“You don’t see people raising turkeys now. When I grew up, everyone had turkeys,” recalls Layuna Rapp, who grew up on a family Dairy Farm outside of Frankford, W.Va.
This photo is dated 1900 in Lewisburg. The turkeys were probably being driven down the road from a farm in Greenbrier or Monroe County to be sold at the stockyards or to be shipped by train from Ronceverte. Layuna Rapp remembers the turkey drives down US 219:
“They’d clip the wings of the turkeys so they couldn’t fly away. And then they could just drive them on the road, and they’d take them down, put them on a train. Cause they didn’t have any trucks to truck them out of here. Some drove them to Ronceverte. We had a train station in Renick. It would take your animals to Hinton or to Ronceverte. We had a stockyard in Ronceverte. It took all day to go 30 miles, with cows, because you had to stop every little bit and let them rest. Turkeys the same way. People on their farms were trying to get their turkeys down to the railroad station. And they had to let the turkeys eat and play along the road awhile, so they wouldn’t get too tired getting to the train.”
Before it came time to drive the turkeys to town each fall, on the farm it was Layuna’s job to follow the turkeys like a secret agent and discover where the birds made their hidden nests. “It was an ordeal because, when you let them out, they did not want to stay in the building to lay their eggs. They wanted to go off somewhere, and you had to watch them. And that’s the job I had. I hated it. Mother made me do it. ‘Turn those turkeys out and you watch them to see where they go to make their nest.'”
Hazel Shrader, who grew up on her family farm in Pickaway, W.Va, about 12 miles south of Ronceverte, also remembers the yearly turkey drives. During the Great Depression, Hazel’s mother, Minnie Burwell Shrader, used all the money she made selling the turkeys to pay for Hazel’s college education. “I always said I went to college on turkeys because that’s where they got the money to send me.”
Both Layuna and Hazel sat down at their dining room tables to tell us these stories. Happy Thanksgiving to them, and to you! A special thanks to those with a special love for the communities and history along 219, and the memories that we tell around the dining room table.