The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


  • Memories of a vanishing era

    Left to right: Coy Oliver Yeatts, mountain philosopher and nature lover; Ella Hughes Boyd, midwife and grit best describe this wonderful lady; Adam Clement, beekeeper extraordinaire. They are just a few among hundreds who have shared their stories and memories in The Mountain Laurel. Their stories are a national treasure.

  • The Stoneman Family

    A Heritage of Mountain Music

    It was more than a concert, it was a rare privilege to be attending the Stoneman Family Festival at Willis, Virginia in August. The reason it was more than a concert was that family members from Maryland and Tennessee traveled here for a reunion.

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  • Picturesque Blue Ridge Backroads

    Discover the Real Blue Ridge

    Scenes like this are just around the next bend or over the next hill along the hundreds of miles of backroads you'll discover with our easy to follow self-guided Backroad Tours.

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  • Making Old Fashion Mountain Molasses

    B. L. (Bunny) and Tella Mae Cockram

    B.L. (Bunny) and Tella Mae Cockram are each 73 years old. They’ve been married for 50 years and since 1935, home for them has been their 60 acre farm in the Mountain View section of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Tella Mae has a hundred laying hens and she sells eggs to a lot of the folks here-'bouts. In addition to the 100 laying hens, she and Bunny have 50 head of cattle and 25 head of sheep.

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  • Woodrow (Woody) Dalton on the old Appalachian Trail

    Arrowhead Marker built by John Barnard

    The original route of the Appalachian Trail crossed the Pinnacles of Dan, traversed the Dan River Gorge and climbed Indian Ladder to the plateau known locally as the Rich Bent. This path carried hikers through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful terrain the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer. Earl Shaffer on his historic first ever through hike of the entire Appalachian Trail in one season, passed through this area and described it ...

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Roscoe Willis' Store - Backroads Tour

By Bob Heafner © 1985-2012

Issue: May 1985

backroad 3 fp sRoscoe Willis's Store at mile 37.3. Click on photo to see larger image.This month our BACKROADS tour will begin and end at the junction of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 8 at Tuggles Gap, Virginia (Parkway Milepost 165.2). We will travel a total of 61.7 miles and will need to allot between two and three hours for the entire drive.

Rolling meadows and sparkling trout streams, along with panoramic views are just a few of the highlights of this month's tour. A leisurely afternoon, a camera and a picnic lunch to be enjoyed along the way will combine to make this drive a perfect way to enjoy the Blue Ridge at its best.

BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.

00.0 (0.0) Traveling north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we will begin counting our mileage at the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass crossing Virginia Route 8. This junction is located between Parkway Mile Posts 165 and 166.

00.1 (0.1) Turn left off of the Parkway (if you're heading north) onto the exit ramp leading to Route 8.

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A Set Of Twins, E.J. and E.M. Cooley, Struggle for an Education Circa 1898 - Part 1 of 2

By E. J. Cooley © 1984

Issue: September, 1984

Editor's Note... This story was written by E.J. Cooley, probably in the early 1930's. Both E.J. and E.M. are deceased, but this story illustrates the life of "turn of the century" college freshmen. E.M. went on to become Carroll County's first Superintendent of Schools. Their grandfather, Benjamin Cooley, had been the first Sheriff of Carroll County.

We were born just twelve years after the close of the Civil War in 1865 and the public school system in Virginia was in its infancy. The first school we attended was known as Possum Hollow, located almost a mile from our house. It was a one room log school house with a wide chimney at the south end, a door with only a latch to close it in the east side, one small window on the east and west sides and a one small pane window extending most of the way across the north end of the house. Some of the seats were made of slabs without backs except the walls of the house.

The men and boys would take turns on designated days to go to the woods and carry on their shoulders the logs for the large fireplace where the heat was generated to keep us warm by exchanging seats on cold wintry days.

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Wayne Banks - Hillsville's First Radio Station

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984

Issue: September, 1984

Editor's Note...This is the last installment in our series of continuing articles about Mr. Wayne Banks. Now we will settle back and keep an eye on Mr. Banks because, as one can tell from his stories, no one can imagine what road he will choose next. Rest assured, however, that he will meet the future with an eye for opportunities and with a hand for his fellow man.

In 1930, Wayne Banks had his own appliance store in Hillsville, Virginia. It was in the old Earley Building. Carroll Drug Store now stands on that site, as the Farley Building burned some years ago. As Wayne was always interested in both music and electronics, he soon came up with a way of advertising his business and enjoying it too. He got a band together called, "The Melody Rhythm Cowboys."

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Old Fashioned Cat Head Biscuits

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1999

Online: January, 1999

Biscuits are easy. You just have to know a few tricks handed down from our grandmothers.

When I was a little girl, I watched my grandmother make biscuits many, many times. She would go to her pantry where there was a huge flour bin and her bread making bowl - one of those earthenware big brown bowls with a stripe around the top that cost an arm and a leg in antique stores today. She never measured anything, but would scoop out flour with a big tin scoop into her flour sifter that was painted white with red cherries painted on the side. Then she would sprinkle a little baking soda into the flour and sift it into the bowl.

Then she would go to the spring house and get home churned buttermilk. She would sit these things on her kitchen table that was covered in a red checked oil cloth tablecloth. Then she would get out her bucket of lard and scoop out a hunk about the size of a walnut with her fingers. My grandmother would put this lump of lard in the middle of the flour, having first scooped a hole out in the center of the flour. She poured the buttermilk into this depression in the flour and worked it and the lard into the flour.

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