While the food spread was wide and tasty, the event
is always about connecting to friends, old and new
The Whytsell Reunion was held Sunday, with direct and distant family members attending with a wide splattering of folks connected to the lower West Fork of the Little Kanawha River Valley.
The event honors an long Appalachian tradition of a special gathering once a year, a tradition that is fading in the 21st Century.
The Whytsell Reunion was started by the late Randall and Blache Whytsell 38 years ago, held every August between the long gone villages of Rocksdale and Richardson.
The tradition continues through the efforts of Marvin and Peggy Whytsell Stemple.
OLDTIMERS GRACE REUNION
L to R: Fish fryer Jim Bell, 89; Bernard Wyatt, 93; Olen Siers, 91
Sometime visitors bring their plastic jugs to the Whytsell Park to be filled with water from the free-flowing Hart spring, named for Civil War renegade Nancy Hart, whose family once lived nearby.
The Whytsell's came from the Shenandoah Valley to Lewis and Braxton counties, settling in Calhoun during the Civil War, marrying into the Lynchs, Andersons and Starchers, among many other early families.
Randall's dad and mom, Edwin and Rettie Starcher Whytsell, were fixtures on the lower West Fork of the Little Kanawha for much of the last century, their home established in 1922 above the Village of Richardson.
Charlie McKown (left) belts "West Fork Valley Home,"
with musician Daniel Hall (right), "all growd up"
See MUSIC MAKIN' - Daniel Got His First Guitar At Four, "It Seemed Natural To Me"
"MY WEST FORK VALLEY HOME" was first sung by Randall Whytsell and his late brother Woodrow, appearing on Parkersburg radio in 1940:
In the West Fork Valley far away where people take their ease
they dance all night and sleep all day and wake up when they please
Where a man of means eats turnip greens while the common folks are fed
sassafras tea, hominy, sow jowls and corn bread.
But the robin bird keeps singing in the laurel and the spruce
The old cow bells keep ringing as the cows come home to roost
The sun goes down and the moon comes up just like it's always done
Then we'll pick old Kentucky in my West Fork Valley home.
My West Fork girl don't use face paint
She has no use for such
And in a crowd she don't curse loud or drink corn likker much
She has never smoked a cigarette
She's far too nice and good
She always smokes a corn cob pipe like a proper lady should.
Now I've got a mule on the West Fork creek who has no maw or paw
I whip him fifteen times a day to teach him gee and haw
When his feed get scarce, I go to town and spend green backs on hay
To make him think the old corn stalks I'm feeding him is hay.
While walking with my city girl we met a big pole cat
I told her they made furs and muffs and fuzzy things like that
She said I think I'll capture him
I wonder what I'll make
And I said sister my guess is you'll make a big mistake.