Research for “Life Everlasting and The Twelve Mile Blues,” began in 1987 when Marla J. Selvidge, former director of the Center for Religious Studies at UCM, discovered a defunct town of  "Gilreath" while hiking in the hills of North Carolina. Her mother's family name was Gilreath, and she wondered if this town was inhabited by any of her grand-relatives.

For many years she interviewed relatives, visited local cemeteries, studied documents at the McCreary County and Whitley County courthouses, transcribed tapes of the locals created by McCreary County librarians, and read all of the McCreary County Record back to its first issue in the early twentieth century.  Here is an excerpt of the book's introduction:

"Dreams often keep people alive and give them a foundation to hope for their tomorrows. Rubem Alves calls this the ‘presence of the absent.’  Many settlers during the 18th and 19th centuries made their way west through the Cumberland Pass into the Appalachian Mountains. Into this land, later to be called McCreary County, came settlers from North Carolina. Some came to escape poverty, slavery, a feud, or the law.

Others came to escape the oppressive life of service to landowners or merchants, and still a few came to hunt, but most came to farm and to find a pot of gold. Among those adventurers who forged their way into the wilderness were a people by the name of Gilreath. The Gilreaths settled in a remote region of Kentucky now known as Pine Knot, Marsh Creek (sometimes spelled Marshes), Jellico Creek, Strunk, and Holly Hill in McCreary County. They even crossed the county line into Williamsburg."

Selvidge covers topics such as whorehouses on wheels, iron horses and sparkling wheels, working in the mines, one-room school houses, little mountain churches, free blacks and colored colonists, moonshine, violence and sex on the mountain.  And finally she defines the meaning of the term, "life everlasting."

"We always remember the politicians, movie stars, and athletes, but we often forget that there are many grand and influential people who go un-noticed for their entire lives.  In this book, I wanted to remember some of those people who created a wonderful life for a little girl," says Selvidge.

          “Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues” may be ordered on and will soon be available at other outlets.