‘It takes a village’

Pocahontas County High School FFA students, from left: Bill Hardesty, Sara Stull, Jersey Wilfong and Hayley Moore, fix up a second Historic Huntersville Traditions wagon and made it like new in time for the festival.

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

Huntersville Historical Traditions, a small group of local citizens, work to promote the history of Huntersville, the first county seat of Pocahontas County.

The trustees are Tim Wade, Susie Landis and Mary Jo Fisher, and current committee members include Joy Mullens, Linda Adams, LyAnn Zelinsky, Dondi Stemple, Laura Dean Bennett and Huntersville community liaison Connie Carr.

The organization hosts an annual festival, Huntersville Traditions Day, each year on the first weekend of October.

Tim Wade has been the president of HHT for several years.

Wade grew up on Douthards Creek and has first-hand knowledge of what it was like to go to an old-fashioned “one room” school.

He attended Huntersville School when he was in first and second grade. He went to Cummings Creek school for third and fourth grade and returned to Huntersville for fifth and sixth grades.

Wade is a former Pocahontas County Schools employee and a local farmer who is, perhaps, best known for selling some of the most delicious corn and the largest potatoes in the area.

“The committee has always had several members who, like me, actually attended school here at the old schoolhouse in Huntersville,” Wade said. “But you certainly don’t have to have gone to school here or be from Huntersville to be a member of the committee. We’re always looking for people who want to help us restore Huntersville’s historical sites and educate people about our history and the history of the county.

“Huntersville was settled in the 18th century, so its history includes pre-Revolutionary War tales, a Civil War battle and lots of early state and county history,” Wade said. “We hold Huntersville Traditions Day to offer people a glimpse into the past and to keep our traditions and our history alive.”

People come from all over Pocahontas County, West Virginia and surrounding states to make Huntersville Traditions Day special.

The HHT committee has managed to restore several Huntersville landmarks through hundreds of hours of hard work, the support of countless Pocahontas County residents and with the help of county grants over the years – and this year, for the first time, a grant from the West Virginia Department of Arts, History and Culture.

Tours of the historical buildings are a popular aspect of Huntersville Traditions Day.

Homer Hunter, Friend of Huntersville Historical Traditions, Tim Wade and Mary Fisher show off the trophy that HHT won in the 2019 Pioneer Days Parade. Homer Hunter and Friends joined members of the HHT committee on the wagon which was pulled by Brandon Ruddle’s matched team of Percheron mares. This same wagon will carry guests around the festival during Huntersville Traditions Day.

At each site, visitors are met by a knowledgeable volunteer who is there to answer questions about its history.
The Huntersville Museum houses a collection of old tools and antiques and is managed by committee member and Huntersville native Mary Jo Fisher.

Fisher is a true history buff.

In addition to being active in Huntersville Historical Traditions, Fisher is a member of the Pocahontas County Genealogical Society.

She has been instrumental in researching the names of those buried in many of Pocahontas County’s small cemeteries, the results of which are documented in the genealogical group’s several publications titled “In Loving Memory.”

“History is really important to me, as I’m sure it is to a lot of people,” Fisher said. “We’re really proud of all the work we’ve done to preserve Huntersville’s history.”

Fisher is especially proud of the refurbishment of the Civil War cemetery which is situated just up the hill behind the schoolhouse. With the help of Huntersville friend and fellow history buff Vonda Dixon, Huntersville Historical Traditions now knows the names of the 30-some Civil War soldiers buried there.

Several years ago, Dixon was looking for the burial place of a relative, Pvt. Pleasant Rawley, who fought for the Confederacy. He and his Tennessee regiment were camped in Huntersville during the Civil War. When she found that he and so many others from his regiment were buried in Huntersville’s Civil War Cemetery, she contacted the Veterans Administration to get tomb stones for each soldier.

Now, Dixon and Betty Aronson, who is also from Tennessee, come every year to honor the Civil War dead buried here and participate in the Huntersville Traditions Day events.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Marlinton Presbyterian Church, the committee is able to show guests, for the first time this year, the Revolutionary War era cemetery where John Bradshaw is buried.

Bradshaw, Huntersville’s first settler, was an Indian scout here in the mountain wilderness west of Virginia, and he fought in the Revolutionary War.

After Friday’s walking tours of Huntersville’s historic sites, the festivities begin.

Friday evening’s festivities will take place at the schoolhouse on Schoolhouse Lane.

It will be a full evening of food and entertainment commencing at 4:30 p.m. with an outdoor picnic supper.

Entertainment will include music by the famous Bing Brothers and Jake Krack, followed by a “celebrity pie auction,” an old-style cake walk, and a period dance display by the “cadets” and the young ladies of “Lizzie Cabell’s Finishing School.”

Committee members Dondi Stemple and Joy Mullens, not pictured, (as the school teachers) and Huntersville Historical Traditions president Tim Wade welcome students to the Huntersville School during an educational field trip for fourth and fifth graders. L.D. Bennett photos

Al Stone, well-known for his portrayal of Gen. Robert E. Lee will be present, along with 12 of his generals and their ladies.

Those who wish to linger a little longer will enjoy visiting around the campfire with the generals or taking a guided “ghost walk” through the Civil War cemetery with Mary Jo Fisher.

“We sometimes feel the spirits on the ghost walk,” Fisher said. “Maybe they’re the spirits of some of the soldiers buried up there. If it’s a clear night with a bright moon, it’s easy to think you see shadows in the woods…”

For those who survive Friday night’s ghost walk, there’s all day fun to look forward to on Saturday.

The festival features old-time music by several local bands known for their Appalachian music, demonstrations of apple cider pressing, basket and candle making, apple butter stirring, muzzleloader shooting, pioneer and Civil War re-enactors and, of course, lots of food and fellowship.

The tour of the Huntersville School, which has been faithfully restored to its original glory –affords many visitors their first experience of being in an old pioneer-style schoolhouse.

Huntersville school alumnae Joy Mullens and Loretta Malcolm “keep” the school and welcome visitors during Huntersville Traditions Day.

Dressed as typical one-room school teachers, Mullens and Malcolm greets guests and talk to them about the history of the school.

They hardly ever have to rap any knuckles, but they do have lots of stories to tell about how school life and school discipline – a hundred years ago, and even 50 years ago – was not at all like it is today.

“I just love meeting people who have never been in an old fashioned school like this,” Mullens said. “And it’s nice to talk to people who went to school here or to one of the other one room schools in the county.”

Behind the schoolhouse is the lunchroom – an afterthought to the original building.

During the festival, the walls are draped with quilts. Local ladies, attired in period dress, sit together and do handwork.

Lunch on Saturday is an old-fashioned dinner of beans and cornbread in the Huntersville Methodist Church on Church Lane.

Corn bread and salt risen bread contests will be going on outside the church, along with gospel singers, and Tim Duff, stirring his famous homemade apple butter, which, at the end of the day, will be for sale.

Terry and Connie Carr’s yard, situated between Schoolhouse and Church Lane, is also open to the public.

It’s always beautifully decorated for the occasion and features old-time crafts and skills with foods and refreshment appropriate to the pioneer theme of the festival.

The HHT committee is proud to introduce Clyde Jenkins to festival visitors this year. Jenkins, of Stanley, Virginia, is an expert in heritage apples. He’ll educate visitors in the history of the seemingly countless apple varieties and teach about grafting.

HHT gets a lot of help from the community.

Buck Turner uses his bucket truck to hang the road banner across Rt. 39, and neighbors with strong muscles set up the stage for the square dancers.

Some of the best bakers in the county, like Mary Dilley, make pies for Tim Wade’s famous “Celebrity Pie Auction,” during which about 20 beautiful pies are auctioned off at incredible prices – all for the benefit of Hunters- ville Traditions Day.

Horse-pulled wagon rides have long been a hallmark of the festival.

This year, Brandon Ruddle, his wife and two little girls will be in Huntersville for the second year with their team Percheron mares.

This year, there is a second wagon – one specifically designed to get people back and forth from their parking places in the grassy lot at the foot of Schoolhouse Lane to the schoolhouse.

The wagon, which Tim Wade found in Weston, was in good shape, but it needed a few repairs and a couple of coats of paint.
Erwin Berry’s FFA students at Pocahontas County High School came to the rescue.

And not only did the young people refurbish the wagon, but they volunteered to pull it using the FFA’s John Deere mini-tractor.

With the volunteer efforts of local scout troops, 4-Hers, the FFA, PCHS Prostart and many other youth groups, dozens of every day citizens and relatives of committee members, such as Wade’s sister, Jean McClure, and Landis’ husband, Roy, the festival somehow comes together each year.

The truth of the saying, “it takes a village” is perfectly illustrated in the story of this “old timey” festival organized by a handful of dedicated history lovers.

“We really want to thank everyone who helps make Huntersville Traditions Day possible,” HHT trustee Susie Landis said.

“There are so many people to thank- too many to name them all- but we appreciate each and every one who has helped make Huntersville Traditions Day one of Pocahontas County’s favorite festivals,” Tim Wade added. “We couldn’t do it without all of you!”

For an old fashioned good time, make plans to spend some time in Huntersville Friday evening, October 4, and Saturday, October 5.

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