On July 16, 1907, a baby girl was born in the Appalachian Mountains community of Catawba, Virginia. She was not given a name; she was just referred to as “baby.” She was the thirteenth child born into a family that would end up with a total of seventeen children. As a matter of fact, the fourteenth child, also a girl, would arrive before “baby” received a name! Her mother Luemma Garman gave birth on November 21, 1908, to another girl. Luemma and her husband Will now had two babies to give names too. The latest arrival would be named Pearl Esther Garman, and, finally, the sixteen-month-old “baby” was named Winnie Earl Garman.
No one has ever offered a reason why the delay in naming Winnie Earl. In the years ahead, she would be known to folks as Earl or Granny. It was a unique, extraordinary happening, and I cannot recall a similar situation. However, the words unique and extraordinary would define this woman who lived 18 days shy of one hundred and nine years. Nameless at birth, she passed away in 2016 remembered forever as The Primitive Woman of Catawba, Virginia. I am sure someone, in the sprawling Appalachian Mountains, can give an account of a woman who lived a similar life. However, when you finish reading this biography, I believe you will be challenged to envision anyone like Granny Taylor.
As you read this biography of Granny Taylor you will go on a journey through almost one hundred and nine years with a woman that will amaze you and impact your emotions in countless ways. Honesty, humility, caring, fearless, hard-working, funny and selflessness are but a few of her attributes. The most notable trait she projected was consistency. Through a century of living, she never varied from who she was, while never forgetting her roots. Each chapter introduces the reader to the many people in her life and how they were blessed by Granny. How she stayed true to a near primitive lifestyle through fast-changing times is quite a feat. Few in the early years of the twentieth century would ever desire to live the way Granny did, especially when it was not necessary. For those of you who did not know of or about this lady, prepare yourselves for an adventurous, true story about a woman who could have had all the conveniences imaginable. A typical reaction would be to question why did she choose this life and sustain it for the entirety of her active life? If you as a reader knew her over the years, then let this book be a refreshing walk down memory lane while learning some things about her that you missed along the way. If you are meeting her for the first time, you are in for a real treat. She was approached a decade prior to her passing by someone who wanted to write her life story. Her reply: “My life ain’t worth writing about!” I am honored to introduce Granny Taylor (and her life story) to you!
Granny Taylor of Possum Holler 2002 Interview Part 1: Granny talks about growing up and her brothers & sisters
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Or pick one up at the Salem Museum at 801 E. Main Street, Salem, Virginia. They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Also, copies are available at The Emporium on Main Street in New Castle, Virginia. The Emporium is open Tuesday – Friday 10-7, Saturday 9-6 and Sunday 12-5.