This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 8 No. 3, "Growing Up Southern." Find more from that issue here.
Randolph Davenport lived on a farm on Clinch Mountain, Virginia, for 71 years, from 1871 until his death in 1942. His 10 children became farmers, teachers and tradesmen in the surrounding coutryside. Many of his grandchildren moved on to nearby towns or migrated to industrial cities in the North and the Midwest. Colleen Davenport Taylor is a member of the fifth generation of Davenports to live on Clinch Mountain. The photos are by Bill Blanton, a photographer and writer living in Scott County, Virginia.
On a day in May, I went back with the ones who’d. been gone a long time, back to their old home on Clinch Mountain, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. For 30 years some of them had been gone and the changes had come and changed again, until only the land was left the same. The old house was there after 66 years, but the log house, the place where the first Davenport children were born in 1881, was in ruins.
My cousin owns the place now. He loves it and will take good care of it. It's a beautiful spot. Walnut, apple and cherry trees grow all over, the wild oranges form a hedge along the back yard, the rose bushes bloom profusely against a backdrop of green.
They came, the children of Randolph Davenport, their families and a few close friends. They recounted childhood memories. They touched again the weathered wood of the buildings that had sheltered them. Many of the memories were bitter sweet: the corn fields, the grain fields, ring of hoe against the rocks, sweep of scythe through the grain. They went hungry and cold there on the mountain; life was often harsh and rending. And they courted and married and moved away from the long hours, the copperheads and the lone bird calling mournfully in the sweet spring afternoons. For the young people — the children and grandchildren of those who once lived here — this was a day to talk of jobs and children, sickness and health. The children laughed again in the mountain sunshine. They picked cherries, smelled the roses, ran in the grass and the dust and prowled through the old house, never really understanding its history or its meaning in the lives of their elders.
Colleen Davenport Taylor
Colleen Davenport Taylor is a member of the fifth generation of Davenports to live on Clinch Mountain. (1980)