West Virginia bridge to be renamed Hazel Dickens Memorial Bridge

The locally known Montcalm Bridge, carrying County Route 11 over the Bluestone River in Mercer County, West Virginia, is to be named the Hazel Dickens Memorial Bridge.

On March 9, 2019, the West Virginia legislature voted in favor of Senate Resolution 24, thus creating the Hazel Dickens Memorial Bridge. A dedication ceremony is to take place at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, June 1, 2019, marking the anniversary of her birth in Montcalm in 1925. 

Bill Archer, the county commissioner for Mercer County, West Virginia, shares this summary of what is planned for this dedication ceremony ….. .

“It will be a rather simple program with only recorded music. The recorded music will include four of Hazel’s songs, Mama’s Hand; Beyond the River Bend; West Virginia, My Home; and Hills of Galilee, from the Matewan [film] soundtrack. 

I will also include a 1975 recording of When the Roses Bloom Again, by my late brother and I. He passed away in 1991 but, was dedicated to preserving old time music, and loved Hazel. 

I will make some brief observations between the songs, and prior to playing West Virginia, My Home, I will read an essay that Ken Irwin [Rounder Records] sent me last week. 

I hope to have Reverend Arnell Churchwell there to offer prayer.”

In honoring Dickens, an internationally renowned singer and songwriter, she will be remembered for her representation of the plight of miners and families of southern West Virginia, wherever in the world that she went. 

As well as the long career of personal appearances, Dickens has a considerable catalog of original songs and outstanding recordings. Hazel made an appearance in the film Matewan, in the 1976 documentary Harlan County USA, and the film of her life, Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song (Appalshop, Inc., 2001). 

Dickens passed on April 22, 2011, at the age of 85. She was laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery in neighbouring Princeton. 

Hazel Dickens, with sometime singing and recording partner Alice Gerrard, was inducted in the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2017. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.