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The Land of the Guyandot
THE LAND OF THE GUYANDOT. The history of an area is only as rich as the recollections of its people. For more than a year and a half, author Robert Spence researched Logan County, seeking to weave individual experiences and memories into a work that tells of all the cultures which have inhabited the land of the Guyandot River, today spelled Guyandotte.
It was the Shawnee Indians who first left their mark on the region, as they made their settlement near the Guyandot. They were followed by the sturdy Scotch-Irish and German pioneers—the McNeelys, Dingesses, Barkers, and McDonalds—whose names are still common in the southern part of the Mountain State.
The captains of industry brought the next citizens to the area—immigrants from across the seas and those from other corners of America—strong individuals whose fate became linked to coal, which they wrested from deep inside the earth. All left their mark on the land of the Hatfields and McCoys, the land of the Blair Mountain Mine War, the land of Buffalo Creek.
Fortunately, the people of Logan County, from the first settlers to present-day inhabitants, have been concerned with preserving their heritage and a history that returns, time and time again, to the steep slopes, narrow valleys, and sparkling waters of the Guyan Valley. They have photographed, written of, and talked about Logan County, leaving behind a wealth of information for an inquiring historian.
It was the land which captured the imagination of those first settlers and which still has an attraction for their descendants, such as Spence, who tells the unique story of his people as accurately and completely as early writing and oral communications allow. First time in print since 1976.
* * * * An Excerpt from the Introduction to LAND OF THE GUYANDOT * * * *
I first met Robert Spence in 1974 right after I moved to West Virginia and started working for the Logan News, the weekly newspaper and commercial printing operation owned by the Spence family. Robert and I were both young fellows in those days, but I recall being impressed that he was so serious-minded with a skill level well beyond his years.
He was deep in research at the time for his first mammoth literary work. By his early 20s, he had already amassed a tremendous collection of vintage photographs—Logan County images from the 19th and early-20th century—and was busy conducting in-depth interviews with local individuals as a part of his fieldwork.
Over the following year or so, Robert continued to work day and night on the project and had a clear vision and direction of where he wanted to go with the historical material he was collecting. By 1976 his studies culminated in the launch of Land of the Guyandot, and the people of the region accepted it with great appreciation.
It’s difficult for me to believe that was over thirty-seven years ago—seems like yesterday. Even so, Land of the Guyandot remains the primary resource for county history for those lucky enough to find a copy of the book. No other work comes close to capturing the depth of Robert’s ambitious research. Unfortunately for lovers of history, the book has been out of print for several decades.
As the years went by, Robert and I crossed paths professionally on a number of occasions, including working together for a while at the daily newspaper, The Logan Banner. Several years ago I had the great honor of publishing his second book, The Tale of the Devil: The Biography of Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield—the critically acclaimed biography and national bestseller that he co-authored with Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield, grandson of Devil Anse.
Now I have been given this awesome new opportunity—to reprint Land of the Guyandot and to reintroduce this timeless classic to an all-new generation of West Virginians. When the possibility was introduced to me, needless to say, I jumped at the chance.
Rather than being just a reprint of the 1976 book, this actually contains some additional writings compiled by the author in 2003. Since he never ceased to research Logan County’s past, Robert continued to add fresh historical material, even though he still caps off the history in this volume at 1976. The end result is something I believe readers will appreciate and truly treasure.
I trust that it will somehow honor the memory and legacy of the author and historian, who passed away in 2005, and that his research will inspire a new generation to dig even deeper into the amazing history and proud culture found here in the mountains of Logan County, West Virginia.
— F. Keith Davis, publisher, independent book publisher and author of Images of America: Logan County; The Secret Life and Brutal Death of Mamie Thurman; The Feuding Hatfields & McCoys; West Virginia Tough Boys; and After All These Years.
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