Somebody ought to give the true picture of them

Posted by | August 8, 2007

“So many outside writers had come in and . . . and given such a terrible account of the people. They had put ‘em down a lot in their articles that I didn’t think this was true, because the people that I met were very intelligent and they were very civilized. They were not like they were pictured in these articles at all. And I thought that somebody ought to come through here and give the true picture of them.

Life magazine article on Frontier Nursing Service Left: 1937 LIFE magazine article profiling Mary Breckinridge’s Frontier Nursing Service, for which Mary Brewer worked at the time.

“And, you know, the Mary Breckinridge . . . the hospital. Mary Breckinridge, of course, was the first one, I guess, that put the people in this area on the map by going out and soliciting aid, and naturally most of their material was slanted toward the poorer class of people. They didn’t tell anything about the fine homes that were here. It was always the little shacks on the hillsides and people going without clothing and half-starved and barefoot. So that most people in . . . outside of Kentucky, they got the wrong idea, and I . . . I thought that ought to be corrected.

“Well, in 1958, the . . . Berea College had asked me to do some research for the Ford Foundation. And I started out in the field, traveling with Rufus Fugate and Ruth Baker, who was a home agent at that time, and I began to find all these old people that had these interesting stories to tell me and I began writing them down. And it just grew and grew from that until I got a good collection and I thought well, it ought to be shared with others and I decided then to have it published. And Vernon Baker came to see me then. He knew that I had this material and said he was interested in publishing it. And he published it under the title Of Bolder Men, but it fell apart. It was just a disaster. [Chuckle]

“So I quit selling the book because it did fall apart. It wouldn’t stay together. And then I decided there were so many requests for it that I would write it over again. And they decided to use it as a part of the centennial celebrations for Leslie County then. So I did it over for that purpose mostly, that it might be used for that. [A large part of it is sort of a genealogy] of people who live in Leslie County. I got the history from Leslie County by going to the courthouse and talking to old people who were here, you know, and knew the history of it. The first part of it is involved with the history and development of Leslie County itself, and . . . and the second part of it contains the genealogical history of about forty families.”

Part 1 of 2; tomorrow- one of the stories from “The Rugged Trails of Appalachia”

1978 interview with Mary Brewer,
author of “The Rugged Trails of Appalachia”
Oral History Project, Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky Virtual Library

Mary+Brewer The+Rugged+Trails+of+Appalachia Frontier+Nursing+Service Mary+Breckinridge appalachia appalachian+culture appalachian+history appalchia+history history+of+appalachia

4 Responses

  • sizemore says:

    Go to Bar creek in Manchester Kentucky, then tell me there isn’t kids who run around bare footed and half might get lucky to have one meal a day..There are hundreds of kids and family’s there that do without food and cloths. Half are lucky to have a roof over their heads and live in shacks .I am not sure where your getting your information from.
    I know first hand how people live there because I used to be one of those kids, who ran around with a dirty face and cloths that didn’t fit..and was lucky to get anything to lay on my tongue to cure the hunger pains.
    The houses there that are nice run up in the half million to over the million mark and I have never seen one near where the poorest of the poor live. Take a drive through the town and drive around the mountain sides instead of looking in a book.. then I will say you have the insight first hand in how people live.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    I have family in Logan, WV, and know full well firsthand that there’s plenty of poverty in Appalachia. My point with this post, and with the site in general, is to offer up a rounded view of Appalachia as a whole. The national media loves to focus on the grinding poverty at the expense of everything else, but as you know there’s more to Appalachia than that cariacature offers.

  • sizemore says:

    Poverty is all I ever seen. What else is there to focus on besides that?
    Sad thing is everyone ignores the poverty we have here in America. Let the people of the united states push them under a rug like they do many things that are unpleasant to face.

    Yes we have many opportunities more so then others outside this country but who’s door does it knock on? Surely not those in this country who suffer the most.

    We as people in this Country should start focusing on what is important, not how we can line our pockets with the profits from books and so called documents from those who barely can afford to buy a decent meal or put cloths on their children’s backs.

  • Margaret Whiteside says:

    I grew up one of those poor children in the city during the 1940s. We had a garden, our clothes were made from flour sacks which were very pretty then, and made of cotton material. I pulled myself up by my own boot straps, graduated, and became quite successful, having learned a lot in high school. There are poor people still in the Appalachian Mountains, but it is beautiful here, and I love it. To me, it will always be home. I am proud of my heritage and my mountains.

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