Guest Scholars

Historians, poets, creative writers…are invited to submit essays, monographs, biographies, and book reviews to this website. The overarching purpose of this history exchange is to gather curriculum materials for scholars wishing to better understand the history of Southwest Virginia. Undergraduate and graduate history students in area colleges and universities are encouraged to submit papers, and to offer advice and expertise as volunteers and interns.

Jeff Kirwan, author of Remarkable Trees of Virginia, and recently retired faculty member in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources, has sent us a few paragraphs on the subject of “Place Names”…

Place names can tell us a lot about former landscapes, and the civilizations, plants and animals that resided there. The first such name that came to my attention was the word “buffalo.” I believe there are over 50 place names in Virginia that refer to the presence of buffalo at the time European exploration and settlement. These words are attached to creeks, mountains, rivers, roads, even gaps, suggesting that buffalo lived there, at least seasonally, and that there was probably extensive grassland or savannah on the landscape. (Most of Virginia would be forest without human intervention.) The words “calf”, “bull”, and “cow”, may also represent buffalo, if the names precede the establishment of European cattle on the landscape. For example, the Bullpasture, Cowpasture and Calfpasture Rivers in Highland County, Virginia, all refer to the presence of buffalo. Nearby Buffalo Gap refers to a place where buffalo entered the Shenandoah Valley for winter grazing. Tug River refers to buffalo hides.

The words “garden” and “meadow” at the time of settlement (such as Burke’s Garden, and Drapers Meadow) would also indicate a landscape already transformed and maintained by Indians. The name “elk” (a grass-loving species) as in Elk Garden, is double evidence of a human landscape.

Seth Woodard, who earned a master’s degree in history from Virginia Tech in 2006, wrote his thesis on the subject of the New River, and has graciously offered to allow us to publish his paper here. (This illustrates nicely the potential of this website to offer a comprehensive collection of scholarly research papers…and a useful curriculum for teaching and learning).

Here’s a wonderful manuscript about Apperson and his neighbors at Lake George called, A Preservationist Community by Douglas S. Langdon.

And here is a batch of poems written by Mabel Ward Apperson, wife of Alfred Hull Apperson (Ellen Brown’s uncle).  She grew up and lived all her life in Nelson County, Virginia, and it is a great pleasure to share with you her talent as a writer…  Poems by Mable Ward Apperson