|My Little, in the Cheat River. Upstream from Pringle Falls, and downstream from the Wyatt homestead.|
I was born and raised in WV. Appalachian Proud and strong! As a teenager, I wanted to escape these hills and run off to the big city to try and find myself. In the long run, I couldn't leave these mountains I call home, it's like my soul is tied here. Even though I stayed here in "My home among the Hills", I did manage to find myself along the way. These mountains, and the home/life they provide helped me discover who I am, how I want to raise my family, and how I want my family to live and contribute to our community.
Let's start this story way back! In the late 1700's early 1800's I had family settle here, not just settle, but take root and grow. They had a hard frontier live, and they chose to plant themselves in these mountains and I will be forever grateful for these decisions. My 9th Great grandfather was Samuel Pringle. Many people in the state know the stories from him and his brother John. They were deserters from Fort Bragg in PA, deserters from the French and Indian War. They were grossly mistreated as soldiers and faced death by hanging for deserting, but chose this life anyhow. They and two friends made their way out of Pennsylvania and into North Central WV, in what is now Preston County. A popular recreation spot, Pringle Falls was named after the brothers. Still on the run from the British Army they deserted, they feared capture, so they kept a very low profile and eventually made their way up the Cheat river into Randolph county and eventually to an unoccupied part of the state now known as Buckhannon. Here they lived in the hollow of a large sycamore tree for three years. (1764-1767) They were miles from the nearest community, without the provisions and daily supplies that most frontier settlers had, They basically had each other, their weapons, and their home in the sycamore. When they received word of peace, they left their home and returned with others to help settle the town of Buckhannon.
Across the way at the base of Middle Mountain, the other side of the family was making a home. John Wyatt settled in Randolph County, along the Seneca trail. From the early 1800's my 8th great grandfather and his family had lived in this area. Working the land to survive, hunting the animals of the, then Virginia wilderness. Building their own houses, clearing their own land, making their own life. The blood, sweat, and bones, of my ancestors are in these mountains. The waters my family settled near are the headwaters of the Cheat river. This river is our source of recreation and summertime fun and it is excellent fishing. These waters flow through our valleys like the WV Mountaineer spirit runs through our veins.
You wonder why I am passionate about my home state. You wonder why I am so concerned about Mountain Top Mining. You wonder why I am concerned about clean water. You wonder why I stay??!! You wonder!!?? These mountains have sustained my family for generations! The diversity of plant and animal life found in these hills, the clean water running through the valleys, these very mountains sustained our lifeline! For our ancestors, they provided drinking water, medicine, food, shelter, clothing, salt, fire, homes, and so much more. Trade and commerce in the mountains was not always available or easy during these early times of these first settlers. Sometimes all the Mountains provided was all they had. Our lives have always been tied to these mountains and today I do not see it any different. We still need clean waters and the diversity of species. We need to find that passion for the land again.
The WV economy has always been based around coal. Coal has been a way of life for so many families. In Preston County, in a town named for my Great Grand father, another branch of my family was engulfed in the life of coal. Owners of the local mines, company houses and company store, they had the railroad come straight through the camp to load up and haul out that all mighty black rock. The ebb and flow of the coal/ railroad industry had such a heavy influence on these small family mines, when the railroads left, the mines closed, the families left. The remains of these abandoned small family mines are scattered throughout out state. A solemn reminder that life in these mountains is hard. The economy here has never been diverse. We have always been a one pony show when it comes to jobs. This has been detrimental to our state in so many ways....but yet we stay....
You will find more skilled crafters, artisans, home cooks, gardeners, musicians, etc here, I would bet, than probably most other places in the United States. Why?? Because we are working to keep the old traditions alive, these are skills we do not want to lose, ones we want to pass on to the generations to come. These are also skills that until just recently have been vital to our existence. We are a resilient and self reliant people who pride ourselves on our ability to thrive/survive independently.
We rank near the bottom on income, health and education. Our Parental rights are compromised with strict vaccination laws. Prevailing wage and right to work laws hinder our workers and unions. But yet we stay and we fight on. There is a extreme lack of jobs, outside the coal industry, but yet, we stay! The Struggle is real, don't get me wrong. Our families could secure higher paying jobs elsewhere, we could move where there are better jobs, roads, education, healthy family opportunities, etc, but we choose WV as our home.
We choose WV because of our heritage, our history, but also for the sheer love of these mountains and her people. There is no other place I want to raise my family. No better values I want to instill, no better examples, than the people we call neighbors. The people of this state are as remarkable and beautiful as the mountains we call home. The Souls of us Mountain folk stay in our little portion of "Almost Heaven", it's where we belong.
For me it's not the #TheStruggleToStay, it is the #StruggleToMakeItBetter!!
My Home Among The Hills