The 4 a.m. call I got that rainy Tuesday morning on April 24, 2018, informing me that my mother had passed away was not a surprise at all. The caller, my sister Barbara, had alerted me a few days earlier that it would happen at any time.
After the call I sat down with my thoughts, processing the loss which had been on my mind for the past few days. It was not just the loss of a mother, but the end of the largest family Catawba Valley, Virginia had ever known.
William and Luemma Garman had produced seventeen children starting in 1890 and ending in 2018 spanning a total of 128 years. Mama was the last of that line. Out of the seventeen children, there would spring sixty-six grandchildren. There was a wonderful story and history regarding this family that had never been told. I had arrived at that conclusion thirty days earlier in late March when Mama was obviously in her last weeks if not days. I sensed now a loss of not only a mother but a family dynasty whose story would most likely never be recorded.
I felt guilt and shame that I had not addressed this decades earlier when members of my family were alive and alert with tons of stories to tell. The last three: Mae Garman Peters, Earl Garman Taylor, and Elizabeth Garman Carroll Eakin had lived over 100 years each, with two of them knocking on the door of 109 years.
Twenty-five years earlier Lucille Brillhart Garman (my first-grade teacher) had told me: “Teddy someone needs to write about Catawba and the Garmans, and you are the one to do it. I heartily agreed, and then did nothing about it. The feeling of my letting the Garman family down had become a burden that was difficult to carry.
As always, I turned to God, and HE immediately put on my heart that it was not too late and I could write about this family and all of Catawba——just start writing. Lucille had said the same thing—just write. Next, I sat down with my wife Tina because nothing happens in our lives until we have prayed about it and discussed it together. Tina said, with authority, I might add—–just write. And I would! My life was going to change!
I was one of twenty-four grandchildren alive at that time (out of original 66) and there were multitudes of great-grandchildren, great, great grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren, etc out there that would know little about the families they descended from. They would know even less about Catawba and maybe zero about life in Catawba as experienced by their ancestors. The story of Catawba Valley, Virginia, its people, places, and events would have wide range appeal to non-Catawbians, rural and urban audiences. There would be a need to do this, and I was not going to let it slip by this time.
Thankfully, my wife Tina has computer skills and knows how to build a website and use social media. I would do the bulk of the writing and she would handle the publishing, marketing and technical oversight of this project.
She suggested setting up a blog for publishing monthly posts about the people and places of Catawba. Together we would interview people in Catawba to build our stories, and we would publish those stories in monthly posts to our Echoes From Catawba blog.
After many hours, many interviews and many miles the first book ever about the people and places of Catawba Valley, Virginia has been born. The echoes from the past have trickled down through the generations and present voices have carried the torch forward, passed on to the future generations to unveil the life and times of our nineteenth-century ancestors. Those ancestors came from mostly Northern Ireland but also Germany and England to find a better life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In the early 1900s, they would create a unique community in this mountain-walled valley that would forever be called Catawba. On November 7, 2018, over 6,000 visitors had viewed the Blog site creating 13,000 views in seven month’s time!
Echoes From Catawba Growing Up in Catawba Valley, Appalachia contains all the posts written in 2018. The book is 6″ by 9″ with a hardcover and high quality throughout. We have used some blog pictures as well as some different ones that blend well with the printed stories. My writing style is different than most writers and I have no formal education on How to Write a Book. I gather information from Catawba people as they recall their childhood days growing up in a totally different world we live in now. I then used my personal experiences growing up in the mountains in the 1940s and 1950s as well as calling upon my memories of hearing what the previous generation conveyed to me. The echoes grew loud and clear.
After gathering information from interviews and research I would compose the stories with heart and humor so as to transform the reader back into those early times of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Any fiction that may crop up is strictly accidental and not intended. It may sound like fiction to some (that’s okay) but it is history put forth in stories written to induce a smile, maybe a tear and retained knowledge of rural life in the early 1900s.
This book puts an end to the erosion of knowledge of the people, their times and places that they left for us. There has existed a potential loss of great magnitude of our heritage in this postmodern world we live in now, especially to the younger generations. Echoes from Catawba Volume One puts an end to the lament of folks saying, “we need to be documenting the life and times of our parents and grandparents before it is all forgotten.” The coming together of Catawba people has created a groundswell of interest, effort, and support to document and preserve our great heritage. In the past seven months, I have witnessed an amazing spirit amongst those telling the stories as well as those reading the stories. That spirit lives within all Catawbians regardless of where they are now. Many have lived in Catawba all their lives. I hasten to add that this book has drawn the interest of urban people who have no connection to Appalachia and never experienced rural living. These are stories that should appeal to any reader.
I am hopeful that every Catawba household, regardless of where that may be, will have a copy of this book and all future volumes. We owe that to the people of the past and of the future. The stories are enlightening, interesting, heartwarming and inspiring.
Echoes From Catawba book release will be held at the Catawba Valley Holiday Market on Saturday, November 17 from 9 am to 3 pm.
The Holiday Market is held at the Catawba Valley Community Center at 4965 Catawba Creek Road, Catawba, Virginia. The event will have 30 vendors with items created by local crafters and artisans. We hope to see you there!
If you can’t make it to the market, order books at the Echoes From Catawba Trading Post. Books will be shipped the week of November 19. Pre-orders are already being received.