Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 92
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May 23, 1976

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 92

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, May 23, 1976
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Page 92
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25V -Mty 23,1976 Sundav --CMritiloiv lAtsi Viryni* Good News from Herri Photo Supply rafting i$ becoming increasingly popular in wild mountain stream*. Photo by Gerald S. Ratliff. i young, Old Drawn to French Creek Zoo Introducing Pronto! Polaroid's newest camera that takes SX-70 pictures. By Murtce Brooki The State Game Farm at French Creek doesn't need advertising. Throughout the year, but especially on summer holidays and weekends, visitors flock there. Young and old, they come from everywhere, drawn by the endless lure of living wild animals. Ever since mankind emerged from · savagery he has been establishing zoos, · menageries, and wildlife preserves. The one in Upshur County is West Virginia's response to a universal behavior pattern. Most of our larger native mammals, and . a good representation of our larger birds, may be found there. There have been rein- troductions of species once native to West Virginia, but which have disappeared from our wild country. Buffaloes and American elk once were found throughout the state; they have given names to rivers, creeks, mountains, and other natural features. But they were hunted out of our region early in the last century, long be. fore the memory span of any person living, but cherished as a bit of our heritage. Now it is possible to see them again on .West Virginia soil. Among the thousands drawn to the · Game Farm, there may be occasional in' dividuals who would enjoy knowing more ,: of the area, its history, and its people. ; The earliest European settlers who ~ came to French Creek were-hunters, : trap- ;.pers, and Indian fighters, and few of them -" were interested in trying to wrest a living' ,'. from steep, rocky, and usually infertile soil. The French Creek region has no out: i cropping limestone, no fertile alluvial' 5 meadows, no gently rolling bluegrass-covered hills, those who farm such acres ' must expect heavy toil and low return for. =their efforts. . In the early. 19th century, however, . there came to the community a hardy , band of settlers, a considerable number of them, who had coped with poor, rocky ^ soils, who knew.how to adjust to steep hills · and narrow valleys, and who had the stamina and determination to meet, and to overcome, just about any adversities which .-:. might arise. Most of them were New Eng- ··'· landers, from western Massachusetts, ; from; Vermont, and from Connecticut. Families represented were, among others, Goulds; Yourigs, Phillipses, Aldens, Sextons, Leonards, Brookses, and Morgans--pioneer stock who were about to reenact some of the experiences which .their forefathers had undergone a few generations earlier. They came to familiar wooded country, steep slopes, and rocky : acres-all familiarr-but they settled in Virginia, a state with unfamiliar institu- ; tions, economy, and government. To a surprising degree, they clung to their ethnic traditions, sometimes against the weight of local sentiment, and they came to inf lu- ' ence the thinking of their new homeland, just as they inevitably adjusted to the cus- - toms and traditions of their adopted neighbors. For a century and a half at least, . French Creek was a detached bit of New England. '. Two institutions were particularly cherished; free schools and protestant churches. Schooling for young people began in pioneer cabins, but separate buildings for that purpose soon arose. On a hill above the village a Presbyterian church was erected, and it stands where it has been for over 150 years. A companion Methodist church was placed in the village proper. All local families were within Walking distance of a public school. The particular neighborhood of which the Game Farm is a part was known as Mulberry Ridge, its name derived from a huge red mulberry tree which grew beside the country road which served the area. Few were the travelers (they weren't passing at fifty miles per hour in those days) who didn't pause in season to sample the dark, juicy mulberries which this great tree bore. As might be expected, the Mulberry Ridge School was a few hundred yards away. My maternal grandparents owned and lived on the present Game Farm. My mother attended Mulberry Ridge School, her first teacher a dedicated young man of the community, Robert A. Armstrong. In time he left French Creek to attend West Virginia University, remained to take his place on its faculty, and was to become the head of its English Department and twice its acting President. It is altogether fitting that Armstrong Hall on the present University's campus should house the English Department. In a faftnhouse which stood, where the Game Farm's superintendent now lives, my father courted and married my mother. His home was a mile northeast from the Game Farm, within easy walking distance". '""' My father's parents cleared and farmed a hundred acres or so of Upshur County's soil. I still own a portion of the old place, and its productivity today is about as low as it was in earlier days. Nevertheless, in such unpromising surroundings my grandparents raised to adulthood-nine children, none of whom did badly. One daughter never married, in proper New England tradition she remained with her parents to care for them in tlieir old age. One of her sisters married a Scotsman from New Brunswick, one of those skilled and hardy Canadians who came to the Greenbrier Valley to harvest and move to market its magnificent forests of red spruce and white pine. :"' When the St. Lawrence Lumber Company established a sawmill at Ronceverte. they expected that logs for their mill would be floated to them on the flood of the Greenbrier River. To their surprise they found that West Virginia mountaineers had no experience or skill in moving heavy logs, millions of them, on the crest of high waters. So they imported men who did understand such matters; one of them married an aunt of mine, and he spent the remainder of his life at French Creek. Three younger daughters of the family married physicians, all of whom served West Virginia communities. Many of their children became teachers and professional people, now widely dispersed throughout our land. The- four sons in the family all became naturalists, each with his own specialty, but each with an abiding interest in every condition and every living thing outdoors. In one way or another, each became associated with West Virginia University; the University's biological science building bears their family name. I attended my first country school in the Mulberry Ridge Schoolhouse. The old building has long since disappeared, but after 67 years my first teacher still resides in Buckhannon. Upshur County people tend toward longevity. So you will now understand that I do carry a considerable number of ties to and memories of the Game Farm area. For .me it's something more than an attractive display of native wildlife, a foremost tourist mecca. It holds many strands which are interwoven into the fabric of my being. You were warned earlier that this would be highly personal. When I am in the Game Farm area I can say, with the Scottish Highland, "I stand upon my native heath." Some years ago the renowned wood sculpture artist, Wolfgang Flor, chose to locate his studio a few miles beyond the Game Farm. He has gathered an enthusiastic and talented group of associated artists--working in ceramics, leather- craft, and other artisan pursuits. These people are adding immeasurably to'cultur- al life-of the area. A few miles' drive through pleasant and scenic wooded country will bring the traveler to the picturesque village of Helvetia. a Swiss community in the Randolph County mountains. Just about one hundred years ago J. H. Diss DeBar, the designet · of West Virginia's Great Seal, encouraged a group of his fellow countrymen to settle at Helvetia, and their descendants, some of them, still cling to the customs and ideals which they brought from Europe. Among other things, they transported a tradition of fine cheese making, and in i few Helvetia homes it is still a prized .product of local husbandry. From their home cantons they brought their regional costumes; a few are still cherished, and are likely to appear at the time of the loca I fair and other festivities. They imported plants and seeds from the homeland, and a surprising number of these have found Urn West Virginia mountains congenial, and have gone wild in the area. They carried with them a love of music, dancing, ami rural gaiety; a party in one of the Swiss; homes (and they welcome every excuse to plan one!) is likely to be a lively affair. And, not least among their gifts to the region,* they brought with them a genetic strain which, generation after generation, produces a surprising number of beautiful girls and women. - · So, when you visit the Game Farm, enjoy its animals; they are, after all, its reason for being. But don't neglect some of the other possibilities which the region offers. -- . '·-·-.' .' ' . ·. · . $ 66. Now SX-70 picture-taking fun can b« yours with Polaroid's new Pronto! Land camera. % Beautiful color pictures develop before your eyes in minutes. · Takes pictures from 3' to infinity outdoors, 3' to 12' with flash. . · Fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.. · Hangs easily around your neck. · Weighs only 16 ounces. · Uses convenient 10-shot Flash Bar PHOTO SUPPLY 133 HALE ST. PHONI 343-0141 B.R.I.T. TIRE CO. 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