In these hills they feel the heartbeat of God

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 21, 2018

“Stories of the feud-ridden, ignorance-shrouded people of the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia have been published far and near and throughout the land the common belief is that every cove harbors a moonshine still, and every home has its feuds. We are taught that the gruff mountaineer has a stern, cold heart; that he is suspicious; and that with his long ‘hog’ rifle, he will shoot at sight a person who wears a clean shirt or a stiff hat.

West Virginia family group
“These are a few of the ideas that one gathers from the popular novels of today, and the imaginative characterizations made by writers from specific instances.

“And in defense of what he believes to be an erroneous impression concerning the people in the mountains of the South one of the workers of the University, himself from the mountains of Georgia, writes:

The typical Southern mountaineer lives in Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Northeast Georgia, and a small portion of Northern Alabama. Here for more than a century has been evolving a peculiar and distinct type of people.

Shut off from an influx of foreign immigration, deprived on the use of railroads and other modern blessings until a comparatively recent time, separated from the life with characterizes the American city today, these people continued to grow as their hardy forefathers grew, plain, simple, strong, roughly gentle and warmly hospitable. As the result of such a growth, we have the Southern mountaineer of today, a pure, undefiled, type of sturdy Americans.

Contrary to belief, they are deeply consecrated. The primitive type of church still exists in the remote districts. With a pastor who receives the princely salary of from $25 to $100 a year, the church, of course, is not strong financially. The rural church generally has a membership of considerable strength in proportion to the population; in fact, a great many more members in proportion to the population than one finds in the city churches.

The people are, as a rule, intensely consecrated, and though they adhere to the strictest and most literal interpretations of the Bible, they are most practical and devoted in their Christianity. They believe in the command, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ even though in rare instances a community may be riven by a deadly feud. They religiously observe the Sabbath; no ball games and touring pleasures for them. Sundays are spent in church going and visiting after church.

Simple, quiet, unobtrusive, they pursue ‘the even tenor of their way’ each day. Not rich, often abjectly poor, they are fairly happy; yet, an intensity of devotion and an acuteness of desire lead many a boy or girl from his or her humble home. They want to know things; the call of the world outside has found a response in their hearts; they dream, they aspire, they struggle.

Deeply consecrated and sustained by an unconquerable religious devotion, in these hills, they feel as it were, the heartbeat of God. So in a region which has known sorrows and disappointments, here, there, in this community and that, some young man, some young woman is emerging into a new life where an infinite service can be rendered.

JW Morland, “Wellsprings of Consecration,”
Mountain Herald Vol. 28, no. 1 (Jan. 1925)
Lincoln Memorial University (Harrogate, Tenn.), Extension Dept.
Lincoln Memorial University Press
Digital Library of Appalachia

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He wanted people who ate at his house to have what they wanted

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 20, 2018

“The home of Nathan Noble was known far and wide for the ample room, good living, welcome cheer and forest hospitality. The entertainment was noble, majestic and grand in its services and welcome in its invitation. A stranger never left the cabin door of these mountaineers hungry, unless it was destitute of food or the wants of the stranger were unknown to the inmates of the cabin.

“Early in the history of the settlement two Methodist preachers came to pass Sunday at the home of Noble, [and they] insisted that all the cooking be done on Saturday for Sunday. Their will in this was granted. Next morning, Sunday, Nathan had his wife prepare for him a warm breakfast and place it on the end of the table where they were to eat and place the cold meals on the other end where the preachers were to eat. Breakfast was called and the parties seated as intended.

Breathitt County KY womanIsabelle Deaton Turner: her father was Jackie Deaton, and her mother was a Noble. Brothers were: Joe Deaton, who ran the post office & railroad station at Wolfcoal; Brant Deaton, and Ned Deaton. Photo mounted on cardboard. Middle Fork/Turkey area of Breathitt County.

“The meal had not proceeded far when the preachers asked that they be served with the warm breakfast whereupon Noble interrupted by telling them that they had requested that this be done and that they must eat the cold breakfast. Noble explained by saying that they had matters as they requested and that he wanted, so far as possible, people who ate at his house to have what they wanted and the way they wanted it.

“Sometimes a new preacher might find his way into the neighborhood. At that time it was almost considered sacrilegeous for the children to play or make a noise while the preacher was there. This quietness proved the breeding and manners of the home. Little Johnny or some other little boy was hard to hold in restraint very long. Something was sure to occur to bring a recital of the grammar or some of the most used words of the home vocabulary— all to the annoyance of the mother or shame of the sister.”

History of Breathitt County, by E.L. Noble, (publ. 1928 in Jackson Times newspaper of Breathitt County KY)


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The Waldensians in North Carolina

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 16, 2018

The largest Waldensian colony in the world outside of Italy–Valdese, NC–was officially incorporated as a town on February 17, 1920.

The Waldenses, or Waldensians, are a Christian sect founded in the 12th century by Peter Valdo (hence Valdese = Waldensian), a merchant of Lyons, France who lived only a short time before St. Francis. For many years the group was confined to a rugged area in the Cottian Alps along the boundary between Italy and France. King Louis XIV was determined not to let Protestant beliefs seep into Catholic-driven France and persecuted the Waldensians mercilessly.

Not until the Edict of 1848 did the sect finally receive freedom to worship as they wished. Toward the later part of the 19th century many Waldenses emigrated to North and South America to form missionary colonies—no longer because of religious persecution but because their small strip of land in the Alps had become overcrowded.

They migrated to New York City, Chicago, Missouri, Texas and Utah, as well as Valdese, NC, in Burke County between the towns of Morganton and Hickory. The Valdese colony became the largest Waldensian colony in the world located outside of Italy. After crossing the Atlantic on the Dutch ship Zaandam, the original Valdese settlers arrived via train on the Salisbury-Asheville line of the Southern Railway on May 29, 1893. Eleven families formed the first group, led by Reverend Charles Albert Tron, a pastor and philanthropist. Rev. Tron did not come to settle, however, but to lead the immigrants and help launch their enterprise.

Valdese NC settlersInitially the settlers tried to make their living off the land as they had in Italy, but the poor soil would not produce. They turned instead to manufacturing. In June, organizers led by Rev. Tron formed the Valdese Corporation, including Waldenses and American investors, and purchased 10,000 acres of land. Due to the undesirable layout of the land and the independent nature of the Waldenses, the corporation was an unpopular arrangement. It was dissolved the following year when the Rev. Barthelemy Soulier arrived in Valdese to replace the leadership lost when Tron returned to Italy to recruit more colonists.

In 1895 the Waldensian Church in Valdese united with the Presbyterian Church, which shared similar structure and theology. The Waldensian Hosiery Mill was established in 1901 and the yarn factory, Valdese Manufacturing Company, in 1913. Valdese became a hub of the American textile industry. The town’s first mayor, John Long, was also the groom in the first Waldensian wedding in Valdese.

Since 1967 an outdoor drama, From this Day Forward, has been performed each summer by Valdese’s Old Colony Players. The saga features authentic costumes and folk dances that highlight the heritage of North Carolina’s Waldensian settlers.



Phifer Jr., Edward W. , Burke: The History of a North Carolina County (1982). Print.

7 Responses

  • kathy says:

    i loved studying the history of the waldenses. initially, i had been told that the waldenses had been hunted and murdered down to the last man, woman and child and consequently, the group did not exist anymore. i was very upset and cried bitter tears, but this was many years ago. i was estatic when i found out that the waldensians has actually survived the persecutions in the alps some had fled to north america. i had hoped to study you more, however, i was very sorry to read you had merged with the presbyterians because their religious beliefs were similar. for me, that was a sad momemt. originally, you guys were so very pure! as you know, today there are many groups that worship on the 7th Sabbath. i worship with Sabbatarians and am anxious to visit the cogic sabbatarians (church of God in Christ).

    be safe in your quest to teach the world His message – we must be faithful in our responsibilities to God through the Son Jesus.

  • kathy says:

    sorry, i meant to say “as you know, today, there are many groups that worship on the 7th day Sabbath.

  • John Barnette says:

    Spent two days in this city, i will be back. Protestants owe everything to this great people!Keep the faith.

  • John from Argyle,TX says:

    We are planning to visit the Waldensian Museum there.
    Their trials in their native Italy are very stirring. Makes you hate French King Louie XIV.

  • Phil Howerton says:

    My uncle wants to know who started the Mill and who owned it in the 1940s. “I would like to add to the account the relation that Papa had with the owner of the Waldesian Hosiery Mill and the Valdesian yarn mill. What was his name?”

  • Cav. Andre Martinaglia says:

    The Waldensians are very much alive and well in northern Italy, Rome where the theological college is; plus their churches in Naples, Calabria and Sicily.

    After the 2,000 Wadensian massacre in Merindol, France, the remaining ones were exiled and allowed to settle in the Vaud area of Switzerland. There they regrouped under the leadership of Henri Arnaud, and though outnumbered and untrained as soldiers they fought back, forcing the French troops eventually to withdraw, after which they were allowed back to their homelands in Piedmont.

    They were awarded more liberty and treatment, and in 1848 were granted religious freedom. Thereafter we find Waldensians also settling in Uruquay, Brazil, and Argentina in the early 1900’s because of a need for a better life.

    Some settled in South Africa as well, along with the French Huguenots. You will find many Facebook groups where one can join up and learn more. The Jalla family are also well known for their missionary work in Lesotho and Zambia, including Giacomo Weitzecker and his wife Luisa Malan. Information including photos are available via Google – search on ‘University of Southern California Digital Library’. You can insert into the open enquiry slot Jules Joseph Adolophe and Louis Jalla.

    Giacomo Weitzecker and Adolphe Jalla were both knighted for their work in Africa. The story of Solomon Cesar Malan, whose family immigrated to England from Geneva, Switzerland, is also a very interesting one. He became a clergyman with the Church of England, and was well travelled, speaking eventually 27 languages. Among his many talents, he was an architect and artist as well.

    His one son Charles Hamilton Malan, who was head of the British Army contingent in Singapore, resigned and became a missionary in South Africa, traveling as well in the 1860’s to Lesotho and the South African province of Kwa Zulu/Natal. Was very much involved with the Scottish missionaries in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where he set up ‘Malan’s Store’ near Butterworth, later taken over by the Scots and retaining the original name.

  • Ted Barnhart says:

    Amazing story. I had never heard of the Waldensians, and now I add them to my list of things to research! David T., I appreciate your work and your website!

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The madstone would stick to the wound and draw the poison out

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 15, 2018

Right up till the early years of the 20th century, a bite from a rabid animal could strike terror in the hearts of Appalachian residents. Rabies slowly destroys the nervous system. It finally attacks the spinal cord and its victim may froth at the mouth, scream and fight. Before Louis Pasteur developed a successful vaccination in 1885, death from rabies was a forgone conclusion, unless a madstone could be obtained. This trusted folk medicine gets its name from the delirious behavior caused by hydrophobia, a condition produced by the rabies virus.

rabid dog“The mad-stone? People believe it will cure snakebites and hydrophobia,” hunter Ben Lester told the authors of ‘The Heart of the Alleghanies’ in 1883. “Here’s one. It was found in the paunch of a white deer I shot this fall was a year ago; and, mind you, the deer with a mad-stone in him is twice as hard to kill as one of ordinary kind. Five bullets were put in the buck that carried this one.”

Ben Lester’s madstone, “smooth and red, as large as a man’s thumb, and with one flat, white side,” was technically a calculus, a stone-like object sometimes found in the stomach of animals who chew their cud.

According to beliefs surrounding this folk medicine, a madstone from a brown deer will work in a bind if another cannot be found. A better grade of madstone comes from a white or spotted deer. The very best madstone comes from an albino or witch deer.

To treat someone bitten by a rabid animal you’d boil the madstone in sweet milk and then, while it was still hot, apply the stone to the wound, states Douglas Mahnkey in ‘Hill and Holler Stories.’

“If the dog was actually mad, the stone stuck to the wound and would draw the ‘pizen’ out,” he continues. “Once the stone was filled with the poison it would drop off, and it was again boiled in sweet milk and applied to the wound. The milk would turn green. This process was repeated until the stone no longer adhered to the wound.”

Madstones have always been greatly prized by anyone fortunate enough to come into possession of one, and would be handed down in the same family for generations. Before Pasteur’s immunization came to North Carolina in 1915, some owners charged up to $100 for lending a madstone, or required a $1,000 bond to guarantee its return.

And in North Georgia “Faith Cochran advertised his madstone every week in the county paper. People came from as far away as Alabama to be treated,” according to Floyd C. Watkins and Charles Hubert Watkins in ‘Yesterday in the Hills,’ a portrait of farm life in Cherokee County at the turn of the twentieth century.

madstonesThe Mad Stones of Vacherie [LA] featured in “Dixie Roto Magazine” June 19, 1949. The NC Museum of History has a madstone in its collection (no photo available, sorry!) whose catalog description reads: “Light brown trapezoidal stone; ‘R.L. Steel/1829′ scratched into 1 end of stone; ‘809’ scratched into other end; small black leather pouch.”

“It looked like a worn creek rock about the size of a partridge egg with a chip broken off one end. Faith dipped the stone in milk and stuck it to the wound. After it had sucked out the poison, it dropped off the wound.”

Worn creek rock? What happened to white deer calculi? Dr. Thomas M. Owen, Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Alabama, in a letter dated September 22, 1917, wrote:

“Some of these stones are reputed to have been taken from the stomach of a deer, but they were in fact nothing more than native rock, worn smooth, and which, because of their porosity, were capable when heated of drawing out or absorbing liquids.”

We know today that rabies is caused by a virus that is usually spread through contact with an infected animal’s saliva. Whether madstones were made from deer stomach calculi or rock, was their ability to absorb quickly and efficiently the real issue, was it a chemical reaction (the tight bonding of the madstone to the wound and the milk), or some combination of both?

“Yesterday in the Hills,” by Floyd C. Watkins, Charles Hubert Watkins, Quadrangle Books, 1963
“The Heart of the Alleghanies, or Western North Carolina,” by Floyd C. Watkins, Calvin S. Brown, A. Williams & Co., 1883
“Hill and Holler Stories,” by Douglas Mahnkey, S of D Press, School of the Ozarks, 1975

2 Responses

  • Byron Ballard says:

    I’m doing a book tour and in a discussion yesterday someone mentioned madstones. I had heard about them as a child but they were never explained to me. I’m grateful to see this!

  • cynthia weathers says:

    I was told that madstones also came from the head of toads and frogs. Flat, triangular and smooth. My grand father had one but I do not know where he got his.

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You can send me pretty flowers, you can send me valentines

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 14, 2018

You can send me pretty flowers you can send me valentines
Send me letters every day but it won’t pay
Leap to my desire, nothing else will do
It’s goodbye and so long to you

You can hang around and love me you can hang your head and cry
Hang my picture on the wall but I won’t fall
Kiss me when you’re dreaming, no good that will do
It’s goodbye and so long to you

You can give me your affection you can give all your love
Give me all the things I’ll crave but I’ll be brave
All the things you offer, make me sad and blue
It’s goodbye and so long to you

You can call me your own darling you can call me what you may
Call me on the telephone I won’t be home
Keep your old love letters, I’m all through with you
It’s goodbye and so long to you

“Its Goodbye and So Long to You”
recorded by the Osborne Brothers with Mac Wiseman
The Essential Bluegrass Album, 1979

Valentines roses
Famed for his clear and mellow tenor voice, Mac Wiseman (b. 1925) has recorded with many great bluegrass bands, including those of Molly O’Day, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and the Osborne Brothers; his command of traditional material made him much in demand by bluegrass and folk fans alike. Wiseman, nicknamed “The Voice with a Heart,” grew up influenced by traditional and religious music and such radio stars as Montana Slim Carter.

After studying at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Dayton, VA Wiseman started out working as a radio announcer in Harrisonburg in 1944. His professional music career began when he joined Molly O’Dell in 1946 as a bass player. He signed on with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in an early edition of their group in 1948, and appeared on their first recording session. After a performance at the Louisiana Hayride he left them to become popular as solo artist.

He’s best known for his 1959 hit, “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy.” He also had a hit version of “The Ballad of Davey Crockett” in 1955. During the Folk revival in the 1960s he had successful gigs at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall. In 1993 Wiseman was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.


Mac+Wiseman bluegrass appalachia appalachian+history bluegrass+lyrics

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