“THIS PLEASANT LAND: A BLUE RIDGE HISTORY” OFFERS INSIGHT TO WELSH HERITAGE IN THE FLOYD-FRANKLIN-PATRICK COUNTY, VIRGINIA AREA

   WAGS Mbr. #1088, Jean Thomas Schaeffer shares the following for WAGS members and friends:

 

    “My father's new book, titled THIS PLEASANT LAND:  A BLUE RIDGE HISTORY, is written by Max S. Thomas (of Welsh descent - descended from Charles Thomas who lived during the 1700s and early 1800s in the Floyd-Franklin-Patrick County, Virginia area).  

    Published posthumously and just off the press, the book is a 250-year history and begins with the first settlers to the middle Blue Ridge Mountain plateau in southwestern Virginia.  The first settlers were descended from Welsh and some other Celtic ancestors.  Information about the book may be found at www.HarvestwoodPress.com.  The author’s daughter, Jean Thomas Schaeffer, has served as editor, compiler, and publisher of the book. 

     This Pleasant Land is a 250-year chronological history of the border areas of Floyd, Franklin, and Patrick Counties in the Blue Ridge of southwestern Virginia.  The book covers an area reaching out from the epicenter where the author lived by the Blur Ridge Parkway, about fifteen miles in all directions.

     The book is a local history but it is written within the context of what was happening in the outside world during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  The paperback book has about 200 pages and begins with the first settlers coming to the area.  The book goes on to explain how certain events impacted the local people – events such as the American Civil War and Reconstruction, the American chestnut blight, the Great Depression, the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and World War I and II. 

    The last half of the book is a collection of the author’s earlier writings on a variety of topics such as early music, the language of the area, early roads, the mountain economy, country stores, old-time tools, fences, foraging, early marriages, women and their lives, photography, weather, geology, critters and maladies that caused problems, passing on, old-time medicine, communicable diseases.  One chapter tells about Sparrel Tyler Turner who represented the area in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate. The book has twenty photographs, including a picture of Turner. 

            Speaking about the manuscript he wrote, Max Thomas said, “I am a fifth-generation descendant of the first settlers in this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have lived all of my life on the same piece of land on a high plateau on the Floyd–Franklin County line in southwestern Virginia. Since I was a boy, I have been told stories about my ancestors and their neighbors, men and women who came to and lived in a pleasant and rugged land during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. No matter who told the stories, they were always the same. It is also my story, for I was born in 1908 and witnessed events through most of the twentieth century, including the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930's. ... So in 1997 at the age of 89, I began writing this history in longhand."    This is the author’s second book.  His first, Walnut Knob, was first published in 1977 and is a collection of songs and stories of the area.  Its copyright was renewed in 2005 but, after three printings, Walnut Knob is once more out of print. 

      Jean Schaeffer has this to say about her father’s book:  “In publishing my father’s book, I have made every effort to be true to his writing and intent.  He wanted people to know about the Appalachian heritage of this area, and he wanted them to understand the local history within the context of what was going on in the outside world.  He knew what he had to tell was extraordinary.  His was a generation that served as a bridge, beginning with the most basic way of life typical of the nineteenth century and evolving into the modern technological age of the late twentieth century.  He was a farmer and school teacher.  Having lived on the same piece of land for almost ninety-three years, he was drawn to it in a way that a native will understand.  Beyond that, he wanted to know all he could and studied about the area the way a scientist or historian studies.  He learned from his grandparents and other people, he learned from books, and he learned from his own observations about the natural environment.  He knew first-hand about the land and its people and he wrote about them continually.  He was interested in everything and was blessed with an excellent memory throughout his life.  He was a deep and divergent thinker, and he wrote this history the way he thought and talked – like a conversation he might have had with a visitor on his back porch.” 

     More information about this book is available at www.HarvestwoodPress.com, by e-mailing info@HarvestwoodPress.com, or by phoning (540) 745-3173. The book’s ISBN is 978-0-9703758-2-7  

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