We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the left side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here.
We open today’s show with a breathless closeup report of events in New Martinsville WV during one August week in 1925. Glamorous screen star Gloria Swanson had swooped in with her entourage from New York to film “Stage Struck,” about a small town waitress who gets her big break on the local showboat. It was a box office disaster. “About the only people who made any money out of Stage Struck,” moaned the show’s producer afterwards, “was the guy in New Martinsville who owned the hotel and the showboat.”
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
The Battle of Blair Mountain, in which 10,000 WV miners marched to demand their rights as workers, ended in 1921. The battle to preserve Blair Mountain’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places is just heating up. Modern day strip mining interests would just as soon have at the coal that the mountain still holds. C. Belmont Keeney, great grandson of Frank Keeney, one of the march’s three organizers, weighs in with his view of the current situation.
In our next piece, an anonymous author for the Bulletin of the Virginia Department of Agriculture speaks to farm mothers on best methods for dealing with over-wrought, nervous children at bedtime. The article is from July 1921 but many of the techniques are ones you might very well have used just last evening!
Ben Robertson, a journalist in Pickens County, SC in the early 20th century, was a keen observer of human foibles. In this excerpt from his memoir, “Red Hills and Cotton,” a cousin of his faces off with a hard headed pig, which in turn leads Robertson to stop and consider the larger fate of his circle of family and friends.
Reverend John J. Dickey, a traveling Methodist minister who roamed southeastern Kentucky in the late 1800’s, came across his share of unexpected surprises in his wanderings. In this diary entry from 1898 he seeks out Harrison Napier, a merchant living two miles above the mouth of Wooton’s Creek near Hyden. Napier apparently holds the power to hire a teacher for the local school. Rev. Dickey is not at all pleased that this 44 year old man has just married a 14 year old girl.
We’ll wrap things up with a pitch letter to join the KKK, in which North Carolina’s Grand Dragon claims the group is seeking to recruit men who are “thoroughly American, Protestant to the core, a law abider and lover of our Constitution, and one who has had the welfare of our country close to your heart.” No mention of burning crosses.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Danielle Fraley in a 1973 recording of the dulcimer classic “Forked Deer.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.