Monthly Archives: March 2013

Journey to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel masthead, 1987

I would like to introduce you to the Mountain Laurel, a unique paper from Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The Mountain Laurel warned readers that it would “not keep you informed of world events” but instead sought to “portray mountain people with honor and distinction”, hence the double-meaning in the title: a laurel is not only a native flower but also means “honor and distinction”.

 

Front page of the first issue in March 1983

Distinctly Appalachian, the paper introduced readers to Glendon Boyd, wood carver and artisan rake-maker, and it told the tale of the man who once fell out of his cornfield and broke his leg because the land there was so steep. It would keep readers up to date with a report from the Floyd County Public Library which once resided in the basement of the Floyd courthouse. Readers clamored to contribute their own stories and memories making the paper a rich and entertaining resource full of oral history.  The Mountain Laurel has been collecting and printing the lore, history, culture, and happenings of their Blue Ridge Mountain community since Bob and Charlotte Heafner and Susan Thigpen set up shop with an electronic typewriter in a rented farmhouse in March 1983.

A few years ago, Bob Heafner generously lent his collection of the Mountain Laurel to the Library of Virginia so it could be preserved on microfilm. Issues for March 1983 through Winter 1995 are available on Film 2025A.

The Mountain Laurel maintains a website for the journal with many transcribed articles available and they are still accepting submissions of readers’ stories.  Please visit mtnlaurel.com for more of these wonderful stories.… read more »

3 Comments

St. Patrick’s Day in Newspapers

St. Patrick’s Day News from the March 17, 1911 issue of the Times Dispatch. . .All images are from Chronicling America.

Headlines from the March 17, 1911 issue of the Times Dispatch. A prominent article on Ireland's home rule appears in the right column.

The Mar. 17 article detailed the continuing struggle for home rule of Ireland.

 

St. Patrick’s Day news from other newspapers around the state. . .

Leave a comment

“Flew on wings of death to the hills”:Southwestern Virginia reports on the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic

Big Stone Gap Post, 11-13-1918

The Fall of 1918 saw the end of World War I and hundreds of thousands in America dead from a influenza pandemic that was sweeping the globe killing millions worldwide.

More than 600,000 people died over the course of a year in what would be deemed the worst epidemic to hit America. According to the CDC, 20-50 million people worldwide died between 1918-1919 as a result of the flu.  The virus spread quickly, taking an enormous toll on densely populated areas such as Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco.

But what about its impact on small towns?

The Big Stone Gap Post of Big Stone Gap, Virginia and the Clinch Valley News of Tazewell, Virginia published regular updates about the comings and goings of the flu. Roughly 100 miles apart in the southwestern portion of the state, both towns currently boast modest populations of around 4-5,000 residents. As the article below points out, Spanish Flu was considered a “crowd disease” but small towns in Virginia were not spared, with relative isolation making it difficult for the sick to get help.

Big Stone Gap Post, 11-20-1918

From the Big Stone Gap Post, November 20, 1918, nine days after the end of the war:

“It is hardly likely that the general public will ever realize the extent of the suffering and anguish caused by the Spanish Influenza in some of the more remote mountain communities in Virginia where the frightful malady raged with a degree of severity which is difficult to explain.”

As the war was ending, the local and national news seemed equally dominated by reports of influenza cases. World war may have even helped spread to influenza around the globe just as the spread of the flu impacted the war effort at home and … read more »

Leave a comment

The Fighting Editor and his Stanley Steamers

Most of us know John Mitchell, Jr. as the tireless “fighting” editor of the Richmond Planet, a newspaper he ran for 40 plus years beginning in the mid-1880′s. But Mitchell was a complex, multi-faceted person whose varied interests included a fascination for the Stanley Steamer, an automobile of the early 20th century that ran on steam produced by a vertical fire-tube boiler.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a great article that focuses specifically on John Mitchell, Jr. and the Stanley Steamers he owned during his lifetime.

http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/editor-s-travelogues-highlight-story-of-the-stanley-steamer/article_1c4e7e0a-7eff-11e2-8bd0-001a4bcf6878.html

The automobile’s steam boiler mechanism was based on technologies that had existed for decades, so it’s no surprise that someone would develop a personal vehicle based on the same concepts that drove railroad locomotives and factory motors. For an informative master class on the workings of a classic Stanley Steamer, check out Jay Leno’s Garage where he shows you all the necessary steps to getting the vehicle steamed up and ready to roll: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Me8b0ed59s

To-date, thousands of pages (1889-1910) of the Richmond Planet have been made available online at Chronicling America and well over 300,000 pages of Virginia imprint newspapers which makes up the Newspaper Project and the Library’s contribution to the National Digital Newspaper Program.

 

 

 … read more »

Leave a comment