Highland Museum Opens for the Season May 1

This is Lori Botkin with the Highland Historical Society and the Highland Museum in McDowell with an update on the season opening May 1st.  The silent film, Tol’able David, will celebrate it’s 100th anniversary this year.  The museum has created an exhibit to commemorate this event in Highland’s history.

In the summer of 1921, a New York film company arrived in Highland County.  The cast and crew included Richard Barthelmess, screen veteran Gladys Hulette, Scottish theatre actor Ernest Torrence, Hollywood director and Virginia-born Henry King and the writer of the original short story, Joseph Hergesheimer.

The story of Tol’able David was born when Hergesheimer visited Highland County.  This simple coming of age story is a variation on David and Goliath.   David, the younger son of a tight knit family, has a crush on his neighbor Esther and lives an idealized life of horses and dogs and pretending to drive the mail hack like his older brother.  His mother tells David that he’s not yet a man, that he’s just tol’able.  The opportunity to prove himself arrives when three of Esther’s relatives, on the run from the law, move in on her and her father.  They cause a double tragedy to David’s family and he must choose between revenge or cowardice.

From his portrayal of David, Barthelmess was launched into stardom.  Hulette had already filmed nearly one hundred movies by the time she appeared in Tol’able David.  From his performance, Ernest Torrence became one of the best bad guys in the business.  The film was popular from its opening.  Reviews of the day commented heavily on the beauty of the landscape and its rural nature. Today silent film enthusiasts consider Tol’able David one of the best silent film era classic works.

What was then known as Crabbottom was set to film as the fictious town called Greenstream.  Today we all know the area as Blue Grass and anyone watching the film will immediately recognize the scenery and many of the buildings.

The Tol’able David exhibit opens for the season May 1.  In addition to the new exhibit, there’s a driving tour to see the locations used in filming.  The brochure will be available at the Highland County Museum, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and locations throughout the county.  Copies of the Tol’able David DVD are for sale in the museum store or make an appointment to view the movie at the museum library.

Museum hours are Thursday through Saturday 11 am to 4 pm.

For more information call the museum at 540-396-4478.  Email at highlandhist@mgwnet.com or our webpage at www.highlandcountyhistory.com

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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