Saturday, November 10, 2007

the Indian Mound

This local marker is located a few miles east of Rose Hill on "Old Highway 58" (now the "Dr. Thomas Walker" Road). The information below was prepared by a local resident, Alan Crockett.

"Indians were living in the Rose Hill area since the time of the earliest Indians, called the Paleoindians. Evidence of their presence here is a rare type of projectile point called a Clovis point. Clovis points have been found in nearby Ewing and Clovis points have reportedly been found in the eastern section of the Rose Hill district.

Indian continued to travel through and hunt here up into colonial times. Southwestern Virginia and Lee County have been called a “Cultural Crossroads: by C.G. Holland, of the University of Virginia. He coined the term because of the many Indian tribes that have traveled through our area and the Cumberland Gap.

Not all Indian groups traveled through western Lee County without staying. One group did build permanent structures and became residents. The Ely Mound is a well-known example. This mound, the best preserved mound in Virginia, is a special type of mound called a “temple mound”. It is the only temple mound known in the entire state of Virginia. The Ely Mound was excavated in 1877 by Harvard University/Peabody Museum. Unfortunately, the mound caved-in, killing one person and crippling another one. The Rose-Robinson Mound is another notable mound in Lee County. "

Thank you for the wonderful write-up, Mr. Crockett! I think Mr. Crockett might write-up some more such interesting information for us, if a few folks post comments on this blog entry, saying that they'd like to read more about Rose Hill's Native American history.

You can see the Ely Mound from the four-lane. A local resident pointed it out to me. It looks like an unusual little hill. I reckon that "little hill" has been there for a long while now...

What is a "Clovis Point"?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wonderful Rose Hill heritage event & books!

Here's a copy of an email I received today, maybe through the Lee County Chamber of Commerce or the library or whoever (below)...

If you can't make it to the event on Saturday... you can always buy a book or two...

Hello,My name is Joe Tennis. I am the author of a new book featuring LEE COUNTY called "Beach to Bluegrass." It's a collection of photos and stories along U.S. Highway 58, the longest road in Virginia.

In this week's edition of the POWELL VALLEY NEWS, you will find a few paragraphs about my book and my upcoming visit to the Lee County Public Library on Saturday in PENNINGTON GAP on Nov. 3, 1-3 p.m.

I would like to invite you to visit me at the library.This is my first booksigning/lecture event in Lee County for this book. I will be signing copies during that time and speaking, as well, about the project and reading chapters pertaining to Lee County concerning the death of Daniel Boone's son; Joseph Martin's connections to Martin's Station; the Ely Mound cave-in near Ewing; and the Civil War Battle at Jonesville.

"Beach to Bluegrass" also profiles stories ofAdolph Coors' ghost at a hotel at Virginia Beach; how a UFO was seen at South Hill; why Eleanor Roosevelt's father's drinking problems caused so much trouble in Abingdon; the "lost" lake on the New River; and how the Natural Tunnel keeps getting mixed up with the Natural Bridge. My point to "Beach to Bluegrass" is to display the diversity of U.S. 58 - the longest road in Virginia - and share stories about the people and places along the route at Clarksville, Damascus, Mount Rogers, Bristol, Norfolk, Stickleyville and the Great Dismal Swamp. Much of this highway, in Southwest Virginia, is now called "The Crooked Road." I will have advance copies of the book available at the signing. The cost of each is $18.I will also have copies of my previous book featuring Lee County, "Southwest Virginia Crossroads," which is an illustrated history and guide detailing waterfalls, parks and lakes plus stories on how 750 places took their names - from Lee County to Floyd County, including Frog Level, Caylor, Stone Face Rock and Goose Pimple Junction. That book is $26. Also, I am signing copies of my recent ghost story collection, published by Backyard Books in Johnson City. That book, "The Marble and Other Ghost Tales of Tennessee and Virginia," features stories from Honaker, Wise, St. Paul, Big Stone Gap, Johnson City and Abingdon. It is $7. If you are unable to make it but are interested in learning more about any of these books, please visit or Barnes and, or call the publisher directly at (800) 992-2691. All of the books - including "Beach to Bluegrass" (after Nov. 20) - are available at Waldenbooks in the Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport; Barnes and Noble in Johnson City; or B. Dalton Booksellers in Bristol. "Southwest Virginia Crossroads" and "The Marble" are also both stocked at the June Tolliver House in Big Stone Gap and the Mountain Empire Community College bookstore in Big Stone Gap.

Thank you for reading this. I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
Bristol VA"
276/ 466 0654

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another view of Rose Hill

I stole this photo from a great website operated by a Rose Hill resident. Check out the website There is an incredible photo gallery, offering a real flavor of local ATV trail rides.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Recent photo just down the road in Ewing

Once again, the local scenery is simply stunning.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hillbilly: The Real Story

I hardly ever watch TV. I read books instead. I usually tell folks I'm "allergic" to TV and tend to turn the thing off when I walk into their house while their TV is blaring away. haha!

But I found out about an upcoming special show (I learned about it on the Internet) that I really want to see. It's on The History Channel. It's called "Hillbilly: The Real Story." It comes on tomorrow night at 8PM, then repeats on Monday night at midnight, then on Thursday at 2PM and 8PM. I only get basic cable, which doesn't include The History Channel, so I'm going to be dependent on friends to either invite me over to see it or tape it for me.

Anybody else gonna watch the show?? post a commentary/review??

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

more Lee County scenery

Another recent Lee County scenery photo.


Rose Hill Pioneer History

Pioneers significant to both Rose Hill and our nation’s early development include Dr. Thomas Walker, General Joseph Martin, and Daniel Boone. Dr. Thomas Walker was the original white explorer in the present-day Rose Hill area. Walker financed a winner-takes-all race to settle in far southwest Virginia. General Joseph Martin was competing in the race against a man named Kirtley. Joseph Martin won. Martin built a fort in the present-day Rose Hill area and staked off 21,000 acres. Daniel Boone created the Wilderness Trail, mostly by following a Native American path, which passed through the present-day Rose Hill area. The present-day Rose Hill area was originally known as “Martin’s Station” then named “Boone’s Path” and is now named “Rose Hill.” A substantial amount of historical information is available on all three pioneers. Examples include the following excerpts from the “Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia” series and other information sources as identified. Check out the reference to a Minor (in green).

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
By the Southwest Virginia Historical Society
Publication No. 12, 1978
“Dr. Thomas Walker” by Bonnie Ball
pages 5 – 9

Bonnie Ball described the accomplishments of Dr. Thomas Walker as, “physician and surgeon, surveyor and commissary, soldier and legislator, explorer and colonizer, treaty negotiator, politician and diplomat… a great land owner, surveyor, statesman, hunter and trader.” According to Bonnie Ball, Dr. Thomas Walker led the original expedition from Charlottesville all the way to Rose Hill and through Cumberland Gap in 1750. This exploratory trip occurred two decades before Daniel Boone ventured through Rose Hill and Cumberland Gap.

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
Southwest Virginia Historical Society
Publication No. 2, 1966
“General Joseph Martin, A Forgotten Pioneer: 1740-1898” by Gordon Aronhime
pages 83 - 96

Gordon Aronhime wrote, “General Joseph Martin was born in Albemarle County, Virginia sometime in 1740. From childhood, he was wild, undisciplined, intellectually lazy, and shiftless. Unusually large, he treated school as a joke, often running away, sometimes combining with other reprobates to form a neighborhood menace.” In adulthood he earned money by going out into the wilderness on annual “Long Hunts.” Aronhime continued his description of Joseph Martin as, “Martin had the qualities for this life. He was, as an expert gambler, willing to take bold risks; he was a hard drinker and a good fighter, yet quiet-tempered; he was assuredly a fine woodsman and he was a veteran of three years of frontier militia fighting. All these qualities combined to make his hunts successful enough to start him on the road to comparative riches. The last of Martin’s annual “Long Hunts” ended in 1768.”

“He then became overseer for a wealthy relative whose name is given simply as Minor in existing records. Mr. Minor was also closely connected by both blood and business with Dr. Thomas Walker. Perhaps Minor suggested that Walker secure Martin’s services for a proposed trip of exploration and settlement in Southwest Virginia; perhaps Walker had known this wild, unruly, but able, natural leader of men for many years since both were from Albemarle County. At any rate, his selection of Martin to head the expedition to Powell’s Valley furnished the first of two great, decisive turning points in General Joseph Martin’s life.”

“Western exploration and settlement was quite chaotic at the opening of the year 1769. Twenty years earlier, a group of Virginians, including Dr. Walker, had formed the great Ohio Company which was given a grant of 800,000 acres of land. The terms of this grant did not limit the company to any one area within the domain of the Colony of Virginia for the location of this land, and it did not requires the tracts of land so located by of any specified size – merely that the total acreage taken up by the company could not exceed 800,000 acres, and that there be no prior valid claim.”

“Dr. Walker had made a trip of exploration in 1770 which had led to his discovery of what is now the State of Kentucky, and his path them led through Powell’s Valley, which had been named for one of his party.”

“It was to solidify his claim to the fertile reaches of Powell’s Valley, adjacent to strategic Cumberland Gap, 21,000 acres of land plus pay for services. The only condition was that the Martin expedition must be the first to settle on the land. If this condition were not fulfilled other comers would get a thousand acres each and Martin’s group nothing; if the condition were successfully met by Martin’s forces, they were to have a document from Dr. Walker assuring them of the validity of their claim. This would serve as a deterrent to other would-be settlers. It was a gamble, and nothing appealed to Joseph Martin as much as gambling.”

“The leaders of this expedition, in addition to Joseph Martin, were his brother Brice and friend William Hord. The party set out from Albemarle and spent four days in reaching Staunton, where they spent several days “competing business,” which seems to have meant gathering supplies at this frontier town. This little expedition arrived at Ingles Ferry on March 14, 1769. The crossing of the New river, in use till relatively recent times, was located a few miles upstream from the present Radford, Virginia. Here, Martin sent his brother Brice forward with the slaves and the baggage, and waited for the arrival of Captain Hord and Dr. Walker. Two days later, March 17, 1769, Dr. Walker returned to Albemarle and Hord and Martin headed for the wilderness.”

“They heard disturbing news upon their arrival at the Holston river. A group headed by a man named Kirtley, and including Captain Rucker and others, had already left for the Valley, having paid a guide five pounds to pilot them. This guide was reputed to have known a way six days closer than the Martin route. Like all professional gamblers, Martin did not panic under stress. He ordered flour reduced to one quart per person. All other rations were to be sold, and the party to rely on the bounty of nature and the marksmanship of the men. Hiring a guide, they pushed off into the wilderness on the 18th. Two days later, they realized they were lost.”

“This type of emergency often proves the making of men of real ability and Joseph Martin rose to this minor occasion. It was agreed that a rendezvous would be maintained at the present camp and each man would range out seeking the trail. On the third day, the agreed-upon triple blast of the hunting horn signaled that the Hunter’s Trace had been found. This welcome signal came from the hunting horn of Joseph Martin. When the weary, but elated, men reassembled, it was only with difficulty that Martin restrained his men from committing mayhem upon the hapless “Guide.” Exhausted by anxiety, the men felt a rest of two days was needed before they pushed on once more. On March 26, 1769, they found Powell’s Valley.”

“Exactly a week later, the baggage detail under Brother Brice Martin came into camp. It was still another two weeks later when the Kirtley-Rucker faction arrived in the Valley. Martin’s party staked off a 21,000 acre tract near the present village of Rose Hill, Virginia. Here, they built a large stockaded fort. It proved useless. The Indians ran Martin’s men off before the corn ripened. They went wearily back to Albemarle County, but retained title to their land.”

“Little is known about Martin’s activities between the summer of 1769 and that of 1774. In a letter to him dated September 23, 1771, Dr. Walker writes Martin that his land has been “saved by the honesty of the Cherokees.” This appears to mean that the Cherokees who accompanied Colonel John Donelson, then running the so-called Indian line, insisted on Martin’s land being included in the settler’s side of the land by virtue of an offset.”

“The Wilderness Road” by Robert L. Kincaid
originally published in 1947

“Daniel Boone… had been employed to cut a path to Kentucky. Boone gathered thirty armed and mounted axmen… and promised each of them a tract of land for their services. He himself was to get a bounty of 2,000 acres. His company was made up of trained woodsmen, most of whom he knew personally… Boone led his trail blazers out of Long Island [present-day Kingsport, Tennessee], March 10, 1775. His destination was more than two hundred miles away. He could not expect to do much in building a passable road through an unsettled wilderness. Much of the way he would follow Indian, hunter or buffalo trails, but occasionally he would need to make a short cut by chopping out underbrush, removing logs and blazing a path in the trackless woods.”

“Boone’s route from Long Island, at the end of the Great Road down the Holston, led directly to Moccasin Gap, the gateway to the mountainous area of southwest Virginia. Here he came upon the old trail of the Indians and hunters. He went up Little Moccasin Creek valley to a low divide and over to Troublesome Creek. Wandering down Troublesome almost due west, he crossed Clinch River where Speer’s Ferry was later established. On the west side of the Clinch, he went up the river to a ford on Stock Creek, following its meanderings for several miles to the great physical freak known as Natural Tunnel. Turning left at this hill, he crossed over Horton’s Summit and went down into the valley of the North Fork of the Clinch to Little Flat Lick.”

“Here Boone and his men came upon an important stopping place, now identified as the site of the Duffield schoolhouse. Boone led his men over Powell Mountain at Kane’s Gap and into a valley near the head of Wallins Creek, where Walden and his hunters had ranged several years before. They continued down the narrow valley to the point where the town of Stickleyville was later built, and crossed over Wallins Ridge to Powell River, and thence to Glade Spring, where Jonesville is now located. Two miles west of Glade Spring they passed another interesting underground channel, smaller but similar to the Natural Tunnel on Stock Creek. They were now deep in Powell Valley, with the long white wall of the Cumberland Mountains rising before them. Ranging down the valley in a southwestward direction for twenty miles they came to Martin’s Station, the present site of Rose Hill.”

“Here Boone and his axmen found Captain Joseph Martin for the second time busily engaged in rebuilding the settlement he had abandoned shortly after Boone’s first visit there in the summer of 1769. Driven out by hostile Cherokee that year, Martin had not returned until the early part of 1775 to begin again where he left off.”

“Boone and his men stopped at Martin’s long enough to explain their mission and announce that Colonel Henderson would come along on his way to settle Kentucky. They checked their needs, secured some additional supplies and pushed off down the valley for Cumberland Gap, twenty-five miles away. They had little to do on this part of their journey. The trail had been long used by Indians, hunters and buffalo, so it needed no chopping or widening. After Boone’s axmen passed through the portals of Cumberland Gap, they had comparatively good going along the Warriors’ Path.”

“Gateway: Dr. Thomas Walker & the Opening of Kentucky” by David M. Burns
Bell County Historical Society, 2000

Dr. Thomas Walker, a Virginia physician, surveyor, and land speculator, was engaged by the Loyal Land Company to explore an 800,000-acre grant in the unknown “Wilderness” west of the mountains. Walker and five companions set out from Charlottesville in March 1750. They followed the valleys of the Shenandoah, Holston, Clinch, and Powell rivers.

Westward progress was blocked by a towering mountain of limestone, two thousand feet high, more than two hundred miles long. We know it as Cumberland Mountain. It was (and is) a daunting barrier. To Walker, it seemed as impenetrable as The Great Wall of China.

Walker and his party picked up trails trod by bison and elk, and by Indian hunters. These trails led up to a passageway through the mountains which Walker named Cave Gap. This “saddle” would later be called Cumberland Gap, and, along with the Ohio River, would provide one of two main routes into Kentucky.

In 1769, Boone and Finley followed the Trail mapped nineteen years earlier by Dr. Thomas Walker. Cherokees from the South and Shawnees from the North gave The Trail its first name, “The Warriors Path.” By 1770 it had become “The Longhunter’s Trace.” By 1780 it was “Boone Trace,” then “The Wilderness Road,” over which Boone and others led some 200,000 settlers into Kentucky.

Stones on Stone Mountain

Of course the sand up on mountain has lots of little round stones everywhere around it too. Here's my attempt at a photo.


A wee bit of our Melungeon Heritage...

Joan’s introduction and excerpts from two favorite Melungeon sources -

Melungeons! An immense amount of information is available in print and on the web these days, regarding the mysterious Melungeon people. Rose Hill is located along “The Melungeon Trail” according to an article in a recent issue of "Blue Ridge Magazine." Melungeon family names with descendents still living in and around Rose Hill include Collins, Gibson, and Minor. My favorite excerpts from among the Melungeon literature relate to my ancestors, the Minors. I have posted excerpts from two of those sources here. My personal favorite “Melungeon Origins Theory” includes Portuguese descent, since that’s what Grandma said she’d always heard.

Melungeons: and other Pioneer Families
By Jack H. Goins
P.48 & 49

“Most descendants of Zachariah Minor claim he was of Indian and Portuguese descent. This claim can be substantiated on some Federal Census Records of Hancock County, Tennessee, where the enumerator wrote the word Portuguese. There is a census record Zachariah Minor where a Portuguese Indian had been written in the free person of color section and erased, but still visible on the first micro films. According to my Goins forefathers the Indian blood came from Zachariah and Lewis Minor’s mother Elizabeth Goins who was a sister to Great Grandpa Zephaniah Goins. Elizabeth had two brothers who were in Hawkins County, Zephaniah and Zachariah Goins. On most known records they are listed white, but both are listed on a separate record as free persons color. Zachariah Goins was one of the first settlers in the clinch valley area. According to a cousin Sue Fitzgerald, her grandmother Elizabeth Goins Parsons told her several times they were Indian and Portuguese. Mrs. Parsons was a sister to Grandpa Harrison who to my knowledge never mentioned Portuguese, but calculated he was one quarter Indian. It is possible some of the Melungeons were here before Columbus and mixed with the Indians, but at the time of these trials in 1847 they may have had more Indian blood than Portuguese. As previously stated, in court they would have most likely identified their original race, believed to be of Attorney Lewis Shepard in the 1872 Bolton trial.”

The Melungeons by Bonnie Ball 1992
p.69, 70, 76, 78

“Toward the end of the 1880s a Nashville writer and poetess, Miss Will Allen Dromgoole, made an extensive, first-hand study of the Melungeons. She spent months living among them in their homes on Newman’s Ridge, on the border of Hancock County in Tennessee where it meets Virginia. (Interestingly enough, the origin of “Newman” may be from “new man,” a term coined because it seemed to describe this ridge’s strange inhabitants.) Miss Dromgoole reported her impressions and conclusions in the Arena Magazine, published in Boston in 1891.

“Miss Dromgoole wrote that John A. McKinney of Hawkins County, Tennessee, was chairman of the committee of the Constitutional Convention of 1834 which handled matters affecting “free persons of color.” McKinney held that this phrase was a code word for “Melungeon.” Dromgoole believes that the amendment of the fundamental law of state, denying them their oath as well as suffrage, rendered Melungeons desperate.

“A few years ago Mr. G.M. French, Jr., a native of southwestern Virginia who lives in Cheverly, Maryland, sent me his notes from an interview he had with one of the oldest residents of the Dungannon area of Scott County, Virginia, who lived on Copper Ridge.
The old timer was known as “Uncle Washington Osborne.” In the interview, he said that the Melungeons began their migration to that part of Scott County, Virginia, and neighboring Wise County, about 1820. They came there, he said, in about equal numbers from Kentucky, Newman’s Ridge, and the lower end of Lee County, Virginia. He added that a few had also come from North Carolina.

“He also separated them into the following seven groups:

(a) Purebred Indian groups such as Goins, Bolling, Sweeney, Adkins, and Minor.
(b) Indian groups from Blackwater who married into other “Melongo” tribes, such as Baldwin and Collins.
(c) Melongo groups from Kentucky, such as Collins, and Sexton.
(d) Portuguese Indians and whites from Newman’s Ridge, such as Collins and Bolling.
(e) Portuguese Indians and whites such as Collins, from Blackwater; and Lucas, Sexton, and Gibson from Newman’s Ridge.
(f) Portuguese Indians from Kentucky, such as Gibson.
(g) A pure-bred Indian group from Blackwater named Minor.

In speaking of the Minors, he said:
“The Minors are a fighting people and show more of the Indian than any other Indian group in Scott County. They claim to be of Portuguese-Indian stock. They are large stature, tall, of dark complexion, and very strong. I believe the Minors are three-quarters Indian and one-quarter Portuguese. They are the type pf people whose word is their bond. In Scott County some of them own large stock farms and have prospered.”

Yes, I just discovered the "text color" button on my blogger software - how fun!


Monday, September 17, 2007

On the mountain again

I was back up on that mountain this weekend. It was a beautiful, clear day. Great weather! Here's another view of Rose Hill from up on that mountain.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oldest Mountains on planet Earth

This photo was taken up on the mountain that I see from my front porch. On this stretch of the trail, the ground is sand.

Once upon a time, perhaps many years ago, seems like I was reading a website of The Mountain Institute that said (I'm paraphrasing here) that The Mountain Institute was initially established as an "elite" (that's my word, not theirs) global club of the "Top Three" (again, my terminology) mountain ranges on planet Earth. Basically they said that the initial members were the OLDEST mountains on Earth,
the TALLEST mountains on Earth, and
the LONGEST mountains on Earth.

The Appalachian Mountains are the OLDEST mountains on planet Earth. So we got to be a member. (As a "native Appalachian," I took great pride in our elite Top Three membership.) And I recall, the Himilayas are the tallest and the Andes are the longest.

Anyway -- So, do ya reckon there's some connection between being the OLDEST MOUNTAINS ON EARTH and the fact that there's sand up on top of that mountain? hmmm. Where's a geologist when you need one? hehe!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Yesterday's Lee County scenery

I took this photo in Lee County yesterday, while attending a different family reunion. Anyway, I just think Lee County's incredibly beautiful.

Today's Lee County scenery

I took this photo today while I was out and about in Lee County, coming back from a family reunion at Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp on Horse Holler Road.

Wilderness Road Dulcimer Club

Talking about dulcimers... here's the Wilderness Road Dulcimer Club (originally the Rose Hill Dulcimer Club) playing at the Fiber Lighting event at Rose Hill Library in June. Including Rose Hill residents, the performers live in three different states (yes, that'd be VA, TN & KY).

Wilderness Road Dulcimer Club meets every Tuesday in the fellowship hall of Rose Hill Christian Church. Rose Hill Christian Church is located on "Main Street" (otherwise known as "Old Highway 58" and now, "Dr. Thomas Walker Highway," or something like that) in downtown Rose Hill.

The club WELCOMES "beginners" ("beginners," i.e., people who have never touched a dulcimer). Beginners meet at 6:00PM and then the full club meets at 7:00PM. There is no membership fee nor admission fee. It's free! And again, I probably can't emphasize this enough, they will TEACH you how to play the dulcimer.

Except for the husband/wife team in the front (Pam & Terry Lewis of Ewing VA - who perform and teach dulcimer all over the country), the other performers were beginners not long ago. The dulcimer is very easy to learn (if you can count to 10, you can master the dulcimer's fretboard). You'll be successfully playing "Bile That Cabbage Down" before you leave your first lesson. Really!!

You don't even have to own a dulcimer. The club has a few modest loaners, so that you can try it out before you invest in a dulcimer. Dulcimers, by the way, really aren't that expensive either. You can find a good deal on a quality instrument in downtown Rose Hill's "Hidden Holler General Store."

okay, so enough about dulcimers for now. I want to show you two Lee County photos I took over the weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Origins of the Appalachian dulcimer

“The origin of the mountain, or plucked dulcimer, and its scattered, yet rather widespread usage in the Appalachian Mountains, is still somewhat of a mystery,” reports John Rice Irwin in his 1979 book titled "Musical Instruments of The Southern Appalachian Mountains." Nobody really knows what the origins of the dulcimer are, but I like to believe that southwest Virginia was probably the “cradle” of the Appalachian Dulcimer. Actually, there appears to be only a small handful of experts on dulcimer history. These experts include Ralph Lee Smith, Professor J. Allen Smith (no relation), John Rice Irwin, and Lucy Long.

It has been said that the only instrument originating in North America is the Appalachian Dulcimer. The Appalachian Dulcimer, also known as the mountain dulcimer or lap dulcimer, originated deep in the heart of the central Appalachian Mountains, perhaps predominantly in southwest Virginia. Accordingly, Rose Hill and surrounding area is home to the Appalachian Dulcimer. Although theories about the origins of the Appalachian dulcimer trace the instrument back to the Norwegian Langelik or the German scheitholt, the trails of pioneers entering this area do not necessarily support such theories (in my opinion).

In an article by Ralph Lee Smith entitled, The Appalachian Dulcimer’s History: On the Trail of the Mountains’ Secrets, Smith reports further on the mysterious origins of the Appalachian dulcimer. Smith writes, “The Southern Appalachian Mountains are full of secrets, and the history of the Appalachian Dulcimer is one of them. The instrument arrived into the light of the 20th Century virtually without a written record. Its traditional dissemination was principally confined to the Appalachian mountain area of some four or five states. Unlike other stringed instruments that were and are popular in the mountains, you couldn’t buy a dulcimer from the Sears Roebuck catalog, or in stores. There was no printed music and there were no instruction manuals. Most makers of the instrument made only one, or a few. Prior to World War II, only two or three mountain craftspersons made dulcimers in sufficient quantity for anything like regular resale. As to where the instrument came from, if you asked old-timers, you were likely to get one of two answers. One answer was, “Didn’t come from nowhere—it was borned in these hills!”

The website reports interesting dulcimer information, stating, “The Appalachian dulcimer is shaped like an hourglass, or like a woman, as many say. In those days women playing a stringed instrument were not allowed to stand in front of the men. So, they played the dulcimer, which was played on the lap.”

John Rice Irwin is the founder of The Museum of Appalachia, located in Norris, TN. He is the author of the book, Musical Instruments of The Southern Appalachian Mountains, which was published in 1979 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. of Atglen, PA. He explains in the books introduction, “For almost a quarter century I have gathered musical instruments from the hollows and mountains of Southern Appalachia, primarily in upper east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, western North Carolina and eastern Kentucky. These items are now on display at The Museum of Appalachia, fifteen miles north of Knoxville, TN.” Dulcimers pictured in the book include a dulcimer purchased from the Mullins family whose old homeplace was in Lee County, near Tennessee and the Powell River and a dulcimer made by George Allen Johnson in 1930 who lives in Blackwater in Lee County on the Virginia-Tennessee line. Also pictured, a dulcimer found in an old smoke house near Rose Hill at the Ely place went out on loan from the Museum of Appalachia to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN.

As to the history of the Appalachian Dulcimer, John Rice Irwin wrote in the book, “How many times have I read “authoritarian” statements indicating that the “dulcimer was the traditional instrument of the folk of Southern Appalachia”? Some would have us believe that there was a dulcimer hanging inside every cabin. My experience indicates that this is simply not true. Fully eighty to ninety percent of the older persons in Appalachia, with whom I have talked, had never even heard of the dulcimer until recent years. It is true that it was made and played by some of the old mountain people, who pronounced it “dulcymore” or “delcymore”, but its existence was spotty, to say the least. In fact, I doubt that its usage prior to the 1940’s was as commonplace as the mouth bow. Although I have not found enough of these instruments to indicate a definitive pattern, there are some areas where they appear to be more common than in other areas where they appear to be more common than in other areas. In Lee County and Scott County, Virginia, and in Hancock County, Tennessee, I have encountered more than in any other area with which I am familiar. In Anderson County where the Museum is located, I have not found or even heard a single one.”

For more information about the Appalachian Dulcimer –

The American Folklife Center, a research center of The Library of Congress, provides a Bibliography of the Plucked (Appalachian or Mountain) Dulcimer and Related Instruments. The bibliography is available online at A California musician and scholar, Laurel Krokstrom, has also developed an excellent bibliography listing literature about the Appalachian or Mountain Dulcimer. Her Bibliography is available at

Hensley's Quickstop Market

A post was made on the guestbook about removing Hensley's from the business directory since they have closed. The word I hear is that Hensley's is being renovated and will re-open in the not too distant future.

Other hot "news" - Thomas Walker WON the football game tonight. It was Homecoming. They beat Hancock County TN.

The first little league football game of the season is tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My "2-wheeler"

Here's my "2-wheeler." I guess it might be a "dirt bike" really, but it's got REALLY wide tires. I bought it in the Spring with the goal of being able to get up that mountain I see daily from my front porch. They tell me it runs on a lawnmower engine. It ain't always easy to get up that trail. You encounter large rocks for a spell, then there's some big mudholes (where folks were having a jolly time yesterday), and finally you encounter sand. I don't understand the geological formations that created that mountain, but for some reason, there's a big stretch of mountaintop covered with sand. I'm a little sore after yesterday's venture to the top of the mountain. (They tell me I have no "shock absorbers" on my "2-wheeler." So I reckon that's why my rump feels like yes, IT was the shock absorber yesterday.) But it was WELL worth today's soreness. The local ATV club was featured in a national magazine in August. This trail was the highlight of the article. I'll post some excerpts from that article at some point, I'm sure.

Up on the mountain

After Sunday's visit to Pinnacle Overlook, I must have really gotten bit by the "I want to be on top of a mountain" bug. On Monday (Labor Day) I went to see a different local mountain view. Now this mountain view, you CANNOT access by car. You have to go by 4-wheeler, or in my case, my "2-wheeler". This is looking down on Rose Hill. Again, a bit hazy, but a still wonderful view.

Pinnacle Overlook

It was a wonderful weekend here in the Rose Hill area. We had nice weather for Labor Day weekend. I got behind on my "daily" blog entries, but I'll post some photos showing the nifty local places where I sent some time on this long holiday weekend. This photo is from Pinnacle Overlook. It was a bit hazy on Sunday afternoon, but the view is nonetheless breathtaking. You pretty much drive straight up a mountain, then walk less than 3 minutes on a paved trail - and VIOLA! instant mountain overlook. The town you see right at the foot of the mountain is Cumberland Gap TN. It's a cute little historic town, and there's a great restaurant there, Webb's. Country cookin at its finest with excellent service. Webb's even offers open pickin' (as in LIVE MUSIC - woohoo!) on Friday nights.

Friday, August 31, 2007

another Rose Hill photo

This photo was also taken during the Winter. It's not "downtown," but it's part of Rose Hill.
I like it because it shows the mountains. Actually, no matter where you're at in Rose Hill, you can see those majestic mountains.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Downtown Rose Hill

We've got local scenery photos
on the home page,
churches and businesses
in the directories,
but few, if any, just
general, around-town pictures,
so here's one.

Welcome to DOWNTOWN Rose Hill!

This photo was taken back in the winter.

It's hard to believe it, but there's some leaves already beginning to turn into their fall colors here around Rose Hill right now.

Mama Possum & her babies move to downtown Rose Hill

This Mama Possum and her babies decided to move into downtown Rose Hill this week. They moved into a downtown trash can. After a photo shoot, the possums were relocated/ removed from the trash can up the hill in the countryside, where wild critters are supposed to live. Funny thing though. Next day... They came back. Somehow, Mama and her youngins were coming in and out of the trash can (without even knockin' it over, no less) at their leisure.

I'd like to tell you about the "Cosmic Possum" from here in these hills. I will. Another post, another day. Something to look forward to!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rose Hill aerial photo

a daily blog

okay, I'll try to start blogging DAILY now.

I'll likely start off with little tidbits of information about Rose Hill that I would like to eventually incorporate into the website. Rose Hill and the surrounding area here in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains have a wonderful history and ongoing traditions in arts and culture, like bluegrass and dulcimers and clogging. And there's the Melungeons...

Today, I'll just start off with a "tidbit" about Rose Hill and the history of bluegrass.

DID YOU KNOW... A Rose Hill native, Earl Taylor, and his Stoney Mountain Boys, were the first musicians to ever play bluegrass music in Carnegie Hall?!! Yes, it's true. It was 1959. And GUESS WHAT! - Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were a SMASHING SUCCESS that night there in Carnegie Hall!

Yes, Rose Hill is the birthplace of bluegrass musician Earl Taylor. Earl Taylor was born in Rose Hill on June 17, 1929 and lived until 1984. Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were the first musicians ever to play bluegrass in New York’s Carnegie Hall. It was 1959. Through personal interviews, Geoffrey Himes developed a January 12, 2000 feature story in the Baltimore City Paper which offers significant insight into the historical context of Earl Taylor and other Appalachian musicians who had migrated north and described that night in 1959. The feature article was titled “From the Hills: How Mid-Century Migrants from the Mountains Brought Bluegrass--and More—to Baltimore.” For the full article go to As part of the research for the article, Himes interviewed two of band members, Curtis Cody and Walt Hensley.

"Alan [Lomax] came down to the 79 Club and asked us, 'Do you want to play Carnegie Hall?' I had never heard of it. I thought it was just a bigger-than-normal dance hall," Hensley recalls. "I had never drunk whiskey in my life, but when I got to Carnegie Hall and looked through the curtains and saw those decorations and those balconies full way up high, I went backstage and took a little nip to settle my nerves. When we walked out there, we were shaking so much it was like the wind was blowing out there."

"The place was packed," says Curtis Cody, who played fiddle with Taylor, Hensley, McIntyre, and Sam Hutchins that night. "We looked out through the curtains, and that place was buzzing. I said, 'Walt, I don't think they'll like us a bit.' But when it came our turn, he played something on the banjo, and they tore that place up. Everybody liked it. Someone from United Artists heard us, and we went back a few months later and cut a record."

Another article, one titled “Walter Hensley – The Banjo Baron of Baltimore” by Tina Aridas provided on DC Bluegrass Union, also described that evening in April 1959 when Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys played bluegrass at the elegant Carnegie Hall. For the full article go to The article similarly comments on how band member Curtis Cody peeked out from behind the stage curtains just before the performance and saw Carnegie Hall. According to the article, Curtis Cody talked to banjo player Walt Hensley just before the show, saying,

“Walt, I don’t think they’ll like us a bit.” Walt recalls that his legs “were like Jell-O –and we had to play the fastest song we knew.” But when Walt, with legs shaking, stepped out onto the stage before the assembled audience at Alan Lomax’s Folksong ’59 concert, Curtis recalls that “he played something on the banjo, and they tore that place up.” Earl Taylor recalled, “When we would end a number, I knew that it would take five minutes before we could go into another one –that was how much rarin’ and screamin’ and hair-pullin’ there was.”

Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were featured on the LP “Folk Songs from the Bluegrass” released by United Artists in 1959. Songs done by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on the LP include John Henry, Cripple Creek, Lee Highway Blues, Foggy Mountain Special, and Little Maggie. This LP, “Folk Songs from the Bluegrass,” was presented by Alan Lomex. Son of a folklorist, Alan Lomax was a musicologist, writer, and producer. He and his father gathered field recordings of folk musicians. The recordings culminated into significant anthologies of American folk song. Alan Lomax and his father expanded the Archive of American Folk at the Library of Congress folk music recordings holdings.

Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were included on the CD “Mountain Music: Bluegrass Style” released in 1992 by Smithsonian Folkways. The CD is a compilation of field recordings done by Mike Seeger. Songs done by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on the CD include Short Life of Trouble, Foggy Mountain Top, Foxchase, and Sally Ann.

Hey, and GUESS WHAT... when I was visiting my local Wal-Mart this Summer, I found and purchased a CD that includes Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on it! On the CD cover it says, "Rural Rhythm presents Legends and Lost Classics GRASSROOTS BLUEGRASS - 25 Traditional Classics." Three of these 25 classic recordings are by Earl Taylor & Jim McCall with The Stoney Mountain Boys.

Rose Hill's Earl Taylor and Stoney Mountain Boys classic bluegrass recordings can be purchased on Ebay,, and even WAL-MART!

Ookay, how was that for a "tidbit" of interesting ROSE HILL, VIRGINIA information?
ANY COMMENTS?? Go ahead, POST A COMMENT!! Back at ya tomorrow!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rose Hill fiber lighting


Rose Hill Fiber Optic Project Lighting Event

June 11, 2007

Rose Hill, Virginia

I am pleased to return to Rose Hill this morning to join with officials from Lee County, Lonesome Pine Regional Library and the LENOWISCO Planning Distsrict Commission to participate in a truly worthy celebration. Today, we formally light the new Rose Hill Fiber Optic Network, a project which will enable the provision of affordable high-speed Internet access to 150 homes, the Rose Hill Elementary School, the Rose Hill Public Library and several businesses in the Rose Hill community. Additionally, a new public Internet access site connected to the fiber optic network has been established here at the Rose Hill Public Library.
Approximately ten years ago, I encouraged local governments throughout the Ninth District to find a means of deploying broadband networks so that affordable high-speed Internet access would be available to businesses and residents throughout our region. My goal in making this recommendation was to set our region apart in comparison to other rural areas of the nation, to make us more attractive than the typical rural region to industries looking to expand their operations into new locations, and to create technology-based jobs for Southwest Virginians.
Today, I am pleased to note that many of the communities in our region are making great strides in the deployment of broadband networks, and the success which we celebrate today in Rose Hill is a shining example of the outstanding work that is being done in many of our localities.
Using a $506,048 federal grant, which I secured from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, a grant of more than $100,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission and contributions from the C. Bascom Slemp Foundation, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Lee County Community Foundation, Sunset Digital Communications has installed more than 5 miles of fiber optic backbone and distribution aerial cable over the "last mile" from its Internet backbone to the homes and businesses in Rose Hill.
Sunset Digital Communications has deployed fiber optics to the premises of more than 150 homes and businesses in the Rose Hill community as well as to Rose Hill Elementary School and the Rose Hill Public Library. High speed internet service will be available to residents at $49.95 and to businesses at $79.95 per month.
In addition to the new broadband services available to residents and businesses in Rose Hill, a portion of the federal grant funds have been used to establish a computer laboratory and public Internet access site at the Rose Hill Public Library, which will provide free access to high speed Internet and offer free computer and Internet training workshops beginning later this month.
Construction on the computer lab is now complete, and the 10 new computer workstations are now online. With the addition of the new computer center, the library will be increasing its hours of operation to 40 hours per week, including some night and weekend hours.
Previously, the library housed two computer work stations connected to the Internet through a private point-to-point connection to the Lonesome Pine Regional Library located in Wise. Frequently, this system would fail due to a weak connection over aging infrastructure causing the Internet terminals to be unavailable for use as well as the inavailability of the library's automated check out system. After today's launch of the Rose Hill fiber optic network, library patrons will no longer experience frequent interruptions in service.
I am pleased to note that the Rose Hill fiber optic network marks just one of our efforts to deploy broadband service throughout Lee County. The Rose Hill network will connect to the Coalfield Coalition fiber optic backbone, which is being installed along 160 miles throughout Lee, Wise and Scott counties. Last fall I gathered with many of you here today for the start of construction on this new infrastructure, and today new network is nearing completion. When completed, the Coalfield Coalition fiber optic backbone will greatly expand broadband access to new communities throughout the coal producing counties.
Just as first canals, then railroads and then highways were the major arteries of commerce in earlier eras, in the 21st Century, access to broadband will be a defining feature of economic success for rural communities. Step by positive step our expanding fiber optic infrastructure is assuring that Southwest Virginia's communities will be at the center of economic opportunity.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize several individuals who have been instrumental in the success which we celebrate today. I would like to thank Patrick Carey, General Field Representative for the Rural Utilities Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who has provided immense support to those involved in obtaining the federal funding for this project. I also want to thank Patty Yates who represents Rose Hill on the Lee County Board of Supervisors, and the other members of the Board for their efforts to improve the quality of life in the Rose Hill community and throughout Lee County.
Ron Flanary and his excellent staff at LENOWISCO have provided vision and leadership in expanding the telecommunications infrastructure in the region, and I thank Ron for that critical role. Finally, I want to recognize my District Director, Laura Lee, for the work she has performed for this project. I place a high priority in my office in obtaining successes much like the one we celebrate today, and Laura's work is vital to our efforts to deploy new broadband technology throughout Southwest Virginia.
The Rose Hill fiber optic network which we officially light today marks another major step forward in our work to improve the quality of life for Southwest Virginia residents. I want to commend all here for the success of this project and offer a special congratulations to the residents and business owners who will benefit tremendously from the new broadband telecommunications services that are now available to them.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rose Hill Karaoke

Here's a copy of the article printed in the The Middlesboro Daily News on February 28, 2007:

New York meets Virginia at Rose Hill Karaoke
By BRANDY L. MURRAY/Staff Writer

ROSE HILL, Va. - Toni and Mike Kowalik are native New Yorkers that found themselves in the rural Rose Hill community in 2003 with little to occupy them. So out of necessity, they invented their own venue of entertainment. Rose Hill Karaoke was born, to the benefit of a young crowd and a sleepy town.Rose Hill Karaoke sits atop a hill on Old Rt. 58 and can be seen from a distance, as it is painted a cheerful hue of yellow, is well-lit and stars adorn the doorway; a preview of the atmosphere inside. An advertising flyer states, “Enter the front door and you are in a club atmosphere with lights of many colors.” The flyer also boasts, “We have a fantastic sound system with a stage and the interior is designed with an array of stars on the walls and floors.” That is no exaggeration, as the music can be heard from the parking lot. On first glance, one might think that Rose Hill Karaoke caters to an older and wilder crowd; but Toni Kowalik stresses that Rose Hill Karaoke is strictly family-oriented. In fact, they do not serve alcohol, do not tolerate drug-use and it is a non-smoking establishment.

Mother and patron Maria Sass spoke of how wholesome the environment is, “This is a place where kids can hang out, this is where my daughter wants to be. They sing and dance, they can play pool or cards or whatever. It's good because the kids can enjoy themselves here and parents can keep an eye on them.”

Sass' daughter Crystal Justice was among the favorites during the karaoke contest on Saturday. Sass says that singing at Rose Hill Karaoke helps her daughter to express herself and become more in-tune, so to speak, with her surroundings.

“When she gets up on stage to sing, it's her way of letting herself out, it helped her to get used to a new place,” she said. The Sass family moved to Virginia from Michigan a couple of years ago and Crystal has been singing ever since.This novel idea has resulted in a medley of people unlike anything you've seen in the area, and has given children and adults alike a chance at wholesome expression. Brothers Josh and Matt Slagle took the stage on Saturday night as true performers with a couple of country songs, prompting such revelry that Rose Hill Karaoke felt more like a venue for well-known performers than a local karaoke spot. In fact, these brothers took first and second place in the contest, walking away with well-deserved trophies.

While most performers chose to sing contemporary country songs, the music library contains old and new country and bluegrass as well as 50's and 60's tunes. For those that can't or don't sing, there's a pool table, video game machines, a dance floor and a card table. Although there is a stocked snack bar, you may want to eat before you go, the featured deep-fried oreo cookies would blow any diet. You can sing your heart out at Rose Hill Karaoke any Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Brandy L. Murray is a Staff Writer for the Daily News.

Fire-fighting helicopter

Here's a photo of the helicopter in action. Rumor has it that over 200 acres burned in the past 24 hours.

Little league season

Little League baseball is kicking off another season here in Rose Hill. The kids will be able to use the new baseball field at Rose Hill Elementary School. I know the local volunteer coaches and board members dedicate a significant amount of time. I'm tickled that girls softball has been added this year.

Fire on the Mountain

Since yesterday, we've been watching a forest fire burn on the mountain. Apparently, the helicopter ran all night trying to put out the fire. I see that mountain as I sit on the front porch. It's still on fire.