Catherine Venable Moore — Writer & Producer

Cedar Grove Summer Updates

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 at 10:37 am


Dear Supporters of Cedar Grove —

Hope you’re enjoying a festive WV Sesquicentennial Summer! Here we are again with news and updates on “Cedar Grove,” an hour-long radio documentary that tells the story of an Upper Kanawha Valley town through the voices of generations of women who have called it home, including acclaimed writer Mary Lee Settle. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to these past months.

* Sneak Peak! During a 2-week work session at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University this month, we produced a 10-minute rough cut “teaser” that previews some of the stories we’ll be telling in the longer piece. In it you’ll hear the voices of Mary Lee Settle, Paula Clendenin, Jean Lamb, Lynette Hudnall, Peggy Coleman, Katherine Atwater, and Shirley Ellis Stennet–not to mention the musical stylings of Patty Ellis Thurmon and the St. Paul Men’s Chorus out of St. Albans, WV. It’s rough, but ready enough to share…Take a read through the “host intro” and then go listen! 

Host Intro: “An autobiography that begins with one’s birth begins too late, in the middle of the story, sometimes at the end.” So begins “Addie,” the autobiography of acclaimed writer Mary Lee Settle. The National Book Award winner chose to tell her own story through the voice of her larger-than-life grandmother, Addie Lee Tompkins. Settle also wrote a series of five obsessively researched historical novels set in her ancestral home of Cedar Grove, West Virginia. Known collectively as The Beulah Quintet, the novels trace the area’s history over 400 years, from Cromwell’s England all the way to the late 20th century. Like other small towns in the Upper Kanawha Valley, present day Cedar Grove struggles with depopulation, addiction, and drug-related crime. Producer Catherine Moore spent a year talking to the women who live in the town today about their memories and experiences. In this piece, Mary Lee Settle talks about her work in archival recordings, backed up by the voices of the women who now live in the community she spent her life writing about. 

Listen here. 

* Fundraising for Photo Series We are currently raising funds to pay a West Virginia photographer to create a series of portraits of the women of Cedar Grove who are participating in the project, plus some street scapes and atmospheric shots of town for use on the website. If you would like to make a tax-deductable donation to support the photo project, contact Catherine ( / 304-663-2202). Checks can be made payable to Pocahontas Communications Cooperative and mailed to Allegheny Mountain Radio / Cedar Grove Project, Attn. Gibbs Kinderman / RR 1 Box 139 / Dunmore, WV 24934. Be sure and note on the check that the donation is for Cedar Grove. We really appreciate the support!

* Research on Tompkins slaves — The saga continues! We are now in touch with a member of the Tompkins family who may be in possession of a list of the names of enslaved people at the Tompkins plantation. This family member has generously agreed to let us comb through their papers this month. Wish us luck in unburying the identities of the people who truly built Cedar Grove.

* Booker T. Washington High School alumni gather every week at their former school in London to eat together, talk, and sing hymns. The segregated school was home to black students in the Upper Kanawha Valley until 1956. Catherine attended several meetings and recorded two of the oldest women present, who founded the group. Though a little shy of the microphone at first, they opened up quickly and said they enjoyed the opportunity to share their history.

* Archival Research Continues — Research trips to the University of Virginia Special Collections Library and the West Virginia State Archives have yielded many recordings of Mary Lee Settle reading and talking about her work, as well as some interesting Cedar Grove-related manuscripts. One favorite has been the diary of Jimmie Jones, born in 1853 and one of the early residents of Ward, right next to Cedar Grove. In his journals we found entries detailing Addie’s husband’s death on the train tracks, mine wars, and lots of hunting stories.

We’ll be doing a few more field recordings over the next several months–including the annual Thanksgiving service at historic Virginia’s Chapel–but recording for the project is more or less wrapped up. Now we’re moving on to the work of editing and shaping the piece, as well as building a website.

As always, you can plug in by spreading the word about the project and, if your budget allows, making a donation to support the photo series.

Take care, and enjoy the remaining summer!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *