^pBy BRIANA BARKER
Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute and Museum will celebrate the publication of the first published book by Karl Edwards, “A Brief History of the Village of Ferrum, Virginia,” with a book signing event.
The book signing will be Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. at BRI on the college’s campus, 20 Museum Drive in Ferrum. Light refreshments will be provided and copies of the book will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.
BRI Director Beth Worley said she is proud to partner with Edwards, a Ferrum native, to host the signing.
“This will be the first book signing we (at the BRI) have ever had,” Worley said. “It is perfect to start off with a book like this because it is all about the area and it really fits right into the mission of the museum, which is to preserve the documents and the culture of the Blue Ridge region.”
The self-published book contains a detailed history of the Ferrum area taken from extensive resources, including archival research and oral histories. The book also contains a treasure of rare and previously unpublished photographs. Stories of merchants, the railroad, schools, churches and the 1940 fire.
Edwards wrote, “Some have lamented that Ferrum was never the same after this calamitous fire” that destroyed around 20 businesses, as well as apartment homes. There is even a chapter called “The Risky Whiskey Business” that provides an overview of the moonshine business around Ferrum. Edwards said he intentionally downplayed the moonshine heritage because so much has been published about it already that he didn’t want to be redundant.
Edwards spent the past four years writing the book. He said he finished writing it last fall and has been engaged in the editing and layout process since that time.
Worley and former BRI’s former director Roddy Moore both read the manuscript and made suggestions. Franklin County Historical Society Director Linda Stanley, Dr. J. Francis Amos and K. Edward Goode also read the manuscript during its transcribing.
BRI Museum Curator and Archivist Ariel Hundley assisted Edwards by serving as the layout editor, placing the more than 100 photos in the book and helping Edwards with formatting.
Edwards connected with BRI while searching for pictures to place in the book. But their connection goes past photos. Edwards taught Worley British Literature when she was a senior at Franklin County High School. Edwards is a retired English teacher and Franklin County Public Schools administrator. Worley penned the foreward in the book.
A Ferrum native, Edwards said he realized the village had “a story worth telling” and was inspired by a published monograph by Pedro Slone titled “A Historical Sketch of Ferrum, Virginia.”
“It was a great starting point; I was fascinated by it years ago,” Edwards said, explaining the monograph documented businessmen, doctors, pharmacists and people who served the community.
He also wanted to capture as many anecdotal stories to include as possible. “I realized there were people who were older than I was and knew a great deal about the village, and they were dying off,” Edwards said. “So it was now or never.”
He added some of his most valuable sources died while he was writing the book. He interviewed more than 130 people for the book — some extensively and some briefly.
“There is no substitute for living memories,” he said. “These people have lived the history, and it was just amazing to sit down and talk with these folks.”
Edwards is a contributor to BRI and established an endowment that will go toward adding to his work someday. He hopes in another 20 years someone will pick up where he left off and add more history and bring it up to date.
“I know I have just the scratched the surface, even though I talked to more than 100 people, there are over 50 references in the works cited and 100-plus footnotes,” Edwards said. “I know there are letters, diaries, wills and documents that people have … I want to encourage people to give those things to the Blue Ridge Institute and be archived there.”
He added all proceeds from book sales will go directly to BRI, which Worley said will help fund more documenting projects.