Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Reunion Season

The Long-Couch House in Dante
The Summer Reading Program is the library’s big focus in the summer, but family reunions are so prevalent that this library staffer also thinks of summer as reunion season. Family reunions bring back folks who have moved away. Summer also brings many visitors to the RCPL’s Local History Collection; people who are tracing their family history often find that the family came through Russell County in the past. Family reunions abound, but it’s not just family reunions. Many high school classes meet during the summer.  Old schoolhouses or churches are cleaned up and homecomings are held. 

This weekend, the Dante Reunion is taking center stage in Russell County. Turkey’s Foot was the original name of the community (because the hollows looked like a turkey’s foot when viewed on a map.) Once the largest community in Russell County, Dante thrived when the Clinchfield Coal Company was headquartered there.  Dante boasted a movie theatre, hospital, schools, stores, bank, hotel, and a beer garden. Much of this was owned by the company but it made for a thriving community.

Dante still has a post office, fire department, museum, and the will to live. One of the first communities in Russell County to try to revitalize itself, Dante continues to try to buck the trend of dying small towns.  Dante’s diverse history and culture make it unique in Russell County. Much of the diversity was due to the coal mines; immigrants working in the coal mine included people from what are now the Slavic republics. African-Americans worked in the mines in sufficient numbers the county provided a high school for their children during segregation. When the high school, called the Artie Lee School, closed the students began attending Castlewood High School.

Visit the Dante Coal Mining and Railroad Museum to learn more about Russell County's history. 

Posted by Kelly McBride Delph

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