"Folk Songs from the West Virginia Hills and other folkloric documentation can serve as a mirror to show us the culture we have, but also what we’ve lost and gained along the way, for better or for worse. Throughout the collection, Gainer provides evidence of how folk songs are distilled democratic cultural nuggets of a community, conveying the values of its people. He declares, 'They are called folk songs because they belong to the people and not any one individual.' Folklorist Lynne McNeill says this another way: 'Group consensus shapes folklore, so folklore is a great measure of group consensus.' I, for one, am proud to live and work in a place where the group consensus is for singing."
Read on via West Virginia University Press
"Jim Shaffer’s shop is dusty and smells like a horse stable—a comforting olfactory association that I suddenly realize has less to do with horses than with the rolled and bundled straw I see stacked high along the walls. Though the pole barn that houses Shaffer’s Charleston Broom and Mop Company is just a few miles from the capital city of Charleston, West Virginia, the unincorporated area where it sits along Davis Creek in Loudendale is a wooded, quiet, and close-knit community. Everyone who lives here knows Jim, and many people across the state know him too. At 87, Shaffer has been making brooms for seventy years and is the last handmade commercial broom maker in West Virginia."
Read on in Southern Cultures
"It’s not that Helvetia is inauthentic or fake—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. And to say that the presence of a Swiss community in the remote mountains of West Virginia is unlikely would deny the history and impact of the waves of immigration and relocation to central Appalachia by diverse cultural groups (there were several Swiss settlements scattered across the region in the late nineteenth century). But what makes Helvetia unusual resides not only in the cultural, historical, and social preservation of the nearly 150-year-old village but in something less tangible. There is an enchantment about the place that exudes from the hand-painted signs of coats of arms, Swiss phrases, historical markers, and the public buildings and homes adorned in Alpine gingerbread and bright floral patterns. It’s a magic that exists in the intimacy of a community whose families have been neighbors, friends, and colleagues for generations."
Read more via HUMANITIES Magazine
Along Davis Creek, in Loudendale, WV, outside of Charleston, there’s a long green building on the side of the road with the words “Charleston Broom and Mop Co.” painted on the side. That building is the workshop of James Shaffer, who at age 87, is the last hand-made commercial broom maker in the state. He first learned the trade in 1946, meaning he’s been making brooms for 70 years.
Read on via West Virginia Public Broadcasting