Nelson County Historical Society

Introduction to Backroads by Lynn Coffey

Lynn Coffey's BACKROADS is a historical record of early people and places throughout the county and it is a collaboration between the Nelson County Historical Society and Lynn Coffey who felt the importance of preservation the rich culture of the area’s mountain people and their lands. Virginia Humanities sponsored the first 22 articles through a grant to the society.  Due to the overwhelming reception of these stories, Ms. Coffey has graciously agreed to continue to provide additional stories and the society is happy to be able to make these available to the public.

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I, Lynn Coffey, believe God gives everyone a certain gift in this life to develop and use not only bless to themselves but others as well.  My gift, was, and continues to be, capturing the disappearing way of Appalachian life from the people who actually lived it.
In 1980, I moved to the tiny mountain top village of Love and began a heartfelt relationship with the native elders living around me. That first year, they taught me many of their old-time activities and in 1981, I began documenting their culture in a small newspaper called Backroads. Over a 25-year span of time, much information was gathered and printed in the paper, along with vintage photographs the mountain people graciously donated, adding credibility to their stories.  After my retirement from the newspapers in December of 2006, I began a new chapter of preservation by continuing to interview the older people who grew up in Nelson County and compiling their stories in six consecutive books written over a ten-year period of time.
Now at the end of December 2019, I find myself retiring from book publishing and looking forward to working with the people at the Historical Society, trying, in the years that follow, to capture the enduring and all-important history of Nelson’s mountain people who unknowingly contribute a priceless legacy for generations to come.
Note: All photos in the stories are from the private collection of Lynn Coffey.