No Work in the Grave: Life in the Toe River Valley (Paperback)

No Work in the Grave: Life in the Toe River Valley By Jo Ann Thomas Croom Cover Image

No Work in the Grave: Life in the Toe River Valley (Paperback)


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Step back in time to the early 1900s and enter the sparsely settled Toe River Valley in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, a region still only slowly healing from the deep ravages of the Civil War. Life is centered in small insulated communities made up of subsistence farm families, one of which is the A.H. and Maggie Silver Thomas family. Both the Thomas and Silver families can trace their ancestors in the Valley back for five generations, and both their histories are first recorded by their son, Monroe, a teacher who is home-bound by illness. From his cot in the living room, Monroe watches as the entry of the railroad changes life into a wage-earner economy. He keeps an account of farm and community life in his journals while continuing to further educate himself through avid reading and thinking. His younger brother Walter, also an educator, provides a retrospective view of the time and place through the age-old practice of telling stories to illustrate truth. Together, these two accounts have been pieced together by Walter’s daughter, Jo Ann Thomas Croom, into a mosaic quilt that gives us a fresh in-depth look into a turbulent period of change – change that upended personal lives as well as the socioeconomic culture of the Valley. While this is the story of one particular family, it represents a microcosm of the history of the region.
Jo Ann Thomas Croom was born in Mitchell County, North Carolina, where her parents were life-long educators in the public school system. After graduating from Harris High School in Spruce Pine, Jo Ann attended Mars Hill College for two years. She then earned BS and MS degrees in Chemistry and Microbiology from North Carolina State University. She worked as a chemist for Chemstrand Research in Triangle Park, then moved to Asheville with her husband Richard Croom and began a family. In the Asheville area, Jo Ann taught at Asheville Biltmore College, Warren Wilson College, Saint Genevieve’s Academy, and Homewood School at Highland Hospital. After the family moved to Mars Hill in Madison County, Jo Ann began a forty-year career at Mars Hill University. She earned a PhD in human genetics at the University of Tennessee Biomedical Program. In retirement, Jo Ann has been working with written materials inherited from her father Walter Thomas and her uncle Monroe Thomas.
Product Details ISBN: 9780997526936
Publisher: Dykeman Legacy Press
Publication Date: June 1st, 2022
Pages: 408
"Croom does a masterful job of connecting the lives of a remarkable southern mountain family with the larger forces of change that transformed rural life at the turn of the twentieth century. An Appalachian memoir at the highest level."
-- Ron Eller, Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus,
University of Kentucky

"Jo Ann Thomas Croom has crafted an intricate, intimate, and complex ethnohistory of the Toe River Valley in western North Carolina through the mid 20th century. Using the detailed writings of her uncle Monroe Thomas and her father Walter Thomas, Croom reveals with exquisite detail the natural world and its assault from mining industries, Civil War partisanship, racism and its aftermath, life cycles of farm and family, as changing technologies and educational opportunities bring fundamental changes to this region."
-- Patricia Beaver, Professor Emerita, Appalachian State University

"Jo Ann Croom has provided us with an insightful and highly personal glimpse into history and life in the Toe River Valley. Croom's inclusion of the astute observations of her uncle and father from the 1910s through the 1950s brings color and nuance to her story. No Work In The Grave provides an important corrective to the all-too-common image of Appalachian folk as ignorant and backward. The people in this book are intelligent, curious, and innovative farmers, naturalists, and educators."
-- Daniel S. Pierce, Interdisciplinary Distinguished Professor of the Mountain South, University of North Carolina Asheville