"Gauley Mountain" is a double CD presenting in its entirety West Virginia's epic poem, a history in verse of the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains, from the first settlement in the 1740s through the hard times of the 1930s. Originally published in 1939, this virtually unknown classic all but disappeared until it was first reprinted in 1989. In 1991 Larry Groce, host of West Virginia Public Radio's "Mountain Stage", produced this audio version of "Gauley Mountain" for radio broadcast within the state on West Virginia Day, June 20 of that year. The production includes original music; some of the poems have been made into songs, as well. The Pocahontas Communications Cooperative republished Gauley Mountain in 1996 in a commemorative edition with four essays on McNeill and her work.
Louise Mc Neill was a daughter of the hills of Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Her poetry, especially "Gauley Mountain", gives the truest expression of the spirit of our mountains and their people ever put down on paper. Louise is no longer with us in person, but we still feel a need to hear her words, heed her spirits. Thus our decision to reprint "Gauley Mountain" and to produce this CD, so that another generation of people can better understand the place and culture of West Virginia in our world.
West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill was raised on a hill farm in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. She was born at Buckeye in 1911 and began teaching in local one-room schools in 1930, at the age of 19. McNeill taught seven years in rural schools, and at the Aiken Preparatory School in South Carolina from 1941 to 1946.
She returned to West Virginia in 1948 to an assistant professorship at West Virginia University, where she received a Ph.D. in history and English. She taught at several other colleges in West Virginia before her retirement in 1973. McNeill and husband, Roger Pease, had one son, Douglas, named after her father, legendary Pocahontas County educator G. D. McNeill.
Despite substantial literary and scholarly achievements, she always listed "farm background" at the top of her resume. Her writing evokes universal feelings, but subtleties and language of rural West Virginia predominate. She died in June of 1993, leaving behind a legacy of prose, scholarly works, and poetry.