Sunday, June 29, 2014


Good Morning, Class of '64
View from Ware's Ridge Farm - Logan Run - Valley Head, West Virginia

Where we love is home -
home that our feet may leave,
but not our hearts.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Sundays with Larry

 The Legacy of Ware’s Ridge
Part One
 I love to go back to Ware’s Ridge. I grew up there on a small hillside farm in southern Randolph County near Valley Head, West Virginia. We raised cows, hogs, and chickens for our food. We raised potatoes, sweet corn, and about an acre of garden produce. Our only cash crop was sheep. We raised corn, oats, and hay for livestock feed, and, of course, corn meal for corn bread. One of our main meals was beans and cornbread; it’s still one of my favorites.
The farm doesn’t look like it did when I was growing up. The house has burned, and the outbuildings have fallen down. The roofs collapsed on both log barns, and the log walls have been sold. One of them was roofed with hand split red oak shakes; in the late fifties, my dad, my brother, and I split shakes almost every evening after we came in from the fields for the whole summer.

Home in the Hills - Grandma Moses - Anna Mary Robertson
The once-neat, cultivated, productive fields are grown up with weeds and brush. The fences have fallen down, but some of the chestnut fence rails are still sound. The newest of them would be at least 75 years old. The pastures are grown up with small trees. It will never be a farm again. The cost of the labor to reclaim would simply be too great.

West Virginia Grist Mill - Terry Best
My dad, my grandfather, and my uncle cleared much of the land for this farm and my uncle’s farm. Sometime close to the end of the 19th century, my grandfather lost his store and gristmill on the Tygart River near Valley Head. He was a soft touch for a hard-luck story, and his accounts receivable got out of control. 

(My dad and uncle were many years paying all of Granddad’s store debts. They both married late in life; they paid all of Granddad’s debts before they married. He went bankrupt, but his sons paid every cent he owed.) 

When he lost the store, he moved his family up on the mountain. He and his two sons constructed buildings, cleared forest for farmland, and built several miles of fence.

Early September View from Ware's Ridge
When I was a teenager, my dad, my brother, and I cleared an acre or so to expand a calf pasture. That was a job! When I think of the work to clear all the land in both farms, I am in awe of those men. They didn’t have power saws or tractors - they used axes, crosscut saws, and horses. What an accomplishment! In looking over the farm now, it seems so sad to think of all that work, and now the land is rapidly returning to forest.

On the Road to Ware's Ridge Farm
The entire community is in pretty much the same condition. Fifty years ago, there were 10-12 farms in that community with about 50-60 people. Only 2 or 3 worked elsewhere. Those small mountain farms provided food and shelter for almost everyone in that community. There were 500 - 600 sheep, 40 - 50 cattle, 18-20 work horses, several hundred chickens, and a lot of acres of corn, oats, and hay. I have seen 25 to 30 outdoor stacks of loose hay in one summer in that community. It was a beautiful, thriving, productive farm community. Now the only livestock there are some cattle and a few horses. A few people live there but earn their living elsewhere or are retired. There is a bed-and-breakfast there now, something the old-timers would never have understood. This once nearly self-sustaining productive community is now a nearly-deserted bedroom community.

Hello House Bed and Breakfast - Logan Run - Valley Head, WV 
(The Bed and Breakfast is no longer in operation.)
As I stand and look over the fields where I sweated so much hoeing corn and making hay and the pastures where I chased sheep to the pen and, twice each day, brought the cows in to milk, tears fill my eyes. The land that was so productive now grows only weeds and brush. The sheep and cattle are replaced by deer, and the ground hogs live in peace.

American Farm Scene - Currier and Ives
Many of the houses once filled with the noises of a happy family and the smells of plain, wholesome, delicious food are empty, fallen down, torn down, or burned. The one-room school where many children of this community received their only formal education, and which also served as a tiny Methodist church where we first heard the Word of God, is gone. When someone is buried in the community cemetery, we even have to hire someone to dig the grave - our ancestors would be very indignant! They believed in the community taking care of itself, including the cemetery.

Ware's Ridge Cemetery, Valley Head, Randolph County, West Virginia;
Located 2.1 miles east of US 219 along County Rd 66 (Logan Run Rd)
between Valley Head and Mingo, West Virginia.
Walter V. Munza

The cemetery is one of the few things that looks the same. In fact, it has been enlarged. It is well maintained. A trust fund was established to keep it maintained because about the only people left in the community are in the cemetery, and they cannot cut much grass. They probably don’t care much if the grass is cut or not!

Leaving Ware's Ridge by Logan Run Road

When I go home,
its an easy way to be grounded.
You learn to realize what truly matters.
Tony Stewart
This Ole House
A version of "This Ole House" by Rosemary Clooney, 
featuring bass vocals by Thurl Ravenscroft,
reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1954.
Rosemary Clooney - 1954
Ware Family and Friend's Reunion
Ware's Ridge Farm
Home of Ralph and Betty Ware
Logan Run
Valley Head, West Virginia
Sunday, Labor Day Weekend
Y'all Come!

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