The Venables came to Morgantown looking for a place to settle down and explore with their horses. They weren’t expecting the history lesson.
Norma Jean and Wally Venable moved just outside Morgantown in 1967. As locals know, this town is not without its stories. The Venables figured this out shortly after settling in, and Norma Jean was quick to jot them down.
In October 2021, Tales of Dunkard Ridge: Life and Lore from a West Virginia Hill Farm by Norma Jean Venable hit the market. The 200-page paperback is a culmination of those tales and moments of truth mixed with the misadventures of a city-bred couple as they adjusted to their new life at Dunkard Ridge.
Fiction and nonfiction blend together to give every reader something to sink their teeth into. Short stories spun by locals—passed down through generations—and quick tales of hauntings and moral lessons are shared with purpose. Venable saves us the research with a collection of photographs and sketches to help our imaginations place us in the Dunkard Ridge of the late 1800s.
Intermingled with these stories are those of the Venables on their Morgantown farm: nothing is left out. From trips through the mountainside with their beloved horses to rafting down Dunkard Creek, the book is a journey through the development of Dunkard Ridge. Read through an extensive collection of diary entries from 1949, try your hand at making salt-rising bread and wild plum preserves from 1890 recipes, and hear the voices of local descendants of the original pioneer families of the region. You’ll find a new appreciation for the beauty and sense of community unique to West Virginia. Venable cultivates a collection of time passed, and these history lessons share insight into those who came before us and made Dunkard Ridge—as we know it—possible.
You can find Tales of Dunkard Ridge: LIfe and Lore from a West Virginia Hill Farm on amazon.com.