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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Backcountry Makers: Walter Stanley Goble

"Settler Fleeing From Indian with Thrown Tomahawk" from the collection of the Historical Society of Washington County (Photo by James H. Price)
Additional photos below »

W. S. Goble c.1890-c.1960 Artist

By Betsy White | A! Magazine for the Arts | October 30, 2013

Mr. Goble, as he was known to those who employed him, was an artist ... probably self-taught. According to the account of at least one person who knew him, "Mr. Goble did odd jobs in Abingdon and had bushy eyebrows." Despite the fact that he was an odd-job man about town, Walter Stanley Goble was, indeed, an artist. Around 12 paintings by him have been found so far, all bearing his hallmark signature, "W. S. Goble" and "Holston, Virginia" and occasionally, "R I."

Holston is an old local name. Largely unused today, it was a post office address in Washington County, Va., just off Route 19 on the north fork of the Holston River and extending into the Brumley Gap area. This was undoubtedly Goble's home community though no contemporary record of him exists there or anywhere else. We'll just have to take him as his art represents him, which it does admirably.

The history and scenery of Washington County, Va., became the subjects of his creativity. Through his small paintings, he documents its natural beauty as well as local landmarks and historical events. Everything from early deer hunting and log cabins, to landscapes of hills and rivers, to Indian attacks on settlers, to the 1795 freeing of slaves by Madame Russell and her son-in-law, Francis Preston, to local taverns and even a c.1950 Abingdon parade — all were inspiration for the canvases of W.S. Goble.

W. S. Goble, artist, is taken from "Backcountry Makers: An Artisan History of Southwest Virginia & Northeast Tennessee." This is the 15th in a series of articles related to this new book by Betsy K. White. Featuring more than 200 color images, it is newly published by the University of Tennessee Press. "Backcountry Makers" is White's second book on the history of the region's material culture. The first, "Great Road Style: the Decorative Arts Legacy of Southwest Virginia & Northeast Tennessee," was published in 2006 by the University of Virginia Press. "Backcountry Makers" is available locally in Abingdon at Zazzy'Z Coffee House & Bookstore and at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway or online from the University of Tennessee Press or

Topics: Art

W.S. Goble signature as it is seen on "Settler Fleeing" painting

"Madame Russell Freeing the Slaves" (private collection) (Photo by James H. Price)