Gauley Mountain was the master work of West Virginia poet Louise McNeill. The collection of poetry was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1939, accompanied by a lavish introduction by Stephen Vincent Benet. The book tells the history of West Virginia in verse form.
McNeill (1911–93), West Virginia poet laureate from 1977 to 1993, was born in Pocahontas County on Swago Farm, a place carved from the wilderness by her pioneer ancestors. She grew up hearing stories of the old times, which became a powerful influence on her writing.
Gauley Mountain is set in a semi-mythical region populated by Shawnee, pioneers, slaves, and historical figures. In Gauley, ‘‘Mad Anne’’ Bailey, Francis Asbury, and generations of families tell their stories in ballad-like rhythms and authentic language. They portray mountain life from 1750 to 1935 and draw into focus the Indian wars and Civil War, the coming of hard roads, railroads, and immigrant laborers, as well as the cutting of the forest. Through it all the old families persist, the pioneer names recurring in individual poems covering nearly two centuries. The land, too, endures.
In 1991, McNeill participated in a radio version of Gauley Mountain for West Virginia Day, later made into a compact disk recording by Pocahontas Communications Cooperative.
Written by Phyllis Wilson Moore
McNeill, Louise. Gauley Mountain. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939.