Oral History

George Shelor Interview

Interviewee: George William Shelor
Interviewer: Lauren LoCurto
Interviewer: Emily Stewart
Floyd County

Various printed oral history materials

  • 29 page interview transcript
  • class data analysis sheets
  • follow-up photographs

George William Shelor describes work-a-day farm and household work for both men and women—food preservation, canning fruit, drying corn, and making molasses are explained, as is wood planing, sawmilling, blacksmithing, plowing, threshing, and wheelwright expertise. Mr. Shelor’s descriptions of family livelihoods, and of his own work with electric power turbines at Smith Mountain Lake, white pine planting, and farming, show how community and family work together to create a successful rural living environment. On trade, George describes the peddler from his youth,” . . . he’d put some of his wares in this truck . . . and he’d have salt, baking powders; he’d have other little things, you know, can tops, can jars, sugar, or just staples . . . he’d barter, and you could trade.  If you had eggs and he’d buy those eggs, and . . . crates in the back if you [had] unruly chickens, or stop laying, they went in that coop, and he’d give you so much. I know my mother would, in the summer, buy one hundred pounds of sugar. I’ll never forget, she’d pay five dollars for one hundred pounds of sugar.”

school, earthmoving equipment, salt, sugar, farm, wheelwright, waterwheels, saw, telephone, apples, wheat, threshing, canning, darn, socks, lumber, grain, sawmill, Kemper, bath, whitewash, lamps, generator, ringer washer, conservation, pine, sheep, shrubbery, rabbit, hogs, Carnation, cattle, garden, stack, balers, plow, mules, pressure cooker, molasses, shock, granary, beans, cannery, barter, harness, horse, drum, brass band, boiled custard, ice cream, teaching, corn
Bio Sketch

George William Shelor, 1926-2016, son of Carl and Henrietta Dillon Shelor, was named after his great–grandfather, and also lived in the house of another great-grandfather, Henry Dillon, a well-known 19th C. builder and brick mason.  Drafted into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers toward the end of WWII, he was sent to Europe, working to clear explosives. Mr. Shelor, nicknamed “Big Tree,” was instrumental in establishing white pine plantings in Floyd County, 1970s-1980s. The life of George Shelor is well documented in oral histories.  Mountain Laurel Publications’ Susan Thigpen interviewed George in 1985 about the nearby Shelor steam tractor and Huff Cannery. In addition, our Roots with Wings WWII-era interview project interviewed George in 2014, producing audio, video, print, resource material, and two short films, “Big Tree: A Hardworking Life,” and “George W. Shelor in WWII.”


The Economics Series oral history interviews explored the many ways, historical and current, of local economy and work. George Shelor’s interview was conducted by Radford University students Lauren LoCurto and Emily Stewart. During the Fall of 2000, Dr. Mary LaLone’s Radford University Anthropology 471, Economic Anthropology class interviewed five Floyd County families about their own economic livelihood strategies, including Mr. Shelor.  We are grateful to all of the respondents for sharing their stories.