Backroads Series author Lynn Coffey to Visit Museum Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Winchester, VA 2/5/14…From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. this Saturday, February 8, Shenandoah Valley author Lynn Coffey will be at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) to sign her new book, Appalachian Heart, Oral Histories of the Mountain Elders, as well as books from her popular Backroads series.

A resident of Love in Augusta County, Virginia, Coffey’s three-book Backroads series captures the heart and soul of Virginia’s Appalachian culture. Published in August 2013, Appalachian Heart contains the current oral histories of 19 native people still living in the Virginia highlands where the author makes her home. According to Coffey, the 304-page book is full of rich history taken from those who can remember what life was like before electricity, telephones and indoor plumbing; before technology became a household word, and when survival depended on how well the crops and gardens grew. Appalachian Heart includes 278 black-and-white photographs and, along with Coffey’s other publications, will be available for purchase in the Museum Store this Saturday ($20 per book).

The author’s Backroads series includes Backroads: Plain Folk & Simple Livin’; Backroads 2: The Road to Chicken Holler; and Backroads 3: Faces of Appalachia. According to MSV Museum Store Manager Bonnie Barr, the books appeal to readers who are interested in the vanishing culture of the southern mountains as well as those seeking to simplify their lives by learning how to live more self-sufficiently.

According to the author, the town of Love factors highly in the development of her books. With less than 100 residents, the town’s current population is small compared to the multitude of native Scots/Irish families who settled there in the 1700s. Like many of the surrounding mountain communities, Love was isolated from the outside world and yet highly functional, with several one-room schoolhouses, three churches, general mercantile stores, grist mills, and a post office. Native crafts, everyday activities, and oral histories were passed from one generation to another throughout the following centuries. However, by the time Coffey moved to Love in 1980 this Appalachian culture was eroding as elderly residents died and their stories were lost. In response and in spite of her lack of journalism training, Coffey began collecting these oral histories and photographs and then started a monthly newspaper, Backroads, in which she published them.  

Over the next 25 years Coffey interviewed the mountain people of the Blue Ridge about every facet of their lives and published these stories in her newspaper until her retirement in 2006.

Backroads readers then suggested that Coffey preserve these personal histories in a more permanent way, and this led to publication of the Backroads series. The first book, Backroads is a compilation of stories from the newspaper, features interviews with native people of the Blue Ridge, old mountain recipes, and stories about churning butter, digging ginseng, early burial practices, and beekeeping. Published in 2010, Backroads 2 includes stories about quilting, bear hunting, home births, wild game recipes, apple-butter boiling, mountain music, and more in-depth interviews with the people who inhabit the Blue Ridge mountain chain. The final book in the series, Backroads 3 was published in 2011; it includes 195 photographs and is filled with crafts, recipes, folklore, and stories about squeezing apple cider, gardening, cutting firewood, gathering watercress, outdoor privies, the Civilian Conservation Corps, old mountain customs, and the demise of the American Chestnut tree.

There is no fee to visit the Museum Store and meet author Lynn Coffey. Regular admission rates apply to visit the Museum galleries ($10 adult, $8 senior/student, and free to MSV Members). In the event of snow, this Saturday’s book signing will be rescheduled to February 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is located at 901 Amherst Street in Winchester, Virginia.  The MSV complex—which includes the Museum, the Glen Burnie House, and six acres of gardens—is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Museum galleries are open year-round; the gardens are open seasonally. The gardens will reopen on April 1, 2014. The house is now closed until spring of 2014 for a comprehensive preservation project. Additional information is available at or by calling 540-662-1473, ext. 235.