West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature

Tony Beaver

Illustration by Mark Clayton

Tony Beaver is a tall tale character. As far as we know, he is a completely fictional character—no real Tony Beaver ever existed.

Meet Tony Beaver

 Listen to Phil Wyatt read the story as you follow the text.

West Virginia's state history is filled with heroes. One of the biggest is Tony Beaver. The western part of Virginia was so rugged and hilly that it could be settled by only the hardiest people, people who came to be called Mountaineers.

Among these hardy pioneers was a most unusual family, the Beavers. Paw and Maw Beaver and the three little Beavers, Betsey, Tony, and Molly, built a log cabin and settled on top of one of the wooded hills in the Appalachian Mountains.

As Tony grew up, he learned all the important skills that Paw could teach him—things like hunting and shooting. One day Tony was walking in the woods, and his little sister Molly was tagging along. He and Molly found a trickling stream, no bigger than a pencil, and followed it just to see where it went. It followed a rugged, twisting course till it turned into a wide river. When Molly remarked that the river snaked around, twisting and turning just like an eel, Tony dubbed it the Eel River and named himself the owner!

All of the Beaver younguns were big and healthy, but Tony was growing up extra big, and Maw finally told him it was time for him to go out on his own. So Tony set out, taking his big strides that just went from one mountaintop to the next. In his travels he came to Turtle Cove just while Big Bill Simpson was sponsoring a wood-chopping contest; Big Bill was promising a part of his lumbering business to anyone who could out chop him.

Tony had chopped down trees for his Paw, but he'd never thought about seeing how fast he could chop; but the contest sounded interesting, so Tony told Big Bill he'd like to try.

On the ready signal, Tony brought his ax down so hard that it just broke off that big hickory tree as if it were a matchstick. And that was the way Tony got into the lumbering business.

In West Virginia Tony Beaver became just as famous a woodsman as his cousin Paul Bunyan did up North. He started his own lumber business on the Eel River. And just like Paul had Babe the Blue Ox for help, Tony had two oxen named Hannibal and Goliath.

Tony perfected his swing so that he could cut down two trees with each swing—one on the back swing and one on the down swing! When he got bored with that, he went to pulling the trees out by the roots.

One time—just for a little excitement—Tony invited his cousin Paul to come down to West Virginia for a skating contest. They both wrapped sides of bacon around their skates and greased the griddle for Grandma's famous pancakes. (Tony won that race.)

In the years of his long and productive life, Tony had many adventures. And even now, Tony Beaver is still talked about in the hills of West Virginia.

Based on the stories in The Remarkable History of Tony Beaver, West Virginian, by Mary E. Cober (New York: David McKay, 1953)

Story of race with Paul Bunyan taken from Tony Beaver, Griddle Skater, by Elizabeth and Carl Carmer (Champaign, Illinois: Garrard Publishing Company, 1965)

"Tony Beaver and
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West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature is a self-contained teaching unit by Avis Caynor and Reneé Wyatt (1997), reprinted with permission in 2003 in the larger web site AppLit.

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