Story teller, spinner of yarns, tall tales, historians, genealogists, memory keepers. These are all the people I have discovered since we have moved to Fulks Run.
Coming from and growing up in urban/suburban areas, where people can be transient, there rarely seemed, at least to me, the closeness of growing up in a small town. Small towns have memories, along with farmsteads and land owned by families going generations back.
The gene pool is thick and interwoven through the generations of marriages in different local families going back hundreds of years. At family reunions, members who have moved away come back to meet the youngest and newest members, and reconnect with the eldest.
There are food traditions, as well as memories to be shared, word of mouth hands the stories down through the generations, sometimes with a bit of embellishment as they are being retold. Pat Turner Ritchie, a well-known memory keeper, who, along with her mother Lena, has traced family histories, keeping meticulous records and publishing many books. Among them – Portraits of the Past: Bergton and Criders Communities, 1903, and African Americans in Brocks Gap, Rockingham County, Virginia. Pat is keeper of the flame of Brocks Gap Heritage Day, putting together an enormous undertaking of displays, photos, and books, chronicling the family histories of the area. The 30th annual gathering will be held this year, Saturday, May 7, 2022, at the Broadway High School, 10am-4pm.
John Coffman has published several books about the area. Peggy Ann Shifflett has written several books, including Mom’s Family Pie, Memories of Food Traditions and Family in Appalachia. The first book I read upon moving here was Shifflett’s The Red Flannel Rag: Memories of an Appalachian Childhood. There are so many different family histories available for purchase written by descendants of local families.
This area seems to be a haven for self-published authors. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that upon moving here. They range from fictional story tellers and family historians, to nature writers, poets, and more. Chris Bolgiano, Tammy Cullers, Retta Lillendahl, JoAnne Runion, Dale MacAllister, John Coffman, and Pat Turner Ritchie are just a few. In addition, I discovered a family name here, Caldwell, that may or may not have some distant connection to my mother’s side of the family. It might be a long shot, but worth further investigation!
I enjoy hearing the stories of the past, whether they are tall tales, memories, or just plain history. The Brocks Gap area is certainly full of all of that. Small town memories and history are kept alive – and that is a good thing! As I continue my search for the next local history book to read, all is well on this fine, almost spring, day at Mountain Meadows.