By Carter Seaton
Itâ€™s the 1960s. The Vietnam War is raging and protests are erupting across the United States. In many quarters, young people are dropping out of society, leaving their urban homes behind in an attempt to find a safe place to live on their own terms, to grow their own food, and to avoid a war they passionately decry. During this time, West Virginia becomes a haven for thousands of these homesteadersâ€”or back-to-the-landers, as they are termed by some. Others call them hippies.
When the going got rough, many left. But a significant number remain to this day. Some were artisans when they arrived, while others adopted a craft that provided them with the cash necessary to survive. Hippie Homesteaders tells the story of this movement from the viewpoint of forty artisans and musicians who came to the state, lived on the land, and created successful careers with their craft. Thereâ€™s the couple that made baskets coveted by the Smithsonian Institutionâ€™s Renwick Gallery. Thereâ€™s the draft-dodger that fled to Canada and then became a premier furniture maker. Thereâ€™s the Boston-born VISTA worker who started a quilting cooperative. And, thereâ€™s the immigrant Chinese potter who lived on a commune.
Along with these stories, Hippie Homesteaders examines the serendipitous timing of this influx and the community and economic support these crafters received from residents and state agencies in West Virginia. Without these young transplants, itâ€™s possible there would be no Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia, the first statewide collection of fine arts and handcrafts in the nation, and no Mountain Stage, the weekly live musical program broadcast worldwide on National Public Radio since 1983. Forget what you know about West Virginia.
Hippie Homesteaders isnâ€™t about coal or hillbillies or moonshine or poverty. It is the story of why West Virginia wasâ€”and still isâ€”a kind of heaven to so many.About the author: Carter Taylor Seaton is a freelance journalist and figurative sculptor. Born and raised in West Virginia, she graduated from Marshall University and lived in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia from 1985-1995 before returning to her hometown of Huntington where she resides with her husband, Richard Cobb. While living in Georgia, she began running and completed several marathons after she was fifty, including the Atlanta, Marine Corps, and New York City Marathons. For fifteen years, she directed a rural Appalachian craft cooperative to benefit low-income women. Ladies Home Journal nominated her in 1975 for its "Woman of the Year" award.
Her first novel, Father's Troubles, was named as a finalist for the prestigious ForeWord Magazine 2003 Book of the Year award in the Historical Fiction category. She is a regular contributor to several regional magazines and The West Virginia Encyclopedia. In 2007, her article on the impact of the back-to-the-land movement on West Virginia was featured in Appalachian Heritage literary journal and won the Denny C. Plattner Award for its Best Work of Non-Fiction.