Appalachian Collection Finding Aids

The Appalachian Collection contains manuscripts and other primary materials that document the history and culture of Southwest Virginia and Appalachia. Collections include the Highland Summer Conference Collection and the Virginia, Iron, Coal and Coke Company Collection . In addition to these collections, McConnell Library has an extensive collection of books, CDs, video recordings, journals, and other materials related to regional history, coal mining and labor unions, environmental action, and Appalachian literature.

Across the Way Productions, Inc. (Guide) - Across the Way Productions was started in June 2000 by Chris Hodges for the purpose of bringing a world music festival to Floyd County, Virginia.  Over time, the company, under Hodges and Erica Johnson, developed other music festivals and events including Floyd Fandango, Capital Carnival, Vintage Virginia Wine and Food Festival, and the Totally Rad Roanoke Star City Concert Series.  This collection includes examples of the company’s advertising, recordings, photographs, tickets and etc. 

Appalachian Folklife Archive - The Appalachian Folklife Archive at Radford University is a collection of around 650 field collection projects compiled and submitted by undergraduate folklore students from 1981 through November 2020 and by graduate folklore and folk culture students between 1987 and 2009. A handful of projects were completed by advanced high school students enrolled in a grant-funded seminar course in the mid-1980s.  Topics for these projects are varied but all center on some aspect of life in Appalachia including local history, family history, food preparation, ghost stories, traditional handcrafts, music, farming, moonshine, etc.  Some of these projects have accompanying audio recordings.

Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center Main Archive - The Main Archive of the Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center (originally Appalachian Regional Studies Center) is a diverse collection of 905 printed items (some with audio and photographs) created or published primarily between 1973 and 2010 and compiled between 1981 and 2010. Most of the collection consists of unpublished individual and collaborative papers and projects, scholarly and creative, contributed  by Radford University students enrolled primarily in English and Appalachian Studies courses from freshman to graduate level account for more than a third of the collection. The remainder comprises various donated documents and work created by professional scholars, journalists, publicists, and creative writers. Works include analyses, brochures, criticism, essays, fiction, pamphlets, poetry, (event) programs, reviews, and teaching guides addressing topics such as film, folklore and folklife, music, popular culture, photography, the Selu Conservancy (at Radford University), visual arts, and women’s studies, as viewed from perspectives within the liberal arts and the social and natural sciences.

Arthur R. Giesen Collection - Arthur R. Giesen was born in Radford, VA (1932-2021).  Both his grandfather, and his father were Mayors of Radford, and his mother was part of the Radford City Council and was later elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.  Arthur Giesen was also elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served roughly from 1963-1996.  This collection consists of a large paper he wrote in which he photographed and described the architecture and history of homes and buildings in Radford.

Billy Edd Wheeler John Brown Collection - Billy Edd Wheeler is a noted Appalachian playwright and songwriter who penned such plays as Hatfields and McCoys and songs such as “Jackson,” made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. This collection contains contains Act I and a synopsis of Act II of the play John Brown by Billy Edd Wheeler, a drama based on the life and career of radical abolitionist John Brown, to be performed outdoors in or near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, the site of Brown’s famous Armory Raid. The manuscript consists of a finished Act I and a two-page Synopsis for an as-yet-unwritten Act II, but the play was apparently never completed or produced. The collection also includes minutes and correspondence related to the play, which helps explain why the play was never finished.(1974)

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Collection - The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was founded in 1883 by 8 brakemen form the Deleware & Hudson Railroad in Oneota, NY and remined one of the largest fraternal labor organizations in the United States until its absorption into the National Transportation Union in 1969.  This collection consists of one Attendance Register dated 1902-1915, and two Minutes books dated 1886-1892, and 1900-1905.

Clara L. Snodgrass and Rural Retreat Letter Collection - Contains approximately 450 letters and original mail envelopes of correspondence between Miss C.L. Snodgrass of New Castle, Virginia and R.L. SIzer, Neal Philips, R. H. Miller, and Della Miller from 1903-1928. The collection contains personal letters, applications and rejections for employment in public schools, discussions of regional topics and local news, descriptions of local places, and other topics that paint a picture of life in Southwest Virginia in the early 20th Century.

City of Radford Collection - Pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and other materials - Finding Aid

Coal and Labor Book & Pamphlet Collection - Nonfiction books, pamphlets, plays, poems, novels, government documents, union publications, and other materials related to coal mining and labor conditions

Corn and Culture Collection - The Year of Corn and Culture was a campus-wide celebration of corn that included classes taught by various Radford University faculty members and cultural events throughout the year.  Some of the many important events include a large display of Huichol Art, lectures and demonstrations by Juan Negrin, an original play by Kathryn Obenshain, and a Corn and Culture Symposium.  The idea of the year-long event is closely associated with the Selu Conservancy and its donor, John H. Bowles.  This collection contains correspondence, steering committee minutes, course proposals, photographs etc.

Dr. James Lewis Early Collection - Dr. James Lewis Early was a son of William K. Early and Miss Mary Louisa Belo. Dr. Early’s father was a Veteran Confederate Soldier and served as a Private to Colonel A. C. Dunn and General W. E. Jones for about four years before being honorable discharged from Service. William K. Early also appears to be a close relative to General Jubal Early, Robert E Lee’s “Bad Old Man.” Contains newspaper clippings, letters to Miss Melita Rorer Wilson, photos and miscellaneous material that came with the collection.

Earl Palmer Collection - Earl Palmer was a well-known photographer who specialized in photographing the Appalachian Region.  His subjects include of moonshiners, moonshine stills, Appalachians doing hand crafts, Appalachians carrying out daily work chores, log cabins, landscapes etc.  The Earl Palmer Collection consists of photographs, records from Palmer owned and run grocery stores, information and effects from his years as Mayor of Cambria Virginia, records from Chapter #53 of the local AARP, and various personal financial records.

Folklore and Music of Virginia Collection - News clippings, pamphlets, booklets, flyers, student papers and other materials related to folklore in Virginia.

Grace Toney Edwards Collection - This collection consists of teaching materials, presentation information and materials, correspondence, and research materials used by Grace Toney Edwards during her years at Radford University. Many of the files in this collection are included to represent various aspects of Dr. Toney-Edwards' collecting and research style, specifically very large vertical files that held newspaper articles of local and Appalachian interests, various newsletters, reference files of works and information about Appalachian authors (Author Files) and musicians, and information about Appalachian based courses offered at other institutions. Included in this collection is information about the planning, dedication, and use of the Selu conservancy at Radford University; also included are chapter drafts, correspondence and publishing information for A Handbook of Appalachia, published in 2006.

Harley Cordle Coal Mining Collection - Pay stubs, documents, and photos from Harley Cordle, a coal miner from Tazewell County, Virginia. Includes a print finding aid and an online collection of photographs. Portions of this collection have been digitized

Highland Summer Conference Collection - The Highland Summer Conference was started in 1978 with guest authors Cratis Williams, Sylvia Wilkinson, and James Seay.  Generally, each year 2-4 authors are invited to teach, advise, critique, and interact with conference participants on or near the campus of Radford University. A brief example of participating authors includes Marilou Awiakta, Jim Wayne Miller, Sharyn McCrumb, Diane Gilliam, Gurney Norman, Denise Giardina, Loyal Jones, and many others.  This collection consists of administrative and planning files, and author files containing correspondence, advertising and biographical information.

Manuscripts and streaming videos from Appalachian writers associated with Radford’s annual Highland Summer Conference:

Chelsea Adams Papers - Contains unpublished drafts and completed poems and short stories by Radford University faculty and students, as well as various chapbooks and regional poetry collections. Writers and poets represented include Laurie Cubbison, Julia Delbridge, Willie Everhart, Barbara Ewell, Louis Gallo, Opal Moore, Parks Lanier, Rich Murphy, Tim Poland, and Rita Riddle.  Part of the Highland Summer Conference Collection.

Rita Sizemore Riddle Papers - Contains published and unpublished stories, essays, poetry, writing group materials, notebooks by Rita Sizemore Riddle (1941-2006). Rita Sizemore Riddle (1941-2006) grew up in a coal-mining family in Dickenson County, VA. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1971 and began teaching English at Radford University, where she taught Shakespeare and creative writing until her retirement in 2002.

Bill Brown Papers - This collection consists of notebooks Mr. Brown used to take notes and to write early versions of poems. In some cases the final versions of poems are also included as later add-ins. Also included is correspondence, awards, photographs, and teaching manuals written by Brown (Student Centered Learning).

Heidi Hartwiger Papers - Heidi Hartwiger is a storyteller, teacher, and editor. A member of the "Selu Sisters" of writers associated with Radford University, Born in Ohio and raised in West Virginia, she writes books and articles about Appalachia and natural topics. 

J. Lewis Graham, Sr. Collection - J. Lewis Graham, Sr. was employed at the Radford branch of the Lynchburg Foundry for roughly 45 years.  He was a metallurgist and his work there included being lab manager.  The Lynchburg Foundry was founded in 1896 in Lynchburg, VA and had a branch in Radford, VA.  This collection includes professional newsletters, journals, photographs, and other things pertinent to the foundry.

“The Iron Worker” Collection -The Official Publication of the Lynchburg Foundry, which operated the Radford Pipe Works. Issues contain information about the Radford and Lynchburg pipe plants, including articles about plant policies, procedures, and personnel, as well as many photographs. Many issues also include articles on local history in the Lynchburg and New River Valley areas. (1934-1977)

Long Way Home Board Game - In 1996 Radford University student Jennifer Bunn created a game inspired by the book The Long Way Home that she read as part of Grace Toney Edwards Appalachian Literature class.  This collection consists of one special edition copy of the game and supplemental information about it.

New River Coal Fields Collection - Correspondence of coal and land speculator James T. McCreery of Hinton, West Virginia, documenting the purchase and sale of extensive land holdings in the New River Coal Fields of West Virginia. Dating from 1887-1900, this collection also contains correspondence with M. Erskine Miller of Staunton, Virginia, a major investor who purchased land from McCreery. Contains over 1700 letters in five boxes and four copybooks. McCreery, aided by a host of outside investors, was able to obtain control of mineral rights and rights-of-way on vast tracts of land throughout southern West Virginia, in what would become known as the New River Coal Fields, primarily in the counties of Mercer, Fayette, Raleigh,and McDowell .It comprises one of the earliest and most complete records available to illustrate this transformation of southern West Virginia from a primarily agrarian, smallholder economy to a major North American hub of extractive industry. In letters that are frank, candid and at times revelatory, McCreery’s copybooks offer a detailed, day-to-day picture of the life and methods of a coal company land agent in the very earliest years of Appalachia’s industrialization.

New River Free Press Collection - The New River Free Press was a monthly newspaper that circulated in the New River Valley region of Virginia from February 1983- September 2007.  The newspaper covered a variety of issues from a progressive worldview including issues and stories concerning local matters, national politics and world events, environmental issues, social justice issues, health and welfare issues etc.

New River Valley Environmental Coalition Collection - This collection contains documents relating to the New River Valley Environmental Coalition, a non-profit environmental organization active in the 1990s in the New River Valley. The NRVEC promoted environmental conservation and was active in regional conferences and local government. The documents in this collection include fliers, newspaper clippings, reports, correspondence, and other assorted papers.

Parks Lanier Appalachian Literature Collection - The Parks Lanier Appalachian Literature Collection contains materials donated by retired Radford University English professor Dr. Parks Lanier. The collection, which contains both fiction and non-fiction materials relating to Appalachia, is comprised of 380 books, an extensive academic journal collection, and a number of maps and letters of correspondence. The collection also contains materials on Selu Conservancy and Marilou Awiakta, a Cherokee poet and author.

Radford Iron Company Records - The Radford Iron Company was active in Radford City and nearby Pulaski County for nearly 100 years. The Radford Iron Company Records Collection contains documents, maps, ledgers, and other assorted materials regarding the operations of the company from pre-1867 to 1947. Much of the material is comprised of financial documents including inventory forms, tax records, land deeds, and ledgers.

Radford Army Ammunition Plant Collection - The Radford Army Ammunition Plant, also known as the Radford Arsenal, was commissioned in 1940 and put into operation in 1941 by the United States government. The facility, still currently in operation, produced powder for the military during World War II. The Radford Army Ammunition Plant Collection contains documents, booklets, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets from the first 25 years of the plant’s operations, from 1941 to 1966. Seventy-one issues of the Plant’s official newsletter, The Radford Plant Weekly, are also included in the collection.

Roanoke Historical Clippings Collection -This collection documents the history of Roanoke and how the area developed from 1921-1980. Includes reports, pamphlets, maps, and other information about schools, hospitals, businesses, the public library, social life, the 1976 Bicentennial, health issues, railroads, and other Roanoke material.

Selu Collection - Selu Conservancy is a 380 acre area on the Little River that was donated to Radford University by members of the Bowles family.  The conservancy has been used as a teaching, research, and conference center since 1989.  The name Selu was suggested by Cherokee poet Marilou Awiakta, a frequent visitor to Selu and a friend of the university.  The material in this collection includes steering committee minutes, photographs, archaeological artifacts, information about restoration of buildings and oral history interviews of previous residents of the farm.

Southwest Virginia Clippings Collection - The Southwest Virginia Clippings Collection contains documents, pamphlets, booklets, and newspaper clippings collected at McConnell Library in the 1970s and 1980s. The materials in this collection document happenings in Southwest Virginia over a span of 50 years beginning in 1925; many were written by local Southwest Times writer Goodridge Wilson.

Southwestern Virginia, Inc. Collection - Southwestern Virginia, Inc. was a regional Chamber of Commerce that promoted regional identity, the development of transportation, industry, agriculture, and tourism in a 17 county region ranging from Roanoke to Bristol. They published a magazine,The Mountain Empire, held regional meetings, commissioned regional industrial surveys, and helped sponsor events like the White Top Festival. John Preston McConnell was president of the organization, which was active in the 1920s and 30s. The collection contains correspondence, official documents and publicity, organizational records, newspaper clippings, and other materials.

Tennessee Valley Authority Publications Collection - The Tennessee Valley Authority Publications Collection contains official reports, maps, sales data, promotional flyers, and other written materials issued by the Tennessee Valley Authority during the period of the 1930s to the late 1950s.

The Perspective Collection - 27 issues of a bi-monthly newspaper produced by a group of Radford University students from October 1986 until Sept 1990.  This newspaper covered a variety of local, national, and international issues from a conservative perspective.

Virginia Counties Clipping Files - Western Region – Western Region Collection contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets, brochures, papers, and other written materials collected at McConnell Library during the 1970s and 1980s. The materials in the collection focus on the counties of Giles, Pulaski, Montgomery, Floyd, Grayson, Allegheny, and Augusta. The collection covers a wide range of topics including education, politics, economics, public health, and religion among others. The materials span the majority of the twentieth century.

Virginia Deal Lawrence Scrapbook Collection - The Virginia Deal Lawrence Scrapbook Collection contains materials from the personal collections of Riner, VA resident Virginia Deal Lawrence. Materials in the collection include scrapbooks filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, letters, receipts, photographs, and personal notes. The bulk of the material is from the 1940’s to the 1990’s, but the collection contains material from the 1880’s to 2008. All the material was gathered and preserved by Miss Lawrence and her mother, Fannie Deal Smith Lawrence, through their love of scrapbook collecting. The collection primarily contains articles about the Roanoke and New River Valleys, with specific attention given to the Riner community. Newspaper articles about local history, people, places, and events are found throughout the collection. This collection has been digitized.

Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company Records - The Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company was created in 1899 in Southwest Virginia and owned a number of mines, furnaces, and other resource-related business. The Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company Records Collection contains documents, maps, deeds, correspondence, ledgers, and other written materials related primarily to the operations of the VICC from the 1900s to the 1960s. Information on VICC operations in Bedford, Botetourt, Wythe, and Roanoke counties, the cities of Bristol and Radford, and the area of eastern-Tennessee are included in the materials. Portions of this collection have been digitized.

Virginia Mines & Mineral Resources Collection - The Virginia Mines & Mineral Resources Collection contains materials related to coal mining, mineral deposits, and the local geology of Southwest Virginia. Included in the collection are government documents, maps, pamphlets, reports, and other printed in the time period of the 1920s to the 1980s; these materials were collected at McConnell Library during the 1970s and 1980s.

Virginia Outdoors Pamphlet and Clippings Collection - Contains pamphlets, newspaper clippings, publications, and other materials related toforestry, water supplies, dams, and other outdoor topics. The material was collected up through the 1970s in clipping files in McConnell Library.

William C. Blizzard Photography Collection - This collection contains approximately 10,000 photographic slides taken by William C. Blizzard. Blizzard was a photojournalist who documented many aspects of life in West Virginia and surrounding region. His subjects range from news photography depicting coal miners and the coal industry, to scenic nature photos, to regional arts and crafts. Portions of this collection have been digitized

William C. and Bill Blizzard When Miners March Coal & Labor Collection - Contains materials from the personal collection of union leader Bill Blizzard and his son, author and journalist William C. Blizzard. Includes items related to William C. Blizzard, the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain and subsequent trial, United Mine Workers local union activity in West Virginia, and the writing of When Miners March. It also includes additional writings and photographs from William C. Blizzard. Portions of this collection have been digitized

Regional Merchant Ledger Books:

Brook Hall and Emory & Henry Ledgers - The Brook Hall and Emory & Henry Ledgers Collection contains materials given to Dr. John Preston McConnell during his tenure at Emory and Henry College. The collection contains the ledgers of Brook(e) Hall, the home and trading post of Colonel Alexander Biers. Brook(e) Hall was an important trading post in between Virginia and Tennessee and conducted business transactions in the form of a general storm, saw mill, granary, distillery, and tannery. The collection also contains six account statements between Emory and Henry College and merchant Jos. W. Davis, dated various months in 1854-1855.

Chumbley & Harper Company Ledger - The Chumbley & Harper Company Ledger Collection contains the personal, business, and legal documents of Mr. Joseph Harper Chumbley, a banker, general store owner, and Confederate veteran from Pulaski County, VA. The collection is comprised of business records, correspondence, newspaper articles, and accounting documents that relate to Chumbley’s personal and professional life. Also included are letters written by Chumbley’s wife Ellen during the Civil War. The materials in this collection cover the years 1861-1918.

Edmonson Electric Company Collection - The Edmondson Electric Company was formed by the Edmondson brothers in 1914 and was located in Meadowview, VA. Shortly after being issued its charter the company began construction of the Edmondson Dam on the Middle Fork of the Holston River, not far from Emory, VA. The Edmondson’s hydroelectric operation supplied the towns of Chilhowie, Meadowview, Emory, Glade Spring, and Abingdon with electricity. This collection contains seven ledger books containing financial records and journal entries from 1914 to 1934.

Gwinn Brothers Store Ledger - This ledger from 1901-1909 appears to have been the property of Gwinn Bros., General Merchandise and Lumber in Meadow Creek, West Virginia, owned by J.E. and William Abraham Gwinn. Besides the individual customers listed, the ledger also includes pages for the First National Bank of Alderson, the C&O Railroad, the Alaska Coal Co., the Meadow River Lumber Co, and other businesses. There is also a page from 14 March 1903 for the United Mine Workers of America that lists the names of thirty-three people, and a subsequent page for a Union Supply Company.

James Zoll Ingles Ferry Store Account Book - The James Zoll Ingles Ferry Store Account Book Collection contains an 1850s ledger owned by merchant James Zoll whose store was located in or around Ingles Ferry and operated c. 1850-1870s. The collection contains original store documents, receipts, and personal correspondence in addition to a letter written by Dr. John Preston McConnell indicating the origin of the materials. The ledger was donated to Radford College by James Zoll in 1935.

Marion Grocery Co. - The Marion Grocery Company Collection contains business records from the Hull and Staley Company (aka Marion Grocery Company) from 1905 to 1906. The collection is comprised of two cash and expenditure ledgers from Marion and Troutdale, VA.