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Our History
big laurel learning center sign

The Big Laurel community, like much of West Virginia, was settled in the late nineteenth century by people determined to blend self-sufficiency with a committment to community. This ridgetop, above Marrowbone Creek in Mingo County, has been home to generations of struggles and dreams.

In the 1940's, Edwina Pepper [1893-1988] settled on the mountain and dedicated her life to preserving its land and culture. She founded The Mountain Call [1973-1979], a journal of mountain lore and life.

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She pulled together parcels of land to form the John A. Sheppard Memorial Ecological Reservation [JASMER], a land trust which enables families to return home and which preserves land and protects animals from development.

She enlisted teachers to create Big Laurel School [1976-1988] which embodied a special dream: a community-based education for local children, steeped in Appalachian heritage and looking outward to a larger world.

Eventually evolving into the Big Laurel Learning Center, this venture continues these traditions for people of all ages. Our guiding values foster learning, celebration, hospitality, community and sustainability.

girl playing the flute

Three Sisters-- Gretchen Shaffer, Kathleen O'Hagan, and Jeanne Laufersweiler-- shepherd programs at Big Laurel. Nancy Hudock is our wonderful caretaker of JASMER and the Knob. Our buildings, vehicles, program materials and support for staff have all been contributed by friends and benefactors over the years. It would not be possible to maintain Big Laurel and its programs without the support, money, gifts and donated services of friends and benefactors.

children playing in a tree
Big Laurel Learning Center is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization.

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PO Box 266, Kermit WV 25674     ::     [304] 393-4103     ::