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By Kim Johnson

The Potomac Canal: George Washington and the Waterway West, by Robert J. Kapsch, is a history of America’s first attempt to connect the farmlands west of the Allegheny Mountains with the port cities of the East. Founded in 1785, the Potomac Canal Company played an important role in the expansion of the young nation by providing transportation to and from the western lands. George Washington was the first president of the company.

The route established by the Potomac Canal was the foundation for what would eventually become the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and later, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Richly illustrated with historical photographs, paintings, maps, and drawings, The Potomac Canal gives a detailed account of the beginnings of this important waterway and George Washington’s early involvement with its construction.

The Potomac Canal is a 374-page, large-format, soft-cover book. It is colorfully illustrated, indexed, and includes extensive endnotes. It sells for $40 and is available on the Web at, or directly from West Virginia University Press by calling 1-866-988-7737.

The Making of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: A Devil, Two Rivers, and a Dream, by Teresa S. Moyer and Paul A. Shackel, tells the behind-the-scenes story of how the incident of an attempted slave revolt led by John Brown in 1859 was selected for commemoration at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Jefferson County.

Through extensive research and documentation, Moyer and Shackel detail the conflicting goals and differing views that existed between the local people and the National Park Service during the park’s creation. Harpers Ferry was designated a National Monument in 1944 and declared a National Historical Park in 1963.

The Making of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes chapters regarding Harpers Ferry and its place in history, the local residents and the National Park Service, and the interpretation of African American history at Harpers Ferry.

The soft-cover book contains 235 pages, an index, and is illustrated with historical black-and-white photographs. It is available for $27.95, plus shipping, at, or by calling Alta Mira Press at 1-800-462-6420.

The Wheeling Family: A Celebration of Immigrants and Their Neighborhoods, by Sean Duffy and Jim Thornton, is a glimpse into the lives of Wheeling’s early immigrants, who came to West Virginia looking to improve their situations in life. This book is about the rich and diverse cultures of those immigrants who came to the Wheeling area from 1850-1950, primarily from Italy, Greece, Poland, Lebanon, and Ukraine.

Duffy and Thornton interviewed Wheeling residents and compiled those oral histories into this collection of first-person immigrant experiences. The book is illustrated with more than 500 historical family images and documents. An added bonus is the inclusion of several recipes for special family dishes.

The Wheeling Family: A Celebration of Immigrants and Their Neighborhoods is available for $29.95, plus $6 postage, from Creative Impressions Studio, 114 14th Street, Wheeling, WV 26003, on the Web at, or by calling 1-888-232-9623.

Welsh Americans: A History of Assimilation in the Coalfields, by West Virginia University professor Ronald L. Lewis, explores the Welsh immigration to the United States in the late 1800's and their contribution to the coal industry. They were hard workers and skilled laborers, the author writes, who had been recruited by the mining companies for work in the coalfields.

The book examines why the Welsh were so readily welcomed and accepted in America while other immigrant groups, such as eastern Europeans, Italians, Irish, and Asians, were often regarded as alien foreigners. The Welsh brought their politics, religion, language, and music to their new country, but because of this welcoming atmosphere, they were so completely absorbed into American life that they eventually lost their cultural identity.

Although there never were a large number of Welsh coal miners in West Virginia, several of the most successful coal operators here were Welsh, including Thomas Phillips Davies, Evan Powell, Jenkin B. Jones, and William H. Thomas.

Welsh Americans has 408 pages and is illustrated with photographs, maps, and drawings. It is available for $49.95 from University of North Carolina Press, on-line at Call (919)966-3561 for more information.

Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, by University of Kentucky professor Ronald D. Eller, is a study of the economic, political, and environmental issues in Appalachia during the last half of the 20th century. Eller takes a look at the impact of federal programs, such as the War on Poverty, and discusses how government policies have been manipulated by political corruption and corporate greed. Chapters include Rich Land—Poor People, Politics of Poverty, Growth and Development, and The New Appalachia.

The book has 376 pages and includes an index and a 32-page photograph section. It sells for $29.95 and is available from the University Press of Kentucky at or by calling (859)257-5200.

Reformers to Radicals: The Appalachian Volunteers and the War on Poverty, by Thomas Kiffmeyer, is an account of the rise and fall of the Appalachian Volunteers, a government-funded program connected to the War on Poverty.

After John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign brought national awareness to the intense poverty of the Appalachian region, hundreds joined the Appalachian Volunteers, a group of young people who came to eastern Kentucky to repair homes, rebuild schools, and provide books and other educational materials for students. Their mission was to improve the daily lives of the Appalachian poor, while trying to create permanent economic change. Their efforts proved to be only temporary, however. Within a few years, plans began to fail due to a variety of problems that arose between the Volunteers, local critics, and government agencies.

Reformers to Radicals has 296 pages and includes an index and 24 pages of photographs. The book sells for $40 and is available from the University Press of Kentucky at For more information, call (859)257-5200.

Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South, by John C. Inscoe, is a collection of 17 essays examining the racial beliefs and attitudes of Appalachian people before, during, and after the Civil War.

Using letters, journals, and memoirs of slaves, slaveholders, and abolitionists, Inscoe explores the reality of slavery and racial attitudes of the time, and how these beliefs have been misunderstood and distorted from the 19th century up to the present day.

The book has 395 pages and is fully indexed and documented. It sells for $50 and is available from the University Press of Kentucky at For more information, call (859)257-5200.

Ball, Bat, and Bitumen: A History of Coalfield Baseball in the Appalachian South, by L.M. Sutter, is a history of baseball in the coalfields. Through in-depth research and interviews with surviving players, relatives, and fans, Sutter explores how baseball in the coalfields was a different game than what was played anywhere else.

Entertainment options were limited in the coal camps, and baseball games between rival towns attracted large and enthusiastic crowds. It was a seriously competitive game, and many major league players got their start with the coalfield teams. The chapter Fertile Soil explores West Virginia’s contribution to baseball, with such players as Lew Burdette, Jack Warhop, Bill Mazeroski, Earl “Greasy” Neale, Sad Sam “Toothpick” Jones, Shufflin’ Phil Douglas, Big Max Butcher, and numerous others.

Ball, Bat, and Bitumen has 212 pages and is illustrated with many historical photographs. It sells for $35 and is available from McFarland & Company Publishers, on the Web at, or by calling 1-800-253-2187.

Extracting Appalachia: Images of Consolidation Coal Company 1910-1945, by Geoffrey L. Buckley, is a history of this influential mining operation told through a selection of photographs from the Consolidation Coal Company archive at the Smithsonian Institution. The majority of the photographs were taken in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky coal camps.

The images depict different views of Consol’s operations, such as company towns, men at work, and mining accidents. These photographs were used by Consolidation Coal to create a positive public image of the company’s operations. Buckley critically examines and interprets these photographs as historical documents and reveals the human story behind these company images of life in the coal towns.

Extracting Appalachia contains 215 pages, historical photographs, an index, and extensive notes. It sells for $46.95 and is available from Ohio University Press from their Web site at Call (773)702-7000 for more information.

Carolina Mine: A Northern West Virginia Coal Camp, by Trudy Ice Lemley and Irene Yuhas Ice, is a pictorial history of a Marion County coal camp, from its construction in 1915 to the present day. This collection of historical photographs illustrates the lives of mining families at Carolina and methods of early coal mining at Consolidation Coal Company Mine No. 86.

Carolina Mine has 120 pages and contains more than 200 photographs and documents. The book sells for $19.95, plus $5 shipping, from Trudy Lemley, P.O. Box 206, Carolina, WV 26563.

Appalachian Legacy & The Quest, by Enoch E. Hicks, is the story of the hard times and perseverance of a coal mining family and their lives in Upper Excelsior, a McDowell County coal camp known locally as The Bottom.

The book is divided into two sections: Home — The Family & Hard Times, and The Quest, which explores Hicks’ search for information about the geological formation of coal and the development of the coal industry.

Appalachian Legacy & The Quest has 246 pages and is illustrated with historical photographs and documents. It sells for $24.95 and is available from McClain Printing Company, on the Web at, or by calling (304)478-2881.

The Pocahontas Communications Cooperative has recently published two books of local interest: Roland Sharp, Country Doctor: Memories of a Life Well Lived, by Roland Sharp, and The Old Man of the Mountain, by LeAnna Alderman Sterste.

Roland Sharp, Country Doctor is an autobiography of a 102-year-old Pocahontas County physician who had an impressive 75-year career as a one-room schoolteacher, family doctor, and medical educator. Throughout his half-century in medicine, Dr. Sharp has been recognized as one of the West Virginia’s leading physicians. He became the first president of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1974. The book sells for $25.

The Old Man of the Mountain tells the story of Eldridge McComb and his life on a remote Pocahontas County farm that has been in his family since the 1700's. McComb, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 83, is well-remembered by the community as a gifted storyteller, humorist, and a reservoir of knowledge about the old ways of living. The Old Man of the Mountain sells for $12. Both books are available on the Web at; phone 1-800-287-2346.

Uphill Both Ways — Barefooted, by David H. Halsey, is a memoir of the author’s experiences growing up in Otsego, a Wyoming County coal camp. The son of a coal miner, Halsey shares recollections of his boyhood adventures and mishaps during the 1930's and ‘40's. Author David H. Halsey is a GOLDENSEAL contributor.

The 97-page book sells for $18.50, plus $7 shipping, and is available online at; phone 1-800-876-6103.

The Immobile Man: A Neurologist’s Casebook, by Dr. Lud Gutmann, is a collection of 17 stories regarding the triumphs and tragedies of human nature when patients are challenged by serious disease. Dr. Gutmann, a GOLDENSEAL contributor, is a physician who believes that learning about the patient’s family relationships, emotional strengths and weaknesses, and life experiences reveals the person behind the illness and aids in their care.

The Immobile Man contains 134 pages and sells for $14.95, on-line at; phone (304)478-2881.