One of the many traditions of the West Virginia State Folk Festival is recognizing County Belles. Each county selects a Belle – a woman from the community who embodies the spirit of their area and that of a pioneer woman – who will represent the county at the annual festival held in Glenville.
The 2022 Pocahontas County Belle is Ruth Taylor, of Hillsboro, a lady who has a deep love for her county and the traditions for which it is known.
Ruth is a native of Hillsboro and traces her lineage back to the foundation of Pocahontas County in 1821.
“I’ve traced my mother’s family – eight different lines of them – back to the beginning of the county,” she said. “Information about Dad’s family was a little harder. He was from up in the Thornwood/Cass area. I haven’t done very well with tracing some of his ancestry. [He was a] Wymer and my mother was a Harper. I’m descended from the Baxters, Barlows, Harpers and Lightners.”
Ruth and her husband, Bob, owned and operated Taylor’s Grocery and Service Station in Hillsboro for years, but she also held jobs in tourism, pioneering many programs that have benefited the county.
“I got involved when Reon Lambert was doing a tourism/hospitality class,” she said. “He lacked one person of having ten to be able to hold the class, and he came to the store and convinced me to go to the class. Then they asked me to conduct the next one. Then, some of the state people had me come in and work all over the state, sharing hospitality information.
“That’s when we decided to do the hotel/motel tax,” she continued. “I took on the county commission to get it done. I was working for Dr. Brigham at the spa at Snowshoe at the time, and I told him what we were planning to do and he said, ‘I don’t agree with you, but go for it.’”
Go for it she did and now the county receives millions of dollars in hotel/motel tax money which goes back into the community.
There’s not much Ruth can’t accomplish once she sets her mind to it. She is a founding member of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, was the first female president of the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals and was inducted into the WVAFF Hall of Fame in 2017.
She has also been a member of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace board of directors, Pocahontas County Board of Education, West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, Pocahontas County Opera House Board and Pocahontas County Historical Landmarks Commission.
Ruth is also a member of the Pocahontas County Bicentennial Commission, Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals board, Hillsboro Senior Citizens and Oak Grove Presbyterian Church.
Some of her accomplishments include being named the first Pocahontas County Tourism Person of the Year in 2014 and the winner of the 2021 Pocahontas County Liars contest – a title she plans to defend at Pioneer Days this year.
Ruth was named the Pocahontas County Belle three weeks before the Folk Festival, and she attended the festival in Glenville June 16-19.
Part of being a Belle is the dress. The ladies are asked to dress in period costumes reminiscent of bygone days.
Ruth’s dress is a chocolate brown underskirt with a pale green bustle, adorned with white lace sleeves.
“A Mennonite lady in Renick’s Valley made it,” she said.
As any proper lady would, Ruth accessorized the dress with a white lace sun hat and white gloves. The outfit was completed with a sash, identifying her as the “Pocahontas County Belle.”
This year, there were 14 Belles, and they spent the weekend enjoying the festival and each other’s company.
“We were a nice small group,” she said. “We had a lady bus driver who was our chaperone, and she was absolutely fantastic. She was so much fun. I had a good time. The ladies were all fun. Everybody there couldn’t have been any nicer or more hospitable.”
The Belles spent a lot of time together and found it easier to remember each other’s counties rather than names.
“We called each other by our county name because it was on the sash where you could see it,” Ruth said, laughing.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the parade, which the Belles led through the town of Glenville.
“That was the fun thing,” Ruth said. “The little kids would run out and hug you and wanted their pictures made with you. We walked and the Little Belles walked behind us. They had a float for the past Belles.”
The weekend was filled with arts, crafts, live music and delicious meals.
The Junior Belles are girls who are in the third or fourth grade and are members of their local 4-H group. They also dress in period costumes like the Belles and spend the weekend at the festival.
On Sunday morning, the Belles attended a church service at a restored log church called Job’s Temple.
Ruth enjoyed the experience so much she plans to return next year to join the former Belles on their float.
“I would encourage anybody to go if they are asked,” she said. “It was really fun.”
Ruth was sponsored by the Pocahontas County CEOS and Pioneer Days Association.
Watch for our Pocahontas Belle in the Pioneer Days Grand Parade Saturday, July 9, at 2 p.m. in Marlinton.