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Preserving Pocahontas

We’re starting the New Year by taking a closer look at our old photographs. I’ve been intrigued by this picture for some time. It is a good example of the old “big long” photos taken with the Cirkut camera used by local photographers such Harvey Bright, Cal Gay, Mr. Slavin and others. These cameras captured a panoramic image by pivoting horizontally (along a vertical axis), while a roll of film moved across the film plane. The distortion of straight lines gives the photo an unusual look because the image was captured from a sweeping, curved perspective, and we are viewing it flat.

This photo from the Historical Society Collection is labeled “Large Group at Pocahontas Co. Courthouse.” That doesn’t tell us much, so I started wondering who these people are and why they gathered here. As I scanned the faces through my looking glass I was surprised to see my grandmother seated in the center wearing a white dress and a large black hat. She was Jessie McComb of Huntersville, who at the time would have been teaching school in Durbin. And so, I am certain that this is a Teachers Institute held in Marlinton around 1910.

Next time you’re fishing through old photographs imagine that you’re Alice in Wonderland. Take a trip through the looking glass. You might be surprised at what you find. It might be your grandmother! Photo Courtesy of Pocahontas Co. Historical Society, ID: PHS002801


Access the “Preserving Pocahontas” Digital Library at or If you have photographs or documents to be scanned for the county Historical Archive Project contact Preservation Officer B. J. Gudmundsson at 304-799-3989 or email Prints of photographs from the archives are available.PRESERV POCA TeachersInstitute Marlinton1910

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