Thought to have been lost for decades, the two-minute feature Virginian Types: Blue Ridge Mountaineers documents the life of an isolated and long-vanished mountain community—Old Rag, Virginia—using a similarly long-vanished color process called “Pathécolor"—a stencil-based method that added artificial colors to black-and-white prints, something like the colorization of recent years.
The footage seems to have been shot just after Congress in May of 1926 authorized the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. Congress had stipulated that Virginia could turn over to the federal government only lands that were free of permanent inhabitants. Most residents of the Old Rag settlement were longtime squatters with no legal record of their holdings. As a consequence, an administration was installed to “relocate” the startled mountain folk, who reacted to the uprooting in anguished grief.
Virginian Types appears to have been the one of the “last chances” to document Old Rag and its surrounding communities, as on November 1st, 1935 all remaining residents were given 10 days’ notice. By the middle of the month the last holdouts were led away in handcuffs.
The cabin structures seen in the footage—some having been built in the early 1800s—would be burned or demolished, ostensibly to restore wilderness but also to discourage reoccupation. All that appears to remain of the lost community is this unique film, echoing a place where “Life is ardent, pleasures simple…”