By RICHARD F. BELISLE
5:44 PM PST, November 5, 2012
Jim Price, Shepherdstown’s official historian laureate, has self-published a book titled “And so I did stories of Shepherdstown.” It comes out Nov. 11.
Jim Price, Shepherdstown’s official historian laureate, finally finished his book after years of being encouraged to do so by his wife and son, now both deceased.
“I promised my wife and son that I would write it one day, and now, I did,” he said of his book, titled “And So I Did Stories of Shepherdstown.”
For years, Price, 82, because of his passion for storytelling, writing and researching local history about people, places and events, has been the resource residents, newcomers, amateur historians, genealogists and journalists turn to for obscure or long-forgotten bits of town history or lore.
If Price can’t recall a fact from memory, he finds it in his extensive files on people, places and events collected over years from sources like “the tremendous microfilm library of the Shepherdstown Independent and Shepherdstown Register (long-defunct weekly newspapers) in Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library,” he said.
In 1999, the Shepherdstown Town Council named Price its official historian laureate. The reason he was given the honor, Price said, was because the town, the local library and the university routinely receive letters and inquiries about town history, and they often come to him for answers.
Price graduated from the then-Shepherdstown High School and later from Shepherd University. In 1956, he graduated from the State University of Oklahoma College of Veterinary Medicine and opened a large-animal practice in Barbour County, W.Va. In 1960, he and his wife, Sallye, whom he met at Shepherd University, moved his practice to Shepherdstown.
“It was a hospital on wheels,” he said. “I didn’t have an office. I worked out of my truck.”
When he retired in 1996, he found time to pursue his love collecting and writing local history.
In 1997, he was invited to write a twice-monthly column for John and Mary Lehman, then owners of the Shepherdstown Chronicle weekly newspaper. Between then and 2004, Price had written 159 columns for the paper.
He recalls when President Clinton brought high-level Israeli and Syrian negotiators for peace talks to Shepherdstown in January 2000. Many of the national and international reporters who covered the talks “called me for information about the town. After that, I began to get calls from people from all over.”
The Prices had one son, James Carer Price III.
“He was diagnosed with childhood diabetes when he was 6,” Jim Price said. “He never had a normal life after that. He earned two degrees from Shepherd University and tried to move out twice on his own. Because of the disease, he had to move back home with Sallye and me. He died in 1989 at age 32.”
Sallye died in 2009.
After that, Price began to assemble the raw research he collected through the years that he used as fodder for his storytelling hours and lectures, the pamphlets and brochures he wrote and for his newspaper columns. Then he started to work on the book.
Keith Alexander, visiting professor of environmental studies at Shepherd University, writes in a review on the book that, “Jim Price’s collection of small-town America is delightfully tied to place, yet is somehow worldly in its appeal. He has conjured up for us the warp and weft of a truly unique community.”
Alexander writes that Price’s book “has an echo of the charm of Garrison Keillor’s ‘Lake Wobegon,’ but with greater attention to that historical accuracy which is the author’s passion.”
The book, which is self-published, comes out Nov. 11.