Submitted by Robert Tuckwiller
It is difficult to determine the impact that a family farm can have on a community and a state, but the book, Tuscawilla Stories of a Farm, makes a determined, and I believe, successful effort, to do just that. The book, written by Jane Cary, and compiled and edited by Kaaren Cary Ford, chronicles the life and times of the landmark farm, Tuscawilla Farm, located just south of Lewisburg, West Virginia, along Route 219. The musical sounding name, Tuscawilla, comes from a Seminole Indian word meaning land between two lakes. The book is an exciting story of the farm’s early days from 1844 through several generations until present day. The two families involved, the Knights and the Carys, shared an extraordinary working relationship that built the farm and helped it prosper.
The late Jane Cary held the narrative and history of the farm, and her niece, Kaaren Cary Ford, compiled the stories in a pleasing way that is both informative and exciting. This book is entertaining and easy to read, but it is also important in that it preserves the impact that these families and this farm had on the growth and development of the county we know as Greenbrier and the state that we know as West Virginia. It is a compelling read for those who want to learn more about local history.
Jane Cary’s vivid and often humorous memories of her time at Tuscawilla and the history that she learned from her ancestors are a treasure. Her memories and notes provided an exceptional timeline of events. She could recall names of workers, incidents, details, and even favorite recipes from lye soap to blackberry jam cake. The farm was ahead of its time in being sustainable and practical. They used what they had and made the most out of it. Large gardens, several ponds, a sawmill, crops, and livestock produced cash crops and enterprises that came in by the seasons. At one time the farm had over 1,500 apple trees planted there, many of which were heirloom varieties that still flourish in the region today. The foods they produced and the celebrations they hosted were enjoyed by many. The farm employed many workers from the area who today would be considered specialists in their field. There were occasional setbacks and accidents, but with the help of local people, the farm persevered and grew. Finding markets for their products, including livestock, meant taking advantage of the trains going through Ronceverte to transport them to buyers far away. The cattle, pigs, horses, and other animals were the some of the best in the area and with successful exhibitions in other states the reputation of the farm was widely known and respected.
This book will forever be a resource for those interested in local history and the fact that these stories are now preserved make the book a treasure to read and share with others. Whether you are a long-time resident, a native, or new to the Greenbrier Valley it is truly a gem and a wonderful account of times gone by.
(Robert Tuckwiller, a professional artist and writer who was born and raised in Greenbrier County, grew up on a farm just west of Lewisburg. He is a graduate of Concord University, holds a Master’s Degree from Hollins University, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Concord University in 2019.)