June 7, 1905: Fiddler French Carpenter Born

French Carpenter

Fiddler French Carpenter was born in Clay County on June 7, 1905.

For generations, the Carpenter family was renowned for its musical ability, and French may have been the best of the lot. He learned most of his music directly from his father, Tom, a fiddling preacher.

Tom had learned from his father, Sol, one of the most influential fiddlers in central West Virginia.

Here’s a clip of French Carpenter playing “Camp Chase,” which his grandfather Sol supposedly came up with to win a fiddle contest and his freedom from a Union prison during the Civil War.

French Carpenter died in 1965, shortly before his 60th birthday. Another Clay County fiddler, Wilson Douglas, continued the Carpenter music tradition for the rest of the 20th century.