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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Mrs. Stella Strock, School Teacher

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: September, 1983

stella strockMrs Stella Strock is the first little girl from the right in the front row of this photograph taken of the entire Powell School in Dobyns (Patrick County, Virginia). The schoolmaster was Millard Smart (man on right, back row). (Circa 1911)

Oft times, something will strike a cord and bring back a memory long forgotten from the corners of our minds. The photograph on the front cover of our June 1983 issue, of the Keith homeplace near Willis, Virginia, taken in 1905, sparked such a memory in a woman I was privileged to meet.

Mrs. Stella Strock said, “I drive by that place now and don’t seem to notice it but that picture was exactly the way I remembered it as a child.” Mrs. Strock’s mother, Alice Hylton Hodges, and Mrs. Keith were girlhood friends. Mrs. Strock’s mother married and moved to the Claudeville area of Patrick County, but every year, the family would pack up in a covered wagon and make the journey up the Rye Cove Road to the top of the mountain. Then, they would cross onto the dirt road where the Blue Ridge Zoo is located now (see the BACKROADS featured in our August issue), go by the old Langhorne Mill and then on to Willis by way of the Keith’s house. There was a beautiful farm they passed owned by John Cruise also and Mrs. Strock said they were such nice people and that once they were caught in a snow storm on their journey and spent the night at the Cruise farm. Add a comment


Tyson Sutphin's Mountain Memories

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012

Issue: April, 1983

Tyson Sutphin was born February 10th, 1900. He has lived most of his 83 years near Buffalo Mountain in Carroll County, Virginia. A friend of mine, Trent Goad, had told me that Mr. Sutphin would be an interesting person to talk with about the changes this area has undergone in the last 50 years or so.

Today I stopped by Mr. Sutphin’s home introduced myself and explained that I work for The Mountain Laurel and asked if he would mind talking with me awhile about old times. He opened the door wide as if I were an old friend and invited me into his home. Mr. Sutphin is tall and straight, with a full head of white hair. His eyes sparkled as he told of past events and a wide friendly smile seemed natural on his face.

He told me of the first car he ever saw. It was a 1913 Model T Ford. He saw it at the annual “Bridge Meeting” of the Primitive Baptist Association, held at the covered bridge where US 221 crosses the New River. He got to ride on the fender and “that was really something in those days.” Add a comment


Chow-Chow Recipe for Sweet Southern Style Relish

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1999

Online: January, 1999

In the south, and particularly in the mountains where they grow huge heads of crisp cabbage, chow-chow is a favorite relish to be eaten with a bowl of pinto beans. It's also great on hot dogs. There are many variations to the recipe, but the one below is tried and true. The recipe below is sweet, but there are also hot varieties.

There is a canning "mystique." People who have never canned have a picture in their heads of elderly grandmothers living on a large farm with a kitchen full of mysterious equipment and getting up hours before daylight and toiling at the task until bedtime. Not so. Anyone can make pickles, preserves and other canned goods in their own kitchen with a minimum of time, effort and equipment. Grandma might have had to "put up" 40 bushels of cucumbers, but you don't have to. You can buy the produce instead of growing it. You can just make a few pints or quarts at a time. And you can finish the entire project in one weekend afternoon. No big deal. But, oh the compliments you will get when you serve it and then, to the uninitiated - you will be a part of the canning mystique! Add a comment


Boots Bugs the John

By Mel Tharp © 1986

Issue: July, 1986

Whoever gave Elba, Kentucky its name in the first place must have been someone with either a vivid imagination, or a flair for historical irony. It was difficult to see how anyone could draw a correlation between this back roads community and the island of the Tuscan archipelago where Napoleon was exiled in 1814.

It seemed somehow fitting that Les Tucker would open his general store in a community with an exotic name like "Elba." Les was renowned for his sense of humor. Les was a good business man, but he never allowed his commercial enterprise to interfere with his capacity to perceive and appreciate a good practical joke.

Tucker's Grocery was not your everyday country general store. In addition to hardware, household goods, seeds, livestock feed and farm implements, the store carried a good line of fresh produce and meats. Les also ran a creamery sub station where he bought whole milk from the farmers, tested it for butterfat content, and shipped it on to the main creamery in Indiana. He also bought fresh eggs and live poultry. Add a comment