Rock Castle Home
By Beverly Belcher Woody
The debut of Rock Castle Home has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.
The eventual showing will be co-hosted by Reynolds Homestead and the Patrick County Historical Society & Museum.
Rock Castle Home is the story of a community known as Rock Castle in the Virginia counties of Patrick and Floyd. Many local folks participated in the filming of Rock Castle Home, including Matt Hubbard, Elva & Moir Haden, Nancy Dillon, David Conner, Danny Compton, Amber Rodgers, Leslie Shelor, Sammy Shelor, Kinney Rorrer, Ralph Lutts, Mike Ryan, and Clay Shelor. Descendants of the many families that lived in Rock Castle shared stories through photographs, stories, and made frequent returns to cemeteries and homesites. Though generations removed, Rock Castle descendants today act as grassroots storytellers and archivists as they strive to hold onto their past.
Rock Castle Home is the brainchild of Dr. Charles D. Thompson, Jr., a professor of Cultural Anthropology and Documentary Studies at Duke University. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Culture from UNC-Chapel Hill and an M.S. degree in Agricultural Education from NC A&T State University, an HBCU. Thompson is also author/editor of seven books, including local favorite, Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World.
In the following paragraphs, Thompson explains how he became interested in sharing the stories of the people of Rock Castle…
“I like to imagine that the seeds of this project germinated in the late 1700s, when my family settled in Endicott, Virginia, twenty-five miles from Rock Castle in Southwestern Virginia. For indeed, I am descended from those mountain farmers whose reliance on their steep land was replicated throughout the Blue Ridge, including Rock Castle. I have never felt as close to my ancestors as when I was doing this project. In fact, during my fieldwork for this film, I found that my great, great grandfather – Byrd Smith – married a woman from Rock Castle and became part of their family. Thus, I realized, only after beginning the project, that I too am a descendant of Rock Castle!
“This film draws on my twenty-plus years of documentary work. I intend with this work to show my deep respect for rural people who have struggled to make lives upon the land, wherever they are. I hope viewers of the film will recognize my general commitment to documenting rural Appalachian life, and also that Rock Castle holds a special place in my heart.
“I have hiked Rock Castle Gorge trails for decades – it is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and accessible to the public – and I am also fortunate to own a cabin only a few miles from there, so I know the Gorge intimately. I am also an old-time musician and love learning about music that grew out of the Blue Ridge. One day while playing traditional music with friends, the subject of the Gorge came up. One friend mentioned his father-in-law, Matt Hubbard, who is also a musician, grew up in the Gorge. We made plans then to hike together there with Mr. Hubbard, then 93-years-young!
“When Mr. Hubbard agreed to go, and said he wanted for one last time to walk up the mountain to visit the homesite where he was born, I invited a videographer friend to go with us. I had a premonition that this could be a special story. On the hike, I soon realized that Matt Hubbard was a natural on camera and decided afterward that I had to learn more about the people of Rock Castle. I started writing grant proposals to seek funding for the project. When I began, I soon heard that the descendants of Rock Castle were an organized group. I met local historians Beverly Woody, Leslie Shelor, and others. I realized their group had done an exemplary job of actively resurrecting and preserving their stories. I learned from them that not only is the story of Rock Castle a remarkable one to tell, but it was also worth telling how the people of Rock Castle have undertaken the work of preserving their family stories.”
“This work by Rock Castle descendants to preserve their history is an example to all of us who seek to document our histories. This tireless work and their loving dedication to keeping memories resonates with anyone who cares about preserving stories.”
“Learning about Rock Castle’s people helps us to remember the history, culture, and stories that speak to the resilience of the human spirit that underlies nearly every place on earth.”
The following is an excerpt from the glowing comments by renowned author and Grundy, Virginia native, Lee Smith. “As a native of southwest Virginia myself, I am really impressed with Charlie Thompson’s extraordinary film, Rock Castle Home and urge you to join me in supporting it.”
(Woody may be reached at email@example.com.)