With roots deep in Scotch-Irish culture, the people of Pocahontas County are rich with generations of traditional music. We maintain many of the oral and musical traditions over two centuries of living in small towns, back country hollers and mountain communities. From front porches to church halls to barn dances the music of the mountains became a staple of life, a means of bringing people together or just passing the time before days of television and video games.
Pocahontas County Opera House
Art and music history cannot be seriously reviewed in Pocahontas County without mentioning the crown jewel – The Pocahontas County Opera House. By 1909, J. G. Tilton, publisher of the Marlinton Messenger, opened the Opera House as a venue for the rapidly increasing number of cultural and sporting events in the Marlinton area. The railroad had come to Pocahontas County less than a decade earlier and life was changing from a small rural community to the center of county activity, including culture and music.
The century old building is now on the National Register of Historic Places and has become the performing arts center of the community. On any given Friday or Saturday night the building is packed with people, who come from far and near to hear the sounds of artists like John McCutcheon, Chris Smither or the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys.
The Pocahontas County Drama Workshop performs annually at the Opera House giving thespians of all training an opportunity for self-expression. Through continued hard work of dedicated volunteers, and a supportive participatory community, the Opera House is truly the beat of the community.
Accomplished musicians, who hail from the mountains, work to insure young people from throughout the region learn the skills to play the old time mountain music. The Allegheny Echoes is an extraordinary program of workshops where proficient musicians instruct and demonstrate how to play the instruments that mountain music is centered on – banjo, guitar, mandolin, flat pick, fiddle, bass and dulcimer. Those interested in writing music are encouraged to participate in classes aimed at the novice and the experienced. Based in Marlinton, the Allegheny Echoes offers summer classes in an inspiring venue.
The Hammons Family
Music enthusiasts are familiar with the songs and life of the Hammons family, who had an everlasting effect on regional mountain music. During 1968 and 1969, local music historian and accomplished musician, Dwight Diller, interviewed Hammons family members for hundreds of hours. Over 2,000 musical tracks were carefully examined and categorized. A small sampling of the recorded music was turned over to the Library of Congress. The Hammons Family is the Library of Congress’s landmark study of the music and way of life for a single West Virginia family.
Pocahontas County Arts Council
Appreciation of the arts - including visual, dramatic, writing, quilting, and music - is alive through the Pocahontas County Arts Council, which guides funding for high school scholarships and grants. The Art Guild sponsors painting and ceramic classes, while a fledging Artisans Co-op supports local artisans growing in their craft and art.
Although a small geographical area, Pocahontas County has produced a wealth of world-renowned writers. Pearl S. Buck, winner of both the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize was born in the Hillsboro region.
Other celebrated authors who called Pocahontas home include W. E. Blackhurst, Cal Price, Ed Friel, William T. Price, and John O’Brien. A more current generation boasts William P. McNeel, Roy Clarkson, Curtis Curry, Patch Adams and Harold Crist.
West Virginia’s Poet Laureate from 1979 to 1993 was Louise McNeill, born and raised on a farm in Buckeye. Her books Milkweed Ladies and Gauley Mountain depict the simple mountain life to which she was accustomed.
Dorothy Clutter Callison, born and raised in the Beard area of Pocahontas County, was named West Virginia folk artist from 1961 through 1963. Later she was heard on the Arthur Godfrey Show and on radio throughout New York and Connecticut, touting the virtues of the Appalachian hills.