Skip Navigation

New Books Available

By John Lilly

Federal attempts to alleviate the suffering brought on by the Great Depression are often viewed approvingly today, a fact which tends to overshadow the tremendous controversy they created at the time. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads – the agency responsible for Arthurdale, Eleanor, and Valley Bend here in West Virginia – was especially scrutinized and criticized. A new book from John Wiley & Sons, Inc., takes a fresh and scathing look at the government’s attempt to create New Deal communities. [See “Growing Up in Arthurdale,” by Jim McNelis.]

     Back to the Land: Arthurdale, FDR’s New Deal, and the Cost of Economic Planning, by C.J. Maloney, reviews the beginnings of Arthurdale from the squalor of Scotts Run to the establishment of the Preston County homestead community in 1933, through its eventual divestiture during World War II. A skilled and engaging writer, Maloney has a pronounced Libertarian bent and finds little to like in the workings of “big government,” then or now. In short, he sees the Arthurdale experiment as ill-conceived, poorly run, and fraught with waste and corruption.

A 292-page hard-bound volume with illustrations, end notes, bibliography, and index, Back to the Land sells for $26.95; it is also available in an electronic version. Visit or phone 1-877-762-2974.

Though often overlooked today, West Virginia was once home to a vibrant African American musical and dance community. During the Great Depression, New Deal programs and a thriving coal industry supported a large population of black workers and their families in relative prosperity, who in turn supported performances by some of the biggest names in jazz music. Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942, by Christopher Wilkinson, shines a light on this exciting period in our state’s musical past.
     Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Chick Webb and others brought their bands to West Virginia as often as they could in order to satisfy the black audiences who loved to listen and dance to their music. Author Christopher Wilkinson, a professor of music history at WVU, describes these bands, their repertoires, the audience, and their musical preferences. He also discusses the role that local radio and the black press played in promoting these appearances, and the relationship that existed between West Virginia entrepreneurs and national promoters and talent management.

Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia is a 197-page hard-bound edition with illustrations, maps, tables, end notes, bibliography, and an index. It was published in 2012 by the University Press of Mississippi and sells for $55. Visit or phone (601)432-6205.

Intimate Moonshine liquor is an important part of Appalachian lore. During the Great Depression, it was also an important part of the economy in many areas as farmers and others did what they could to market their corn and feed their families. Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World, by Charles D. Thompson, Jr., published in 2011 by the University of Illinois Press, takes a sympathetic view of the distilling trade and those involved in it, both then and now.

Author Thompson looks at an infamous 1935 conspiracy trial in which 34 people were indicted in the small town of Endicott, Virginia, located in Franklin County – the self-described moonshine capital of the world. Thompson had family ties to some of the defendants and offers an insider’s viewpoint to the proceedings as well as the circumstances. He also provides abundant details of whiskey making and selling, much of which still takes place in the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Spirits of Just Men is a 269-page paperbound book with 29 illustrations, end notes, bibliography, and index. It sells for $23.95 and is available at; phone (217)333-0950.

Several local histories have arrived in our office, reflecting the ongoing trend of preservation and documentation throughout the state.

A Pictorial History of Tucker County, West Virginia, by Chris Kidwell, is a large-format tome published 2011 by McClain Printing. As the title indicates, the emphasis here is on photographs, and there are many in these 400-plus pages. Divided primarily into the six main communities in the county – Parsons, St. George, Hambleton, Hendricks, Thomas, and Davis – the book also includes short sections on other areas of the county, the Civil War, and floods. An index is also included. A Pictorial History of Tucker County sells for $45, online at; phone 1-800-654-7179.

     Author Dale Payne has produced another fine book of local history, this one titled Images of the Past: Vintage Fayette County. The 249-page large-format paperbound edition includes more than 500 historical photographs from Ansted to Smithers. Arranged alphabetically by location, the book documents Fayette County life in the early 20th century, including coal mining; river life along the Gauley, New, and Great Kanawha; sports; schools; railroads; and churches. Vintage Fayette County sells for $30, plus shipping, and is available from the author via e-mail at or by phone at (304)574-3354.

     Salem, West Virginia: 1776-1976, comprises a series of short articles about the history of this Harrison County town, written in 1976 by school teacher, librarian, and local historian Dorothy Belle Davis. When Davis passed away in 2004, the work was continued by Joan Carder Stine and Patricia J. Carder, who brought the project to fruition in 2011. The 149-page hard-bound volume recounts 200 years of life in this once-remote community, including local tales, events, tragedies, and humorous incidents. This book sells for $22.23, plus shipping, and is available from Patricia J. Carder via e-mail at or by phone at (304)782-1922.

     Kimball, West Virginia: 1911-2011, by Jean Battlo, documents 100 years of life in this hard-hit McDowell County community. Once a thriving and diverse coal and railroad town, Kimball experienced some tough times when the economy changed in the 1960’s; it was further devastated by a series of floods over the past two decades. Resilient to the core, Kimball has come back as an arts and tourism center as local residents remain determined to survive no matter what fortune or misfortune they face. A lifelong Kimball resident, author Jean Battlo is a GOLDENSEAL contributor. Kimball, West Virginia sells for $25 from McClain Printing, online at; phone 1-800-654-7179.

Two additional local history books are also available. Glimpses of Gladesville: A Village Remembers, was published in 2011 by the Gladesville Community Association, with financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council. This 146-page large-format paperbound edition is available from Gladesville Community Association, 2929 Gladesville Road, Independence, WV 26374.

     Sutton, West Virginia: Looking Back and Sutton, West Virginia: Looking Back Again, both written and published by Craig A. Smith, present the story of the seat of Braxton County, from the days of the first settler in 1792. The large-format paperbound books sell for $18.95 each, plus shipping and in-state sales tax, via e-mail at or by phone at 1-877-251-NEWS.

Ritchie County Crimes and Calamities is an exhaustive collection of press clippings from local, state, and national news sources between 1847 and 1922, edited by John M. Jackson, who published this imposing collection in 2011. Under the slug line “Murder, mayhem and melodrama in rural West Virginia!” these 717 pages contain every piece of bad news you will ever want to see: fires, knifings, robberies, rapes, train wrecks, slanders, domestic violence, floods, and general “outlawry.” Arranged chronologically, this unique book goes on and on with tales of woe and misery. It almost makes you feel better just to read it!

     Ritchie County Crimes and Calamities is available at Berdine’s Five & Dime in Harrisville and at The Cairo Supply Company in Cairo. It is also available on-line through

The Secret Life and Brutal Death of Mamie Thurman, by F. Keith Davis, is a different sort of crime book: highly focused, skillfully written, sensational, and salacious. It starts with a seamy assessment of the country-club social scene in Logan County during the 1930’s – a time when coal was king and the upper crust led decadent lives, according to the author. Socialite Mamie Thurman, later known as the “Stratton Street Vixen,” was reportedly involved with several powerful men in the town. She fell victim to a shocking murder in June 1932, and became the subject of rumor and investigation. A local black man was tried and convicted of the crime, but many, including the author, still have questions. Ghost sightings and other paranormal encounters have heightened awareness and speculation about the case over the years.

     This revised second edition, published in 2007 by Quarrier Press, features recent interviews and additional research by the author. Mamie Thurman, a 205-page paperback, is available for $15.95, plus shipping and in-state sales tax, from the West Virginia Book Company; online at or by phone at 1-888-982-7422.

Three GOLDENSEAL contributors have published book-length manuscripts recently. Hobart G. Everson [see “My First Job”; Fall 2011] penned his autobiography in 2011 titled, A Case for a Stubborn Heart: The Life and Works of a Country Boy. A graduate of Belington High School, Alderson Broaddus and Fairmont State colleges, Hobart never lost touch with his rural raising or his
sense of humor. This 279-page paperback includes major chapters and small incidents in his life, a section of historical photographs, poems, and songs. A Case for a Stubborn Heart sells for $17.49 and is available at or by phone at (972)840-3437.

     Norman Julian is an award-winning columnist from the Morgantown area. [See “‘I Am Going to Tell the Story’: Al Anderson of Osage”; Fall 2011.] Trillium Acres is a collection of some of Norman’s favorite columns, tackling such subjects as environmental accountability, living off the land, and responsible hunting. This 176-page paperback is available from the author on-line at; phone (304)599-2294.

     Tom “Euell” Felton, longtime sheriff of Tucker County, has written a number of stories for us. [See “A Life Well Spent: ‘Doc Pete’ of Parsons”; Fall 2008.] His new self-published book is titled, Do You Know Where You Live? And Other Amusing Stories. As the name suggests, this is a humorous collection of anecdotes, tales, and recollections. The 149-page paperback is available from Tom at 1249 Cheat Valley Highway, Parsons, WV 26287.