• Forest Health -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Narratives of Development To comprehend the condition of this forest, you have to get under the canopy and listen. From Charleston, drive the interstate as far as Marmet and then head south along Route 94 as it follows the tributary of Lens Creek to Racine. From there Route 3 winds south and east through District 17 of the United Mine Workers, past dozens of ...

  • The Ramp House on Drew's Creek -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Biodiversity has been protected through the flourishing of cultural diversity. Utilizing indigenous knowledge systems, cultures have built decentralized economies and production systems that use and reproduce biodiversity. Monocultures, by contrast, which are produced and reproduced through centralized control, consume biodiversity.1 It is mid-April, and throughout the tributaries of West Virginia's Big Coal River, peepers are announcing spring. High in the hills, coves drained by ...

  • Notes -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    See E. Lucy Braun, The Eastern Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America (New York: MacMillan, 1950), 39-121. (Return to Text) For further discussion, see Charles Little, The Dying of the Trees (New York: Viking, 1995). (Return to Text) For instance, Gregg Easterbrook, in a bid for "ecorealism," writes that "North America does appear a great deal different compared with how it must have looked ...

  • Ramp Talk -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The Cultural Landscape of Hazy Creek Many of the ramps for this year's ramp supper came from Hazy Creek, a long, lush, meandering hollow that hooks around Shumate's Branch like a sheltering arm. Hundreds of people lived at the mouth of Hazy in the 1940s when the coal town of Edwight was the bustling hub of the river between Whitesville and Glen Daniel. Though ...

  • Historical Maps of the Study Area -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The maps, below, illustrate different historical stages in the exploration and development of coalfields in the areas where the collection materials were gathered. The earliest period, which Appalachian historians (Dunaway, Rasmussen, Salstrom) term "the engrossment," took place during the Federalist Era, when wealthy politicians were awarded land grants of hundreds of thousands of acres apiece. This map, by George Washington, of the eight survey ...

    • Date: 1999
  • The Commons -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    There is a story in these figures of a vernacular cultural domain that transcends state boundaries. Anchoring this domain is a geographical space, a de facto commons roughly congruent with two physiographic regions recognized in national discourse. One is the coal fields underlying the ginseng, most of which are controlled by absentee landholders. The other is the mixed mesophytic forest, known among ecologists as ...

  • Seining for Hellgrammites on Coal River in West Virginia -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Hellgrammites, also known as "grampus," are the fierce and succulent larvae of the dobson fly. They first hatch in late spring and hide under rocks from would-be predators, such as red-eye, bass, wall-eye, and other game fish native to Coal River. The term grampus elsewhere refers to the whip-scorpion and the hellbender, fitting companions for a larva whose pincers draw blood. Fishermen in the ...

    • Date: 1999
  • Stalking the Wily Seng -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Though in biological terms ginseng is properly flora, in the ginsengers' world it behaves like fauna. Ginseng is not merely "harvested," it is "hunted," and rare six-, seven-, and eight-prong specimens are coveted like twelve-point bucks. There is an agency assigned to ginseng unparalleled among the many plants valued on Coal River. "It hides away from man with seeming intelligence," wrote Arthur Harding in ...

  • The Easter Onion Poem -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Years gone by, still they gather Tribute to a heritage, gloried past Easter onions, in Appalachia called ramps Family, friends, people from far and wide. On Coal River, up Peachtree to Pine Knob This time of year, everyone a memory to share Good music, preaching, and food; thank you, Lord The sun warming, trees making horizons green. Blooms hanging heavy, petals fall like snow ...

  • Seng Talk and Ginseng Tales -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Conjuring the Commons For seng aficionados, the ongoing prospect of ginseng makes the mountains gleam with hidden treasure. "It's like catching a big fish," said Randy Halstead. "You're out here all day and you find this big fish, and you know it's everybody's desire to catch this big fish in the lake. You find this big enormous plant and you know everybody that's out ...

  • "Holding up the Mountains" -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Forest Talk as Historical Discourse As talk about change, forest talk is part of a larger effort to construct local history through historical discourse.11 Constructing history, people relate themselves to their surroundings and position that relationship in time. History is, as Henry Glassie writes, "a prime mode of cultural construction...a way people organize reality to investigate truth to survive in their own terms."12 On ...

  • Rights and Access -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the material in this collection, except as noted below. Users should keep in mind that the Library of Congress is providing access to these materials strictly for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other holders of rights ...

  • Ramp Patches -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The Commons of "The Mountains" Ramp patches in the mountains have long functioned as a common resource. Most of the ramps served at the ramp supper, some fifteen bushels full, do not come from peoples' personal patches. They come from the upper-elevation coves rising high above the Ramp House. "I've got a few planted up the holler here," said Dennis Dickens, of Peachtree Creek, ...

  • Ginseng and the Future of the Commons -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    "Understanding the commons and its role within the larger regional culture," writes Gary Snyder, "is one more step toward integrating ecology with economy."18 Environmental policy, focused too narrowly on physical resources, loses sight of the web of social relationships and processes in which those resources are embedded and made significant. "They're taking our dignity by destroying our forest," as Vernon Williams, of Peach Tree ...

  • Notes -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (Boston: South End Press, 1997), 72. (Return to Text) For a discussion of the festival at Cosby, Tennessee, see Michael Ann Williams, Great Smoky Mountain Folklife (Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1995), 172-77. (Return to Text) According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ramps, rams, and ramsons all apply to the broad-leaved garlic, allium ursinum. ...

  • Reading the Cultural Landscape -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The hills rising away from the Ramp House are rich in family and community history. Names bestowed on every wrinkle in the ridgeline commemorate people, events, and moments in the seasonal round. What appears to be a jumble of coves, ridges, creeks, knobs, branches, gaps, and forks is as legible to some residents as a metropolitan grid is to an urbanite. "These different little ...

  • Notes -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Since 1978 the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service has tracked the certification of ginseng for export under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Ginseng is listed in Appendix II. (Return to Text) Ginseng can be cultivated, and in fact cultivated ginseng comprises more than 90 percent of American ginseng exports (ASPI Bulletin ...

  • Sycamore Creek -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The maps for this site are based on U.S.G.S. topographic quads and were notated in field interviews conducted between 1994 and 1999. Dave Bailey, Woody Boggs, Ben Burnside, Ed Cantley, Tony Dickens, Paul Fitzwater, Ivan Jarrell, Ricky Meadows, Howard Miller, Elbert Pettry, Wesley Scarbrough, and Rocky Turner helped fill out the quads with local names, and their accounts of places and origins of names ...

  • Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    This collection presents 718 excerpts of sound recordings, 1,256 photographs, and 10 manuscripts from the American Folklife Center's Coal River Folklife Project Collection. The project documented traditional uses of the mountains in the Big Coal River Valley of southern West Virginia, and explored the cultural dimensions of ecological crisis from 1992 to 1999. There are extensive interviews with local residents on the seasonal harvesting ...

    • Date: 1996
  • Headwaters of the Big Coal River -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The maps for this site are based on U.S.G.S. topographic quads and which were notated in field interviews conducted between 1994 and 1999. Dave Bailey, Woody Boggs, Ben Burnside, Ed Cantley, Tony Dickens, Paul Fitzwater, Ivan Jarrell, Ricky Meadows, Howard Miller, Elbert Pettry, Wesley Scarbrough, and Rocky Turner helped fill out the quads with local names, and their accounts of places and origins of ...

  • Giles the Seng Man -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    One of the more famous buyers who infused cash into the economy during the boom-and-bust period of coal was "Giles the Seng Man." Diggers generally sell ginseng to centers that recycle scrap metal and broker other non-woody forest products like moss, mayapple, bloodroot, cohosh, and golden seal. During the thirties, forties, and fifties much of the ginseng on Marsh Fork was bought by "Giles ...

  • From Hazy Creek to Peachtree Creek -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The maps for this site are based on U.S.G.S. topographic quads and were notated in field interviews conducted between 1994 and 1999. Dave Bailey, Woody Boggs, Ben Burnside, Ed Cantley, Tony Dickens, Paul Fitzwater, Ivan Jarrell, Ricky Meadows, Howard Miller, Elbert Pettry, Wesley Scarbrough, and Rocky Turner helped fill out the quads with local names, and their accounts of places and origins of names ...

  • Crafting Locality -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    Historically, in these mountains, female sociality has flourished around the gathering and processing of greens and other wild produce. On the heels of ramps a host of other greens start popping up: dandelions, poke, shawnee lettuce, woolen britches, creasies, and lamb's tongue. And around these, women have fashioned womens' worlds. "That was the big deal when everybody used to go green picking," said Carrie ...

  • Historical Background -- Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

    The history of human interaction with ginseng lurks in the language of the land. Look at a detailed map of almost any portion of the region and ginseng is registered somewhere, often in association with the deeper, moister places: Seng Branch (Fayette County), Sang Camp Creek (Logan County), Ginseng (Wyoming County), Seng Creek (Boone County), Three-Prong Holler (Raleigh). The hollows, deep dendritic fissures created ...