History

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 commitment to community. This ridge-top, 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.

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 the land as an ecological reserve.

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.

Two Sisters– Gretchen Shaffer and┬áKathleen O’Hagan — shepherd programs at Big Laurel. 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.

Big Laurel Learning Center is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization.