ton and forty dollars a day and defend themselves with the cry of “Jobs!”

Every relevant agency and organization will quote you numbers and figures, volunteer headcounts and encapsulated programs that are as much sales brochure photo-op or sound byte as true, survival-level response to the destruction of life, all life, in an area that grows by acres every hour of every day and will continue to do so until a loud enough cry is raised to “STOP!”

In the name of expediency and the false promise of jobs and short-term profits, corporations are creating a region of devastation visible from the space shuttle as it circles this fragile lifeboat on which we live. And the institutes and the churches remain silent, or put up a feeble token effort, a check or a truckload of food and clothing, as if full stomachs and warm bodies could create hope and opportunity. Letter writing campaigns that trickle away into disinterest with time, time that means nothing to corporations that think in terms of decades.

You cannot replace a mountain of stone with a mountain of paper.

By falling prey to one of the most unjust preconceptions in the world, the myth and stereotype of Appalachia, we are allowing and abetting the destruction of one of the most amazing regions of life anywhere on earth, and remaining blind to the true beauty of the very real region that is the Appalachian Mountains.

I desperately wish I could break down this barrier between us with more than the blunt force trauma of words, and give you a look into my Appalachia. You will never truly know it until you sit on a mountaintop in fall, watching a thousand colors of red and gold fade into the rising silver of the full moon.

You will never feel it until you have paused, hands locked into stone hundreds of feet from the rocky earth, the wind a wild song in the sky, watching an eagle soar past fifty feet away, or paddled into an eddy under graceful oaks and towering tulip poplars to watch a mother black bear and her fuzzy, tumbling clown of a cub cross a stream, the youngster chasing crawdads and scampering past its lumbering parent.

Appalachia is leaning against a 100-year old oak, sweat drying after a long ride in a breeze carrying the smell of fresh-cut hay and honeysuckle, as a pair of whitetail deer walk delicately past you in the dusk, the fawn awkward on new legs.

Appalachia is sagging fences outlined against the sky, cows lowing in the distance as a tractor sputters to life in the fields far below and a trillion stars fall silently into the night. It is the burning stench of trash and food waste against a background of pork barbecue and frying chicken; barking dogs and sagging trailers, giant trucks and open containers, bad tattoos and plentiful weapons, the dust that blows across the wastelands that were once proud mountains and the silence of the voices that should be crying out. Appalachia is can-do and make-do in the face of necessity, and it is a quite humor in the wake of disaster and injustice and the daily comic tragedy that is Life.

It is patriotism and bigotry, craftsmanship and hand-me-downs, decaying family homes and brand-new double-wide trailers, steam trains and satellite television, smartphones and Facebook.

It is miners and loggers and truckers, heavy equipment operators and waitresses, opera houses and meth labs, hunt clubs and poetry readings. Quiltin’s, funerals, christenings, baptisms and weddings, planting and courting and strikes and the terrible tension between the past and the future.

Its spirit lives in every note from a banjo or guitar echoing out over a holiday crowd from the front porch of Shreve’s Store, in the heart of Smoke Hole Canyon, in the roar of a WVU kickoff crowd in Morgantown and in the endless sigh of the wind across the open tundra of Dolly Sods.

It is the thing visitors from north, south, east and west look upon and marvel at and buy a little piece of to call their own, all without ever understanding.

 My Appalachia is a flower many have claimed to nurture but have too often failed to feed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This is MY West Virginia

The video that goes with my article "A Brief Overview of WV heritage and culture"

Some old images, some new. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Selling Panic

So... it was bound to happen. More and more people are jumping on the Alex Jones/Glenn Beck crazy train to Paranoiatown, taking advantage of the fears of America and the tragedy in Japan to sell "survival kits" for Americans and their families. Just saw a brand-new one advertised here on blogspot and linked on Facebook (just one more reason I will soon be deleting my FB account, BTW).

So, as someone who has spent most of the last THREE decades camping, hiking, and SURVIVING in the outdoors, here is my advice, COMPLETELY FREE!

Here's Survival Tip #1- GET IN SHAPE. You can have all the best survival gear in the world... it won't do you a bit of good if you can't hike a mile through the woods, carry a pack for a mile on the trail, touch your toes or climb out of a hole the height of your body. Get that appendix out, and have those wisdom teeth pulled.

Survival Tip #2- Learn how to hunt- not just shoot, HUNT. If you have no experience with shooting living creatures, rest assured that no matter what the peril to your life or those of your loved ones, you will freeze in the moment of truth and die. Expect to spend quite a bit of time on your hands and knees bringing up your lunch after your first kill, and expect the same thing to happen if you ever have to shoot another human being. We are hard-wired against killing our own kind... that's why the military takes MONTHS to turn even testosterone-saturated young men into soldiers.

Survival Tip #3- learn to fish, pitch a tent, build a fire with a single match, use a compass, read a map and generally Exist in the Outdoors. A healthy, well-armed idiot with a tent full of deer meat is still an idiot who will die from exposure lost on the trail.

Survival Tip #3- Learn to recognize the signs of tularemia, rabies, and Lyme's disease. More people will die of these diseases, food poisoning and bad water than will starve to death or be killed by the ravenous hordes of the lesser races most survivalists are planning on fighting.

Survival Tip #4- Purchase and maintain a wardrobe of functional polypropylene underwear, fleece tops and bottoms, waterproof shells, gloves, wool hats, a blalaclava and a pair of good, waterproof boots. Practice layering systems when out on those hikes you will be taking to get in shape and hone your outdoor skills.

Survival Tip #5- Purchase a copy of any branch of the military's Survival Guide provided for soldiers. These guys have been keeping expensive assets (trained service men and women) alive in the full range of conditions available on Planet Earth for over 200 years.

Survival Tip #6- get a gun you are comfortable with, practice using it, cleaning and loading it, and STAY IN PRACTICE.

Before you go out and spend your hard-earned dollars on "survival kits" or "bug-out bags", find out what experience and qualifications the folks selling this stuff have. Get a list of the items in the bag and see if you couldn't put together your own kit for 10-50% less than you'd pay to have someone seal it in a colorful bag and feed you right-wing propaganda and politically-oriented Christianity during your "information session".

There is nothing wrong with being prepared. But selling panic is just plain WRONG!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rockin' Blues and More!

KCRT is a rockin' station waaaaay out west in Colorado, music lovers- check 'em out and I guarantee you'll be hooked! They stream live on the web and shoot the straight shtuff!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Brief History of Pendleton County and West Virginia

Understanding the culture and heritage of West Virginia, or of any other place, is impossible without a working knowledge of its history.

 The history of West Virginia is the history of the United States; a tale of strong men and courageous women, of saints and sinners, criminals and lawmakers, of pilgrims and refugees, ruthless corporate greed and selfless sacrifice, misled missionaries and misunderstood natives.

West Virginia is a state of opposites, a place of austere college campuses and hardscrabble coalmine towns, of unbroken forest ridges and industrial wastelands, of historic reverence and an uncertain future.

The per capita income of the capital city of Charleston is forty-ninth (second-lowest) in the nation. This same city at one time ranked number two in the nation for having millionaire inhabitants.

In a state whose very lifeblood is recreation and tourism, the inhabitants fight tooth and nail to defend out-of-state corporations that blow the tops off of mountains to extract coal, foul the water supply pumping out natural gas, and clear-cut huge tracts of ancient trees.

It is a state in which almost as many people belong to the Nature Conservancy as send their dues in to the National Rifle Association.

In which the Democrats fought on the side of big business and the Republicans supported the people. 

It is a state that was created in the debate over race, and one in which the tolerance for those of other races is as low as anywhere in the south.

Once a leader in agriculture and business, home to the second producing oil well on the face of the planet, decades of government and corporate deception and abuse have left its people adverse to change and innovation and apathetic to the fact of their own decline.

It is the center of the mountain region known as Appalachia, a place about which it has been said, “There is more known about Appalachia that’s not true than any other place in the world.”

But centuries before any of this, West Virginia was the original frontier, the mountainous territory that separated the eastern region of the British colony of Virginia from the rest of the continent.

Since people often claimed ridiculously large pieces of land “for England and the Crown” in those days, the original Virginia colony stretched from the Atlantic to the mighty Mississippi River, but only the relatively small area around Jamestown and Williamsburg was actually settled.

Beyond the Blue Ridge and the broad Shenandoah Valley, the Allegheny Front rose in wave after wave of folded mountains and shadowed forests of mystery; a wilderness of sometimes impassable thickness, hunted by wolves and panthers, bear and lynx, the mountainsides filled with trees bearing fruit and nuts and the river bottoms home to six-foot long rattlesnakes and copperheads the size of a man’s arm.

According to Dr. Robert Jay Dilger, Director, Institute for Public Affairs and Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University:

"Pendleton County,  was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly adopted on December 4, 1787, and effective as of May 1, 1788, from parts of Augusta, Harding and Rockingham counties in Virginia. It was named in honor of Edmund Pendleton (1721-1803).

Edmund was born in Caroline County, Virginia on September 9, 1721.  After studying the law, he was admitted to the bar in 1744.  In 1751, he was appointed a justice of the peace for Caroline County and, from 1752 to 1774, served in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

He served as President of the Virginia Convention of 1774 and represented Virginia in the Continental Congress of 1774-1775.

In 1776, he returned to the now renamed Virginia House of Delegates and was elected its first speaker.  Later that year, he joined George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson in a three-year effort to rewrite Virginia's legal code.

In March 1777, he fell from his horse and severely injured his hip, forcing him to use crutches for the rest of his life.  His disability did not prevent him from continuing his public service.

After resting over the winter, he returned to his speaker's duties that spring and continued to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates until 1788 when he was appointed to the newly-created Virginia High Court of Chancery.

In 1788, he also served as President of the Virginia Convention of 1788 which ratified the U.S. Constitution. He also received an appointment to the federal court system that year, but he declined the offer.

In 1789, he was named President of the now renamed Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

He served in the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals until his death in Richmond, Virginia, on October 23, 1803.

The first native settlers in West Virginia's Potomac Highlands (Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Tucker counties) were the Mound Builders, also known as the Adena people. Remnants of the Mound Builder's civilization have been found throughout West Virginia, with many artifacts found in the Northern Panhandle, especially in Marshall County.

Several thousand Hurons occupied present-day West Virginia during the late 1500s and early 1600s.  During the 1600s, the Iroquois Confederacy (then consisting of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca tribes) drove the Hurons from the state and used it primarily as a hunting ground.

During the early 1700s, the Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, and other Indian tribes also used present-day West Virginia as a hunting ground. West Virginia's Potomac Highlands was inhabited by the Tuscarora. They eventually migrated northward to New York and, in 1712, became the sixth nation to formally be admitted to the Iroquois Confederacy. The Cherokee Nation claimed southern West Virginia.

In 1744, Virginia officials purchased the Iroquois title of ownership to West Virginia in the Treaty of Lancaster.

The Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee sided with the French during the French and Indian War (1755-1763). The Iroquois Confederacy officially remained neutral, but many in the Iroquois Confederacy allied with the French.

When the French and Indian War was over, England's King George III feared that more tension between Native Americans and settlers was inevitable. In an attempt to avert further bloodshed, he issued the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Proclamation was, for the most part, ignored.

During the summer of 1763, Ottawa Chief Pontiac led raids on key British forts in the Great Lakes region. Shawnee Chief Keigh-tugh-qua, also known as Cornstalk, led similar raids on western Virginia settlements. The uprisings ended on August 6, 1763 when British forces, under the command of Colonel Henry Bouquet, defeated Delaware and Shawnee forces at Bushy Run in western Pennsylvania.

In 1768, the Iroquois Confederacy (often called the Six Nations) and the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Hard Labour and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, relinquishing their claims on the territory between the Ohio River and the Alleghenies to the British.

In April 1774, the Yellow Creek Massacre took place near Wheeling. Among the dead were Mingo Chief Logan's brother and pregnant sister. Violence then escalated into Lord Dunmore's War.

On October 10, 1774, Colonel Andrew Lewis and approximately 800 men defeated 1,200 Indian warriors led by Shawnee Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant, ending Lord Dunmore's War.

The Mingo and Shawnee allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War (1776-1783). One of the more notable battles occurred in 1777 when a war party of 350 Wyandot, Shawnee, and Mingo warriors, armed by the British, attacked Fort Henry, near present-day Wheeling. Nearly half of the Americans manning the fort were killed in the three-day assault. Following the war, the Mingo and Shawnee, once again allied with the losing side, returned to their homes in Ohio. As the number of settlers in the region grew, both the Mingo and the Shawnee move further inland, leaving western Virginia to the white settlers.

John Van Meter was probably the first European to set foot in the county. In 1725, he accompanied a group of Delaware warriors on their way to attack the Catawba Indians. During their travels, they crossed through present-day Hardy County and southern Grant County and were ambushed by a group of Catawba warriors near present-day Franklin, in Pendleton County. He escaped and returned to his home in New York. His son, Isaac Van Meter, played an important role in the settlement of Hardy County.

When George Washington passed through the northern portion of the county in 1748, he noted that there were about 200 people living in the area, with most of the settlers living to the north of the present county's boundaries. At that time, Robert Green, of Culpeper, along with James Wood and William Russell, had purchased rights to almost all of present-day Pendleton County. It is believed that in 1745 Abraham Burner was the first European to build a cabin within the future site of Pendleton County. His cabin was located about a half a mile south of present-day Brandywine.

In 1747, six families, then located in the Moorefield area, purchased legal title to 1,860 acres in present-day Pendleton County for 61 pounds and 6 shillings ($230.33) from Robert Green. They were the families of Roger Dryer; his son William and his son-in-law, Matthew Patton; John Patton, Jr.; John Smith; and William Stephenson. There are no records to indicate if they relocated to the county that year or the next, but given the relatively short distance from Moorefield, they probably moved to the county in 1747. 

By the mid-1750s, there were about 40 families, or 200 people, living within present-day Pendleton County. In 1756, Seybert's Fort, named for Captain Jacob Seybert of Pendleton County and located about 12 miles west of Franklin, was built by the settlers as a place of refuge during Indian uprisings. On April 28, 1758, with about 30 settlers, mostly women and children, gathered inside, the Fort was attacked by about 40 Shawnee Indians led by Chief Killbuck. The Fort was surrounded by the Indians and after two days siege, Captain Seybert agreed to surrender the Fort to the Indians in exchange for their safe passage out of the area. Unfortunately, when the Fort's gates were opened, the settlers were taken captive. While the Indians were setting the Fort on fire, a Mr. Robinson was able to escape. The Indians then marched their captives about a quarter of a mile, separated them into two rows, and seated them on logs. The captives in one of the rows were spared. The others, including Captain Seybert, were tomahawked to death. The 11 remaining captives were taken to the Shawnee Indian village at Chillicothe, Ohio. Five of the captives, including Captain Seybert's son, Nicholas, later escaped to reveal what had happened at the Fort.

Many of present-day Pendleton County's earliest settlers left the county during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Following the war, settlers began to return and, by 1790, when the first national census was taken, Pendleton County had 2,452 residents."

Although the large plantations to the east had begun to use Negro slaves, purchased from the Muslims and imported by the Dutch, to raise huge crops on the flat, open land of the Tidewater and Piedmont, most of the people who first settled in Western Virginia were too poor to own slaves, or had been among the first true slaves in this country, the indentured Irish and Scottish servants brought by the English from their native lands. Slavery had of course existed for thousands of years before the settlement of North America, and had been practiced by every civilization and culture. The colonial history of the United States is only the latest chapter in the long, sad story of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

In England, the Crown had declared the lands of the Scots-Irish farmers around Ulster to belong to the English aristocrats and Irish nobles who were in favor with the government.

Overnight, Irish families that had farmed the land for decades found themselves penniless and homeless, suddenly in debt for rent owed on the homes and farms their ancestors had created.

When the brutal winter of 1708/09 shattered trees and froze birds from the skies, these refugees boarded boats bound for the promise of America, as did thousands of Germans seeking freedom from the religious persecution and violence in their shattered homeland.

This was only the middle chapter of the Irish Holocaust, one which is not loudly trumpeted by historians or civil rights leaders. The Irish were in fact some of the first slaves in America. In the 12 year period during and following the Confederation revolt, from 1641 to 1652, over 550,000 Irish were killed by the English and 300,000 were sold as slaves."
"[In] 1650, 25,000 Irish were sold to planters in St. Kitt. During the 1650s decade of Cromwell’s Reign of Terror, over 100,000 Irish children, generally from 10 to 14 years old, were taken from Catholic parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In fact, more Irish were sold as slaves to the American colonies and plantations from 1651 to 1660 than the total existing “free” population of the Americas!"
"52,000 Irish, mostly women and sturdy boys and girls, were sold to Barbados and Virginia alone. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were taken prisoners and ordered transported and sold as slaves. In 1656, Cromwell’s Council of State ordered that 1000 Irish girls and 1000 Irish boys be rounded up and taken to Jamaica to be sold as slaves to English planters."
"Although the Africans and Irish were housed together and were the property of the planter owners, the Africans received much better treatment, food and housing. In the British West Indies the planters routinely tortured white slaves for any infraction. Owners would hang Irish slaves by their hands and set their hands or feet afire as a means of punishment. To end this barbarity, Colonel William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of Negro slaves on the grounds that, "as the planters would have to pay much more for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of (Irish)...." many of whom, he charged, were killed by overwork and cruel treatment. African Negroes cost generally about 20 to 50 pounds Sterling, compared to 900 pounds of cotton (about 5 pounds Sterling) for an Irish."

Fleeing their long history of abuse at the hands of the English, Irish refugees were reluctant to treat others as they themselves had been treated, and relied on large families and tightly-knit communities, rather than slaves, to raise their crops and defend their homes in the New World. They raised cattle and pigs, sheep and corn, fished the rivers and hunted bear, foxes and wolves, wild turkeys and the elusive white-tailed deer.

When the Revolutionary War came, men from Western Virginia answered the call of the new nation to defend her independence. George Washington once stated that, should the Revolution falter, instead of surrendering he would retreat to Pendelton Country and there surround himself with Scots-Irish forest fighters, for surely no army of England could force such flint-hard men from their mountains.

William Eagle was one such man. Volunteering on Christmas Eve of 1776 at age fifteen, William served the 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 12th Virginia Regiments of the Continental Line at Valley Forge and Yorktown. He returned to Smoke Hole Canyon after the War’s end, to raise sheep and start a family. Local legend holds that William once climbed to the summit of the then-un-named Eagle Rocks to retrieve a lamb snatched by an eagle. The bird attacked him just as he reached the nest, tearing a large chunk of flesh from his side. The tale holds that, when he began the climb, William’s hair was coal black, but that by the time he returned to the riverside, he had lost so much blood that his hair had gone snow-white. He is buried there, across the road from Eagle Rocks, which he named for the bird that had so severely wounded him.

During the early 1700s, England had hired nearly 30,000 mercenary soldiers from Germany to control the unruly American colonies, many of them from the German province of Hesse. Although these soldiers came from many other places as well, in time they came to be known simply as Hessians. Most of them had no ill will towards the upstart colonies, but were instead conscripted into service by the landgraves who had splintered Germany into religious division after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. When the war ended, less than half of them returned home. So many Germans settled in the North Fork Valley that it came to be known as Germany Valley, a name it carries to this day.

One of these soldiers was Johann Dahle, who had been captured in the late days of the war. Dahle would eventually settle in the North Fork Valley, and his descendants would change the name to “Dolly”. They moved onto the high mountain pastures or “sods” on the north end of the valley and built homes and farms. At that time, areas were often named for the families and features that dominated there, and it is for this family that Dolly Sods is named.

The Pendleton county seat, Franklin, was settled by Francis (Frank) Evick and was originally named Frankford in his honor. Francis and George Evick arrived in the area in 1769. Francis settled in present-day Franklin, and George settled just to east, across the South Branch River.

The first meeting of the county court took place in June 1788 at the home of Captain Stratton, six miles south of the Evick's homes. One of the court's first orders of business was to select a permanent county seat and they selected Frankford.

Francis Evick immediately laid out a town and placed the lots for sell. One of the first buildings constructed in the town was the county court house. It was made out of logs by Thomas Collett, and was 22 feet by 23 feet. It remained in service for 28 years before being replaced by a brick court house.

By 1794, the town's population increased to around 50, sufficient to apply for a town charter. On December 19, 1794, the town was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly as Franklin, primarily because another town in the state was already called Frankford. Several sources indicate that the town was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. However, since Mr. Evick was known as Frank, the town may have been named in his honor. For example, the West Virginia Blue Book indicates that the town was named in Mr. Evick's honor

In the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, little changed for the subsistence farmers living in the deep mountains of WV. Beyond the Alleghenies, the Constitution was ratified and the Bill of Rights drawn up. Louisiana was purchased and Virginians Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark set out to find the Northwest Passage that many hoped would link the East Coast to the Pacific Ocean by a water route. The War of 1812 “began in discontent, proceeded with indifference, and ended without victory“. The “Star Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key and became the National Anthem. Meanwhile, a young Booker T. Washington, future leader of the civil rights movement, began his education in Charleston.

Tensions rose between the self-styled aristocrats of the Piedmont and the self-reliant pioneers of the Alleghenies. While eastern planters relied more and more on their Negro slaves, Western Virginians strongly opposed slavery, not just from a practical but also from a moral standpoint. Instead of obediently shipping their produce and trade goods to Richmond to be paid as the businessmen there saw fit, Western Virginians traded with Pittsburgh and Wheeling, and thought more in line with those northern towns than their eastern cousins.

In 1859, the infamous abolitionist John Brown carried out his bloody raid on Harper’s Ferry, and it was in Charles Town, WV that he was executed by hanging. This event stirred strong emotions among both pro- and anti-slavery communities.

Unfair tax laws favoring Tidewater planters and businessmen only increased the strain, and when the rest of the state threatened secession in 1861, Western Virginia delegates met to declare in favor of the Union. One of those representatives was Abijah Dolly, one of Johann Dahle’s descendents. Abijah Dolly, who would later vote to create Grant county out of pro-secessionist Hardy County, was instrumental not only in creating of the state of West Virginia but also in the formation and direction of her early government.

The first land battle of the Civil War was fought in Phillipi, West Virginia, in 1861. The Phillipi Covered Bridge, around which the battle raged, still stands.

In 1862, the first Union raid into Pendelton County ended with the Battle of Riverton, near Seneca Rocks, when 40 northern soldiers were ambushed by local Confederate Infantry and two units of cavalry known as McNeill‘s Raiders. Like Robert E. Lee, McNeill, a cattle farmer from Missouri, abhorred slavery, but would not stand idly by to watch the invasion and destruction of his beloved South. Union forces rallied, forcing the rebels from the field and killing two local men in the process, Perry Bland and Thomas Powers.

During the War, 12,000 Union troops held the town of Franklin for two weeks, and in that time stripped the area of “every cow, sheep, pig, goose, turkey, duck, chicken and every last kernel of corn or grain of wheat“.

In the midst of war, the first public school for Negroes in the United States was founded in Parkersburg, WV, in 1862.

In 1863, President Lincoln signed the bill recognizing West Virginia as a state. Grant County, named in honor of the famous Union general, was created from the eastern half of Hardy county, bringing a large number of Southern sympathizers into Union territory. At this time, Pendleton and Hardy Counties were a hotbed of Rebel activity, and the battle for the Mountaineer State raged hot and uncertain. One town changed hands more than fifty times during the course of the war.

From 1861 through 1864, Union trenches overlooked the town of Petersburg, which was predominately pro-Union. Railroad connections and a fortified structure, Fort Mulligan, made the town a strongpoint and strategic link with the North until Confederate general Jubal Early‘s forces took the town in January of 1864, destroying Fort Mulligan. Union soldiers who had used nearby Mount Zion Church for storage of supplies burned the church when Confederate forces approached. Signs of Civil War entrenchments still remained visible in Petersburg 79 years later, when infantry soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division arrived to begin training in 1943.

Oddly enough, the people over whom the entire war had begun, the Negro slaves, fought on both sides during the war. Negroes fought in the Confederate army, and served as nurses and orderlies in hospitals throughout the Confederacy. They also served with distinction in the Union Army, even while serving for far less pay than the average white soldier. Apparently, Northern concern for the Negro did not extend to his economic welfare. In the armies of the North, where one soldier in ten was black, over 40,000 Negroes gave their lives to secure the freedoms of democracy for themselves and their descendants.

After Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the new state quickly recovered and actually thrived. In 1872, the new state constitution guaranteed Negroes the right to vote, one of the first states to do so. From 1865 to 1885, West Virginia became one of the most productive and progressive farming areas in the country. The remarkable numbers of mountain-raised cattle, sheep, pigs and turkeys brought to market by Appalachian farming communities literally fed the cities of Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore. Had this portion of America been allowed to develop commerce and agriculture at the same rate into the 20th century, life in West Virginia would be very different now.

But between 1880 and 1920, changes came that would result in devastation to rival or even surpass that of the Civil War.

The Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains represented one of the richest regions of resources in the world. Their hardwood forests were the oldest known to man. The coal seams of the region surpassed deposits found anywhere else in the world.

Following the recession that gripped the country in the wake of Grant’s Presidency, thoroughly dishonest agents representing J.P. Morgan and a half-dozen other robber barons bought land for little more than pocket change. One man sold a mountain of timber and coal for a Singer sewing machine.

Families often owned parcels of land in community, where several hundred people held joint title to thousands of acres of mountain land. A typical ploy of the land agents was to find the disgruntled member of the family (there’s always one), stir up their feelings of persecution and indignation, get them drunk, and convince them to sell the property for a fraction of its actual value. Judges would be bribed in advance, as would the local newspaper editor. The mine agent, now part-owner, would then file a petition for a ruling by the court as to whether it was “in the best interest of all parties” to sell the land at public auction. Notice of the auction would be printed in tiny blocks in the middle or back pages of the newspaper (or conveniently forgotten) and the compromised judge would then render a judgment in favor. When the bidding reached $100, the poor farmers living on the land could no longer bid. The coal and timber companies used this method to steal hundreds of thousands of acres and millions of dollars from families that had been here since before the Revolutionary War. In the process, they turned a population of self-sufficient landowners and prosperous farmers into homeless refugees.

Another trick was the use of the “short form deed”, a document that left the land in the family’s name, but gave away all the minerals and timber, leaving the family to pay the taxes and requiring them to maintain roads for mining and logging out of empty pockets.

This was the beginning of a policy of out-of-state ownership and exploitation of WV’s incredible mineral resources, tacitly (and sometimes forcefully) supported by the legislation, the courts, and the Federal Government, a policy unchallenged by the numerous missionaries and other out-of-state “relief organizations” to this day.

In less than 40 years, the oldest stand of timber in North America fell to the loggers that swarmed the rugged mountains. Timber camps that resembled a vision of Hell sprang up all over the state. Railroad spurs were constructed into almost every valley and hollow to haul out the plunder. It has been estimated that 98% of West Virginia was stripped of timber by 1920; thirty-eight billion board feet of lumber left the state, along with 98% of the profits. With that much timber, you could quite literally build a causeway 13 feet wide and 2 inches thick from Earth to the moon.

Between 1907 and 1920, over 700 wildfires swept through the scrub cedars, lapwood and brush that were, in all but the steepest and rockiest portions of the mountains, all that remained of the state’s once-proud forests. With little or no remaining vegetation to absorb annual rainfall, heavy spring and summer rains turned into floods that raged through the valleys below the bare mountainsides with devastating effects. During the flood of 1929, a seven-mile-long mudslide reached from the top of North Fork Mountain to the bottom of Germany Valley, blocking roads, sweeping away houses, cars, and bridges.

Since before the migration of early Indians across the Bering Strait land bridge, the chestnut tree had been a vital part of Appalachian forest ecology. These trees were the largest in the forest. They grew quickly and lived for as long as 300 years. In Spring, the chestnut blossoms covered the mountains like snow, and in the Fall the bounty of nuts covered the ground so thickly as to make it nearly impossible to climb the steeper ridges.

In the last years of the 19th century, nursery operators had attempted to crossbreed American chestnut with an imported Asian species. In 1904, it was discovered that the huge American chestnuts in the Bronx Zoological gardens of New York were all either dead or dying. With an infection and mortality rate of near 100%, the Asian chestnut blight obliterated a cornerstone of Appalachian subsistence farming and forest ecology by the start of the Second World War.

With the great forests gone, the corporate giants turned their eyes to coal. With their farms destroyed or stolen, the mountains stripped of timber and game, West Virginians had few choices left but to leave their homes or go to work for the mines. Coal mining has been a source of employment for many West Virginians ever since. Negro laborers came from throughout the Deep South, attracted by the coal companies’ offers of equal pay. These descendants of slaves make up an important part of West Virginia’s history, playing an important role in early mining and railroad development; working alongside white men laying track and digging coal and joining with white pro-union forces in the Battle of Blair Mountain, a turning point in the battle for workers‘ rights.

While many of the early mine operators were honest businessmen who treated their workers fairly and indeed lived and worked among them, as coal grew more important following the Industrial Revolution, this became the exception rather than the rule. Most mine owners lived out of state, with little or no concern for the environmental and economic wreckage left among the tiny mountain communities struggling in their wake.
Coal became King in the early days of the 20th century, and coal operators became millionaires, ruling the regions where they lived like feudal lords and living in castles that rivaled any in Europe while paying their employees, often illiterate locals or immigrants, pennies on the ton and stealing even that pitiful pay in every conceivable manner.

Mine employees were required to buy their own tools, as well as all their food, clothing, and other household goods from “company stores” which charged ridiculous prices. Miners were allowed to purchase items “on account”- in effect a loan, to which was often added interest payments so large as to keep the family forever in debt, trying to pay for goods already consumed on an income of 8 dollars for a 12-hour day. Coal companies often paid in “script”, coins they themselves minted, which were only of value in the company store. Desperate for cash, miners often sold this script to local businessmen for half to three-quarters of its face value. These businessmen then redeemed the scrip from the coal companies for cash, at full value.

Between 1889 and 1969, over 142,000 miners were killed or crippled in mine explosions and cave-ins, but mine owners bribed government officials of both parties and did everything in their power to keep laws from being created that would protect the workers and hold the owners responsible for their safety.

Since mining accidents and deaths were commonplace, coal companies purchased large numbers of cheap coffins, often for as little as $25-30 each. These coffins were then “sold” to the miner’s “burial fund” for as much as $300 apiece, making the mine operators a tidy profit for killing their own employees through unsafe conditions and neglect.

Miners lived in and paid for houses built by the company, and if a miner died with no sons to take his place in the mine, his family’s possessions were often seized by the mine against the debt he owed to the company and its store, and his family forcibly evicted within days of his death.

The struggle for miner’s rights was a long and bloody battle, as vicious as any war fought on American soil. Coal Companies paid for and often ran the campaigns of Governors, Senators, sheriffs and judges. As a condition of employment, miners were often required to vote for candidates hand-picked by the coal companies. In return, these representatives turned a blind eye to the plight of their constituents even as they acted as apologists and advocates for the interests of their masters.

Unfair eviction and false arrest, brutal beatings, and even murder were commonplace in the struggle for workers‘ rights. The Battle of Blair Mountain is the only instance in American history in which the United States military dropped bombs on civilians over a labor dispute. In another incident, a mine owner strafed a tent village of women and children with a .50 caliber machine gun, mounted on the back of a train. The massive miner uprising only ended when U.S. troops were ordered into the field to repel the miners from reaching Charleston. The miners, many of them veterans of the First World War, refused to take arms against men they had fought beside in the trenches of Europe.

Unionization brought peace, but only temporarily. The unions soon became as corrupt as the mine operators had been, and in many places were actually run by agents of the mine owners. Miners could seldom read or write, and were forced to depend on corrupt union leaders for news and information of world and local events, which those leaders often mis-stated to achieve political or business victories, often at the expense of miners. Union leaders also used miners to attack and disrupt operations of mines which would not participate in strikes. Gangs of hundreds of armed men would roam the highways, threatening anyone who questioned their activities or failed to submit to their rules with beatings or worse, while the Governor and the State Police turned a blind eye, in hopes that this would increase votes for themselves or their candidates-of-choice in election years.

Unfortunately, this sad tradition continues to this day, as hardworking miners are misled to believe that the people who have for decades fought for their rights and safety are “trying to shut down the mines” or “trying to take their jobs”. Out-of-state corporations and billionaires come hat-in-hand, playing the role of good ol’ boy or kindly uncle whenever any attempts are made to enforce environmental or labor laws, to protect the beautiful mountains of West Virginia from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal or to protect miners from the deadly explosions that have killed so many in the coalfields of West Virginia.

In 1907, spring rains and the melting of winter snows had led to floods that swept away houses and neighborhoods in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 1920, the Monongahela National Forest was created, in part to protect the cities downstream of the slashed and burned mountains from the effects of clear cutting and wildfires. Although this huge governmental step to protect the land and the people was a necessity, one that has preserved some of the most beautiful wild places in America, it once again brought that government between the people and their land.

In many places, in an effort to protect and control the watersheds around the flood plain, the government would offer a “fair market bid” on the property; in other words, what a steep, rocky piece of land, with no possibility of development, would be worth to a builder, not an environmentalist. The farmers, already struggling with washed-away crops and livestock, were left between the proverbial rock and a hard place- lose your family land to a declaration of “eminent domain” by a government that has shown little interest in your life up to this point, or sell it for a fraction of its environmental and historical value, and lose it anyway.

It is ironic that these forests were often owned by the last holdout families who had defied the logging companies and mining agents and held on to their land and timber. The irony is made more bitter by the fact that today, with the National Forests administered by the Department of Agriculture, logging companies buy that same timber and the states lose money building and maintaining logging roads.

The “short form deed” seems have survived.

It is a sad and beautiful truth that the Past still lives in West Virginia.

Between the First and Second World Wars, America entered the Great Depression of the 1930s. Greedy, irresponsible stock brokers, bankers and businessmen had driven the American Stock Market to unrealistic heights, and when the bubble burst, it swept the country into an era of terrifying social destruction and abject poverty. Overnight, millionaires became paupers, banks became empty buildings, and millions of Americans lost their life savings. The West Virginia families still making a living by selling produce to the large cities faced the sudden loss of an income that in many cases meant the existence of the family home and farm.

It was during this era that the Civilian Conservation Corps was created, to give Americans jobs and shelter and food, and to try to preserve families in the face of one of the greatest calamities of the 20th Century. CCC workers planted trees, built roads, constructed flood control dams, and in many ways created the rough sketch of the country in which we live today. There were CCC camps throughout West Virginia. One such camp, at Hopeville, was responsible for the construction of the road between Seneca Rocks and Petersburg, a road still in use today.

One of the greatest tragedies in the history of American construction also took place in West Virginia during the 1930s, during the construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel near New River Gorge, when hundreds of Negro workers died from the effects of silicosis (inhalation of tiny particles of silica which gradually block the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen). Many of them are buried in a nearby Nicholas county graveyard.

When the Second World War broke out in Europe, America wanted nothing to do with this “foreign conflict”. But when Japanese planes attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, there was no choice but to go to war. In a country still reeling from the Depression, enlistment offered one of the few escapes from grinding poverty and hopelessness.

With many formerly unemployed Americans leaving for service, the CCC camps were shut down or converted to military training centers for soldiers who would soon fight in the mountains of Europe. West Virginia became the first place in America that the military taught climbing skills to soldiers. The 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army created the Seneca Rocks Maneuver Area, which included Seneca and Champe Rocks and Smoke Hole Canyon.

Here, military instructors taught men how to climb at night, with heavy gear, in all kinds of weather. At that time the area around the Rocks was a sheep farm owned by the local Kisamore family. During the years that they trained there, soldiers fought fires, cleared the trees and brush from the base of the Rocks, killed over 5,000 copperhead snakes, and married more than a few local girls. On nearby Dolly Sods, artillery training exercises fired thousands of shells, and unexploded rounds are still found today, over 60 years later.

In order to equip the soldier, the Ames Tool Company of Parkersburg, WV became one of the first climbing equipment manufacturers in the United States, turning out hundreds of specialized hammers and the thousands of pitons and ring pins they were meant to drive. So many of the latter were left at Seneca Rocks that one face came to be known as the Wall of a Thousand Pitons. Pitons and ring pins can still be found throughout Germany Valley and Smoke Hole Canyon, legacy of the soldiers and the climbers who followed them after the war.

These climbing soldiers would go on to fight in the Battle of Riva Ridge in the Italian Apennines Mountains, driving the last Nazi forces from their strongholds. This campaign has been called one of the most important of the Second World War and credited as a crucial element in the final collapse of Nazi Germany.

Men of the 10th eventually came home to a country where they were determined to make a difference. 10th Mountain veterans revolutionized downhill skiing equipment and techniques, innovated a wide assortment of vehicles for travel over snow and ice and created many of the major ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains. Shocked by the desolation he had seen as an aftermath of war, Dave Brower founded the Sierra Club to protect America‘s wild places from development and destruction. Paul Petzoldt created the National Outdoor Leadership Schools. Others returned to the green forests and silent mountains of West Virginia, searching for peace, rebuilding their lives, and founding families. Several of these vets went on to pioneer modern technical rock climbing, honing skills they had learned for combat, creating new tools and devices and techniques for ascending and protecting steeper and more difficult climbs here and across the United States.

West Virginia sent many of her sons and daughters to fight and care for the wounded in Europe and the Pacific. This proud tradition continues to the present day. Mountaineer soldiers fought and died in Korea, Panama, Viet Nam, Palestine, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are few towns or cities in West Virginia that do not have a memorial listing the Mountaineers who gave their lives to preserve freedom for all mankind.

One West Virginian serviceman who did not fall in combat was Chuck Yaeger. Born in Myra, WV on February 13, 1920, Yaeger became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947 when his experimental Bell X-1 rocket plane was dropped from a B-29 bomber and reached a speed of 700 mph. On December 12, 1953, Yaeger set another record when he became the first man to fly at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound (1750 mph) in a Bell X-1A.

Even as the decade of the 50s dawned and a West Virginian brushed the edge of space, the heritage of West Virginia began to fail, as family farms were sold and auctioned off in the face of recession and foreign agribusiness with which they could not compete. Families were forced to sell off equipment, herds and acreage, or to watch as the property went at public auction.

With land cheap and plentiful, West Virginia was soon “discovered” by the wealthy inhabitants and retirees of Washington, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. While this story is no different from that of any other declining rural population invaded by refugees from the “big city”, the difference is that here there existed the perpetual myth of the “other” Appalachia; a culture of backward country savages who feuded and drank and bred with their own kin, sitting around on the porches of their log cabins, just passing time waiting for butcherin’ and apple butter makin’ while pickin’ homemade banjos. This illusion created prejudices conscious and unconscious among the influx of outsiders. And, in truth, the bitterness of lost farms and heritage brought a harsh unwillingness to communicate from the natives that only helped support the belief that they were no more than ignorant hillbillies.

Outsiders brought money, but in the end most of it went to the same families that have been in power since the days of Reconstruction. The recreation industry exploded, but few of West Virginia’s sons and daughters found employment as ski instructors, outfitters, or climbing guides. Those positions more often went to college graduates from more prestigious and prosperous places like New York, North Carolina, California and Colorado, while the natives were tossed the scraps of jobs in housekeeping and maintenance. West Virginia’s natural wonders and beauty have always been powerful draws for recreation-seeking urban dwellers, but her population is usually seen only in terms of its usefulness and utility, and through the distorted lens of stereotype.

The oldest river in North American runs through West Virginia. It is, ironically enough, named the New River. It is one of the three oldest rivers in the world, and is crossed by the longest single span bridge in the world, which is also the highest bridge east of the Mississippi River. Other West Virginia bridges of note are the covered bridge at Phillipi, made famous in the Civil War, now the only covered bridge still in use on a federal highway, and the Wheeling suspension bridge; at 1,010 feet in length it is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

It is in West Virginia that the Potomac River has its headwaters. The North Fork, The South Fork, and the South Branch gather from springs and creeks flowing out of the westernmost range of the Appalachians and the eastern flanks of the Allegheny Front. Every year, thousands of fishermen migrate to the region from all over the world in pursuit of golden, rainbow, and brown trout, brookies, and bass.

They share the rivers with boating enthusiasts in kayaks and canoes, also from points around the country and globe, many of whom also paddle the world-class whitewater of the Gauley, New, and Meadow Rivers. Mountain bike riders and backpackers have dubbed the North Fork Mountain Trail “the best in the East“, and hundreds of thousands of tourists have made the drive to the tops of Spruce Knob and Dolly Sods to enjoy the amazing views and incredible diversity of plant and animal life. As fall brings a blaze of color to the region, people from all walks of life come to enjoy the spectacle, and crowds throng to the Old Time Fiddler’s gathering at Elkins-Davis College, the Treasure Mountain Festival of Pendleton County, and the Heritage Days celebration in Petersburg, where steam and coal locomotives from a bygone era still offer thrills for young and old alike. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders sample perfect champagne powder on the slopes of Canaan, Timberline, and Whitegrass.

Rock climbers from around the globe come to scale the historic fins of Seneca Rocks and New River Gorge’s miles of incredible cliffs. It was this pursuit that first brought me to West Virginia over 20 years ago, and it is the beauty of this place and the character of its people that has brought me back again and again, first as a visitor and finally as a resident. I have traveled across this amazing country, lived in huge cities and in quiet little towns, and yet it is to the Allegheny Mountains that I find my heart drawn, in the end. I am no native, but no adopted son was ever more proud of the place he chose to call “home”.

If I have painted a picture of West Virginia that is less than sunny and bright, it is because the history of West Virginia is perhaps the saddest and most disturbing of any state in our nation. Again and again the people of the Mountaineer State have triumphed over adversity, only to have governments and corporations take from them their fortunes, their birthright, and their victory, based on a convenient myth and the misconception of their inability to direct and govern their own destinies. This is the other “Appalachia”, the stereotypical home of feuding hillbillies and sullen poor white trash.

The myth of “Appalachia” was, in fact, created by missionaries bent on “uplifting the people” by changing them into the stereotypes that outsiders have always brought with them to West Virginia. That myth has been perpetuated by every other group that has come here to “help” in order to secure funding, entertain their colleagues, and to insure their own sense of superiority.

The people of West Virginia are no more isolated or backward than the people of any mountainous region anywhere else in the world. There are ignorant, impoverished, suspicious people in every culture, in every nation, and in every age. The people of West Virginia have never been allowed to fully develop their own unique culture and personality, because that would not have fit into the plans and budgets and conceits of the many individuals and organizations that have made a fortune ”uplifting” them.

And yet they persist. The sap rises again in spring, red bud trees and wildflowers color the mountainsides, turkeys gobble in the forests, and white-tail deer herd their awkward fawns under dogwood blossoms as robins sing and jays scold and eagles soar high overhead. Morel and lady's slipper and jack-in-the-pulpit peek from beneath leaves in the shadow of great oaks and poplars, as chipmunks and squirrels dash madly between heaven and earth.

If there is a bright side to the story of West Virginia, it is that, though her people may find defeat again and again at the hands of ignorant humans and blind Nature, they still find the courage to rise up, each day, and to press forward into the future in search of answers and in the defiant belief that life can be better for their children and the generations yet to come.

Let those of us who come to this place to find something special, something different, something lost in much of the rest of the world, realize that part of that magic, that unique attraction, is the people and culture of West Virginia.  Let us vow to leave behind our prejudices and preconceptions, to open our eyes to the ongoing abuses and injustices still woven into the ongoing history of the Alleghenies, as schools close or go without adequate supplies and children go hungry, while mountains are reduced to rubble, wells are poisoned, and miners continue to die.  Let us all strive to support the children of the Mountain State as they battle the corporate and government corruption that owns so much of their homes, as they fight to overcome the stereotypes and prejudices of yesterday to reclaim control of their futures.

I would like to thank the many authors and researchers who have provided so much printed data and online information regarding West Virginia and Pendleton County.  In particular, Dr. Robert Jay Dilger, Director, Institute for Public Affairs and Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University, whose publication on the history of Pendleton County is referenced here. 

The following is a list of West Virginia Counties, with the names of county seats and founding dates.

Barbour, 1843, Philippi
Berkeley, 1772, Martinsburg
Boone, 1847, Madison
Braxton, 1836, Sutton
Brooke, 1797, Wellsburg
Cabell, 1809, Huntington
Calhoun, 1856, Grantsville
Clay, 1858, Clay
Doddridge, 1845, West Union
Fayette, 1831, Fayetteville
Gilmer, 1845, Glenville
Grant, 1866, Petersburg
Greenbrier, 1778, Lewisburg
Hampshire, 1754, Romney
Hancock, 1848, New Cumberland
Hardy, 1786, Moorefield
Harrison, 1784, Clarksburg
Jackson, 1831, Ripley
Jefferson, 1801, Charles Town
Kanawha, 1788, Charleston
Lewis, 1816 Weston
Lincoln, 1867, Hamlin
Logan, 1824, Logan
Marion, 1842, Fairmont
Marshall, 1835, Moundsville
Mason, 1804, Point Pleasant
McDowell, 1858, Welch
Mercer, 1837, Princeton
Mineral, 1866, Keyser
Mingo, 1895, Williamson
Monongalia, 1776, Morgantown
Monroe, 1799, Union
Morgan, 1820, Berkeley Springs
Nicholas, 1818, Summersville
Ohio, 1776, Wheeling
Pendleton, 1788, Franklin
Pleasants, 1851, St. Marys
Pocahontas, 1821, Marlinton
Preston, 1818, Kingwood
Putnam, 1848, Winfield
Raleigh, 1850, Beckley
Randolph, 1787, Elkins
Ritchie, 1843, Harrisville
Roane, 1856, Spencer
Summers, 1871, Hinton
Taylor, 1844, Grafton
Tucker, 1856, Parsons
Tyler, 1814, Middlebourne
Upshur, 1851, Buckhannon
Wayne, 1842, Wayne
Webster, 1860, Webster Springs
Wetzel, 1846, New Martinsville
Wirt, 1848, Elizabeth
Wood, 1798, Parkersburg
Wyoming, 1850, Pineville