Appalachian Beaver County


They are war songs, anti-war songs, songs about the sea, rivers, bogs, and swamps, drinking, work, loving, and loss. Folksongs protest, declare, and decry injustice. Some are short, many are epic. But all come from somewhere we can relate–the hills and hollers of the heart, cities of corruption and greed. Folksongs are a mirror by which we see and know ourselves, whether we like it or not.

Storytelling through music is an artform about as old as humanity itself–practiced in every society and culture since the dawn of time–but not quite as old as the Appalachian mountains, the Ohio River valley, the rolling Alleghenies of Western Pennsylvania, nor the gentle slopes and hollows of Beaver County. From south to north, the Appalachian region has a rich cultural history of folk ballads–musical tales, informative, entertaining, sometimes whimsical, but always reminding us of ourselves. Songs of our people.

Discovering Western Pa Folk Music

Historical Western Pa Folk Music

Samuel Preston Folk Recordings Playlist

More Notable Local Folk Music

Telling Our Story Through Song

Song Lyrics as Folk Poetry


Appalachian American Roots Music

On episode 14 of the Beaver County History Podcast, we talk about bluegrass music in Beaver County with Dave Foster and Judy Foster, whose band East of Enon is part of small but vibrant community of local Americana musicians.  This episode launches our Beaver County Music Heritage oral history initiative.

Recorded Live! Bluegrass at the Pig Lady Fall Folklore Celebration - New Galilee, Pennsylvania

The Foster Family of Enon Valley, Pennsylvania and northern Beaver County make up East of Enon, a traditional bluegrass, country, and gospel musical group. This was the Fosters’ first time performing at the Pig Lady Fall Folklore Celebration, entertaining the crowd with bluegrass and country standards, classics, and contemporary songs, as well as a few special selections befitting the folklore festival.

Conforming to bluegrass tradition, the Fosters perform acoustically around a single microphone, taking musical cues and inspiration from each other. This special recording produced by The Social Voice Project captures these authentic, artistic dynamics and fine nuances of music performed before a live audience. As an important example of local history and Beaver County’s Appalachian musical heritage, this performance will be inducted into the Listening Library of Beaver County and other local history archives to help educate current and future generations.

Country Radio

Wheeling! Get That Feeling

Before WBVP hit the airwaves in 1948, radio reception in Beaver County was a patchwork of mostly AM stations from Pittsburgh and regional cities skipping their high wattage signals across the night time ether as far away as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Washington DC, Nashville, and Wheeling. Older Beaver Countians might recall the radio call letters of Pittsburgh stations KDKA, WCAE, WJAS, WHOD, and KQV.  But many do remember WWVA, home of the Wheeling Jamboree. As the show’s current promoters recall:


In January, 1933, with George W. Smith as managing director of Wheeling, West Virginia station WWVA, the idea was conceived to program something special for late night Saturday listeners. A program of country style music, called a “Jamboree,” was put together, using local talent. At 11:00 p.m. on January 7, country music history was made when the WWVA Jamboree went on the air for the first time. Listener response was overwhelming, and for three months regular Saturday night Jamboree broadcasts were aired . . . The Wheeling Jamboree — the second oldest country music program (next to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry) — continues to lead the way in the industry . . . For the last 85 years, The Wheeling Jamboree has brought this music from the heart of America to America’s heart. The Wheeling Jamboree endures as one of America’s oldest live radio broadcasts and a proud American tradition. 

Remembering the Wheeling Jamboree

Listened to the WWVA Jamboree during early 1950s on a 6 volt battery radio.
D. Barrett
When we moved to NC in the 80s we could sometimes get WWVA wat down here
Elizabeth Goddard
"Get the Wheeling feeling" was the slogan I remember.
F. Kier
As a teenager we would get a carload and drive to wheeling on a Saturday night to go to the Jamboree.
K. Taylor

Last of the Folk Tradition Labor Protest Songs in Beaver County

“Steel Mill Blues” by Mike Pickering

The song, written by Ohio teenager Michael Pickering, describes the plight of an unemployed steelworker who has lost his pride and faith in America and is having trouble feeding his family. (UPI Archives)

The industrial backbone of the Mon & Ohio valleys has grown weak and brittle in recent years. As the furnaces cool and the whistles fall silent, more and more workers in the primes of their productive lives find themselves uneasily idle. To 18 year old Mike Pickering of Wellsville, Ohio, the final whistle at the Crucible Steel Division at Midland, Pennsylvania, in October, held a special message. Mike’s uncle, Bob Sullivan, had been a steelworker for 18 years until the Midland MIll shut down. Suddenly, the frustration, the anger and sense of hopelessness that has been haunting the families of steelworkers throughout the Tri-State area hit home hard and Mike’s feelings came out in this moving song, “Steel Mill Blues.” (Bomarr Monk, WFMU)

Gaining national attention, Pickering’s song became more than a blue collar ballad, it served as a promotional voice for the United Steel Workers of America. Proceeds were donated to foodbanks for the unemployed steelworkers.