Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"Answer at Once": Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park, 1934-1938 Hardcover – November 11, 2009
"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game. Pre-order today
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Unlike most U.S. national parks, which were carved out of public lands, Shenandoah National Park was in part created through the condemnation of private lands held by more than 500 families, many of which had been on their land for generations. As condemnations and evictions rolled on and the park grew around them, many of these people wrote government officials--usually in pencil, on ruled paper from school tablets--to negotiate, ask for services, or for other reasons. Frequently poignant, sometimes funny, and with a spirit that belies depictions of the evictees as ignorant, lawless hillbillies, the selection from these letters contained in this volume show a little known aspect of the creation of what is now viewed as a national treasure.(Book News, Inc.)
About the Author
Katrina M. Powell is Associate Professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the author of The Anguish of Displacement: The Politics of Literacy in the Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park (Virginia).
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
Some historical background is necessary in order to understand these letters. One of the most frequently-visited and beloved of the National Parks, the Shenendoah National Park (SNP) was established in 1935. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, also part of Appalachia, was established at about the same time and under circumstances closely resembling those of SNP. The SNP was a joint project of Virginia and the United States. In the 1920s, Virginia condemned under the eminent domain power the lands for the park and then transferred the lands to the United States. Much of the land was owned by large corporations, but small mountain farmers also lived and owned property in the park.
In the late 1920s, it was thought that the mountaineers might be allowed to remain in the Park. But in the 1930's, the National Park Service (NPS) decided that the Park would be maintained in a pristine state and that the landowners would need to be moved. Some of the families moved out voluntarily and relocated, but others did not. The Federal government established homestead locations near the Park for some but not all of the families. There were delays in the relocation resulting first from a judicial challenge by some large landowners to the authority to condemn the property which was not resolved until 1935. Then, there were delays in establishing the homesteads. Consequently, the NPS allowed the mountain families to remain in the Park in their homes from 1934 -- 1938 until provisions for relocation had been completed. By this time, Virginia had bought or condemned the land and the families had been compensated. They were allowed to remain on a year-to-year basis at the sufferance of the NPS under a restrictive document known as a Special Use Permit. About 350 families remained in the Park under permits beginning in 1934, and some moved out voluntarily or were relocated before the conclusion of the program at the end of 1938. Those remaining in the SNP tended to be the poorest of the mountain families and those most reluctant to move. At the conclusion of the process about 45 families, consisting largely of elderly people, were given life tenure in the SNP and were not required to move.
Powell gives an overview of this history and then presents the text of 150 of about 300 letters written by Shenandoah mountain people during the years in which they were in a state of limbo in the SNP. Most of the letters were written to the superintendent and rangers at the SNP, but a number of them were written to Federal officials in Washington, D.C. and to officials of the State of Virginia. Powell wants to show how the letters contradicted the stereotype of the mountain people prevalent at the time as poor, ignorant, and isolated, with little ability to function in the modern world. The letters while written by people with little in the way of formal education, show that the mountain people understood the circumstances in which they were placed and tried valiantly to deal with them. They wrote to the SNP to try to protect and better themselves during a harsh transitional period.
Most of the letters address the ambiguities of the year-by-year tenure of the mountain people in the SNP. The use permit was a narrow document which allowed the families to farm their former tracts but to do little else. In many of the letters, the residents ask to move into a larger house that had been vacated by families who had already left the Park. (All the houses were scheduled for demolition.) Other letters sought permission to use materials from the vacated houses, to gather dead wood (the taking of live wood was strictly prohibited), to expand grazing or farming areas, or to engage in small commercial ventures -- such as selling flowers from the roadside to tourists driving through the Park. Other letters sought information on the upcoming relocation. Still other letters involved disputes among the remaining mountain families. With the transfer of the lands to the NPS, the park administration essentially served as the government for the families remaining in the SNP.
The letters show impoverished people making the best of difficult circumstances and trying to get on as best as they could. About 80 percent of the letters were written by men. Responses to the letters are not provided in the book, but they tended to be clipped and, as the years went on, increasingly negative. Park administrators were reluctant to be seen as engaging in favoritism among the residents. Their goal was to conclude the process as soon as they could.
The letters are arranged by year, with Powell offering an introductory commentary. She also cross-cites the letters, where the same person wrote several times over the years. She provides information on where the families lived and on how much they were paid for their property. In some instances, she provides information on the correspondents' lives after they left the SNP. In a brief epilogue, Powell discusses the unsuccessful efforts of some former residents to return to SNP to live after 1939.
In creating the beautiful SNP, the lives of the mountain people and the hardships they endured deserve to be remembered with respect. Powell's book will help achieve that end. By its design, this book focuses only upon a relatively small aspect of the lives of the mountaineers and of the history of the removal process. Many readers interested in the SNP and in the mountain people might want to begin with a more general, less specialized account. The story of the mountain people is a sometimes neglected part of the American experience. I was pleased to read of it in this book and to share something of the story with readers of this review.