The People of the New River

Oral Histories from the Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga Counties of North Carolina


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About the Book

Said to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, the New River begins at two locations in Watauga County in northwest North Carolina. From there the North and South Forks meander north through Ashe County until they meet near the Virginia border and continue through a corner of Alleghany County before turning north again into Virginia and West Virginia and on to the Ohio. Settlers came to the fertile bottom lands along the New River during the 18th and 19th centuries and many of their descendants still live there today. In this collection of oral histories, 33 people in Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties—most of whom are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s—share memories of their lives and work on the New River and their hopes for its future. They tell of floods, snows, sickness, the Great Depression, education, religion, quilting, weaving and other crafts, and the fight against a large power company that planned to flood thousands of acres of land. They also recall how the river has been central to their lives in providing food, transportation and recreation.

About the Author(s)

The late Leland R. Cooper lived in the Pond Mountain community of Creston, North Carolina.

The late Mary Lee Cooper lived in Columbus, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Leland R. Cooper and Mary Lee Cooper

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 304
Bibliographic Info: 84 photos, map, appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2001
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1190-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1888-3
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
“Newcomers” (Poem by Fred Chappell) vi
Preface 1
Introduction 3

The Interviews
Rose Gambill 12
James Bard 21
Pauline Price 28
Tom Jackson 36
Charlotte Stanley and Joyce Davis 41
Irene Morphew 56
Nellie Mae Edmisten 64
Dean Colvard 73
Mary Elizabeth Shepherd Colvard 81
Carol Wade Colvard Noronowicz 88
Ruby Trivette 91
Beulah Blevins 105
Marye Gambill Lineback 112
Nell Graybeal Sutherland 122
Gwyn Hartsoe 129
Mae Hartsoe 138
William Earl Farrington 146
Russell Colvard 153
Ben Harrison 158
John C. Miller 167
Bruce Eller 181
Bob Cornett 188
John Little 195
Grace Ray 204
Bruce Miller 208
Edmund Adams 222
Donald Sheets 228
Sam Shumate 236
Polly Jones 244
Bill Severt 254
John Jackson 262
Thomas J. Smith 272

Appendix: The Proclamation 279
Bibliography 281
About the Authors 283
Index 285

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Fifth in McFarland’s outstanding ‘Contributions to Southern Appalachian’ series…wonderful…all levels”—Choice
  • “Tells the story of the New River through its people”—The Jefferson Post
  • “The Coopers have done the best possible job of revealing what it means and has meant to be ‘from here’”—Ashe Mountain Times