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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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 ...

    Read More

The Strange True Story of the Bell Witch of Tennessee, Part 1 of 5

By Don Wick © 1987

Issue: February, 1987

The Bell Witch House 1909. Photo curtesy of Bell Witch House 1909. Photo curtesy of, Tennessee - Of all the strange stories of the supernatural, there is none stranger than the 170 year old story of the Bell Witch of Tennessee, the most documented story of the supernatural in all of American history.

The Bell Witch is unique because of the large number of people who had direct experiences with it. Many of these people, General Andrew Jackson among them, were of unimpeachable reputation and unquestionable reliability.

Much of what follows is taken from the eyewitness accounts and interviews gathered by M.V. Ingram for his book An Authenticated History Of The Famous Bell Witch Of Tennessee published at Clarksville, Tennessee, in 1894. Among them are the eyewitness accounts of Richard Williams Bell and Joel Bell, two who survived the Witch's reign of terror.

Here, then, is the incredible true story of the Bell Witch, a story to which the final chapter has yet to be added.

John Bell, Jr., Born Nov. 17th 1793 - Died April 18th 1862. Photo curtesy of Bell, Jr., Born Nov. 17th 1793 - Died April 18th 1862. Photo curtesy of began in 1804 when John Bell brought his family from North Carolina to settle in Robertson County, Tennessee.

He bought a good 100 acre farm on the banks of the Red River about 50 miles north of Nashville, near what is today the town of Adams, Tennessee.

By 1817 John Bell had become a respected and influential member of the community. He and his wife Lucy, had nine children and the Bell home was one of the finest in Robertson County. It was a big double log house, one and a half stories high with six rooms and a large porch across the entire front of the house.

The trouble began sometime in 1817. The exact time is difficult to fix because at first the Bell family attributed the strange noises they heard in the house to natural causes.

There were bumping and scratching sounds which might have been caused by the wind blowing the branches of the big pear trees in the front yard against the side of the house. The tapping sounds at the front door, John Bell attributed to a prankster.

But in May of 1818, something happened which could not be explained quite so easily.

Add a comment


The Tennessee Road

By William P. Swartz, Jr. © 1986

Issue: July, 1986

The lives of people have always been influenced by communication and transportation. There was little of either available in America prior to 1800. When cities and villages began to be established along the eastern seaboard and more particularly in the New England area, a few stage coach lines carrying mail, small express and passengers came into being.

Then with the advent of the Erie Canal and Clinton's steam engine to begin the era of the railroads, people began to be travel conscious.

The success of the Erie Canal caused the planning and starting of canal construction in the eastern United States, but the steam engine developed rail transportation so much more rapidly that canal transportation soon passed into oblivion.

Add a comment


Mrs. Clara Marshall's Mountain Memories

By Mrs. Clara Marshall © 1983

Issue: June, 1983

(The following is Mrs. Clara Marshall’s story of her tragic first marriage, told in her own words, from a taped interview with her.)

“I’ll be 90, July 25. I was born in 1893. Did you ever hear about my first marriage? I was married to my first cousin. (Her mother’s brother and his family lived in West Virginia and worked in the coal mines for a living. Young Ray was visiting his relatives here at Mayberry at that time.)

Add a comment


Christmas Recipes

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984

Issue: December, 1984

One old time social gathering for young people was a taffy pull. My mother said that at such a gathering, a batch of taffy was made and a plate buttered for each couple. A part of the taffy was poured onto each plate and each couple pulled it together. Taffy is pulled as it gets cool enough to handle and is pulled until the candy is light in color. Some people twist it into fancy shapes, some pull it into thin strips and braid them together.

The main ingredient in taffy is molasses. Since molasses has a high iron content, it's good for you besides being just plain good.

If you have never tried your hand at taffy pulling, it could turn out to be both enjoyable and delicious! Making taffy might become one of your own family holiday traditions.

Add a comment