Collection Items

  • Web Page
    Rights and Access 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...
  • Article
    Giles the Seng Man 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...
  • Article
    Ginseng and the Future of the Commons "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...
  • Article
    Historical Background 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...
  • Article
    Notes 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...
  • Article
    Seng Talk and Ginseng Tales 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...
  • Article
    Stalking the Wily Seng 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...
  • Article
    The Commons 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...
  • Article
    The View from the Sundial Tavern The Sundial Tavern, known up and down Coal River as "Kenny and Martha's," is a mom-and-pop-style beer joint on Route 3, in Sundial, West Virginia, just north of Naoma. Retired coal miner Kenny Pettry and his wife, Martha, now in their sixties, have been the proprietors for nearly thirty years. The bar's modest facade belies the often uproarious vitality of its evenings. On weekend...
  • Article
    Historical Maps of the Study Area The maps, below, illustrate different historical stages in the exploration and development of coalfields in the areas where the collection materials were gathered.
    • Date: 1999
  • Article
  • Article
    Big Coal River and Surrounding Area Map of Big Coal River and surrounding area information was compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Online Data Base portal for the U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER Mapping Service (Accessed April, 2000). Map information was modified for illustration purposes.
  • Article
    Dry Creek 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...
  • Article
    Fishing Holes on the Marsh Fork 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...
  • Article
    From Hazy Creek to Peachtree Creek 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...
  • Article
    Headwaters of the Big Coal River 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...
  • Article
    Horse Creek 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...
  • Article
    Rock Creek 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...
  • Article
    Sycamore Creek 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...
  • Article
    Landscapes and History at the headwaters of the Big Coal River From the air today, as one flies westward across West Virginia, the mountains appear to crest in long, undulating waves, giving way beyond the Allegheny Front to the deeply crenulated mass of the coal-bearing Allegheny plateaus. The sandstone ridges of Cherry Pond, Kayford, Guyandotte, and Coal River mountains where the headwaters of southern West Virginia's Big Coal River rise are the spectacular effect of...
    • Date: 1995
  • Article
    Crafting Locality 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...
  • Article
    Notes 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....
  • Article
    Ramp Patches 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,...
  • Article
    Ramp Talk 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...
  • Article
    Reading the Cultural Landscape 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...
  • Article
    The Easter Onion Poem 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.
  • Article
    The Ramp House on Drew's Creek 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
  • Article
    Seasonal Round of Activities on Coal River The seasonal round on Coal River, showing the continuing role of the mixed mesophytic forest in community life. Many of these activites rely on common pool resources located in the mountains. Adapted from the graphic by Suzuki Graphics, based on interviews and a field sketch by Mary Hufford.
    • Date: 1995
  • Article
    Seining for Hellgrammites on Coal River in 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.
    • Date: 1999
  • Article
    Biodiversity A Seasonal Round, and National Forest Policy Even in what residents perceive to be a deteriorated state, the comparative vitality of this forest is striking. Following his first visit to the coves on Coal River, plant pathologist David Houston of the USFS Northeastern experiments station commented, "I marvelled at the lushness and species diversity and the magnitude of the trees."10 Around that lushness, diversity,...
  • Article
    Cove Topography The Mixed Mesophytic Forest On a mid-December morning, my commuter plane en route from Washington, D.C., to Charleston, West Virginia, traverses in a matter of minutes Virginia's historic Piedmont. Gaining altitude, the plane bisects the ridge and valley of the Shenandoah, where the Skyline Drive meanders south toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. Soon after, the horizon opens onto the great Allegheny and Cumberland plateaus,...
  • Article
    Forest Health 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 coal camps, towns, and hollows along the Big Coal River. Eventually it comes to Montcoal on the Marsh Fork, where science writer...
  • Article
    "Holding up the Mountains" 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...
  • Article
    "Like a Thief Through the Air" Discourses of Forest Decline In beer joints and living rooms, on porches and ridgetops, one hears people talking about a forest on the wane. "The men that like to hunt and be out ginsenging and will be all over the woods," said Robert Allen, of Peachtree Creek. "I've heard a lot of them talk about the way the timber is falling and dying out."...
  • Article
    Notes 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