From Gail Hatton:
Acknowledgements are made to the Hammonses as the source and inspiration for this project, which was made possible by their willing hospitality and warm welcome to those interested.
Our greatest debt of gratitude is due to the Hammonses themselves. As we followed the Hammons timeline, we saw that they were in Kentucky in the 1700s. My own ancestors were also in Kentucky in the 1700s. My paternal grandparents (Adams) were some of the first settlers in that part of Kentucky. At that time, their lifestyle was similar to the one that the Hammons would have led.
As I was growing up in Kentucky, I became aware of how welcoming my grandparents were to me. They took me into their home whenever I would visit, and involved me in all the activities of their daily life. I was exposed to their dialect, their music, and their humble yet forthright interaction with others. It was through this experience with my own grandparents that I came to a later understanding of the Hammons Family. I never met the Hammonses personally, but came to know them through Dwight Diller. This project brought me close to them, through the experience I had with my grandparents’ culture. The things that I learned from my grandparents have become for me the things that I have gone on to value and hold onto in life.
I am thankful to the Hammonses for their kindness without condescension, their matter-of- fact attitude towards life, and their willingness to share whatever they had. I was able to understand this and identify with it, because of the early relationship that I had with my own grandparents, who were a part of the mountain culture of South Eastern Kentucky, and who were always so happy for me to be a part of it.
I hope through this project to give back some of the respect and acceptance to the Hammonses that I learned and enjoyed as a child.
is a native son of West Virginia. On his mother’s side, his family came from the mountains of Pocahontas County, having settled there in the 1700s. From the time that he was five years old, Dwight was very drawn, first to the mountain stories of his own family, and then to the stories that came from the local community that he came from. In 1968 he met Hamp Carpenter, a fiddle and banjo player, whose ancestors were among the first settlers in middle West Virginia. It was through Hamp that Dwight became reconnected with the continuing threads of his earlier fascination with the old stories that came out of the 1700s. Dwight was beginning to pick up the old style banjo and Hamp provided this ‘hopeful’ with necessary encouragement.
1n 1969 he met Lee Hammons and the children of Paris Hammons, who were all living near Marlinton, Dwight’s home town. His great interest in his own cultural roots led him to
spend the next 45 years finding ways to keep hold of, to safeguard, and to pass along this heritage, through playing Appalachian Mountain banjo and fiddle, and ballad singing, teaching across the U.S. and in Europe, making commercial recordings and instructional DVDs, a feature-length film, and providing the music for a short natural history film of the flora and fauna above 4000 feet in the mountains of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
At that time, he felt that it was overwhelmingly important to try to prevent the stories and the music that he was hearing, from being lost to other West Virginians. He began alone to make field recordings of the oral traditions coming from Hamp Carpenter, Lee Hammons, and the surviving members of the Hammons family. He also took 600 black&white photographs during two weekends in October 1970. These recordings and photographs he eventually made into an audio-visual presentation in 1988 which he called “Yew Pine Mountain,” put together in order to continue to give the recognition that he felt was due to this oral tradition. A small grant was awarded for two slide projectors and a sound sync machine from the West Virginia Humanities Council. For twelve years he showed this Presentation to any folks who were interested, and continued to teach this same tradition of music that included the background culture that the music came from.
Forty years on, 1969-2009, the technology to update this became more available, and so he applied for another West Virginia Humanities Council grant, to continue the vision that he had originally had of giving this tradition back to the people of West Virginia. This current presentation is called “Across the Yew Pines,” and the plans are to place a copy in every library and college in the state. A further hope is to make a shorter version for Primary and Secondary schools, inclusive of lesson plans.
The project has been supported and encouraged by two Pocahontas County non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations: Pocahontas Free Libraries and the Yew Pine Cultural Traditions.
It contains a selection of 29 out of a total of 130 stories told by the Hammons and transcribed in dialect by Gail Hatton, who began the process of transcribing in 2005. Gail then taught herself how to use the Sony Vegas Pro software that was to put together the four hour documentary made up of these original field recordings. Dwight and Gail worked together on this project, Dwight choosing and assembling the material, and Gail processing it on the computer. Wayne Howard was very generous in allowing us to use some of his own recordings that he made of the Hammons.
The vision and aim of the project is to carefully take and hand over, in as unchanging a way as possible, the thread of the way of life of the American Frontier of the 1700s, carried by the Hammons, in their own wordS, to the wider audience of the modern 21st Century world.
is the Associate Producer of this project. She was raised in Kentucky, spending her time between Northern Kentucky and South Eastern Kentucky in the coal fields. She spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents in Letcher County, South Eastern Kentucky. Music was a part of her life as a child, with maternal grandparents singing Southern Baptist church music and ballads, and paternal grandfather responsible for lining out songs for congregational singing in the Old Regular Baptist style. She learned many songs from them when she was young and her grandmother taught her to play the dulcimer. Some of these unaccompanied ballads and sacred songs are included in her album ‘Mountain Voices’. Being immersed in the culture of the coalfields, she absorbed the language and dialect. Her close association with her own grandparents, who were mountain folk themselves, gave her an insight into the Hammons family life and experiences, and it was this very understanding and familiarity with the dialect they spoke that motivated her, many years later, to begin the work of transcribing the 130 recorded stories of the Hammons, 29 of which are used in this Presentation. This work turned out to be a labour of love that lasted over a number of years.
She married a West Virginian, and lived in Williamson, South West Virginia for a number of years, where her husband Russell taught in a Secondary School in Matewan, Mingo County, West Virginia. She began a BA in English from Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, undertaking a course in Appalachian Culture as part of this, and eventually moved there to settle for a while.
Moving north to Delaware, Gail continued her early interest in music, attending vocal music workshops, where she met Dwight Diller. She became acquainted with the traditional music of the Hammons, heard the stories, and felt that people would benefit more from them if they were transcribed for reading purposes.
At this time, her husband Russell began collating the field sound recordings that had been made of the Hammons in 1969/70 into a database, and Gail became part of this work also. Her developing involvement in the making of the current Presentation has been technical as well as musical, as she has been instrumental in using the moviemaking computer software for videography and video editing. Dwight Diller was responsible for the compilation of music, stories, and film, and Gail assembled these in DVD format with associated graphics, with all the difficulties and challenges that came with such a task.
Gail’s unaccompanied singing of the Old Regular Baptist song ‘Bright Morning Stars’ can be heard at the end of Chapter Three.
West Virginia Humanities Council
for the award of a Grant to purchase the two slide projectors and the sound sync in 1988 for the audio-visual Presentation called ‘The Yew Pine Mountains’; Also for the Grant awarded in 2009 to fund this current Presentation ‘Across the Yew Pines.’
The West Virginia Humanities Council is a private, non-profit organization that provides lifelong learning opportunities to the citizens of the State of West Virginia to explore their own and the larger human story, leading to deeper understanding of the human experience.
is a professional musician and composer from Stratford, Connecticut, (now Brooksville, Fl) who manages his own recording studio and produced 12 of Dwight’s 15 albums for commercial release. He is the “caretaker” of Dwight Diller’s original recordings of the Hammonses. These, having been rescued from the LOC, were entrusted to David. He then chose, without being asked, to spend hundreds of hours salvaging, digitizing, and preserving them for future use. This ‘bottleneck’ was opened up by someone who chose to follow a vision. Who better to be a trusted caretaker of those who gave freely as the Hammons chose to give freely. All continue to be blessed when the Spirit of giving love is shared abroad. He met Dwight in 1991 as a student of the banjo.
is a retired programmer/analyst from Owensboro, Kentucky, who has lived in Chicago for many years. He lived in Pocahontas County, West Virginia for about two and a half years, immediately following his graduation from the University Of Notre Dame, and in Charleston, West Virginia, for another two years and a half. He gets back to West Virginia for visits as often as possible.
He was so taken with Lee Hammons and the other family of Hammonses that he later went back to school for an M.A. in folk studies from Western Kentucky University. His thesis was a description of the songs accompanied by fiddle and banjo and an attempt to index the verses of these songs for reference.
He learned to play the banjo and, eventually, the fiddle, with a repertory centred on the tunes that Lee and the unrelated Hammons Family played for him. In addition, he has had a lifelong interest in woodworking, instilled by one of his grandfathers and by watching Lee Hammons in his shop.
Wayne and his wife, Barbara, have six grown children. All of them (and nowadays five grandchildren as well), are familiar with songs and tunes of Lee and the other Hammonses. One daughter, Rachel, worked at the American Folklife Centre, where she helped complete a “finding list” of Hammons materials and had some involvement in Rounder Records’ Hammons Family CD reissue.
Wayne’s Hammons tapes have been deposited in the AFC, and copies of some are in the WVU archives.
Our project would be almost impossible without the work Russell Hatton embraced some years ago. He spent an enormous amount of time organizing the recorded sound files, and splitting them into tracks. He then created a complex data base that simplified our work, making it easily possible to find and use these sound files of stories, songs, and tunes without having to sift through approximately 2000 tracks in Dwight’s and Wayne’s combined recordings.
We also would like to thank him for sharing his technical skills and knowledge of computers, which went a long way towards resolving some of the roadblocks when working with Gail to set up the graphics for the DVD case.
Thanks also are due to Jerry Northington for his behind-the-scenes help with Russell’s work on the sound files.
Catherine stepped in as Editor in the final days of this current Presentation, which had its beginnings in 2005 with Gail choosing to transcribe the 130 stories, and Dwight assembling the 1988 Presentation “Yew Pine Mountain” which was the model for this final project. Catherine’s role as the final editor was to piece together all the different parts and to write many parts like the introduction, as well as sifting through the ‘jots and tittles’ in order to try to bring a working life to the whole. All parts of a body must be available before it can be properly assembled. It is then that an “Editor” can breathe life into the whole.
Also for the contribution of some of the photographs of the Yew Pines.
The Board of Trustees of the Pocahontas County Free Libraries:
To Sue Ann Heatherly, Mark Clark, Beth little, Denise McNeel and David Cain, as sponsor and financial management, and to its staff personnel Allen Johnson, Vicki Terry, Pam Johnson, and Paula Stemple.
Allen Johnson was present from the inception to the conclusion of this project, from its earliest infancy in the 1970s to the end, supporting it at all stages with patience, hope and a supporting hand.
Yew Pine Cultural Traditions Inc.
was established in 2003 to identify and preserve the cultural heritage of the Appalachian Region. This small non-profit Corporation has faithfully supported Dwight Diller’s work, and ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ Cindy Harris has gathered many pennies from many different sources and saved them, so that they were there whenever they were needed, for the completion of this project.
Pocahontas County Historical Museum
who provided all the photographs of the early logging operations in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
Bobby Jo Gudmundsson
is the Curator of the Pocahontas County Historical Museum, submitted and followed up the Grant Proposal to the West Virginia Humanities Council and appointed the Scholars to oversee the project. She also permitted the use of the videos of snow scenes in Chapter Two, and the videos of Sherman and Burl Hammons in Chapter 4.
Thanks are due to the Scholars: John Cuthbert, Director of the West Virginia Collection at the West Virginia University; John Lilly, Editor of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s Golden Seal Magazine of West Virginia traditional life; William P McNeel, Historian of the Pocahontas County Historical Society; Joan Browning.
a native musician from North Carolina, dedicated to preserving the Old Time music of the rural South is given a thank you for permitting the use of the Kitten Panther story which he recorded in 1970 or 1971.
Bates and Jodie Littlehales:
They lived part of each year on the border line of Pocahontas and Pendleton Counties in the Allegheny Mountains of east central West Virginia. Their home at 4000 feet elevation had this border literally running through their house. We thank them for the use of a short section of the film ‘West Virginia Mountain Music.’ This film contains beautifully shot footage of the natural environment that was at and above the elevation of their home. A choice was made to follow the four seasons of the year as well much of the flora and fauna that are tough enough to survive that harsh climate. Their goal, after spending a combined total of 75 years at the National Geographic Magazine, was to pay attention to the ‘small’ which is generally overlooked except by the most observant. This desire for perfection was honed on the grindstone of their professional careers. This sharpened blade cut through the meat until it met the fascia and on into the bone underneath. During their 5 years of extremely patient filming, editing and assembling, they brought this work to a final opus which would encourage others to seek out the ‘small’. They chose to use Dwight’s recorded solo banjo and fiddle music from this region where he has lived his life.
Maureen McCue and Lois Tupper
for the film ‘Fine Times at Our House’ used on Disc 4.
“‘Fine Times at Our House’ 27 minutes, colour, USA 1972 produced by Maureen McCue and Lois Tupper”
Lois and Maureen stayed at Wayne Howard’s home while they were in the Marlinton area
In 1971. Their documentary was an observation of two Hammons families and the interaction of both with a local 25 year old friend who had taken a year off from graduate school.
Green Frog Productions Ltd, Railroad Video Producer
for permission to use various limited video clips from the film Cass and Mower Logging Trains, showing the Mower Lumber Company, Cass, West Virginia, which contain footage of actual logging operations and activities before it closed in 1960; Carl Franz for co- production and extra film footage; Cass Scenic Railroad for co-operation for the video shoot.
Anne Sergeant is a great lover of the mountains of eastern West Virginia and a desire to preserve the natural beauty of this region. We want to thank her for the use of the photographs and video of the forest, used as background in Chapter Two and Chapter Three. Her sharp eye for detail makes her photographs come alive.
Artie Barkley was born and raised in Cass, West Virginia. Early on, the sound of the steam whistles on the old Shay locomotives as they continued to haul logs to the huge lumber mill in that town for the first 13 years of his life. A combination of all this led him to seek out employment at the newly formed scenic railroad. He ended up being the engineer of #5 and shop foreman and retired after 40 years service. We want to thank him for permission to use the sound recordings of the same locomotives which were used in the logging operations of the Hammons early years.
Project Coordinator at the Library of Congress, previously Folklife Specialist, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress; for the loan of the camera, the photographic film that was used, and the developing of the film in 1970. Carl, while employed at WWVU TV, was the camera man, director and producer for the black and white footage filmed at Sherman Hammons’ home on Day Run which empties into the Williams River.
Normal Alderman is a local resident in Marlinton the area, who was of considerable help in the making of the 1988 Audio Visual Presentation “Yew Pine Mountain”.
The Tab Book
is a collection of Hammons tunes in tablature form, with an accompanying CD, photographs and narrative, lovingly compiled by three of Dwight Diller’s students: Andrew Diamond from London, UK; David Dry from Barnard Castle, County Durham UK; and Stewart Seidel from Vancouver, BC. It is available as a PDF file on the CD in this Presentation.
Memories of Lee Hammons by Wayne Howard is an article on Lee Hammons that was published in the Old Time Herald Vol.12/No.2 and is available as a PDF file on the CD in the Presentation.
The Pocahontas Times is an article written about the Hammons Family by Andrew Price and published by the West Virginia Pocahontas Times on July 5, 1905. It is available as a PDF file on the CD in this Presentation.
The Independent State of Webster
is an article written by H. Coleman Thurmond concerning Webster County and published by the Parkersburg News April 1902 and is available as a PDF file on the CD in this Presentation.