Randolph County Homestead School Photo Display at McClintic Library
One of the lesser known New Deal programs created by the Roosevelt administration in the early 30’s, the Subsistence Homestead Division sought to address urban concentration and unemployment by creating rural communities where under- and unemployed industrial workers were encouraged to farm and form communities that would become self-sustaining. One of those communities was the Tygarts Valley Homestead in Randolph County, including the towns of Dailey, East Dailey and Valley Bend. An exhibit on display at the McClintic Library in Marlinton gives a glimpse of the early days of the homestead.
I caught up with Gibbs Kinderman as he was arranging the display at the library.
“The whole homestead was developed by the federal government as a place where unemployed miners and loggers could live in decent housing during the depression,” said Gibbs. “They were able to build their own houses, self-help housing and they got a wage. Half of their wage went to pay for their house, the other half they were paid in money. And there were 99 homesteads across the country.”
Gibbs said First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the principal sponsors of the program and spoke at the first elementary school graduation at the Homestead school, a personal favorite of hers, in 1941. He said the Tygarts Valley Homestead school is now a mere remnant of the program that once included similar communities all across the country.
“Of the 99 federal Homestead schools in the United States, that’s the last one that’s still open and functioning as a public school,” said Gibbs.
But it may be for much longer.
“The Randolph County Board of Education at their last meeting in May, voted to put it on a closure list for next year, so it’s definitely an endangered historic structure,” he said.
“Does that mean that it’s definitely going to be closed or does that mean that it’s a possibility?”
“They’re starting the planning,” said Gibbs. “I think it remains to be seen, there’s still a glimmer of hope. And the people in that community love the school.”
Gibbs cites a school levy on the May 10th primary that failed to pass, further endangering the efforts to keep the school off of the closure list. He said the federal government gave the school and land to Randolph County to be used as a school and community center. If the building no longer serves that purpose, the deed allows the government to reclaim the land.
Gibbs spoke about the photographs in the exhibit.
“This is a set of photographs showing the Tygart Valley Homestead and the way of life there in the late 1930’s when it was really getting underway and everything was booming,” said Gibbs. “And it’s pretty amazing because some of the same families live in those houses today. And I think if people come to the library, McClintic, and see the pictures and see the houses, when they drive through Dailey and Valley Bend, they’ll recognize them.”
The photographs were taken by a group of four photographers employed by the Farm Security Agency to take pictures of New Deal projects around the country.
“This photo exhibit was curated by a photo historian named Betty Revard who’s done a book of New Deal photographs published by WVU Press,” Gibbs said. “If you want to see life in the thirties, the upbeat side of life in the thirties, people should definitely check out this exhibit.”
The exhibit is currently on display at the McClintic library in Marlinton.