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"Homespun & Handmade" AFHA's New Exhibit at the Darden Mill 

By Scott Prouty
AFHA AmeriCorps Heritage Team Member

“Homespun & Handmade: Culture in the AFHA Region,” a new exhibit for the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center at the Darden Mill, will open on Saturday May 2, 2015. The exhibit will feature an array of artifacts related to music, hunting and crafts from an 18 county region of West Virginia and Western Maryland. Before industrialization and factory-made goods became widely available, the people here created musical instruments for their own entertainment, quilts for warmth, rifles for hunting, furniture for a place to sit, and wood carvings for the sake of amusement.

The Appalachian Forest Discovery Center and the West Virginia Railroad Museum are both located at the Darden Mill in Elkins. Photo by Scott Prouty

Though modernization and a global economy have eliminated the immediate need for handmade goods, many of these handcrafts are still actively practiced here. In part due to economic factors, there has been a “make do” attitude toward life and a tendency to make and modify things by hand that are commercially available. The exhibit will display historic musical instruments loaned by the Augusta Heritage Center as well as regional collectors. Likewise there will be crafts featured including handwoven lindsey woolsey fabrics, Fasnacht masks from Helvetia, and the wildlife wood carvings of Raymond Menendez who has placed at the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition.. Lastly, the exhibit will feature examples of folk art from the whimsical to the purely decorative.

The exhibit is accompanied by a concert series at the Darden Mill celebrating the musical traditions of the region, with the next concert featuring Rebecca Wudarski and Heather Hannah Nelson on Wednesday April 29th. In addition, the existing introductory exhibit to the AFHA region, “Discovering the Appalachian Forest,” is still on display. This exhibit is being presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Installation of the "Homespun & Handmade" exhibit in progress at the Darden Mill in Elkins. 
Photo by Scott Prouty

Sprucing Things Up - Students
Discover the Red Spruce Ecosystem

By Kristin Stockton
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Team Member

Red spruce and red spruce-northern hardwood forests once dominated the high-elevation landscapes of West Virginia, covering over 500,000 acres. Heavy logging activity in the late 1800s into the 1900s reduced that area to about 50,000 acres. Over 300 rare species of flora and fauna are found in the red spruce ecosystem, including the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander and recently delisted northern flying squirrel. The red spruce ecosystem has also been identified as a resilient landscape with excellent carbon storage and watershed protection potential.

As an AmeriCorps at the Forest Service Supervisor’s Office, one of my main tasks has been creating and implementing a red spruce ecosystem educational trunk. Despite living in close proximity to such a unique and valuable ecosystem, children are often more aware of the ecology of exotic locales than of those in their own backyard. The goal of the trunk is to engage students in fun games and activities related to red spruce that connect them to the ecosystem and encourage an ethic of environmental stewardship while (secretly) teaching basic scientific concepts.

Students from the 5th grade class at Petersburg Elementary school playing "Flying Squirrel Scramble." The "squirrel" in the photo is attempting to evade a predator.  Photo by Kristin Stockton. 

In one game, students get to be flying squirrels, predators, and trees. While at first glance the game may appear to be a simple variation of tag, it actually teaches relatively advanced concepts, such as predator-prey relationships, fragmentation, and landscape connectivity. Other activities focus on habitat degradation, generalists vs. specialists, carrying capacity, dendrochronology, and riparian buffers. The crafts encourage students to draw native animals into a spruce forest, chart their lives in tree rings, and make their own spruce tree (complete with spruce oil for a realistic scent).
With the help of fellow AmeriCorps (Ashley Akers, Rachel Fedders, Katie Stoltzfus, and Victoria Woltz) the trunk recently made its debut at Petersburg Elementary School, where it was well-received by approximately 200 third and fifth graders. It was a lot of fun working with the students and watching them get excited about red spruce forests. Some of the students came back to the classroom during lunch and turned the lights off, so they could ‘eat lunch in the spruce forest’ with the scent and animal replicas all around them, and everyone wanted to wear the flying squirrel costumes. In the future, I would like to take students out to the red spruce forest so that they can see the ecosystem about which they have learned.
The red spruce ecosystem trunk will continue to make appearances at schools throughout the area and will be present at various upcoming events. To schedule the trunk or request a lesson please contact me at: or 304-636-1800 x224

AFHA Stakeholders Meeting is May 13th in Elkins. For more info, see:HERE
Our next concert is Wednesday April 29h at 7:30pm featuring The Gravel Quire (Rebecca Wudarski & Heather Hannah) at the Darden Mill. For more info:
Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.
The Highland Scenic Highway runs through the Monongahela National Forest forty-three miles from Richwood along State Roads 39 and 150 over to U.S. Route 219. Elevation along the highway ranges from 2,325 to over 4,500 feet above sea level; because of this it is not maintained during winter months. There are four scenic overlooks along the highway that provide outstanding views of the surrounding topography. There are three campgrounds including Summit Lake campground as well as Tea Creek and Day Run campgrounds, both of which are located along the Williams River. Other highlights include the Falls of Hills Creek, the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, and over 150 miles of hiking trails. Sites along the Highway will be receiving new signage this summer. 
The Frostburg Museum in Allegany County, Maryland is housed in the historic Hill Street School building which dates back to 1899. The museum contains over 8,700 square feet of exhibits dedicated to the history of Frostburg. Included in the collection are artifacts relating to the National Road (or Braddock Road), local coal mining, tools and other items from former businesses. There are also manuscript records relating to genealogy as well as a historic photograph collection. The Frostburg Museum Association is hosting its annual Spring Dinner on Thursday April 23rd. For more information contact the Frostburg Museum at (301) 689-1195.
The Spring Mountain Festival in Petersburg (Grant County) is happening April 24-26 this year. Mostly taking place at the Tri-County Fairgrounds, the festival starts with a parade and includes a corn hole tournament, an antique car show, craft and flea market vendors, a 5K run, and train rides on the Potomac Eagle Canyon Express. There will be musical entertainment through the weekend as well as performance of the Elite Pro Wrestling Alliance. For more information visit the festival website  
The Eidolon Nature Preserve in Morgan County is located along the summit of Sideling Hill at 1,600 feet in elevation. The 354 acre property includes long views to the east and the west. Open to the public since 2007, the land was previously logged and farmed. It was owned by the Zapoleon family from 1945-2003 when it was willed to the Nature Conservancy; it is now co-managed by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. Four trails have been developed for exploring the wide variety of plants and animals on the preserve and future plans include using the preserve as an outdoor classroom for teaching children about nature. 
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241