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James Tyree Rexrode

Folk artist James Tyree Rexrode (December 25, 1887-Febuary 23, 1976) created a visual record of rural West Virginia life in the early 20th century. He was born in Pendleton County. He began teaching when he was 17 and taught in several one-room schools in the area.

As a teacher, Rexrode began taking pictures. He photographed classes and school activities and occasions such as weddings and minstrel shows. He also drew cartoons for his students. After his wife’s death in 1966, he turned to a new art form to occupy his time. Starting out sketching local buildings, churches, schoolhouses, and mills, Rexrode began painting on grey uncoated cardboard, working at an oilcloth-covered table in his kitchen.

At first painting from photographs, Rexrode then turned to remembered scenes from his youth. His early works were displayed at the Shenandoah Valley Folklore Society at the Harrisonburg Arts and Crafts Festival in neighboring Virginia in 1968. Later exhibits were held at the opening of the Virginia Military Institute Hall of Valor at the New Market Battlefield Park, the Maple Festival at Monterey, Virginia, and elsewhere.

Rexrode began offering his work for sale at an art and craft shop in Winchester, Virginia, and other shops in the area soon were selling his work. His work was also sold at the American Folk Art Shop in the Georgetown section of Washington, and other places.

Rexrode developed a category he called ‘‘old-timey subjects’’ that included butchering, one-room schools, old-time Christmas, barn raising, quilting, and harvesting, among others. In her 1976 book Contemporary Folk Artists, Elinor Horwitz called Rexrode ‘‘Grandpa Moses’’ because of the similarity of his work to that of Grandma Moses.

Rexrode was buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery, Pendleton County.