Southwest Virginia Historical Society
Historical Society of Southwest Virginia


Historical Society of Southwest Virginia

HswVA Sketches updated


Historical Society of Southwest Virginia
P.O. Box 3877
Wise, VA 24293

Next Meeting - June 23, 2012 - 12 noon


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Last updated: April 17, 2012
©Ganell Marshall, webmaster

 Welcome to the Southwest Virginia Historical Society's home page. Our coverage area includes the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, and Wise Counties.

Southwest Virginia Historical Society
1961 - 2003

How It Came About
By Bonnie S. Ball - (Written in 1984)

1985 marks the 25th year of the society' s existence.

In July, 1959, Dr. W. D. Weatherford, one of the directors of Berea College in Kentucky, organized plans for "A Consultation on Creative Writing in the Appalachians". All known writers and historians of the Southern Appalachians were invited to attend. In general it was a distinguished group, and the writer had the privilege of "sitting on the side lines. The speakers included such celebrities as Wilma Dykeman, Kermit Hunter, Rebecca Caudill and John Jacob Nyles, a rare musician, accompanied by his Russian wife, who did a fine performance.

The key speaker was to have been no other than Jesse Stuart, then confined to his bed following a heart attack; and his
speech was read by another person. Our own Elihu Jasper Sutherland gave a talk on "Creative Writing, the Most Effective Agency in Developing Regional Pride and Loyalty".

It was there that the idea of the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia was conceived. After lunch at the Boone Tavern, Mrs. Sutherland and I sat in a cozy corner while Luther F. Addington and E. J. Sutherland exchanged ideas concerning the possibility of a historical society for the southwestern corner of Virginia. More than a year later, on Friday, November 18, 1960, at 7:30 P.M., a preliminary meeting was held at Clinch Valley College, Wise, Va., to form a regional historical meeting. Among those present were: L. F. Addington, E. J. Sutherland, Emory L. Hamilton, E. B. Broadwater, Roy V. Wolfe, Mrs. E. J. Sutherland and Miss Phoebe Sutherland. After a general discussion, temporary officers were elected. (E. J. Sutherland s diary).

The Historical Society of Southwest Virginia became a reality on March 16, 1961, when the organizational meeting was held at the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap. The minutes of that meeting show the following were present: E. B. Broadwater, L. F. Addington, James E. True, Harold R. Jenkins, J. Fred Bolton, Emory L. Hamilton, Rose Aston, R. F. McConnell and Mrs. R. F. McConnell (of Kingsport, Tenn.) Mrs. Ezra McClellan, C. Dennis Compton, Faye P. Tate, Phoebe Sutherland, E. L. Henson, J. Fred Fraley (of Bristol, Va.), J. L. Camblos (of Big Stone Gap), Gary Graham, Bobby Elkins, Hampton Osborne, E. J. and Mrs. E. J. Sutherland. Constitution and By-laws (drawn up by E. J. Sutherland) were adopted. Luther F. Addington was elected President; Earl B. Broadwater, Vice President; Hetty S. Sutherland, Secretary, and E. J. Sutherland, Treasurer. (E. J. Sutherland entered in his diary on that date.) Emory Hamilton gave a fine talk on "St. Marie on the Clinch".

E. J. Sutherland suceeded Mr. Addington as President when new officers were elected at the March 1963 meeting and served one year. Mr. Addington was re-elected in March 1964, when Mr. Sutherland resigned because of ill health, and continued as President until 1974 when he resigned for health reasons. Professor E. L. Henson of Clinch Valley College acted as President one year. In 1975 Mrs. Ruth S. Watkins was elected President and served until 1982 when she was succeded by Omer L. Addington who is still serving. Emory L. Hamilton has been the organization s most efficient Secretary since 1963, and Hetty S. Sutherland has served as Treasurer since 1965. The writer has served as reporter and necrologist for the society since it s organization. E. J. Sutherland died July 9, 1964; Luther F. Addington, on February 28, 1978, and many other charter members are no longer with us.

The Historical Society of Southwest Virginia has published seventeen pamphlets composed mostly of speeches made at the regular meetings by area historians. They include episodes of history that are, in many cases, not found elsewhere and should definitely be preserved in the form of a large, permanently bound, book.

Furthermore, the society has contributed to a number of projects in the preservation of our Southwest Virginia Heritage. Among these are donations to the Southwest Virginia Museum at Big Stone Gap, the society s archives at Clinch Valley College, Wise, Va., and the Fort Houston Marker on Clinch River near Nickelsville in Scott County. The organization has also acquired a large volume of historical material for its archives in the John Cook Wylie Library at Clinch Valley College, including the James Taylor Adams Papers, reams of material collected by E. J. Sutherland as well as hundreds of published volumes from his library. Portraits of the two founders, Luther F. Addington and Elihu Jasper Sutherland, were unveiled by their widows at the March, 1980, meeting of society, to be hung in the archives.

The area covered by the society consists of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Wise Counties, Virginia, but it has members in many other counties and states. Interested visitors are always welcome to it s meetings held three times a year on the last Saturdays of March, June and September. Because of uncertain weather conditions, the December meeting was discountinued soon after the society s organization.

There are currently (in 1984) about 140 members, four of whom are life members. These are Mrs. J. E. (Anne) Lanningham, Mrs. Bonnie S. Ball, Mrs. Hetty S. Sutherland and Mr. Emory I. Hamilton. All of these have provided numerous articles for the publications and Mrs. Lanningham has long been the Lee County Director. It is our hope that the younger generations will take up where we leave off and keep the torches of history alive for those who follow.
Excerpt from the Historical Society's Sketches 1984

Last updated: April 17, 2012
© Ganell Marshall