By A. E. Weaver
Chairman of Historical Committee (1956 Centennial)
The Little Kanawha Valley has been cited by geographers as the most hilly region on earth.
Millions of years ago, when the world was young, they say this area was a plateau–tableland–and that water in its various forms, rain, snow, hail, frost and running water itself have, through the ages, ground and carved the original plateau into the picturesque land of hills and valley; familiar to all of us.
Calhoun County, whose one hundredth birthday we celebrate, lies in the midsection of this hilly region. Truly, we natives are hillbillies all.
It has been said that one can tell a Calhouner by his walk–that though long experience in climbing hills, he has acquired the habit of lifting his feet high as he steps and that he even continues his high-stepping when walking on the level.
Well, it may be true that you can tell a Calhouner by his walk, but I promise you, you cannot tell him very much, For he has the bold, determined and rugged spirit of the hills embedded in the very bone and sinew of his character–even our children are not afraid of wild-cats.
The early settlements made in what is now Calhoun seems to have been a part of the great Western movement. The pioneers, following Indian trails, crossed the mountains from the East, seeking cheap lands and the opportunities afforded in a new land and no doubt the spirit of adventure had much to do with the movement.
When they arrived they found the hills and valleys well timbered with oak, poplar, pine, maple, beech, hickory and other varieties. Fish were abundant in the clear streams of water, there was game aplenty in the forests and much use was made of the mountain rifle in the early days.
When the county was young, agriculture was and probably is today, the chief industry. The richest parts of the land were cleared of brush and timber in order that crops may be planted, principal crops being corn, wheat, oats, buckwheat and vegetables.
In the process of clearing, much good timber was destroyed, but it was a "must" for the living came from the soil. It was a common practice to clear the land, raise one or two crops of corn and then sow wheat and grass, the wheat being cut down with a cradle and bound by hand.
The land then was used for pasture or meadow for a time. The process of clearing land has been continuous, a new corn field must be had every year until about all of the fertile land had been cleared.
Farming in the early days was done with very crude implements, such as the shop-made hoe, the wooden pitch fork, the sickle, the scythe, the cradle and last but not least, the root-cutter plow, a shop-made contraption, efficient but quite dangerous.
I have heard that an old-timer remarked, "You are not a good farmer until you have been kicked in the belly with a root-cutter plow." A great change has been wrought within the last fifty years, new types have replaced the old time implements.
The tractor with modern implements attached has replaced the old time implements and has practically driven the ox, the horse and the mule from the fields.
The dairy-type of cattle, which afforded so much good food for the family table, has largely been replaced by the beef-type of cattle, now the chief money crop produced on our farms.
The fine stand of timber has always been a great asset to the people of our country, so also, has been the stratum of sand stone found in nearly all parts of the county.
In earlier times, much good timber was used in the construction of houses and barns and for the building of fences. The stone was put into good use in the building cf chimneys, foundations and cellars.
Some of these buildings of log construction were quite crude, while others were very good, even artistic. Some few of them still stand in the county as monuments to the thrift and skill of the artisans of a former day, but gone are the "notchers" and masons.
In recent years, life has been made easier in the hills with the construction of good roads, the extension of gas lines, telephone and electric lines to almost every home in the county.
Many of our rural people now enjoy all the luxuries and conveniences heretofore made available only to urban people.
Unfortunately, industry has not kept pace with the demand for employment in our county, and as a result, many of our people, the young and probably most ambitious, have been forced to leave our county to find employment in more favored areas.
We are happy to know that many of these people, though they are still hillbillies, have "high-stepped" their way to success in many fields of endeavor.
We know they will return, as opportunity affords, to visit their friends and THE HILLS ETERNAL.