Storyteller shares the story of W.Va. | News, Sports, Jobs

(Photo by Madeline Scarborough) At the concert, Adam Booth shared Tony Beaver’s stories, similar to how they might have started, with snacks, music and company all rolled into one.

PARKERSBURG — No matter where you go, there’s a story to tell. West Virginia is an old state, full of rich history and many ancient stories. However, most people when they think of West Virginia think of cryptoids like the Mothman… but there are other stories that have been shared deep in the mountains, forests and coal mines of West Virginia.

For example, have you ever heard the story of Tony Beaver? He is said to be the greatest West Virginian of all time; and with his height came even greater tales of his adventures.

“While many West Virginians have family histories tied to the coal industry, I grew up hearing stories of my paternal family’s pioneering adventures and the difficult existence tied to the coal industry. West Virginia lumber: stories of felling trees, rafting the Guyandotte River, being paid once a year at the end of seasonal work, family feuds and fears of shallow rivers in because of the mild winters, said Adam Booth, West Virginia’s 2022 Folk Artist of the Year.

Booth travels the state to share stories that blend traditional mountain folklore, music, and an awareness of contemporary Appalachia.

“These stories (he heard of the West Virginia lumber industry) date from the 1850s-1880s in Lincoln County and have been passed down through seven generations of family storytellers to reach me, he said. “Somewhere along the way, long after becoming a professional storyteller, I heard about Tony Beaver, probably from friends at the West Virginia Storytelling Guild. The stories are so rich and yet hardly anyone knows them, and let alone tell them. I feared they were about to disappear, so I began the quest for Tony and his stories.

Booth said his research led him to several print collections of Tony Beaver stories from the mid-20th century and a 1943 diploma thesis.

“The printed stories all refer to a common inspiration: Up Eel River by Margaret Prescott Montague, a book written in 1928 in an almost impenetrable “dialect” of Appalachia. » he said.

Booth said that O. Henry Award-winning Montague published several Tony Beaver stories in Atlantic Monthly during the 1920s, but before her, no printed Tony Beaver story seemed to exist.

“At that time, the lumber industry in the state would have declined significantly from its peak in the 19th century, and the people who originated, knew, and told the stories would have been old or dead,” he said. “So there is a long-standing question as to whether Montague actually collected these stories from oral tradition to record as literature, or whether she created the stories altogether.”

Booth said after research he was inclined to believe the stories came from oral tradition and folklore.

He even located the inclusion of two Tony Beaver stories in the West Virginia Folklore Journal, Fall 1954, vol. V. No 1.

The informant for both tales was Eugene Minor, a student at Fairmont State College. “as his grandmother, who is 94, told him.”

“My somewhat romantic hope is that the stories of Tony Beaver existed in the wild, and these written records from across the state have preserved him longer than the oral tradition, especially as the lumber industry faded and people stopped telling these stories,” Booth said. “But either way, they’re a rich and wonderful part of West Virginia’s creative folklore, and I’m proud to share some of them with everyone.”

Two grants from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History have made his travel and storytelling concerts across the state possible: a Professional Development Grant that supported research and a Living Traditions Grant. who supports the tour.

At the concert, he shared stories similar to how they might have started, with snacks, music and company all rolled into one.

“Please share these and other stories you hear along the way from your families. There are so many out there just waiting to be told one more time,” he said.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at [email protected]

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Corina C. Butler