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The students at Aurora School sent in dozens of wonderful essays about their family and about Aurora in response to our first middle school essay contest. Here are the 4 winning essays. Each one demonstrates the author’s research into his or her family background and a deep consideration of life in and around Aurora in both the past and present. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we did!
My Family History in Aurora by Erika Ritchey (8th Grade)
Like any other family, my family is unique in its own ways. There are challenges, accomplishments, traditions, and family heroes, just like any other family. Looking back at my family history I find more and more things about my family that makes me proud to say they are a part of my family.
My family originated from Germany, where they were great ship builders. They came to America in 1791. My 5th generation grandfather Tevolt Moats and two of his brothers snuck away on a ship to come to America. The boat docked at Jamestown, Virginia. While they were examining the new land they ran into a tribe of Apache Indians that welcomed them. My 5th generation grandfather fell in love with an Apache woman named Hannak, they got married in present day Barbour County, WV. They built a house and started a family. Then they moved to Aurora were their children lived most of their life. The generations kept growing and growing.
My great grandfather stayed in Aurora and raised a farm. He married Edna Simmons, and they had twelve children, nine boys and three girls. They had a set of twins, one died right after birth and the other one only lived about a month. So they only had one girl that survived. He worked his whole life to buy the farm I live on today. He worked in Ervin at a band sawmill, which was operated by a steam engine. Every day he walked from Aurora to Ervin to go to work. He raised a garden, cattle, pigs, turkeys, and chickens. He also had a rock quarry business, were he sold rocks to build patios, walkways, and house bricks for people. He also hunted to provide his family with food. He was a very outstanding, hardworking man.
Just like other families, my family has its traditions. One tradition that has been in my family for a long time is the family reunion. We also have big Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter celebrations.
One person we see as a hero in my family is Doyle. He was in Vietnam for 5 years. He received a purple heart. He received a purple because one of his friends got shot, and he carried his friend to try to catch the rescue unit so he could get help. By the time he got to the rescue unit his friend had already passed away.
Living in Aurora has allowed my family to do a lot of things, including allowing my family to have a sawmill business, and allowing my family to raise a farm, and hunt for food. Aurora is a great friendly community, and there are a lot of good lifelong friends in Aurora to meet. Also it has been an honor to live on the farm my ancestors once lived on and raising my animals where they raised their animal. I hope my children, grandchildren, etc. will live on the farm my ancestors once lived on and have great experiences like I have. Aurora will always be in my heart, and Aurora will always be my home. There will be many more generations to come in Aurora.
Looking Back At the Years by Erica Myers (7th Grade)
My family moved to Aurora in the 1930s. They bought farms on the Stemple Ridge Road. Their ancestors immigrated to the United States from Germany and settled in this area of the Appalachian Mountains working with timber and mining. I think they must have come by ship and the decided to move to a rural area rather than staying in a city along the eastern shore.
I had two great uncles who served in the military. Neither wanted to talk about their experiences in combat. Uncle Bill served in the Korean War. He patrolled the boarder at night without a light. He never knew where an enemy may be lurking or if there was landmine nearby. My great grandparents were Wade and Maxine Hauser. Gran Hauser delivered babies all over the ridge and the Aurora area as a midwife. She worked like an obstetrician without any schooling. If she needed help, she could get in touched with Dr. Blanche in Eglon. Dr. Blanche’s office was located in the house on the left as you turn right toward the Eglon Clinic. She also worked for Dr. Jamison who practiced in the Erwin area near Rowlesburg. Pappy Hauser owned a logging business and also farmed. Although he only went to school to second grade, he could calculate board feet faster than you could write it down. He was a mathematical genius!
Gran and Pappy and their eight children would have a family reunion at their home on Stemple Ridge on a Saturday in August. All the kids tried to attend with their families. When Gran and Pappy passed, Uncle Bill continued the tradition but made it a weekend event. He had a huge log truck garage that he and the boys would clean out. On Friday night he would have a hog roast and picnic. Tables and chairs were set up around the edge and about twelve tables were placed down the middle for all the food. He invited all Stemple Ridge, all the Hausers and all his friends. On Saturday only the Hausers would have their family reunion picnic. On Sunday everyone would attend the Stemple Ridge Church where Gran and Pappy went. When Uncle Bill passed, his sons carried on the tradition. On Saturday, Joe hooks up a hay wagon and takes everyone on a hayride all the way out Stemple Ridge or down a hollow. Last year about 250 people came to the hog roast. My grandmother also carried on the tradition of her mother by making handmade quilts. She still makes the squares and the puts the blanket on a quilting frame quilt. My grandma still has a vegetable garden every year. Mom, Dad and I help her plant the seeds and help her with canning everything in the fall. She still uses some old-time recipes from her mother like mincemeat pie. Have you ever eaten a pie that has both fruit and meat in it? I was chosen to represent Aurora School as a Buckwheat Festival junior princess this year which is also a tradition. Everyone goes to the Buckwheat Festival in September to watch the parades, ride the rides, and go see the exhibits. We have a very active 4-H club in our area. A lot of my friends and relatives are taking care of all kinds of animals to exhibit this year.
Living in Aurora has allowed me to participate in all sports and activities at the Aurora School because it is a small, rural school. If I attended a larger school I would have to compete for the basketball, track, and cross country teams. Living in the country allows us to go camping in the summer on top those high hills where we can see for miles. I can go deer hunting anywhere I want on Stemple Ridge without any trouble. I like it because we all feel safe here. Mom and Dad don’t lock their vehicles at night. We don’t lock our doors until bedtime. It’s ok for me to practice long distance running up or down the road by myself. I know crime can happen anywhere, but I also feel safe at school. It’s real quiet and peaceful with hardly anyone coming around. You don’t hear constant noise you would have in the city. Living here allows us to visit with our grandmother and lots of our relatives whenever we want. When my aunt comes to the reunion form Florida, we usually go to Cathedral State Park and walk the trails. She tries to identify and tell me the names of the wildflowers.
Lots of things have changed since my grandmother was my age. When she went to school, the girls wore dresses. I only wear a dress on a special occasion. She attended Aurora High School, one of the eight or nine high schools in Preston County. When she graduated in 1959, the youngest of the family, the Hauser family of eight was the largest to graduate from the school. The Auvils, who also lived on Stemple Ridge, came in second. She would help women’s groups serve “penny suppers” at the Aurora Community Building. On Saturday night, they would charge one penny for every spoonful of food. You could have a complete meal with desert and drink for a little more than a dollar! She worked at the Fairlea Restaurant, now Donna Jean’s as a waitress for fifty cents an hour! Her parents were able to take care of their eight children on the farm. Today it would be hard, if not impossible, for a middle income family to provide food, clothing, and shelter for eight children. Trying to help eight children get through college or trade school would take a lifetime to pay off. Birth control has probably caused families to decrease in size, too. My grandmother can still remember living without electricity or water inside the house. Technology is the biggest change since she was my age. My grandmother has a cell phone, satellite TV, an electronic fireplace, and a computer: all things unheard of sixty years ago. She can read emails on her computer, look up all kinds of information on the internet, and do all kinds of social networking. Postage stamps were about ten cents. Her car is completely automatic inside with power windows and all kinds of information on her instrumental panel. She has a riding lawnmower. There used to be a lot of traffic on Route 50, especially trucks, before I-68 was completed. Tractor/ trailer wrecks were always happening on Cheat Mountain. They would buy all their groceries at Hardesty’s store on Route 50 where the history center is now located. There were no Wal-Mart’s, no shopping malls. She would order clothing from Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog. The same catalog would also be used as toilet paper. There was no Aurora Ambulance when she was growing up. Everyone took care of themselves the best they could in emergencies.
You wouldn’t believe how much Aurora has changed in the past 65 years. It’s amazing! I think Stemple Ridge has the best sunsets ever…they’re beautiful! Aurora is a beautiful, awesome place to live and if you have never visited Aurora you definitely should – you won’t be disappointed. I love where I live and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The people here are all very nice and everyone gets along. Aurora has amazing history and there are a lot of things about Aurora that are totally unbelievable. I think Aurora will always be a great place just like it is now. I plan to live in Aurora forever…that’s how much I love it here!
My Family History by Tyler Pomeroy (6th Grade)
My dad’s side of the family is from Ireland and France. My grandpa Pomeroy’s family came from Ireland. My great great grandfather was a drummer in the Army. He fought at the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, MD. You can see his history there at the battlefield. We also have his gun that he used while in the Army. My grandfather, Kent Pomeroy, was born in Morgantown, WV. He taught school in Preston County when he graduated from college. He met my grandma. My grandpa taught music and drivers education in Preston County Schools. He then was a conductor for the CSX train until the 1985 flood. He went back to teaching music in the school system. He has retired and now helps my grandma at the stockyards. He is the pianist and organist at Methodist Church in Terra Alta.
My dad’s mom’s side of the family is from Corinth, Terra Alta, and Amboy area. My great grandfather Clarence was born in Corinth. I get my middle name from him. My great grandmother was born in Amboy. She was a Wotring. After they were married, they lived in Corinth. They lived on a farm on the WV/MD line. My great grandma was a house wife and my great grandpa worked for Teets Oil Company. My grandmother was born on the farm. She remembers raising their food by gardening and fattening chickens, hogs, and beef. My great grandmother was a great cook. My grandma has worked many retail jobs and for the stockyards for many years. She is still the manager of Preston Farmers Market.
On my mom’s side of the family, my family came from France and Germany. My mom’s dads side of the family came from Germany. My great grandpa was born in Durgon, WV close to Moorefield, WV. My great grandmother was born in Deep Springs, WV. They lived in Dorcas, WV where my grandfather was born. He fought in Korean War. My grandfather died when my mom was 9 years old. I never got to meet him.
My grandma’s parents on my mom’s side of the family were from Upper Tract, WV close to Franklin, WV. They both grew up on farms. My great grandfather quit school in the 8th grade so he could take could of the farm, because his dad was sick. He never went back to school. He loved to play baseball. He was a very good hunter. He continued to farm his whole life. My great grandma was a housewife. She also helped on the farm. My grandma still lives in Dorcas, WV. She is the secretary of the West Virginia Extension Office in Petersburg, WV. She has worked there for 48 years.
My mom and dad met in college at Potomac State College. They were married in 1998 in Oakland. I was born 12, almost 13, years ago. We lived in Terra Alta then. We moved when I was one from Terra Alta to Aurora and rented a home from Mark and Ladeana Teets. My mom and dad wanted to buy a farm. We asked the Teets if we could buy the farm where we rented. They wanted to sell the farm where they lived instead. So when my sister was three months old, we bought the farm where we live now in Eglon.
We have lived here for 11 years. We have a farm with cows and calves, sheep and chickens. My dad farms, drives the school bus, and helps my grandma at the stockyards. My mom is Assistant Manager at Southern States in Oakland, MD.
I love living in Eglon. I love the scenery of farmland all around me. I like all the farmers and love to watch their animals out in the fields. Most our neighbors are very nice and like to help each other farm. I like to have my own cows and sheep. I have some of my own cows. I have showed a steer at the Buckwheat Festival for four years. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
My Family History by Willie Bachtel (5th Grade)
My dad’s ancestors came to America from Germany. Some of them were farmers. In 1957, my grandparents, Eugene and Bernadine Bachtel, bought a farm in Eglon, WV, and continued the tradition of farming. They raised six kids, three boys and three girls. My dad, Gary, is their youngest son and still works on the family farm.
Farming is a tradition that has been passed down through generations in my family. My great-grandparents, Mark and Twila Bachtel and Willie and Grace Roth, were dairy farmers. The family farm today is also a dairy farm. One other tradition is getting together with family at Christmastime and opening presents at my grandparents’ house. We also get together with family at Easter for dinner and an egg hunt. At Thanksgiving, we have a turkey dinner.
Living in Eglon has allowed us to have a dairy farm. There are other good things about living here. We have nice country neighbors. There is a post office, a doctor, a convenience store, and a feed store, within the town of Eglon. We are also close to Garrett Memorial Hospital, Ruby Memorial Hospital, and Mon General Hospital.
I have lots of people in my family that have served in the military. One of them was my great-uncle, Clifton Bachtel. He served in World War II. Other members of my family who served in World War II include my great-great-uncles, Bob Wiles and Homer Knotts. My great-grandfather, Dale Stemple, and my great-uncle, Kenneth Bachtel, also served in the military. I believe these people are heroes, because they risked their lives to protect our country.
Another hero in my family would be my great-uncle, Charles Roth, who lost his arm in a sawmill accident. As soon as he was able, he went back to work with one arm. I consider him a hero, because he kept working, even though he was missing an arm.
My grandfather, Eugene Bachtel, also worked at a sawmill. Back then, he earned $5 per day. Five dollars used to buy a lot more than it does now. Three loaves of bread used to cost 25 cents.
My great-grandparents, Willie and Grace Roth, were once mail carriers. When my grandma, Bernadine, was 5, she rode with her parents on the mail routes. She learned her ABC’s by reading the newspapers. People used to order a lot of things through mail order catalogs, before you could order things online.
My grandma says that life was very different when she was my age. Eglon used to have a dentist’s office and a blacksmith’s shop. There was also a doctor’s office, where the doctor would remove people’s tonsils in an upstairs bedroom, back before there was a hospital nearby. The doctor used to go to a person’s house to deliver a baby. The feed mill would grind buckwheat flour. The Horseshoe Run Store and Post Office was a country store that sold a little bit of everything, including material, thread, yarn, sewing supplies, shoes, stockings, groceries, carpenter’s supplies, rubber boots, and animal feed. After the feed bags were empty, the women would wash the bags and use the material to make dresses. The store also sold cookies, penny candy, and nickel candy bars.
Back then, farms were smaller, and farmers had less technology. They milked by hand and used teams of horses to pull plows. People grew their own food, raised animals to butcher, hunted, and fished for food. They canned food to preserve it, because there were no freezers. Without electric, they didn’t have refrigerators, so they used ice boxes and water to keep food cold. Food was cooked on a wood or coal stove. Even toast was made on the cook stove.
Schools were also smaller. Many schools had only one or two rooms and the same teacher for all the students. There was no indoor plumbing. Water had to be carried in buckets from springs, and, if you wanted to go to the bathroom, you had to go to the outhouse.
There were no cell phones, just wall phones with party lines. Music was played on victrolas and, later, radios. There were fewer cars on the roads and more horses and buggies. The cars were not as high tech as today’s cars.
I have quite an interesting family. There are lots of good people in my family. I love everyone in my family.
Congrats Erika, Erica, Tyler, and Willie! You all did a fantastic job! Also, congrats to the entire 5th grade at Aurora School for the best overall class of essays. We at the Aurora Project can’t wait to work with Aurora School next year. To all the students – enjoy your summer!
The Aurora Project held its first ever middle school essay contest in the beginning of 2014. Students from Aurora School were challenged to write an essay answering the prompt: Each family has a unique history full of challenges, accomplishments, legends, and heros. These stories are greatly affected by where each family comes from and lives. What are some special stories or characteristics from your family background? How has living in Aurora affected your family history?
All students who entered the contest wrote wonderful essays about life in Aurora. Judges from Aurora School and The Aurora Project selected a winner from each grade. The four winners are, from left to right, Erika Ritchey (8th Grade), Erica Myers (7th Grade), Willie Bachtel (5th Grade), and Tyler Pomeroy (6th Grade). Congratulations!! Keep an eye out for their essays in a future post!
Storytelling With Ilene Evans. Ilene will be performing on Saturday, June 7th at 7 PM in the Aurora Community Building. Check out her stories and learn about Appalachian history and culture in an extraordinary way!
Tickets can be bought at the door. Adults: $15 Students: $10
Buy your tickets now!