Shenandoah National Park oral histories
Scope and Content
The Shenandoah National Park Oral Histories, SdArch SNP (formerly SC# 4030), 1964-1999, consists of 135 interviews of people who were living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia prior to the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. Most of the interviewees resided on land that was claimed by eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Virginia and subsequently turned over to the U.S. Government in the 1930s. The collection is comprised of 6 Hollinger boxes and 6.6 linear feet of media cabinet drawers of audio, transcripts, and images pertaining to interviews conducted primarily by Dorothy Noble Smith as part of her research for Recollections: The People of the Blue Ridge Remember in additon to members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, park collaborators Eugene and Diane Zior Wilhelm, Darwin Lambert, and others.
Topics discussed by interviewees include mountain folklife, music, food preservation, traditional medicine, agriculture and harvesting, bark peeling, moonshining, chores and family life, and schooling with additional references to the Civilian Conservation Corp, the New Deal, promoter of Skyland Resort and author George Freeman Pollock, and residents' feelings towards the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. Interviews conducted by Barbara Wright, Norman Taylor, Gloria Updike, and Ken Steeber were presumably added to the collection separately from the interviews conducted in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
- Shenandoah National Park (Agency : U.S.) (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.
Conditions Governing Use
The copyright interests for most of the interviews in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. See individual interviews for specific use restrictions. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Beginning in December 1924, groups like the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee and the Shenandoah National Park Association began to champion the project of creating a park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In the spring of 1926, Congress passed the bill authorizing the establishment of the Shenandoah National Park and the subsequent reclamation of lands owned or farmed by mountain residents. Subsequently over 450 families were relocated from the park boundaries and moved to nearby communities. After the park was officially established in December 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began building visitors centers throughout the mountains.
Dorothy Noble Smith (1915-1999) was a native of New Jersey and a graduate of Duke University. She had a distinguished career in banking in New York City before retiring to Luray, Virginia. She was a contributing writer for the Page News and Courier for more than twenty years. Fascinated by a way of life that was drastically altered with the creation of the Shenandoah National Park in December 1935 she, along with other people associated with the park service, conducted recorded interviews in the late 1970s and early 1980s to document the lives and stories of the former residents of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her findings based on the oral histories conducted were published in Recollections: The People of the Blue Ridge Remember.
Founded in 1927 on the principles of volunteerism and public service to outdoor enthusiasts, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, is one of 30 trail clubs located in cities along the Appalachian Trail. The PATC's section of trail includes 240 miles beginning at Pine Grove Furnace in Pennsylvania and ending at Rockfish Gap at the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park. The PATC's activities include building and maintaining trails, cabins, shelters, and publishing a monthly newsletter. PATC members Edward Garvey (1914-1999), Samuel Moore (1920-1999), and Walter Smith conducted interviews in this collection.
Diane Zior Wilhelm (1938-2010) and Eugene Joseph Wilhelm, Jr. conducted many of the earliest interviews within this collection. Diane's interests encompassed Andean Indians, Irish street-traders, New Jersey suburbanites, and Blue Ridge Mountain people focusing on an anthropological perspective. She taught at Middlesex County College in New Jersey from 1967 until her retirement in 2007. A year prior to her death, Dr. Wilhelm was contacted by Special Collections staff, and expressed interest in donating the remainder of her materials and notes from interviews to this collection. Eugene's interests included geography and ecology. He wrote his dissertation entitled Folk Georgraphy of the Blue Ridge Mountains while at Texas A & M. Eugene was a visiting geography professor at the University of Virginia and professor of geography at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Beginning in 1956, the couple often spent weeks during the summer in the Shenandoah National Park researching and interviewing mountain residents.
Darwin Lambert (1916-2007) was the first employee of the National Park Service at the Shenandoah National Park, hired March 1, 1936. Interested in the relationship between man and nature, He authored several books pertaining to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park including those listed below in the bibliography and as related material.
This collection was originally housed at the Shenandoah National Park headquarters in Luray, Virginia, but was never served to the public because the oral histories were not considered official park records. In May 2001, under the direction of Cultural Resource Specialist Reed Engle, the collection was donated to James Madison University.
2.5 cubic feet (6 boxes, 200 audio discs, 158 audiocassettes, unnumbered reels)
Language of Materials
The Shenandoah National Park Oral Histories, SdArch SNP, 1964-1999, consists of audio, transcripts, and images pertaining to interviews conducted primarily by Dorothy Noble Smith in addition to members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, park collaborators Eugene and Diane Zior Wilhelm, Darwin Lambert, and others.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by interviewee's surname.
The interviews comprising this collection were donated by Reed Engle, Shenandoah National Park Cultural Resource Specialist, on behalf of the National Park Service in May 2001.
- Interview with Cecil B. Graves by Diane Zior Wilhelm, May 10, 1966, SdArch SNP-056, in the Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection SdArch SNP, Special Collections, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
- Lambert, Darwin. "The Undying Past of the Shenandoah National Park." Boulder, Co.: Roberts Rinehart, Inc. Publishers, 1989.
- Reeder, Carolyn and Jack. "Shenandoah Heritage: The Story of the People Before the Park." Washington, D.C.: The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, 1978.
- Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. "History of PATC." www.patc.net. https://www.patc.net/PATC/WHO_WE_ARE/Our_History/PATC/Who_We_Are/Our_History.aspx?hkey=4952940f-61c2-48b9-a2ea-35308a2b9381(accessed June 7, 2018).
Nearly all original interviews were recorded on five-inch reels. Most recordings had been transferred to audiocassettes, and later migrated to digital format. Most have a corresponding transcript.
- A Guide to the Shenandoah National Park Oral Histories, 1964-1999
- Gillian Schulz and Chris Bolgiano, Tiffany Cole, Sarah Roth-Mullet
- March 2002, May 2010, July 2019
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2010-05: Updated by Tiffany Cole
- 2019-07: Media inventoried and added to container list
- 2020-04-03: Updated information related to SNP-108, name of interviewee.
- 2022-07: Title normalized by Bodeene Amyot