September 17, 1897: Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick Born in Missouri

The Telltale Lilac Bush and other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick

Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick was born in Missouri on September 17, 1897. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the State University of Iowa, where she developed a lifelong interest in folklore. She first came to West Virginia in 1946 to teach mathematics and English at Fairmont State College, which is now Fairmont State University. Musick quickly made a big impact on the Mountain State by starting a folk literature class at Fairmont State and helping to revive the West Virginia Folklore Society. And in 1951, she founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal. She retired from both the journal and Fairmont State in 1967.

Musick was West Virginia’s folklore ambassador through education, public speaking, radio, and television. She published four major collections of folklore, including The Telltale Lilac Bush and Coffin Hollow, and wrote two popular folklore columns for West Virginia newspapers, ‘‘The Old Folks Say’’ and ‘‘Sassafras Tea.’’

Ruth Ann Musick died in Fairmont in 1974 at age 76. Her papers are now archived in the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State. In 1980, the university library was renamed in her honor.